All the worst things together in one place.
It's been a while since we got our hands on an Ace double novel. Ace Double 59 features Robert Bloch's Spiderweb and David Alexander's The Corpse in My Bed. The first has cover art by Harry Barton, and the second, despite looking painted by the same artist, is actually uncredited. Two decent books here. Spiderweb deals with a novice grifter who embarks on a long con under the tutelage of a devilish criminal mastermind. Pretty soon he's committing terrible deeds against his will, including setting up his own girlfriend's politician father for a scam. We were more than a little surprised when the book used the identical gag that we raved about in Lou Cameron's 1960 novel Angel's Flight, in which a hat blown by the wind becomes a crucial life lesson. Check here to understand what we mean. At first we thought Bloch had stolen the idea from Cameron, an assumption we made because Angel's Flight is a far superior book, but nope—Spiderweb predates Angel's Flight by two years. It goes to show that the old adage is true: good writers borrow, great writers steal.
The Corpse in My Bed, originally titled Most Men Don't Kill, tells the story of a former soldier who in his civilian career as a detective finds himself in the classic shamus pickle—standing over a corpse amidst possibly incriminating evidence. A war related head wound plus some booze leaves him unsure whether he merely found the body or caused it, so he goes into hiding while his partner Chet and an acquaintance nicknamed Tommy Twotoes try to get to the bottom of the puzzle. It isn't easy to come up with a character that really stands out in the pantheon of mid-century crime fiction. Twotoes—a 300-pound millionaire with a weird affinity for penguins—is one you'll remember for a while. We checked to see if Alexander used him in other novels, but as far as we can tell he didn't, though he seemingly showed up in a few short stories. Both Bloch and Alexander do good work here, a bit rough around the edges at times, but well worth a read. Just don't pay $350, like one vendor is charging. We got them for twenty bucks. Schwing!
Yes, I'd like to report a murder. A man murdered every last bit of my patience.
Above, a nice cover for Day Keene's 1954 thriller Death House Doll, with excellent art by Harry Barton. In the story, a Korean War vet has promised his fatally wounded brother he'd look after his wife and baby daughter, but when he gets back to the world (Chicago) he's stunned to find that she's sitting on death row for murder, and unwilling to spill the truth even if it saves her. The attraction with this one is watching a decorated war hero run riot on hoods and thieves, while up against the always effective ticking clock gimmick—an execution date, which in this case is five days hence. The book was an Ace Double with Thomas B. Dewey's Mourning After on the flipside, and the art on that one, just above, is by Victor Olson. We put together a nice collection of Harry Barton's work back in May that we recommend you visit at this link.
This is the clean side. I just finished using the other side with my Saturday through Tuesday boyfriend.
We checked online and the indications that you need a new mattress include: it's more than eight years old, you wake with aches and pains, and there's a noticeable sag. And the indications you need a new life include: your bed is in a filthy slum tenement. Such is the case with Perversity and Depravity, 1956 and 1957, in which virtually every character needs a do-over of their existence. Both books, by New Caledonian author Francis Carco, née François Carcopino-Tusoli, are set in the 1920s Parisian underworld of prostitution, crime, and poverty. Carco deals with these subjects compassionately, and his work is heavy with colloquialism and has a strong sense of place. He acquired his insight the old fashioned way—by consorting with the types of people he wrote about. Though his work is obscure in the English speaking world, he was fairly well regarded in his day and is still remembered in France. These are dark books, maybe even brutal, certainly ahead of their time. Harry Barton painted the cover of Perversity and an uncredited artist handled the chores on Depravity.
A nuzzle a day keeps the blues away.
A couple of days ago we shared a cover painted by Harry Barton, and today we're back with assorted examples in the same vein, once again showing instances of neck kissing, or variations very close to that. All of these were also painted by Barton, who clearly had a fine appreciation for female necks. Or male mouths. Whichever.
Barton was a prolific artist who through the ’50s and ’60s produced covers for Avon, Bantam, Dell, Monarch, and Pocket Books. He painted even more fronts with poses close to those seen here, for example men and women kissing normally, but today we decided to stick only to neck kissing. Which by the way is a nice way to spend a few minutes if you have a willing partner.
Ouch, that one's getting a little sore. Can you can switch to the right one?
Above, a cover for Prime Sucker, 1954, written by Harry Whittington for Beacon-Signal, with art showing a man enjoying the milk of human kindness. Well, not really, but it kind of looks that way, right? In this one a man lusts for his employee's wife, which is normally not a problem for the employee, as his wife has more or less free rein. But this time the wife falls for her fling. Meanwhile the boss has a wife too, and while she's normally reserved, she's got a hidden wild streak, if only someone can bring it out. Put this one in the suburban wife-swapping bin. The cover work is by Harry Barton, and interestingly, the throat (or boob) sucking you see above was not a one-off. See here.
Seventeen thrillers from swinging sixties.
Above, seventeen covers from Gold Star Books for Hank Janson's, aka Stephen Daniel Frances's, best selling and highly sexual Hank Janson series, starring a tough reporter who shared a name with the author's pseudonym. We think these represent the complete run of Janson books published by Gold Star, though there are more entries in the series. Later novels were written by Victor Norwood, Harry Hobson, and D.F. Crawley. The excellent art is from Paul Rader, Harry Barton, and Robert Maguire, circa 1963, 1964, and 1965.
Go completely unnoticed in any setting with the amazing new Undercover Operative Trench Coat.
Well, some products don't work as advertised. We weren't going to buy it, but then we learned it came with a complimentary limited edition newspaper with two eye holes cut in it. But when we wore the coat we got spotted immediately and now we have a restraining order. 1955 copyright on this Ace Double of Harry Whittington's One Got Away (Robert Schulz cover art), bound with Cleve F. Adams' Shady Lady (Harry Barton on the art chores). We'll see you after our probation hearing.
Going for the throat.
First rate Harry Barton art of a guy devouring his girl's golden delicious adorns the cover of Ronald Simpson's Eve's Apple, the story of a university student who embarks on a troubled affair with an older woman. Rear cover blurbs are an art form, and this one, using dialogue from the novel, is sublime:
“Well sir, it's a bit embarrassing. There's this married woman..."
“And you've been having an affair with her?”
The professor stared blankly for a moment before committing himself. “Well, Hobie, perhaps I shouldn't say this, but boys will be boys.”
“But—but she's pregnant, sir.”
“Hobie, you really have a problem.”
“No, sir. The problem's yours. You see, it's Eve—your wife, sir.”
We can only assume the professor fails Hobie at that point. 1964 copyright, from Monarch Books.
Getting what you want is all in how you ask.
It seems as if no genre of literature features more characters in complete submission to others than mid-century sleaze. And how do these hapless supplicants express their desperation? They break out the kneepads. Above and below are assorted paperback covers of characters making pleas, seeking sympathy, and professing undying devotion. Though some of these folks are likely making the desired impression on their betters, most are being ignored, denied, or generally dumptrucked. You know, psychologists and serial daters say a clean break is best for all involved, so next time you need to go Lili St. Cyr on someone try this line: “I've decided I hate your face now.” That should get the job done. Art is by Harry Barton, Barye Philips, Paul Rader, et al.
Well, instead how about I just tell you why you’ll probably never get one of us in the sack?
Yes, this Harry Reasoner is the famed American newsman. Tell Me About Women was his only novel, written mostly while he was serving as a correspondent for Stars and Stripes during World War II, and was originally published by Beechhurst Press in 1946. Reasoner described the book as warmly received, but joked about its poor sales, and after a time admitted he cringed over the prose, perhaps because he never really knew anything about women until he fathered five daughters. The book is partly autobiographical, and follows the pattern of a lot of novels from the period—war, discharge, disillusionment, and troubled relations with the opposite sex. The Dell edition above appeared in 1950, and the art is by Harry Barton.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1929—Stock Market Crashes
Black Thursday, a catastrophic crash on the New York Stock Exchange, occurs when the value of stocks suddenly declines and continues to decline for a month. The event leads to a subsequent crash in world stock prices and precipitates the Great Depression. This after famous economist Irving Fisher had declared that stock prices had reached a permanently high plateau.
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying
. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
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