Free and easy is the basic package. I'm the VIP package and I cost a bundle.
Above is another great paperback digest cover by Howell Dodd, this time for 1951's Free and Easy by Luther Gordon—no relation to June Wetherell's Free and Easy. Thinking about seeing a book rack with this kind of material for sale can only make you regretful to have missed out on the era. Though to be honest, you couldn't pay us to live in 1951—no offense to those who did. We love the promo art, the fiction, and the movies, but everything that has to do with real life... we wouldn't have done so well with that. So we're happy here in 2021. We'd like to own more of these old digests, but they aren't free or easy either. Our collection grows monthly, though. We have no idea to what end, but it does. But this one did not add to the clutter, because we borrowed it from online. More digests to come.
The truth is I only listen to classical, but all the guys at those concerts are too old and frail to risk taking to bed.
Last stop for the scum of humanity on the road to hell? Sign us up! But 1953's Honky Tonk Girl isn't the throwaway novel you'd expect. The premise is unique—a Dixieland jazz musician named Johnny Nickles fears he's recorded a haunted album. The platter, The Ghost Album, is so titled because it's a tribute to dead jazz kingpins, and seems to have heralded a series of misfortunes: the band's arranger dropped dead of a heart attack; Johnny's girlfriend stole his money and car; his band lost the cushy house gig they'd been promised; and now, playing nightly in a dive bar in nowheresville, the band's drummer has been murdered. Nickles decides to solve the case and gets help from a hooker, a chanteuse, a cop, and some obvious clues. We thought the idea of a haunted album would be the launch pad for a memorable book, but Beckman doesn't quite get this one airborne because—despite his extensive pulp pedigree—he's middling as a writer. But what does come through is his musical knowledge and familiarity with the hand-to-mouth existence of ambitious young jazzmen. We give it a 5 for prose and an 8 for atmosphere. The cover art, on the other hand, is a solid 10. It's by the always amazing Howell Dodd.
Howell Dodd shows his political side.
Here's something unusual. This is a piece by legendary men's magazine and paperback illustrator Howell Dodd, obviously political in nature, titled “Danse Macabre” and commenting on Francoista fascism in post civil war Spain. Francisco Franco, like other former European dictators, continues to loom large over the country he ruled. Laws were only recently passed that might allow for his body to be exhumed from the massive mausoleum he had built for himself, for finally making a census of the estimated 500,000 victims of the Spanish Civil War, for investigations into the fates of tens of thousands who disappeared under fascist rule, and to find out what happened to 300,000 children who between 1939 and 1975 were stolen from their parents and adopted by—i.e. sold to—well-connected families. Some of those children even ended up with childless couples in the U.S. and Latin America. So it was quite a danse indeed. We aren't sure how much Dodd was aware of when he painted this item, but the visual is encompassing regardless. You see a couple of close-ups of the piece below, and you can see Dodd in completely different mode here and here.
Aussie publisher beats the life out of a classic Howell Dodd cover.
Didn't we just share a cover for Whip Hand? We did, but that was a totally different book. That was Whip Hand by W. Franklin Sanders, 1961, and this one is Whip Hand! by Hodge Evens, 1952. And as you can see below, this is yet another book for which the art was copied by a foreign publishing company—Sydney, Australia based Star Books, in 1953. It may seem impossible that Dodd didn't know of this, but back then it was indeed likely he had no clue. And even if he did know, there's little he could have done. Whoever painted this was not credited, and why would they be? Compared to Dodd's original it's pretty limp.
In mid-century action magazines trouble always has a woman at its center.
Adventure for Men is new magazine for us, part of a group a friend couriered over from the U.S. last year. The art in this April 1968 issue is uncredited in the masthead, but two spreads are signed by Howell Dodd. The stories range from tales of wild 1890s San Francisco to uncharted Madagascar to your nearby nudist camp. And of course, par for the course for such publications, all the adventures seem to revolve around women, which makes them miss-adventures, so to speak. But we'll admit we haven't read all of the magazine yet. The piece “Sex Mistakes Most People Make!” for example. We figured we're better off not knowing.
But we did read the story on the sex camps of the Red Chinese. In times of stress people will believe anything, and there was no greater time of stress than the Cold War, a period during which most people feared they were seconds away from nuclear incineration. We're all still potentially seconds away from nuclear incineration, but back then those fears were openly exploited for political gain and monetary profit by con artists as diverse as the U.S. government and the New York City tabloid industry. Adventure for Men joins in the fun with its China sex camps tale.
During the 1960s, when Chinese were already suffering from both famine and widespread state violence, many were sent to prison camps to work and be re-educated. Conditions were generally awful, and often life threatening. Inmates were cold, underfed, besieged by vermin, and physically abused. As terrible as all that is, it still isn't enough for Adventure for Men, as journalist Alexander Ford takes the harrowing story of Chinese dissident Kuo Chung-hsaio and his wife and inflates it into sleaze fiction. Oh yeah. Political imprisonment can be erotic. All Reds are perverts. But the “sex camps” trumpeted on Adventure for Men's cover refers not to any state sanctioned sexual abuse. That accusation is never made. No—it refers to a specific voyeuristic prison official.
This official would not let Chung-hsaio see his wife unless the couple had sex while he was in the room watching. Chung-hsaio describes through Ford how humiliating and horrible the experience was, though he neglects to explain how he and his wife were even able to sexually function with their tormentor staring from the corner. Naturally, in the end it's the official's deviancy that creates the opportunity for the couple's daring escape. Do we buy this titillating tale of how a jailer got his rocks off, let his guard down, and ended up permanently cooled by Chung-hsaio's righteous hand? Not even a little bit. It's right from Hollywood's b-movie playbook—smash cut and they're out. But we'll admit that for short form sleaze it's actually pretty good. Scans below.
Just let me out! I know a little about cars and I don't think that's what four-on-the-floor really is.
Four-on-the-floor. Too easy, right? What can we do? We're only human. 1959's Night of Shame deals with anonymous partners in a one night stand whose lives are complicated by their constant desire for each other. Later, they meet again by chance and rekindle their affair, only to discover, as Mr. Spock once so eloquently put it, that having is not so pleasing a thing after all as wanting. The beautiful cover on this is unattributed, but it could be Rudy Nappi. We reached that conclusion because it's very similar stylistically to this cover, which is identified as Nappi's work in Gary Lovisi's Dames, Dolls and Delinquents: A Collector's Guide to Sexy Pulp Fiction. Problem is, we don't actually think that cover is Nappi either. We think it's Howell Dodd. This wouldn't be the first time we've doubted Lovisi, but what do we know? We didn't write a whole book on the subject. So, okay, call this one Nappi.*
Red-headed femme fatale looks mighty familiar.
Gary Lovisi's guide to mid-century paperback cover art Dames, Dolls and Delinquents: A Collector's Guide to Sexy Pulp Fiction attributes this cover to George Gross but many online sources say it's the work of Howell Dodd. Though the internet is incredibly useful for replicating errors, we think the onliners are right this time. While the femme fatale here has some Gross-like elements to her, she has some Dodd traits too. For instance, Dodd's hair is a bit more sculptural than Gross's and his women's faces tend to be more severe.
And speaking of faces, we think we know this one. Doesn't it belong to legendary red-headed actress Ann Sheridan? Yup, it's her—right down to the little bump in her classic nose. And he used her more than once, we think. A basically identical face appears in several other pieces of his. We're taking full credit for this discovery. Unless of course we're wrong, in which case we deny making any Sheridan related statements. Hey, if it works for presidential candidates it can work for us, right?
Sensational crimes with a side order of sex.
This issue of Best True Fact Detective which hit newsstands this month in 1950 came from Newsbook Publishing Corp. out of New York City. The magazine had some fantastic covers, but most were uncredited. Some of the artists that worked for the magazine around 1950 include greats like George Gross and Fred Rodewald, but this is the work of Howell Dodd, a fact we discovered with a bit of research. This is great work from him, and you can see more of his output here and here.
Inside the magazine you get various procedural stories sexualized by the editors with blurbs like, "Sex-Starved Women are Coffin-Bait!" and photo captions like, "Officers saw the body of a young girl who in life had been a raving, desirable beauty!" Beyond morbid, if you ask us, but the actual stories are professionally written and informative, with art consisting of photo-illustrations posed by professional models. Has anybody written anything substantive about this bizarre subset of the modeling industry? If not they should, because it's fascinating.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1974—Police Raid SLA Headquarters
In the U.S., Los Angeles police raid the headquarters of the revolutionary group the Symbionese Liberation Army, resulting in the deaths of six members. The SLA had gained international notoriety by kidnapping nineteen-year old media heiress Patty Hearst
from her Berkeley, California apartment, an act which precipitated her participation in an armed bank robbery.
1978—Charlie Chaplin's Missing Body Is Found
Eleven weeks after it was disinterred and stolen from a grave in Corsier near Lausanne, Switzerland, Charlie Chaplin's corpse is found by police. Two men—Roman Wardas, a 24-year-old Pole, and Gantscho Ganev, a 38-year-old Bulgarian—are convicted in December of stealing the coffin and trying to extort £400,000 from the Chaplin family.
1918—U.S. Congress Passes the Sedition Act
In the U.S., Congress passes a set of amendments to the Espionage Act called the Sedition Act, which makes "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces, as well as language that causes foreigners to view the American government or its institutions with contempt, an imprisonable offense. The Act specifically applies only during times of war, but later is pushed by politicians as a possible peacetime law, specifically to prevent political uprisings in African-American communities. But the Act is never extended and is repealed entirely in 1920.
1905—Las Vegas Is Founded
Las Vegas, Nevada is founded when 110 acres of barren desert land in what had once been part of Mexico are auctioned off to various buyers. The area sold is located in what later would become the downtown section of the city. From these humble beginnings Vegas becomes the most populous city in Nevada, an internationally renowned resort for gambling, shopping, fine dining and sporting events, as well as a symbol of American excess. Today Las Vegas remains one of the fastest growing municipalities in the United States.
1928—Mickey Mouse Premieres
The animated character Mickey Mouse, along with the female mouse Minnie, premiere in the cartoon Plane Crazy, a short co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. This first cartoon was poorly received, however Mickey would eventually go on to become a smash success, as well as the most recognized symbol of the Disney empire.
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