Vintage Pulp May 24 2024
TEA DURING WARTIME
She must be more of a coffee person.

This cover for The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which was came in 1949 from Popular Library, could have been painted by Rudolph Belarski. It's funny we're guessing, because we just said his art is instantly recognizable. Oh well. Usually he managed to place his signature where it wasn't easily covered by publishers, but not always. He was collaborating with Popular Library a lot during this period, and it looks like his work, but without his signature we can't say it's him—or really anyone else. But while the cover is officially by an unknown, it does fit into our collection of women being toted hither and yon on mid-century paperbacks. You can see those here.

The novel was first published long before the paperback—way back in 1931. The story is set in China, and follows Megan Davis, who has traveled there during a time of civil war to marry a medical missionary. Turbulent circumstances lead to her being assaulted by a crowd and presumed dead. But she's actually rescued and placed under the protection of the anti-communist General Yen Tso-Chong of the book's title. The general plans to take the utmost care of Megan because her safe return will be a propaganda coup. But while in his villa he and Megan discuss their different cultures, religions, politics, and views of current events:

“In capturing the city of Nanking the troops of General Chen Chien got a little out of hand. War, you know, does not bring out the best qualities of tolerance and self-control; that is one reason why we Chinese are so unfitted for it.”

“But what was the incident?”

“A number of people were shot and some were killed, missionaries largely, Doctor Williams of the Nanking College, some ladies, the British Consul too, I believe.”

“Shot by Chinese?”

“By troops, yes.”

“But that is an outrage!” cried Megan, overwhelmed with anger. “We are not at war with you!”

“No? Well, at any rate your gunboats, in retaliation, fired on the unarmed, civilian population of Nanking, killing hundreds. But after all, why should you and I talk about it?”

“I don’t believe they fired on the civilian population, or if they did, they must have been forced into it.”

The General shrugged his shoulders.

That's a very appropriate exchange for our current times, but Megan and Yen's verbal jousting is interesting only to a point. In the end Zaring Stone is restrained enough to leave the politics unresolved, and brings the book to perhaps the only conclusion that fits. Hollywood liked it enough to adapt it into a 1933 film starring Barbara Stanwyck, directed by Frank Capra. We'd normally be leery of any movie made during that time depicting Chinese people (the title role is played by Danish actor Nils Asther), but you gotta give Stanwyck and Capra a shot, right? Like, it'd be neglectful of any cinephile not to watch it. So we'll let you know when/if we circle back to it.

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Vintage Pulp May 23 2024
OUT OF OPTIONS
No help, no hope, no exit.


This is a really nice piece of art for Sam Ross's Lousiana crime thriller The Tight Corner. We don't know who painted it but we had to share it anyway. This came from Tower Books in 1956. We read the 1957 Signet Books edition a while back, and it was pretty good

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Vintage Pulp May 22 2024
THE PRICE OF EMISSIONS
You can go up if you guess what number I'm thinking. Hint: it has a dollar sign before it and two zeros after.


Above: more nice work from illustrator James Meese, this time for David Loughlin's novel A Private Stair. It originally appeared in hardcover in 1950, with this Signet paperback edition coming in 1956. 

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Intl. Notebook | Sex Files May 21 2024
INFORMERLY KNOWN AS
The paper that never published a truthful word.


Speaking of gonzo newspapers, here's an issue of National Informer published today in 1972, with its “truthful news of all the facts of life.” That in itself is a higher level of satire than yesterday's competitor Rampage ever managed. This issue of Informer is all sex, with wonder pills, wonder drugs, hookers, and bedroom variations galore, including dominant women—and men whose egos can't handle it. There's a photo of a model captioned: “If you want your little to girl to grow up to be a big girl don't let her start taking birth control until seventeen.” We had to read it twice. Is that some sort of incest quip? There's nothing these tabloid editors wouldn't print.

Informer also once more welcomes resident seer Mark Travis. We remember when he took over for the (not so) Great Criswell. Of the two, we liked Criswell better. Plus he had a better handle. Travis predicts the rise of disposable clothing, a massive outpouring of U.S. budget on artificial lakes, and a sudden trend of home rifle ranges. These seers were early versions of modern day cable pundits—they could constantly be wrong and still keep their jobs. But once we accept these papers as satire, then it's clear that the predictions were supposed to be wrong. It's excellent work if you can get it. Twenty-plus scans below.
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Intl. Notebook | Sex Files May 20 2024
SLURPING BEAUTIES
They slurp, you slurp, we all slurp in Rampage.

It's always fun to see which direction Rampage goes in each ridiculous centerspread, and in an issue published today in 1973 they highlight a mother and daughter who lick houseguests. This stuff is priceless. It's reported by “Karl Peabody,” who visits a Los Angeles businessman who runs his home "Burmese style," whatever that is, with a compliant wife and daughter required to entertain guests. Soon comes the licking, and we bet you can guess which part of this pseudonymous reporter gets licked. Rampage claims on its front cover that it's America's “top satire and humor weekly.” We're not so sure about the humor part of the formula, but the satire is certainly there.

We often wonder why people who bought Rampage didn't just go full porn and buy Playboy or whatever. But maybe Rampage and its ilk were displayed more openly at newsstands, and possibly as checkout line items in drugstores and the like, leading to impulse purchases. We figure the average buyer would read the paper twice—once out of curiosity, and again to make sure it was as dumb as it seemed the first time. With tens of millions of newsstand browsers every week, even a miniscule purchase rate would probably keep a tabloid afloat. Of course, we've bought dozens of these gonzo newspapers, so who are we to talk? Therefore we humbly submit for your perusal a selection of choice Rampage imagery.
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Vintage Pulp May 19 2024
PARIS HOLD 'EM
She'd be a distraction, but at least you'd know she wasn't hiding any cards.


Above: the 1951 novel Abattez votre jeu by Patrick MacEvoy‎ for Éditions C.P.E. and its La Mante collection. The cover is credited to someone named Cassaro. That's not the Italian illustrator Renato Casaro, but rather someone whose work we've seen never before. We've also never seen an outfit like this on any actual person, but it's nice. Fashion designers take note, and take action. The title translates as, “bring down your game,” but in this sitaution we think you'd need to step up your game.

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Vintage Pulp May 18 2024
A VERY PARTICULAR SET OF SKILLS
Wait, don't leave. I actually have a second talent, though I don't use it much. Let me just grab my banjo.


This cover for Josiah E. Greene's The Man with One Talent isn't anything special, but the title caught our eye because it's identical to that of an 1898 short story by Richard Harding Davis—who, speaking of talent, was an extraordinary war correspondent. The one talent referenced here by Greene is the capacity for violence, which the main character puts to use breaking up a union in a small New England town. This was originally published in hardback in 1951, with the Perma paperback coming the next year.

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Vintage Pulp May 17 2024
LUST AND DEATH
Do not centerfold, spindle, or mutilate.


The Centerfold Girls has a pretty anodyne poster for what is a decidedly provocative film. It hit cinemas today in 1974 and is about a religious fanatic played by Andrew Prine who wishes to save (read: murder) three women who've posed nude for a men's magazine called Bachelor. The film is divided into chapters, with the story around each stalking target—Jaime Lyn Bauer, Jennifer Ashley, and Tiffany Bolling—given about one third of the running time. Obviously that means—er, sorry, strongly suggests—that at least two of the trio die. Spoiler alert! There could also be collateral damage. Spoiler... allusion?

The movie lacks the tongue-in-cheek aspect of so much sexploitation cinema, falling more into the category of in-your-face grindhouse efforts like Thriller - en grym film and I Spit on Your Grave. In other words, it's a mean little movie. But one with serious intent. There's real effort made at character development, for example Ray Danton's feckless playboy in chapter two. There's also effort made to make the film look good. It's cheap but competent, with some Hitchcockian touches added by experienced television and b-movie director John Peyser meant to let cinephiles know he's no hack.

We came across comments in several places saying the movie is disrespectful toward women. That's true. Any film that casts any distinct category of human as victims (and in grindhouse it's usually women) can automatically be seen by some as targeted oppression—especially when that oppression is rampant in the real world. No film called The Centerfold Girls is interested in avoiding that criticism, so you go in knowing that. The result? It's pretty good. You know what would have been really fun? If they'd made a sequel called The Centerfold Boys about Playgirl models. Beautiful, superficial, basically helpless male models. We should have been 1970s movie producers.

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Vintage Pulp May 16 2024
EXTREME WEATHER
It's characterized by a rise in freak events and a general increase in harming.


We used the term “swooning flowers of maidenhood” last time we read a Mignon Eberhart novel, and she holds true to form with 1949's House of Storm. It's set on a small Caribbean island—so small in fact that it's named for the family that runs a plantation there. Murder occurs as a tropical storm shuts down transport and strands swooning flower and bride-to-be Nonie Hovenden with others in a large house. The real storm is (of course) emotional and deals with a weighty romantic subplot centered around her wishing to escape her pending nuptials so she can marry the man she really loves—who soon becomes murder suspect number one.

It's less complicated than it sounds. The murder plotline is interesting enough and the atmosphere is reasonably well rendered, but all you really need to know is that Eberhart operated at the nexus of suspense and romance, and here Nonie's breathless flutterings are almost intense enough to riffle the book's pages. If you can take that sort of thing, you'll like House of Storm. We kept making moments to finish it despite our reservations, so we have to call it a success. But we're suckers for tropical island fiction—even when there's breastbeating romance at its core—so take our endorsement with a grain of salt.
 
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Vintage Pulp May 14 2024
SILK STALKING
I've never been a fan of lingerie, but your nightgown elevates this whole abduction into something really special.


This issue of Australia's greatest men's magazine Adam reached newsstands this month in 1974. The cover illustrates Alexander Tait's story “The Catch,” about a boat captain who's given a slow-acting poison in order to ensure his compliance in a smuggling scheme. Adam covers were always painted to order, and that's especially clear here because not only does this lingerie bondage scene occur in the narrative, but the woman is described as having hair that “stuck out in all directions in some kind of afro style.”

What didn't stick out in the story was a lot of talent or imagination, but that's okay—there's always another thing to enjoy in these mags. For example, we thought “Sex and Serpents” was rather interesting. It's a factual story written by Paul Brock about snakes and sexual symbolism. Brock discusses cultures from ancient Egypt to modern Burma, and reveals that snakes are sometimes pickled or powdered. Our favorite anecdote involves an Appalachian preacher who allegedly used a live snake to beat three men and a woman into repentance for sexual sins. Afterward he probably beat his own snake. You know how it goes with these types.

Elsewhere in the magazine are the expected assortment of nude and semi-nude models, but one of them (panel eight below) is a photographed head and arms atop an illustrated torso. Can't say we've seen that before. Maybe she had a rash that day. Or maybe she refused to pose nude. Imagine her surprise when the issue hit the racks. We can only hope she beat the photographer with a snake. Moving on, there's art by Jack Waugh, and few cartoons that made us smile. Not laugh, mind you. Just smile. Scans below, and we'll be revisiting Adam later this month.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
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