Is this where I get legal medicinal weed? Great. I need eighty kilos. For my glaucoma.
The Marijuana Mob, originally published as Figure It Out for Yourself, is another Orchid City caper from James Hadley Chase starring franchise tough guy Vic Malloy, his sidekick Kerman, and of course Paula Bensinger, his girl Friday—because you're not a real detective until you have a sizzling hot office assistant who reluctantly plays the spinster while you romance femmes fatales. Malloy runs a fixer agency called Universal Services, and this time the gig is to help a society woman pay a kidnapping ransom. Secondarily, he also tries to extricate a gambler acquaintance from a frame for murder. Drug dealers do feature prominently in the plot, but there are also many other layers and players. This tale isn't quite on the level of You're Lonely When You're Dead, in our opinion, but it's colorful and surprising. 1952 copyright, with art by Victor Olson.
Hey, since you need cheering up, wanna split this Toblerone bar with me? It's got nougat in it.
James Hadley Chase was a double winner in 1951. That year You're Lonely When You're Dead was published in paperback by both Popular Library, which we showed you here, and by the Canadian imprint Harlequin, as you see above, and both received top notch cover art. Popular Library went literal and showed a body on a deserted nocturnal beach. Harlequin's art is more general, with a woman under a looming shadow. Subliminally the shadow seems to carry a gun, but it really could be anything. It could be a letter, or a ruler, or a candy bar. In fact, on the subject of nonspecific, the painting could have been used for virtually any crime novel. There's nothing that definitively ties it to this particular story. But it's still a great effort. Unfortunately, it's uncredited.
Well, girls, Mai Tai number six did Becky in. Told you she didn't have what it takes to join a sorority.
James Hadley Chase's 1939 debut novel was titled No Orchids for Miss Blandish. He later wrote a sequel with orchid in the title. And here in 1949's You're Lonely When You're Dead—for which you see a 1951 Popular Library edition with Willard Downes cover art—the action is centered around fictional Orchid City. So we guess he liked orchids. No drunk sorority girls in this one. The main character, Vic Malloy, who would star in other Orchid City capers, runs a fixer agency for rich folks, and is called in by a husband to look into the background of the woman he married after a whirlwind romance. Shady history turns up and bodies fall, starting with one of Malloy's operatives. Lonely when you're dead? Not in this book. The dead are a crowd, as characters go bye-bye in quick succession. Revenge, theft, blackmail, action, murder, and effective comic relief combine to make this a nice read. It's not quite Miss Blandish. But then how could it be?
Chase is on in his blockbuster debut.
This 1961 Panther Books edition of James Hadley Chase's debut novel No Orchids for Miss Blandish labels it a bestseller that exploded into world headlines. That's quite a claim, but it's true. The book provoked a strong response when first published in 1939 due to its sexual frankness. Written in spare, hard hitting fashion, it's the multi-layered, uncompromising tale of the kidnapping of and search for the titular Miss Blandish, whose first name is never given despite her presence from beginning to end. There's violence, drugs, sexual content, and a lot of very low characters. Since we're pulp fans but not literary historians, we went into the book with no idea what it was about or that it was in any way significant, and came away immensely entertained and impressed. The highest compliment we can give it is that we were never sure who would win, or who would survive. Pair that with propulsive plotting and you end up with a must-read. World headlines? We believe it. Mitchell Hooks cover art? All the better.
Last one to leave turn out the lights.
Above, a beautiful black dust jacket for James Hadley Chase's thriller Believed Violent, 1968, from British publisher Robert Hale Limited. Chase gets right into this one with an adulterous sex scene on the opening page, and serious repercussions resulting from the subsequent murder. The book evolves to become an espionage caper, with Russians willing to pay a fortune for the secret formula behind the manufacture of a revolutionary new metal. Against that backdrop you get the broken man behind the formula, a sadistic professional killer, a one-eyed henchman, a sex slave heroin addict whose eventual rebellion has pivotal consequences, and Chase's franchise character Frank Terrell. The art here, which is what we really wanted to show you, is from Barbara Walton. We've mentioned her only briefly but as you can see she was a top talent. We're going to get back to her a little later.
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.
One out of two isn’t bad, when it comes to Cyrillic.
The cover of the above Soviet-issue James Hadley Chase/Victor Canning double novel isn’t particularly wonderful, but the interior illustrations are rather nice. We don’t read Cyrillic, but we painstakingly plugged the cover squiggles into a translator and came up with I’ll Bury My Dead for Chase and something like “communicating on foot” for Canning, a title which resembles those of none of his actual works. So there you go. We were actually pretty confident when we started the process. We once figured out the St. Petersburg subway system during rush hour, so we figured book titles would be a snap. No such luck. These translations appeared in 1991.
Update: The answer comes from John, who wrote in saying: пешка translates as "pawn", so a reasonable guess might be Queen's Pawn, Canning's 1969 book. The other word проходная translates as "communicating", so that is harder to work out a connection.
Sexiness is a warm gun (on a book cover anyway).
This cover of Peter O’Donnell’s Sabre Tooth, part of his popular Modesty Blaise series, shows Italian actress Monica Vitti as the title character, and it got us thinking about all the paperback covers that feature photos of women with guns. Of course, we realize that, as far as the gun-crazed U.S. is concerned, thinking of armed people as enticing or artistic may seem a little tone deaf, but we're talking about book covers, that's all. So we decided to put together a collection. We should mention that the Blaise series is worth reading if you’re looking for something along the lines of light thrills. It’s breezy and sexy as only 1960s spy literature can be, and Blaise herself is an interesting character, born in Greece, raised by a Hungarian scholar, trained in martial arts, and proficient in piracy, theft, and all around sneakiness. In Sabre Tooth she finds herself trying to thwart an invasion of Kuwait by an Afghan warlord. Below we have a dozen more photo covers featuring heat-packing women. As always with these collections, thanks to the original uploaders, most from Flickr, but particularly Muller-Fokker and Existential Ennui.
A silk sash, a tight knot, and gravity equal suicide. Or do they equal murder?
Above you see the cover of British author James Hadley Chase’s 1953 revenge thriller I’ll Bury My Dead. It has what we consider unusually downbeat art, but with the body count in the story being so high maybe that’s to be expected. Basically, a shady P.I. dies of an apparent gun suicide, but his brother is convinced it’s murder and decides to investigate. He ends up uncovering a blackmail racket, getting on the wrong side of the police, and being connected to more corpses, including that of his brother’s wife, depicted in George Erickson’s cover art. Were these murders or suicides? This book was savagely reviewed for the most part but was reprinted as recently as 2009, which goes to show that pulp is critic proof.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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