|Vintage Pulp||May 27 2020|
Above, a 1959 cover painted by James Meese for John Ross MacDonald's 1950 thriller The Drowning Pool. We looked at a 1951 cover for this a while back, but rather than talk about the story made some dumb jokes and called it a day. So about the book. The novel features franchise detective Lew Archer trying to solve a drowning murder while dealing with a family torn apart over an inheritance. Liking the book is a matter of liking the character. Archer is cynical, quippy, and pretty rude most of the time—in short, a typical mid-century fictional detective. And therein lies the issue. He's standard, which means the mystery needs to be unique, but instead it's a drop-off from the series debut The Moving Target. It's not bad, though, and consensus is the eighteen Archer adventures improve as they progress. We'll see, because we plan to keep reading them. Hopefully Archer will make us glad he survived this gun to his head.
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 11 2020|
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 4 2018|
|Vintage Pulp||Apr 22 2018|
Marlowe generally sticks up for underdogs. He particularly hates the abuse of authority. When two cops give him a hard time for being uncooperative he reminds them why he's that way by refreshing their memories concerning a case he investigated where a spoiled heir shot his secretary then killed himself. The cops closed that case with the official finding that the opposite had happened—the secretary had shot the heir before turning the gun on himself, and they did it to spare the heir's powerful father public embarrassment. The cops ask an annoyed Marlowe what difference it makes. They were both dead, so who cares?
Marlowe: “Did you ever stop to think that [his] secretary might have had a mother or a sister or a sweetheart—or all three? That they had their pride and their faith and their love for a kid who was made out to be a drunken paranoiac because his boss's father had a hundred million dollars? Until you guys own your own souls you don't own mine. Until you guys can be trusted every time and always, in all times and conditions, to seek the truth out and find it and let the chips fall where they may—until that time comes [I will not trust you].”
We've paraphrased a bit because the specifics aren't needed here, but it's a great speech. Countless sociological and criminological studies reveal that justice is still meted out mildly upon some groups, and severely upon others, more than half a century after Chandler wrote those lines. And the fact that a two-tiered justice system exists is so accepted these days it's banal to even point it out. But Marlowe tended to rail against corruption, even if doing so caused him problems. To resist was part of his personal code, and the code is part of what makes him such an interesting character. If you want to know more about The High Window you can find an extra detail or two in our write-up on Time To Kill here.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 27 2017|
The Scarlet Slippers is a mystery starring Fox's recurring characters Johnny and Suzy Marshall. These two are downmarket Nick and Nora Charles copies, complete with a dog sidekick, which just goes to show that every good idea is borrowed by another writer eventually. The two are hired by L.A. lawyers to help in a trial, with the goal of proving their client's innocence. Fox was in reality a Dutch writer named Johannes Knipscheer, a name we plugged into the trusty translator to learn it means—ready for this?—“cut shave.” Appropriate—Suzy has an extra close shave herself when she falls into the clutches of a murderer. Don't worry, though. She survives to play the ditz in subsequent outings. Male authors, right? Give 'em a typewriter and they'll concoct a woman who's part candyfloss every time. 1952 copyright on this, with James Meese art on the front and a cool graphic on the rear.
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 7 2016|
Love in Dishevelment by David Greenhood deals with a man and woman in New York City who decide to live together, something that was severely frowned upon in 1948 when the book was first published, especially for two upstanding professionals like the couple in the story. There's also an out-of-wedlock baby, even more frowned upon, and these and other elements led to the book being banned in Australia, though on the whole you could call the story a romance. Greenhood, who also wrote non-fiction and poetry, takes a literary approach here, and he earned good reviews. This Fawcett-Crest edition appeared in 1955 with cover art from James Meese.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 12 2016|
Shrunken Head à la Pulp Intl.
You will need: One human head freshly cut from an enemy*. One large iron pot. Six to eight gallons of water. Five bundles of firewood. One pound of small stones. One pound of sand. Five ounces of plant seeds. Several small wooden pegs. Needle and twine. One bay leaf (optional).
1: Carefully remove skin and hair from head by making incision in back of neck. Sew eyelids shut, seal mouth with wooden pegs, and sew neck slit closed, but leave large neck hole where head was severed open. Discard skull or offer as sacrifice to cruel primitive god.
2: Simmer head in water for one to two hours. Be to careful not to over boil, as this will cause the hair to come off. Remove head and discard liquid, or add bay leaf and use as soup base.
3: Head should now be one third normal size and rubbery. Carefully turn inside out and scrape remaining flesh away. Discard scraps or save as dog treats.
4: Invert head skin side out once more. Heat stones and sand over fire and insert into head. This will cause more shrinkage.
5: Once head has reached desired size pack in hot sand to set shape and facial features and let bake at low temperature.
6: Remove from sand. Rub wood ash on head to prevent muisak, or avenging soul, from escaping. If you are not superstitious or prefer a lighter colored head skip this step.
7: Fill head with seeds and sew neck hole shut. Hang head several feet over fire to slowly harden. Be careful not to overheat, as hair can ignite.
8: Wear shrunken head around neck to instill terror and revulsion in onlookers. Optionally, it can be fitted with a tiny hat and sunglasses.
And that's all there is to it, kids. If you want a more detailed recipe or just some interesting context read Lewis Cotlow's Amazon Head-Hunters and learn how the Jivaro people of Ecuador did it. 1954 copyright on the Signet Giant edition with James Meese cover art.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 23 2016|
The noble white men vs. savage primitives narrative around the colonization of the New World gets so ingrained in Americans by the time they're adults that for many it can be a shock or even feel like an attack to learn that the colonists killed millions of Native Americans via the most dishonorable and underhanded means. Literature often tries to explore nuances in this scenario, and Frank G. Slaughter's Fort Everglades has the typical set—i.e., it’s acknowledged that the white men constantly break treaties and kill without provocation, thus Seminole leader Chittamicco has understandable grievances, but his response (killing them) is intolerable and for the good of all there’s only one solution (killing him). It always seems to come down to that, but for those willing to accept the obvious historical and moral whitewashing, there are thrills to be found in these books. The hero here is a doctor whose blonde love is kidnapped by Chittamicco, and the cover depicts the moment he hurls the poor girl into gator infested waters. Artist James Meese deserves extra credit for this one. He really captures a dramatic and action packed moment.
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 13 2016|
Harry Kurnitz’s Invasion of Privacy has one of the more ingenious set-ups—a movie mogul buys a script about a man who murders his wife, and well into production of the film is sued for copyright infringement. The person suing him? That happens to be the man who committed the murder. Not only is the story stolen, but true. But how did the screenwriter know about the crime? And how can the producer avoid losing the lawsuit? Maybe, possibly, by proving the murder actually happened. Complicated and fun, this edition is from 1957, with excellent art by James Meese.
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 9 2015|
Bernard Wolfe is known for several reasons, not least of them for being Leon Trotsky’s personal secretary in Mexico City, but he was also a novelist of wide-ranging interests. Come On Out, Daddy was his Hollywood book, about a New York author who moves out west to cash in on an easy screenwriting job. While making a couple thousand dollars a week for doing very little he runs into the usual assortment of jaded Tinseltown characters—from big stars to little wannabes—and trysts with an assortment of disposable beauties before of course meeting the woman of his dreams. It’s episodic due to it being partly cobbled together from short stories published in Playboy and Cavalier, but reasonably well regarded as a cultural satire. Life described it as “garrulously and surrealistically told by a huge cast of people in varying stages of corruption.” 1963 on the hardback, and 1964 on the above, with cool cover art by James Meese.