Vintage Pulp Apr 12 2024
DAMN YANQUI
Baby, if God had meant for you to cover yourself he'd have given you three hands.


We've shared so many covers of unfortunate women being surprised while bathing in ponds and streams that we can't believe we missed this one by James Meese for George McKenna's 1958 novel Yanqui's Woman. Well, consider it an addition to the group, which is scattered in posts here, here, here, and here

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Vintage Pulp Oct 15 2023
A POUR COUPLE
I've almost got you! After I rescue you please don't feel any sense of gratitude that becomes confusingly sexual!


Yup, it's another disaster thriller. We told you we can't resist these. Rain of Terror was published in 1955 and came from Malcolm Douglas in a Gold Medal Edition fronted by James Meese cover art. The story takes place partly in Rome, but mainly in the fictitious Italian town of Asceno. We're always baffled when authors don't just choose a real town, but whatever. The Asceno area is being battered by a weeklong rainstorm, with flooding, looting, and chaos. Newspaperman Jake Abbott is sent to get the story. Once there, the waters nearly destroy the town, and a cache of long lost jewels appears, along with two Botticellis. The fight over these riches is predictable, but what isn't is Abbott's almost Kafkaesque nightmare as he's trapped in a town that becomes like a labyrinth. His misadventures, romantic entanglements, arrests, beatings, and wrong turns read like farce or metaphor. Rain of Terror isn't as good as other disaster thrillers we've read, but it's memorable. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 25 2022
A MEASURABLE IMPROVEMENT
This little baby is going to revolutionize the sex toy industry. And the best part is I can fly it directly to buyers.


We can send billionaires into orbit but we can't invent self-delivering sex toys? Seriously? We don't think it's a lack of brainpower so much as a case of backward priorities. All those scientists need to think less about outer space, and more about inner space. There's still so much to be discovered there. 1956 copyright on this, with James Meese cover art.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 8 2021
LITTLE RED RIDING WITH HOODS
This absolutely sucks. Next time grandma needs a basket of food I'm telling her to order it from Uber Eats.


Have you heard the story of Little Red Riding with Hoods? It's a classic. Little Red Riding with Hoods leaves her cottage one day intent on buying a gift with a cashier's check. She crashes into a carload of bank robbers, and since their vehicle is now disabled, they steal hers—with her in it. They flee to their hideout, and thereafter are divided over what to do with Red. But the debate is short. They all know she's a witness and must be killed, which makes efforts by the cops a race against time. Crucially, they've lost some of that time because when the cops find out about the cashier's check they think Red has run away to start a new life. But they finally uncover a salesman who's owed for the gift Red ordered, and at that point realize she has indeed been kidnapped and probably doesn't have long to live. How does it all end? Well, we can tell you this—the book could have gone all sorts of places, but in 1957 when Lionel White published it, is there any doubt Red lives happily ever after? You sense it early and grow more certain with each page. But don't yell spoiler at us—Hostage for a Hood is still a good read, foregone conclusion and all.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 26 2021
WHY THE HELL NOT
I know it isn't exactly Tahiti, baby, but it's warm, cheap, and there aren't any COVID restrictions.


We're fans of illustrator James Meese. His covers are easy to caption. Remember Fort Everglades? How about Amazon Head-Hunters? We don't know if credit goes to him for the interesting moments his chose for his work, or if the publishers who employed him were responsible, but we'll take it. Above is another—Gil Brewer's 1953 novel Hell's Our Destination, with a couple who look like they've just realized their non-refundable AirBnB is right over a country/western dance bar that stays open until sunrise. 

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Vintage Pulp May 27 2020
GUN TO HIS HEAD
I'm not worried. I know something you don't. I'm the star of an entire series.


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. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 11 2020
TO KILL A TALKING BIRD
That was a real interesting story. I bet the cops would've loved to hear it.


Louis Malley's 1953 cop thriller Stool Pigeon might better be called “Stool Pigeons,” because it's about how crime solving hinges on a network of informants, and how reliable snitches make average detectives great. All the detectives in the book have their own, and they're sometimes kept so secret that nobody else on the police force knows who they are. If an informant's identity ever gets out they usually go from stool pigeon to cooked goose, as shown in the cover scene painted by James Meese. As we read this book we kept expecting one of the multiple stool pigeons to emerge as pivotal, and that's exactly what happens. We won't tell you which one proves most important, but we will say Malley takes a fresh angle on the typical cop novel and does it reasonably well.
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Vintage Pulp Dec 4 2018
ABOMINABLE SNOW, MAN
He's been eaten down to the bones. I don't know about you but this is by far the worst case of frostbite I've ever seen.


We imagine Boston born author James Holden sitting around one bitterly cold night, probably just a little tipsy from drinking warm brandy, staring out at a December snowstorm, thinking to himself that if anyone's out there in such terrible weather they're risking frostbite. And then his eyes grow wide and he says aloud, “What if the frost... takes more... than just a bite? Yes! Writer's block cured!” And some months later he finishes Snow Fury, in which the snow eats people entirely. Yep. How could snow eat people? Might have something to do with a scientific experiment run amok. And just to push the entire concept to full fruition Holden named the main character David Storm. Well, at least the cover is brilliant, and for that you can thank James Meese. This Perma edition is from 1956 and the book originally appeared in hardback in 1955.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 22 2018
UNNECESSARY ROUGHNESS
That's not exactly the type of apology I had in mind, but I guess it'll have to do.


This is an interesting piece of cover art for Raymond Chandler's third Phillip Marlowe thriller The High Window, the novel that was filmed as Time To Kill with Marlowe rewritten as another character, then filmed several years later as The Brasher Doubloon, with Marlowe restored. The book originally appeared in 1942, and the above painting by James Meese fronted Pocket Books' 1955 edition. Without reading it, one might assume this is Marlowe being punchy, but it's actually a bad guy named Alex Morny laying into his wife/accomplice-in-crime Lois. In the narrative Marlowe is lurking nearby, but he doesn't intervene because he's contemptuous of criminals, whether male or female.

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 k
now more about The High Window you can find an extra detail or two in our write-up on Time To Kil
l here

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Vintage Pulp Jun 27 2017
ACCESSORIES OF MURDER
Don't look at me that way. If I'm going to have her shoes I might as well have her wallet too.

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. 

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 21
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
April 20
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
April 19
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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