Vintage Pulp Apr 8 2024
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS
Fear and loathing are the least of his problems.

Jerry Allison art strikes a menacing note on the cover of William R. Cox's 1960 novel Murder in Vegas, in which Cox's gambler hero Tom Kincaid from 1958's Hell To Pay, which we recently discussed, returns to the written page to find more trouble. The first murder in the book actually occurs in Los Angeles, but someone is later knocked off in Vegas and as a direct result Kincaid is elevated from silent partner to full owner of a casino called the White Elephant. Simultaneously his girlfriend Jean Harper is in town filming a movie, and the murder and film production seem tied together. Kincaid is as interesting as before, but the fun creation here is down-on-her-luck party girl Carry Cain, who mixes sexiness and vulnerability with a beatnik mentality. She's an aspiring actress and gambling addict who thinks Kincaid might finally bring her the luck she's been seeking. Instead she finds herself in the middle of a Vegas-sized mess. Cox has talent, as we've noted before. It shines bright in Murder in Vegas.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 10 2024
LONG TIME NO C-NOTE
I'd have sex for free, but that would be irresponsible from a business perspective.


The 1962 Signet paperback of The Hundred-Dollar Girl has striking cover art by Jerry Allison, whose nice work we've seen before here, here, and here. William Campbell Gault's tale sees L.A. private dick Joe Puma investigating whether a boxing match was fixed, then finding himself in the middle of murder and an organized crime takeover of the fight racket. This is the second Puma we've read, and as with the previous book, he gets laid a couple of times, gets ko'd a couple of times, and beats up a couple of guys. All this is fine, but we haven't yet read the Gault novel that makes us sit up and go, "Ahh!" Certainly though, he's been good enough to make looking for that special book a pursuit we expect to pay off. We'll keep looking. In the meantime, if you want an L.A. crime read, you can do worse than The Hundred-Dollar Girl.  

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Vintage Pulp May 25 2022
HIGH RISK OPERATION
Let me go! I can save her! I just need a good nurse, a set of woodworking tools, and a shoehorn!


We already shared a 1952 Pocket Books cover for Ellery Queen's The Dutch Shoe Mystery, but this 1959 Pocket Books art by Jerry Allison goes a different direction, so we have a different, equally silly take on it. The Pulp Intl. girlfriends didn't get the joke last time, we suppose because they aren't old enough to know the same useless things we do, so we'll offer the reminder that a traditional Dutch shoe is made of wood and known as a clog. The Dutch Shoe Mystery features no clog that needs removal, just a ruptured gall bladder. Before the doctor can perform the operation, the patient, a millionairess who founded the hospital, is strangled with a piece of wire. Suspects: a few family members and the immediate medical staff. The “Dutch” in the title comes from the name of the hospital: Dutch Memorial. The “shoe” comes from the standard footwear of surgeons: white canvas moccasins which are the sole (oops) clue. Third in the Ellery Queen series, the authors Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee (aka Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky) basically update the classic locked room mystery by staging it in a medical facility. Good? Well, they published more than thirty subsequent Queen capers, so take that for what it's worth. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 10 2019
THE END IS NEAR
Her final stop is the intersection of deep trouble and hot water.


Detectives and their partners are considered to be a common motif in mid-century fiction, but actually you don't run into pairings as often as you'd expect, and when you do, one character usually dominates the narrative. End of the Line, by Bert and Dolores Hitchens, features two detectives in a story that's almost equally divided. Maybe that's what happens when spouses collaborate. The two detectives work for a railroad company and are tasked with investigating a cold case—the Lobo Tunnel crash of five years earlier, in which a train was derailed by a deliberately placed obstruction. The mystery is fine, but the fun part is reading how the two sleuths—one a mama's boy and the other a heavy drinker—try to work together. The Pocket Books paperback you see here has beautiful cover art by Jerry Allison that suggests the story is about a girl in trouble. That's true too, but it's the dicks that make this one swing. Pretty cool stuff, copyright 1959. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 1 2018
TARGET ACQUIRED
L.A. stands for Lew Archer in John MacDonald's tinseltown thriller.


We love this cover art by Harvey Kidder for John MacDonald's, aka Ross MacDonald's first Lew Archer novel The Moving Target. The way the figures are placed at such a remove from the viewer and the text is stretched across the underside of the pier is strikingly different. The book was originally published in 1949 with this Pocket Books paperback coming in 1950, and it stars MacDonald's franchise detective trying to locate a philandering millionaire who's gone missing. The man's wife is more concerned about the possibility of her spouse being on a bender and sharing the family money than she is about foul play, but Archer soon decides that the situation is a kidnapping.

We'd been meaning to read MacDonald for a while. We'd heard that his prose has a Dashiell Hammett vibe and that certainly turned out to be true. Set in and around Los Angeles, it weaves summer heat, wacky mysticism, outsize ambition, and broken dreams together into a tale with great Southern California flavor. And Archer is appropriately road worn: “I believed that evil was a quality some people were born with, like a harelip. But it isn't that simple. Everybody has it in him, and whether it comes out in his actions depends on a number of things. Environment, opportunity, economic pressure, a piece of bad luck, a wrong friend.”

In this world that he's accepted as more complex than he'd like it to be, he navigates using a solid personal code and a very hard skull—both severely tested multiple times. We gather the story is considered unremarkable compared to later Archer novels, but for us it was entirely satisfactory. It satisfied Hollywood too, which made it into a star vehicle for Paul Newman called Harper. Why the name of the detective was changed we can't even begin to guess, but we saw the movie a couple of years ago and it was enjoyable. Below you see a 1959 Pocket Books edition of The Moving Target with Jerry Allison art. More from MacDonald later.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 12
1945—Franklin Roosevelt Dies
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage while sitting for a portrait in the White House. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt's body is transported by train to his hometown of Hyde Park, New York, and on April 15 he is buried in the rose garden of the Roosevelt family home.
April 11
1916—Richard Harding Davis Dies
American journalist, playwright, and author Richard Harding Davis dies of a heart attack at home in Philadelphia. Not widely known now, Davis was one of the most important and influential war correspondents ever, establishing his reputation by reporting on the Spanish-American War, the Second Boer War, and World War I, as well as his general travels to exotic lands.
April 10
1919—Zapata Is Killed
In Mexico, revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata is shot dead by government forces in the state of Morelos, after a carefully planned ambush. Following the killing, Zapata's revolutionary movement and his Liberation Army of the South slowly fall apart, but his political influence lasts in Mexico to the present day.
1925—Great Gatsby Is Published
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby is published in New York City by Charles Scribner's Sons. Though Gatsby is Fitzgerald's best known book today, it was not a success upon publication, and at the time of his death in 1940, Fitzgerald was mostly forgotten as a writer and considered himself to be a failure.
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