Vintage Pulp May 16 2021
THE FANTOM OF PARIS
He kills, robs, and terrorizes—yet still has panache. How very French.


This is one of the oldest book covers we've shared. Fantômas, written by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, was originally published in 1911 by Librairie Arthème Fayard with uncredited art. We located a digital translation and were treated to a complex and somewhat episodic novel pitting the titular murderer and thief Fantômas against a clever and determined detective named Juve in a deadly pan-Parisian cat-and-mouse. Juve knows that many crimes committed in and around the city are the work of Fantômas, but catching him—when many believe he's just a figment of fearful imaginations—is another matter.
 
Fantômas and Juve are both adept with disguises, and a third character disguises himself as a woman. The focus on such playacting makes us believe costumes held a particular fascination for the French at that time. The main surprise for us with this book was how evil Fantômas is. He kills one guy, crams him in a shipping crate, and injects his body with some chemical or other to keep the smell down. He shows his brutality in other instances as well. It's hard to wrap our heads around the fact that French readers embraced a tale that starred a serial killer, but then again the French were traditionally ahead of the artistic curve.
 
For francophiles Fantômas is probably a can't miss, and while it's perhaps less on target for readers used to structure and action from books written post-1970, it's certainly atmospheric as hell. Successful too—the book sold mountains and Fantômas became a franchise character. We're sorry to give away that he survives this novel, but it isn't as if you have a choice about finding that out, considering this book is referred to in numerous places as Fantômas #1. We wouldn't quite label him #1, but he's pretty fun.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 18
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
August 17
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
August 16
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
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