Vintage Pulp Dec 1 2020
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
A future literary star puts audiences on notice with a downbeat debut.


Mario Puzo published The Dark Arena in 1955. He would be world famous fifteen years later thanks to his blockbuster novel The Godfather, but here readers find him exploring post-World War II Bremen, Germany, which is bombed out and partitioned between American and Russian troops. His main character Walter Mosca tries to find purpose in this blasted landscape, but his own nature and the chaos around him prevent him finding the humanity he lost in the war. Even the love of his girlfriend Hella can't seem to fill the hole inside him. The book is overwhelmingly tragic in mood from the very first pages, and it becomes obvious which character is going to bear the brunt of the inevitable sad ending, but those aren't criticisms. Puzo's talent in this, his debut novel produced at age twenty-five, shines in the darkness. Like a lot of first books it could be pared down, but on the other hand it's interesting when Puzo stretches his literary wings in lengthy descriptive passages obviously derived from personal observation. He was clearly a star in the making. That may sound like 20/20 hindsight, but it isn't. If The Dark Arena had been the only book Puzo ever published it would be an underground classic today and people would wonder why he never built on his promise. Luckily for world literature, he did.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 17 2014
OUTBREAK OF WEASELS
Where the wild things are.


Above is the cover of New Texture’s 2012 book Weasels Ripped My Flesh!, which co-editor Robert Deis sent to us back in December. It took a while, but we finally finished reading it, and as expected, it’s a supremely satisfying compendium. All the tales were drawn from men’s adventure magazines of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, and authors include Robert Silverberg, Lawrence Block, Jayne Dolinger, Walter Kaylin, and Mike Kamens, who wrote the improbable but now classic crazed weasels story after which this collection is named.

We were particularly gratified by Harlan Ellison’s presence in the form of his 1956 yarn “Death Climb,” in which an alpine guide is caught mid-ascent in a deadly dilemma—both halves of the wealthy but unhappily married couple he’s guiding up Mt. Keppler have secretly offered him money to push the other off the top. That story exemplifies what can be so fun about this type of fiction—the way it often begins with no set-up or preamble, in this case launching at high speed with the line, “It was either climb Mt. Keppler—or die.” Likewise the story ends sans denouement—the climax is quick and brutal.
 
Ellison has always been renowned for banging out stories quickly. This one feels quicker than usual—the femme fatale’s hair color even changes from blonde to auburn. But the fun factor more than compensates for that little slip. In addition to fiction you get (ostensibly) true stories such as “I Went to a Lesbian Party” by Joanne Beardon, “Eat Her… Bones and All,” as told to Bruce Jay Friedman, an interview with Godfather author Mario Puzo, and many other treats.

Along with He-Men, Bag Men & Nymphos, which is also from New Texture, Weasels Ripped My Flesh! gives us two of the best men’s magazine fiction anthologies on the market. New Texture also has other enticing items in its catalog, such as Chris D.’s Gun and Sword, an encyclopedia of Japanese gangster and pinku films. You can find out more at the New Texture blog or at the website Menspulpmags.com.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
January 28
1964—Soviets Shoot Down U.S. Plane
A U.S. Air Force training jet is shot down by Soviet fighters after straying into East German airspace. All 3 crew men are killed. U.S forces then clandestinely enter East Germany in an attempt to reach the crash but are thwarted by Soviet forces. In the end, the U.S. approaches the Soviets through diplomatic channels and on January 31 the wreckage of the aircraft is loaded onto trucks with the assistance of Soviet troops, and returned to West Germany.
January 27
1967—Apollo Fire Kills Three Astronauts
Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee are killed in a fire during a test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Although the ignition source of the fire is never conclusively identified, the astronauts' deaths are attributed to a wide range of design hazards in the early Apollo command module, including the use of a high-pressure 100 percent-oxygen atmosphere for the test, wiring and plumbing flaws, flammable materials in the cockpit, an inward-opening hatch, and the flight suits worn by the astronauts.
January 26
1924—St. Petersburg is renamed Leningrad
St. Peterburg, the Russian city founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and which was capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years, is renamed Leningrad three days after the death of Vladimir Lenin. The city had already been renamed Petrograd in 1914. It was finally given back its original name St. Petersburg in 1991.
1966—Beaumont Children Disappear
In Australia, siblings Jane Nartare Beaumont, Arnna Kathleen Beaumont, and Grant Ellis Beaumont, aged 9, 7, and 4, disappear from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, and are never seen again. Witnesses claim to have spotted them in the company of a tall, blonde man, but over the years, after interviewing many potential suspects, police are unable generate enough solid leads to result in an arrest. The disappearances remain Australia's most infamous cold case.
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