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.
September 27
1964—Warren Commission Issues Report
The Warren Commission, which had been convened to examine the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's assassination, releases its final report, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. Today, up to 81% of Americans are troubled by the official account of the assassination.
September 26
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
September 25
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
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