Vintage Pulp Mar 7 2024
SAFETY FIRST
She never has unprotected sex.

Above: an alternate cover for Milton K. Ozaki's 1952 thriller The Deadly Pick-Up. We use “thriller” loosely, because it wasn't a very involving book. But both covers are excellent. This one is by Rudy Nappi. You can see the other, by an uncredited artist, here

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Vintage Pulp Jun 26 2023
SEX TRAFFIC
Fatal Manhattan pile-up caused when multiple cabs simultaneously try to pick up same fare.

The last Milton K. Ozaki book we read left us cold, but because 1952's Deadly Pick-Up has beautiful cover art we decided to give it a shot. Graphic Books during the early 1950s routinely had brilliant covers. About a paragraph into reading this we realized it was the same Ozaki as before, but we forged ahead into the tale of a man wrongfully suspected of a woman's strangulation, who must solve the crime before he's snared by the cops. The dead woman's sister, a private detective, helps him out, and they discover the reason for the killing was $60,000 in counterfeit bills, which turn out not to be fake after all.

In terms of specific problems with the book, we'll highlight a couple. First, the sister detective is immediately pushed by Ozaki into a background role, protected and sidelined by the main character. We'd be okay with it if the hero were a qualified tough guy. But he's a damned insurance salesman. It seems as if Ozaki was imaginative enough to create a female detective, but not imaginative enough to conceive of her refusing to let some rando tell her how to do her job. In an era where other writers had already created tough and competent women detectives it was simply a whiff. A second issue, more serious in our view, is the tortured similes Ozaki uses. Some choice examples:

With his bat in hand he hurdled the bar as gracefully as a ballet dancer sailing over a papier mâché bush.

He kept watching me as though my nose were an independent organism likely to do tricks.

Thinking was like trying to bounce a rubber ball in a puddle of wet, sticky mud.

Crime writing and hard boiled similes go hand-in-hand, but you have to do better than that. Ozaki does manage to create a few unusual moments, including steering the investigation into a gay bar—where the hero is physically attacked twenty-against-one when he's assumed to be a morals spy. The gay characters in the book do not—obviously—fare well descriptively. That's never fun to read, but it's what you have to expect considering the time period. Ozaki would not have earned our future trust regardless. He just doesn't write well. But we're glad to have the book because the cover—uncredited, sadly—is aces. 
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Vintage Pulp Jul 28 2021
DOLLY PARDON
She's dangerous, untrustworthy, and cruel—but hey, what beautiful woman doesn't come with a little baggage?


We'd been meaning to get around to reading Milton K. Ozaki, aka Robert O. Saber for a while, and when we came across Murder Doll we took the plunge. Plotwise, Chicago private eye Carl Good finds himself in the middle of an out-of-town gangland takeover. This is no ordinary invasion—the head honcho is rumored to be the beautiful ex-mistress of an eastern mobster. The problem is nobody knows exactly who she is. Good is hired to find this bombshell criminal, as he coincidentally acquires both a hot new secretary and a hot new girlfriend. Hmm... Maybe one of them is not what she seems. This is a mostly unremarkable mystery that even a trip to a nudist colony can't elevate, but it started well, with a clever nightclub murder, and it's very readable in general, so we'll give Ozaki a pass for this lusterless effort and hope he dazzles us next time. It came from Berkley Books in 1952 and the cover artist unknown.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 7 2016
THE HONEYMOON IS OVER
Why on Earth are you bringing up that till-death-us-do-part stuff now? Neither is us is going to die for a long time.

Above, great cover art for Robert O. Saber's Murder Honeymoon, a digest style paperback from the Australian imprint Phantom Books, 1953. The art originally fronted Saber's 1952 Original Novels thriller City of Sin, which you see at right, and was painted by the always amazing George Gross. Saber was aka Milton K. Ozaki, and we've featured him quite a bit because he seems to have always managed to have his books illustrated by the best. Though the art on these two books was basically the same, the novels were different. This is the first time we've come across identical art for separate novels by the same author.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 2 2016
ROUTINE LOUSEWORK
There. I shot him. Now will you get off my back about never helping you out around here?

Above, the cover of Sucker Bait by Robert O. Saber, aka Milton K. Ozaki, 1955 from Graphic Books. Rich men pay $1,000 for entry into the Purple Door Club, where they procure the services of Chicago's most beautiful prostitutes, but also become targets for blackmailers. Hero Carl Good is accused of murdering one of the women and has to clear himself by finding the real killer. Good thing he's a detective. The cool cover art here is by Robert Maguire. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 14 2016
TOO CLOTHED FOR COMFORT
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.


We love this Walter Popp cover art for Graphic Books' 1954 edition of Milton Ozaki's Dressed To Kill. He painted a couple of favorite covers, including A Time for Murder and New York Model, which we showed you here and here. In Dressed To Kill a private eye takes a job repossessing cars, and the first one he goes after is driven by a beautiful blonde and has a corpse in the trunk. The corpse of course leads to loot, and the loot of course attracts the villains—a bunch of Chicago mobsters. Generally well reviewed, but not Ozaki's best, according to most sources.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 5 2016
SHADOW AND FRIGHT
The shape of bad things to come.

Above and below are assorted covers featuring yet another fun mid-century paperback art motif—the looming or threatening shadow. The covers are by the usual suspects—Rader, Phillips, Gross, Caroselli, Nik, as well as by artists whose work you see less often, such as Tony Carter’s brilliant cover for And Turned to Clay. That's actually a dust jacket, rather than a paperback front, but we couldn't leave it out. You’ll also notice French publishers really liked this theme. We’ll doubtless come across more, and as we do we’ll add to the collection. This is true of all our cover collections. For instance, our post featuring the Eiffel Tower has grown from fifteen to twenty-two examples, and our group of fronts with syringes has swelled from thirteen to twenty-six images. We have twenty-four twenty-six—see what we mean?—more shadow covers below, and thanks to all original uploaders.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 15 2015
TRAINING DAY
Good boy. Now that you’ve got begging mastered let’s see how you do at playing dead.

Above, Marked for Murder, written by Robert O. Saber, aka Milton K. Ozaki, published originally in 1955, with this edition from Australia’s Phantom Books appearing in 1956. Artist unknown.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 7 2014
WOMEN'S ACCESSORIES
No, the other gun, silly. The one that matches my shoes. The one with the pearl inlay. Geez, men are so dense.

Above, the cover for Robert O. Saber’s, aka Milton K. Ozaki’s Chicago-based tale of crooked cops and robbers A Time for Murder, 1956. The artist here is Walter Popp. 

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Vintage Pulp May 18 2014
A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
The cover changed substantially between editions but the weirdest bit stayed.


Remember our set of paperback covers featuring women who had died with their eyes agape? Here’s another to add to the list, which we saw over at Bill Crider’s blog. It’s Robert O. Saber’s The Affair of the Frigid Blonde, published in 1950 by the Handi-Books imprint of Quinn Publishing Company, Inc. This one is a bit strange, though, because of the three men seemingly hovering in mid-air to get a look through the deceased’s skylight. We chalk the bizarre perspective up to artistic license, or maybe we’re just not seeing it right. In fact, maybe she’s not even dead. Maybe she’s just in a state of shock. If we saw three guys floating above our skylight we’d fall into a stupor too. But no, the synopsis makes clear she’s dead. 

Anyway, Robert Saber was a pseudonym used by Milton K. Ozaki, who also published frequently under his own name. The book also appeared in Australia as The Deadly Blonde in 1953, published by the Australian imprint Phantom Books, with slightly altered art. Among other details, what looks like a robot but is probably supposed to be a lamp was removed from the background, a clock disappeared, a humanoid shadow at the far right edge vanished, and the woman’s undies were made less sheer (though the floating guys still get a pretty interesting angle). All in all, this is very instructive example of how cover art changes between editions of pulp paperbacks. We’ll dig up more examples later.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 15
1939—Adams Completes Around-the-World Air Journey
American Clara Adams becomes the first woman passenger to complete an around-the-world air journey. Her voyage began and ended in New York City, with stops in Lisbon, Marseilles, Leipzig, Athens, Basra, Jodhpur, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Wake Island, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
1955—Nobel Prize Winners Unite Against Nukes
Eighteen Nobel laureates sign the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons, which reads in part: We think it is a delusion if governments believe that they can avoid war for a long time through the fear of [nuclear] weapons. Fear and tension have often engendered wars. Similarly it seems to us a delusion to believe that small conflicts could in the future always be decided by traditional weapons. In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapon that scientific technology can produce.
1997—Versace Murdered in Miami
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot dead on the steps of his Miami mansion as he returns from breakfast at a cafe. His killer is Andrew Cunanan, a man who had already murdered four other people across the country and was the focus of an FBI manhunt. The FBI never caught Cunanan—instead he committed suicide on the houseboat where he was living.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
July 13
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
Richard Speck breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
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