Vintage Pulp Oct 11 2021
TOURIST TRAP
Shit, that waiter is fast! The meal sucked and his service was worse, but maybe we should have tipped him anyway.


This cover for the 1965 Ace Edition of Martha Albrand's 1959 novel A Day in Monte Carlo caught our eye for a couple of reasons. One is the nice art by an unknown, but the other is because we're almost finished with David Dodge's 1952 travel book The Poor Man's Guide to Europe, and it encompasses the south of France. Why read a 70 year-old travel book? We knew it would be like a priceless time capsule—and it is. We'll get to it a bit later, but suffice to say it made us see this cover as two vacationers stiffing a waiter who's now chasing them with a scimitar. As you'd expect, however, this is actually an espionage novel, and a well reviewed one.

But sadly, A Day in Monte Carlo, which you might categorize as romantic suspense, is silly. Its main flaw is that the central relationship between American spycatcher Mark and French dancer Fleur is built on the gimmick of love at first sight. They meet, fall in love within minutes, and agree to marry before half a day has passed. After that point one of the main sources of plot tension becomes: how can Mark carry on a love affair and still chase the great and mysterious Timgad, mastermind behind the Algerian rebel movement, who flits from the Sahel to the Riviera with the ease of a migratory hawk? Well, there's an answer to that, though not a good one.

Albrand was something of an expert at this type of fiction, having published other novels in the same vein, but reputations can deceive. A great writer, perhaps, could pull all this off, but Albrand, whose go-to lines are things like, “Oh, Mark, I was so afraid. Is it really worth it to love this much?” is not a great writer. At least not in this book. We've actually seen her compared to the aforementioned David Dodge, who in addition to travel books wrote fiction classics like To Catch a Thief. But while Dodge wrote with wit, panache, and a touch of romance, he also wrote with gravity and grit. A Day in Monte Carlo needs a dose of the latter two qualities. Onward and upward. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 15 2020
FRENCH TRYSTS
I've already had nine episodes. Once I have you my season will be complete.


Above you see a cover for Mack Reynolds' Episode on the Riviera, published in 1961 by Monarch Books. If you check Reynolds' Wikipedia profile it tells you that he wrote five sex novels from 1961 to 1964, and that this is one of them. Everyone's got bills to pay, right? Well, we don't know about the other four, but this one isn't a sex novel, or even a sleaze novel. While the language is bit more frank than usual and a couple of then-esoteric acts are implied, it's actually a David Dodge influenced lightweight drama, and it's as confidently put across as anything Dodge ever wrote. Most of the action takes place at French Riviera casinos, beaches, and parties, and in main character Steve Cogswell's travel agency, one of whose customers a particular summer week is Nadine Whiteley, a woman determined to solve what she perceives as her own sexual problem by having an anonymous affair with any suitable swinging dick she stumbles across. Cogswell seems to fit the bill, but he has his own sexual quirks. Just when these two look set to get together, both their exes arrive from the U.S—Nadine's to blackmail her into marriage so he can get his mitts on her money, and Steve's to win him back after she's betrayed him with his best friend. While the sexual problems of both characters are imperfectly handled, overall this one is a winner, an easy and effervescent summer read. 

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Musiquarium Jul 14 2011
RIDING THE RAILS
You know where you hope this train will take you, but you can’t be sure.

We came across this shot of Frank Sinatra waiting for a train and it really struck us. We didn’t know the photographer, year or place, but there’s this thing called the internet and it has a lot of information on it. Soon we found that the photog was a Frenchman named Luc Fournol, and not long afterward we identified the time as June 1958. As for the place, we’d assumed Spain because of the architecture, but apparently this is the Monte Carlo train station. Sinatra was in town to perform at the famed Sporting Club, and that concert produced another iconic photo, which you see below. And what the hell, just to be completist about it, if you want to hear the concert, which is of course great, it’s downloadable here.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 5 2009
GRATEFUL DEAD
Okay, I’ll have one drink. Geez, you dead are pushy.

American author Jay Flynn, aka J.M. Flynn, is one of those writers whose real life reads as entertainingly as some of his fiction. He was a heavy drinker with a case of wanderlust, and he set up shop in places like Massachusetts, California, Paris, Mallorca, and Monte Carlo. 1959’s Drink with the Dead is considered one of his better books—you see Paul Rader's U.S. cover art above, and as a bonus we've shared Richard S. Prather's Finnish edition of Bodies in Bedlam, which borrows the same image. Anyway, Drink with the Dead concerns a bunch of modern day bootleggers—ironic, considering Flynn got involved in the illegal liquor trade at one point. He was one of those rough and tumble writers that injected a lot of personal experience into his fiction, and whose erratic, hellraising ways always made subsistence a struggle. He spent time on skid row, was hired and fired by a lot of publishers, and refused to give up the booze even after his doctor said it would kill him. He died younger than he should have, perhaps, but left behind a lot of writing. You can find a detailed review of Drink with the Dead here. and a detailed bio of Flynn here.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 16
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
October 15
1945—Laval Executed
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
October 14
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
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