Vintage Pulp Sep 17 2023
SEA SICKNESS
Revenge is a dish best served on land. Served at sea it might come back up the wrong way.


Mort Engle art fronts this Dell edition of Frank Kane's 1962 novel The Conspirators, the improbable tale of a tycoon named Howard Carter who takes an ill-fated yachting trip from New York City to the French Riviera and onward toward Crete and Turkey with his wife, lawyer, and various acquaintances. Carter is not a nice guy, while his guests are mainly sniveling, underhanded, and weak. Why then has he invited them onto his yacht? Good question. He plans to hold them helpless while the machinery of revenge churns. They tried to double-cross him on a land deal, which in reality was an elaborate loyalty test/entrapment he set up in the first place. He can't wait to see their faces when he reveals that they've profited nothing except maybe prison terms for embezzlement, and, stuck on the boat, they can do nothing to help themselves—except possibly beg for mercy.

But Carter hasn't considered that this disloyal crowd might fight back. They might, for example, knock him over the head and toss him overboard. We didn't blame them a bit for deep-sixing him. Carter is one of the meanest characters we've come across in fiction. There's an Ayn Randian shading to his portrayal, and you already know we hate Rand's objectivist horseshit. The land swindle was even over a parcel named Galt, just to make Kane's thinking clear. In any case, sending Carter over the side is not the end of the conspirators' problems, but we won't tell you more of the plot except to say that it's malarky. But Kane can write, so the story comes across mostly okay. We can't say we were enamored of him repeatedly describing one of the characters—a blonde woman—as “the snowtop.” That's just bizarre. But all authors have quirks. The Conspirators is an entertaining voyage.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 16 2015
A QUESTION OF LUCK
Too bad the character’s good fortune didn’t extend into the CBS executive suite.

Mr. Lucky by Albert Conroy, aka Marvin H. Albert, has nice wraparound art, and the back cover, featuring an unlucky black cat, completes an excellent illustration by Mort Engle. This was actually the novelization of a 1959 Blake Edwards television series of the same name about a gambler who runs a casino on his yacht the Fortuna II, which is anchored off Los Angeles, but beyond the three-mile limit in international waters. In the book he’s framed for murder; in the series he and his sidekick Andamo have assorted wacky adventures, both on the boat and on land, often involving mobsters. The show starred John Vinyan and Ross Martin, and ran for thirty-four episodes—just one season. It was actually quite popular with viewers, but CBS cancelled it anyway. Vinyan said he thought it was done as a favor to Jack Benny to free the time slot for Checkmate, which was made by Benny’s production company. After the axe fell Blake Edwards tried to develop Mr. Lucky as a movie, and it’s possible Conroy’s 1960 novel had something to do with that. That part of the story is murky, but we’ll see if we can dig up a bit more. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 6 2015
KILLER TUNE
Sweet Homicide? The song is called “Sweet Caroline.” What is this new singer of yours, Vinny, some kind of friggin’ smart aleck?

Bad times never felt so good, so good, so good, especially for an ambitious newspaper reporter investigating a murder in Prohibition-era Chicago. The novel Sing Out Sweet Homicide is a tie-in to the 1960-1962 television series The Roaring 20’s, and you get all the elements here—mobsters, molls, and money by the fistful. The cover art is by Mort Engle.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 14
1935—Dust Storm Strikes U.S.
Exacerbated by a long drought combined with poor soil conservation techniques that caused excessive soil erosion on farmlands, a huge dust storm known as Black Sunday rages across Texas, Oklahoma, and several other states, literally turning day to night and redistributing an estimated 300,000 tons of topsoil.
April 13
1953—MK-ULTRA Mind Control Program Launched
In the U.S., CIA director Allen Dulles launches a program codenamed MK-ULTRA, which involves the surreptitious use of drugs such as LSD to manipulate individual mental states and to alter brain function. The specific goals of the program are multifold, but focus on drugging world leaders in order to discredit them, developing a truth serum, and making people highly susceptible to suggestion. All of this is top secret, and files relating to MK-ULTRA's existence are destroyed in 1973, but the truth about the program still emerges in the mid-seventies after a congressional investigation.
April 12
1945—Franklin Roosevelt Dies
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies of a cerebral hemorrhage while sitting for a portrait in the White House. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt's body is transported by train to his hometown of Hyde Park, New York, and on April 15 he is buried in the rose garden of the Roosevelt family home.
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