But, darling, you've been telling me for weeks you're as good as blind.
Above: a fun cover in the cheaters who got caught category for Whit Harrison's, aka Harry Whittington's, Body and Passion, 1952, from Original Novels, with cover art by an unknown. Some sources say this was also published as Dear Deadly Past, but other sources say it was published as Satan's Widow. The confusion may derive from Whittington's U.S. Wikipedia page versus his French Wikipedia page. Hopefully that'll get sorted out.
All's affair in love and show business.
First matter—we met a couple of nice women at the gintoneria in one of our local plazas last night and said we'd mention them today as a way of proving that we were telling the truth about being the makers of this website. So hello, friends, and sorry about all the nudity you'll find here. Hah—well, not really. Anyway, last year we read Amos Hatter's (James W. Lampp's) unusual 1952 titillation novel Island Girl, and since we're repeat offenders when it comes to authors who intrigue us, we picked up another Hatter—1951's Backstage Affair. It's about a dancer and singer named Mitzi West who's trying earn her first big show business break, but is stuck in St. Louis finding it exceedingly difficult not to become a prostitute to support herself. By now you know the formula with these tales, so we don't need to explain the plot in more detail. It isn't as good as Island Girl, but it's enjoyable enough, and it came with Rudy Nappi cover art—signed by both him and a former owner of the book named Lahoma Hustich. Love your name, Lahoma.
Geez, all I said was the bouillabaisse was a little bland and the guy went frickin' nuts. What is it with the French?
We had a friend who habitually added salt to every meal ever put in front of him. He was American, obviously. When we went to France together, our first dinner out he asked a waiter for a salt shaker (you won't find them on the tables). He hadn't even tasted the dish yet. Salt was a reflex with him. He got the dirtiest look ever shot at a paying customer and probably came a hair away from the treatment you see on the cover of Albert L. Quandt's Crime Boss, published by Original Novels in 1952. But there's no angry chef in the book. It's a mob tale, the story of one Vic Santo, who rises to be king of the rackets. The art is uncredited, and by the way, that thing that looks like a band of scotch tape on the book's spine is actually in the art. It's a textured column in the restaurant.
All you guys down here on the waterfront reek of fish. But that's okay. I used to live by the industrial pig farm, and the men there... pee yew!
Didn't we just feature a cover for Waterfront Girl last month? Nope. That was Waterfront Blonde. Totally different book. Similar themes, though. We wouldn't go so far as to call books about untamable waterfront girls a sub-genre of mid-century fiction, but more than a few tales of that type hit newsstands during the 1950s. This one came from Amos Hatter, aka James W. Lampp, and tells the story of, well, an untamable waterfront girl on the mighty Mississippi. It's from Original Novels, was published in 1952, and the cover is unattributed. You see the original art below, with a close-up showing the detailed work. The artist really deserves recognition for this effort, but no such luck. Sign your art, everyone. Don't be like this person.
Okay, he's taken the bait. We'll let him get close, then you distract him by puking on his coat, and I'll take him down.
City Streets was written by Gene Harvey, aka Jack Hanley, who we last saw authoring 1942's Leg Artist. Harvey was a literary vet who authored such memorable lite-sleaze epics as She Couldn't Be Good, A Girl Called Joy, and Stag Stripper. City Streets is from 1954 and apparently his various publishers liked it so much they issued it four times—Venus Books put it out in 1950 as Cutie, Exotic Novels released it as Passion's Slave the same year in an illustrated format, Original Novels published it as what you see above, and finally Star Novels published it, also as City Streets, in 1955. These companies were closely related, but that's still a lot of mileage from one book. It explores the trials and tribulations of beautiful young Dru, “a bad girl of the slums,” who's gotten her education from the school of hard knocks—i.e. from Chicago's south side. The cover art on this is by Rafael DeSoto, who cleverly hid his signature in the gutter. It's a really beautiful effort from him, certainly one of his best. We've featured him often, so just click his keywords below if you want to see more.
I believe in you, and I'm not alone. On the radio they said you could win if the champ slips in your blood and knocks himself out falling.
Mort Kunstler mainly painted for men's adventure magazines, but he did the occasional paperback cover and you see his work above on Kate Nickerson's 1953 boxing drama Ringside Jezebel. The title tells you everything you need to know. A femme fatale gangster's moll orbiting the professional boxing scene insinuates her way into the lives of promoters and fighters, bringing ruin to them all. But inevitably she meets a contender and plays the same game with him only to realize—after trapping him into throwing his biggest fight—that maybe she actually likes him. Having him in the first place was never an issue. It's winning him back that looks to be the problem. Classic boxing potboiler from Nickerson, née Lulla Adler, author of other memorable efforts such as Street of the Blues, Love Takes the Count, and Passion Is a Woman.
He totally ignores us for her. She can't drive a tractor or slaughter a hog, so what the hell is the attraction?
The hicks keep on coming. Above is another entry in the always fertile farmer sleaze genre, Shanty Road, by Whit Harrison, aka Harry Whittington. A hot hayseed named Amy inspires jealousy and desire among the locals, and things get interesting when a handsome young city doctor comes along and likes what he sees. In order to win Amy he'll have to beat back rivals and earn trust. You may remember Whittington also wrote the rural novels Shack Road and Backwoods Shack, and he authored others we haven't discussed. By now you've probably realized he was the king of this genre, and in fact he gave the niche its name—“backwoods novels.” This one doesn't have a backwoods price, though. Vendors are asking $175 and up for it. 1954 copyright.
You've changed me, baby. My evil days are done. From here on out I'm going to be forever unpleasant.
Forever Evil is an exceedingly scarce digest style paperback written by Harry Whittington for Original Novels. When we say scarce, we mean triple-digit scarce—like $175 per copy scarce. The story concerns a New York party girl (with the excellent name Billie Parker) who ends up in a hotel room with a corpse and has to flee the police and, possibly, the perpetrators. How far does she run? Well, the cover tells the story. But even in paradise she can't help hooking up with the lowest characters around, and in any case, in mid-century fiction it's impossible to escape one's troubles. The cover art for this is uncredited, but it's amazing. The copyright is 1952.
He doesn't know what he's looking for in a woman. He just knows he'll find it eventually.
If you're thinking of writing a book but fear you're too late to start, take note: Florence Stonebraker published her first novel at age forty-one and went on to write more than eighty books. In 1952 alone she published eleven novels. True, her stuff was not literary fiction, but dollars are green no matter your audience, right? What's beyond doubt is that she is a well-regarded genre author and her books are collectible today. Love-Hungry Doctor came in 1953 and is exactly what it seems in the cover art by Lou Marchetti—an exploration of a shy doctor's romantic troubles, which are enlivened by the arrival of a new woman in his life. We've been doing a lot on Stonebraker lately, but it's because her books had the very best cover art of the era. Check what we mean with three more examples here, here, and here.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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