Well, sure, honey, if that's what you want, I guess I can try to help you put this deal to bed.
Midwood Books had a near-monopoly on artist Paul Rader, and good thing, because the guy was brilliant. His cover for the sleaze novel Strictly Business features an amusing tableau of a dapper businessman chatting with his leering colleague, as a coy beauty sits nearby.
The cover blurb is a little deceptive. The husband in this tale is actually the first to cheat, which drives his wife to do the same, first sampling some same-sex sweetness, then bedding down with her hubbie's hated rival. While the husband has an affair to help his business, his wife cheats in retaliation. When the husband encourages her to use her wiles to help him seal a deal, she leaves him. End of book. So the cover text is not on target. Not only that, but the rear synopsis makes up a scenario that never occurs at any point. Such are the hazards of sleaze novels, but this one is still a pretty fun read. Midwood was top of the genre for good reason.
And end with, “Therefore, honey, I've left you for my secretary.” Drop that in the mail room, then confirm our flight to Bimini.
In mid-century sleaze novels every working woman is a bombshell and every employer is tall, dapper, and virile. Paul Rader hits both notes on this cover for Temporary Secretary by Joan Ellis. Rader was an amazing illustrator. The key to this effort is in the angle of the male figure's head. There's no doubt he's aiming his gaze not at the secretary's shorthand pad, but a few degrees to its right. Very well done, copyright 1965.
Alright, who do I have to lure to my hotel room and get photographed in a compromising position to win this thing?
Her sash says Miss Alabama, but since she fronts a Midwood sleaze paperback we're crowning her Miss Midwood Sleaze 1962. The cover was painted by Paul Rader and the rear text explains all you need to know about Walter Dyer's tale: This book tells you how beauty contests are judged and about the love-ripened contestants who will go to any lengths to win! It definitely sounds like a fertile milieu for a sleaze novel, and got us thinking about our favorite beauty contest winners. Lynda Carter comes to mind. Candice Bergen. Lee Meriwether. Isabel Sarli. Sophia Loren competed but didn't win, amazingly. Here's someone else who competed and didn't win, but we love her. Who else is there? Vanessa Williams. Love her too, though not for her pageant work. Hah. Same with Isabelle Chaudieu. Maybe we can put together a post of vintage stars who competed in beauty contests. That might be fun. Top of the list: Sean Connery, aspiring Mr. Universe of 1953.
Since you're supposed to be so good at reading signs, what am I asking for right now?
Val Seran's 1967 novel Grand Slam Girl took us by surprise by being a sleaze novel. The rear cover text suggested a crime thriller set in the world of baseball, and it's that, but it's also an erotic novel littered with a dozen or so semi-explicit lovemaking scenes. Such scenes are fun when they're well written. Here they aren't, and an additional problem is that there are almost as many rapes as sex scenes, as a quartet of organized crime thugs use sexual assault as their go-to weapon. The thriller aspect of the story deals with a minor league pitcher named Jack Sweet who gets involved with the fiancée of his murdered brother. Did she kill him? We didn't care, and we weren't intrigued by the book's heroin smuggling subplot either. Somehow Seran, aka Curt Allen, managed to publish at least ten books. Based on this effort we find that surprising.
Edit: We've just learned that the cover, uncredited by Bee-Line Books, is repurposed Paul Rader art from the 1962 Midwood Books sleazer The Sex Game, written by Mike Skinner.
When you think about the enormity of the sky and the vastness of nature doesn't it make taking off your blouse seem insignificant?
Above, a cover for Chris Harrison's sleaze novel Sex Ranch, published by Midwood Books in 1968, the last year the company was active. The art is unsigned but it's the work of the masterful Paul Rader, who we just saw yesterday. But we brought him back because he's one of our favorites. Hell, he's a favorite of anyone who follows vintage paperback art. Not only is he a top notch illustrator, but his work has given us many opportunities for enjoyable riffing. You can find some amusing efforts here, here, here, and here.
Whatever floats your corpse.
Art by Paul Rader fronts this copy of Samuel A. Krasney's A Mania for Blondes, a police proceedural dealing with two women drowned in Philadelphia's Delaware River, and the investigation to bring a killer to justice. The protagonist here is vice detective Ben Krahmer, who learns that both victims appeared in nudie reels. The clues lead down the rabbit hole of illicit porn and toward a mysterious suspect witnesses think looks like Zorro—but who Krahmer soon realizes may be a member of Pennsylvania's traditionally garbed Dutch community. Procedurals sometimes—as is the case here—fail to provide deep characterizations, but the mechanics of the investigation are interesting. Krasney constantly refers to his protagonist as “the Morals man”—capital M—which we found weird, but we thought this outing was solid overall and we liked the Zorro imagery. Even so, we probably won't go looking for more from Krasney unless we run across him cheap. There are, after all, so many paperbacks, and so little time.
Well fine. If you really want to know, in my experience, you're very much on the smaller side.
Above: the 1965 sleaze novel Ask Me No Questions by Carter McCord, with cover art by Paul Rader. Be careful what you ask. If you aren't—just look at the poor guy in the background—you could end up like him.
There are a lot of members, but they all come away satisfied.
Arthur Adlon's Key Club Girl is pretty limp for a sleaze novel. If we planned to resell it we'd be depressing its value by saying that, but we can't lie—it has no spark. It's about a virginal woman named Lena who's unable to consummate relationships with a series of men, including her husband. She solves the problem with the help of an eager man named Lee and the behind the scenes action at the Golden Key Club. She doesn't end up with Lee, though. Her husband Quentin, who was so disappointed when he learned on the wedding night that Lena abhored sex, and has since divorced her, ends up with her after all. We won't bother with more of a plot summary. Life's short, we have these sleaze novels coming in all the time, and most of them are better than Key Club Girl. The art on this, however, is sublime. It's what enticed us to buy it. Paul Rader painted it, and if you look closely you'll see a topless reflection in the vanity mirror, and in the background, way back, a man straddling a chair. Nice work.
Knight falls in the City of Light.
We weren't impressed with Adam Knight's Sugar Shannon, but excellent Paul Rader cover art earned him another chance with Girl Running, published in 1956 by Signet. It has the built in advantage of being set in Paris, but in the end we have to conclude that Knight just isn't a good writer. Here's a sample, and note that when he says “stay alive” he's talking about staying awake:
I beat it back to the hotel, fighting hard to stay alive for a little while longer. I lost the fight. A shower only rocked me for a brief pause. Then the important muscles gave way and fatigue took me to bed for a cat nap. I told myself that I could sleep two hours. I phoned the desk to jerk me awake at about noon. Then Morpheus grabbed me.
Knight's main character goes to sleep three times in that paragraph—or twice, if we want to be generous. Also, the idea of a “cat nap” is incongruous with total fatigue. A cat nap is light sleep. Even sleeping for only two hours, he'd be dead to the world. The snippet is a microcosm of the book—messy, disarranged, and lacking flow and rhythm. So when it comes to Knight we'll call it a day. He's just not our thing.
*sigh* I'm still confused how I was charged for not having something.
They say possession is nine tenths of the law, but that last tenth can get mighty interesting if the thing you don't possess when the cops come along is, for example, identification, or clothing, or, apparently morals. Paul Hunter's 1961 novel Morals Charge deals with an eighteen-year old named Nancy who is lusted after by her mother's boyfriend, falls into the clutches of a big city racketeer, is jailed on a morals charge and abused by cops intent on using her to snare bigger prey. Paul Rader handles the cover work here, and it's a typically excellent effort. Mid-century paperback art would be far less entertaining without him, and though everything he does is great, if you want to see some of our favorites, check here, here, here, and here. We also have a mini-collection here.
Update: checking on this one in 2022, we see it on sale for $629. That's just...hilarious.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—Allende Meteorite Falls in Mexico
The Allende Meteorite, the largest object of its type ever found, falls in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The original stone, traveling at more than ten miles per second and leaving a brilliant streak across the sky, is believed to have been approximately the size of an automobile. But by the time it hit the Earth it had broken into hundreds of fragments.
1985—Matt Munro Dies
English singer Matt Munro, who was one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and sang numerous hits, including the James Bond theme "From Russia with Love," dies from liver cancer at Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London.
1958—Plane Crash Kills 8 Man U Players
British European Airways Flight 609 crashes attempting to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane is the Manchester United football team, along with a number of supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 people on board die in the crash.
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