Vintage Pulp Aug 17 2023
BENNY TIME, BENNY PLACE
So that whole brains over brawn thing? I gather you're not a big believer.


Above you see a cover for Peter Rabe's 1955 thriller Benny Muscles In. Rabe had previously debuted with Stop This Man! and would go on to write thirty novels, but he's still green here, and it shows. In the story, Benny Tapkow, a collector for the mob, decides to kidnap his boss's daughter Pat for a rival mobster. Everything goes ridiculously wrong, starting with the rival's henchmen making off with the wrong woman, and continuing with Pat getting hooked on heroin. Overall the book felt like Rabe, early in his authorial career, didn't know quite where to go with these ideas. There's plenty of grit, but not enough precision. We did like the bit, though, where Benny got all quantum: [She] isn't dead. And she isn't alive. She's right between, and the more Pendleton stalls, the worse it'll be for her. Well, maybe that isn't exactly quantum, but it's close, if unintentional. But Rabe would make legit quantum leaps with later works. The art on this Gold Medal edition is by Lu Kimmel.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 1 2023
GUIDED TUEUR
Learn how to be a killer in one easy novel.

Above is a colorful cover for Peter Rabe's Le tueur, a book better known as Anatomy of a Killer. It was published as the latter in 1960, with this French translation from Éditions de la Trevisse appearing the next year. Obviously, there was a better known novel—actually a novela—by John. D. Voelker, aka Robert Traver, called Anatomy of a Murder that was published in 1958 and became an acclaimed Jimmy Stewart movie in 1959. Why did Rabe choose such a similar title? No idea. But the title tells the story: detailed examination of a professional hitman, as the narrative follows him from killing to killing. The art on this is by Jacques Blondeau, who painted numerous book covers during the 1960s. Based on this nice effort we'll stay alert for more of his work. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 12 2020
ROADS LESS TRAVELLED
North of the border, south of the border.

We're back into quasi-quarantine where we live, so what better way to use up double the idle time than with an Ace double novel? In The Cut of the Whip a loner named Dan Port fetches up in a dusty Texas oil town and finds bad luck and trouble when his sports car is rammed and totaled. The person who did it was fleeing town with a sheaf of valuable business documents. The owner of those dox—the fugitive's father—pays Port to retrieve them, and soon he finds himself the only person who can foil a kidnapping plot. The previous books we've read by Rabe verged on bizarre in terms of concept, but this outing is more conventional—we suppose because Port was a franchise character. Rabe would eventually wheel him out for six adventures. We missed the Rabe of efforts like The Box and Kill the Boss Good-by, but he's adequate here, if less imaginative. Port blows into town, whips the asses that need whipping, and drifts away to who-know's-where. Just like a franchise character should.

Robert H. Kelston's Kill One, Kill Two, like its partner book, starts with a deadly auto incident. Maybe that's why the novels were paired. But similarities vanish from that point forward. This book is set in Monterrey, Mexico, and opens with a bang when the protagonist runs over a man on a dark highway. Kelston uses this event to frame a set of circular relationships: there's the protagonist Allen McCoy, who is bedding Juanita, a local nude dancer widely considered to be the most beautiful woman in Monterrey, who is watched over by her hot-headed brother, and is lusted after by a knife fighter known as the Shadow, who's acquaintances with an alcoholic blonde temptress of easy virtue, who is having an affair with the dancer's husband, but all along is trying to bed studly Mr. McCoy.


We've given nothing away with that summary. Kelston shoehorns all that into the first thirty or so pages, and you might have to re-read them to keep the connections straight. 
Who was it that got run over, you're wondering? That would be Juanita's husband Raúl, the guy who's making naughty spoons with the blonde. Thus McCoy is perceived to have gotten a romantic rival out of the way, and is believed by localgossips to now be bedding both the dancer and the blonde. In local macho culture that makes him a pure stud, but for his corporate employers it makes him radioactive. The gossips have it all wrong, though. The death was an accident, a result of drunken driving and darkness. McCoy soon comes to believe that poor Raúl was thrown in front of his car, and must solve the mystery or see his career destroyed by the rumors.

That's all fine, but the entire story turns out to be a fish too big for Kelston to land. He has it on the hook, then sees it wriggle off through pointless dialogue, confused motivations, and general lack of clear direction. We accepted the main character's motivation, but not necessarily his flimsy engineering background, nor his extraordinary bravery and physical competence in the face of danger. After all, he's just a builder. But that's genre fiction for you—on the page anyone can be a stud, even a pasty-ass, red-headed numbers cruncher like Allen McCoy. A cruel editor would have improved this tale, but in the end we enjoyed it anyway, because owing to our background we're predisposed to like adventures set in Latin America. The fact that it came packaged as an Ace double helped. We have a few other Ace doubles in the website, and you can see the whole lot by clicking its keywords below.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 5 2019
WORST CLASS MAIL
Handle with care. Do not bend or crush. This end up. Ignore all noises from within. And most importantly—do not open.


The Box is one of Peter Rabe's strangest tales. It's the story of a man named Quinn who's punished for his transgressions against a bunch of NYC gangsters by being sealed in a coffin-like crate and shipped across the planet. The good news is he's sealed in with numerous canisters of water and packs of c-rations. The bad news is he has to lie in darkness, terror, and filth. He's supposed to end up right back in New York after some weeks on the high seas, but fate intervenes when the box is opened ahead of schedule in Libya. The town, called Okar, has some criminal goings on, and since Quinn's ornery nature makes him disruptive by habit, he can't help putting himself right in the middle. The folks that freed him soon realize they'd have been better off leaving him shut away.

The book is okay. We liked the idea of Quinn continuing to live in a metaphorical box, even after he's escaped one physically. The thing about Rabe, though, here and in other efforts as well, is that he builds his story upon lots of verbal interplay and emotional subterfuge, filling the narrative with scenes of people never quite saying what they mean, and characters trying to understand the deeper implications of what they hear. It may confound some readers. Rabe is simply a very internal writer. We've compared him to Ernest Hemingway, which is easy to do considering Papa's vast influence, but in this case the similarities are particularly clear. The fact that the story is basically impossible to believe is almost disguised by Rabe's strong style. Almost. 1962 copyright on this, with art by Barye Phillips. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 29 2019
THE BIG RIP OFF
This is a Dior blouse you've managed to ruin, FYI, just in case you have anything resembling a human soul.


The lead character in Peter Rabe's Stop This Man is a jackass, but he isn't a rapist. This cover by Darcy, aka Ernest Chiriacka, does capture his essential nature, though, as he's bossy as hell and sees woman mainly as objects to be possessed or manipulated. When he intrudes into the back room of a club and encounters a female employee changing clothes he intimidates her into continuing so he can see her naked. As often happens in mid-century crime novels, she decides this makes him a real man and falls for him. It's not rape but it's definitely rapey. But of course us modern readers are aware of this going in, right? The sexism, the racism, all the rest, are features of 1950s crime literature. Each person needs to decide whether there's something to be gained in the fiction despite its affronts to societal values.

In Stop This Man lots of people are trying to stop Tony Catell, but not from harassing women. They want to thwart his criminal master plan. In mid-century crime fiction the main character is often in possession of an ill gotten item he expects to open the gateway to a better life. It may be money or bearer bonds or a rare diamond. Here the item is a thirty-six pound ingot of stolen gold. Catell hopes to fence it but the trick is to find an interested party who will give him a good price. Did we forget to mention that it's radioactive? There's always a catch, right? People who come into extended contact with this brick of gold die, but that doesn't stop Catell. He wraps it in an x-ray technician's lead lined apron and travels from Detroit to L.A. seeking a buyer for this lethal hunk of heavy metal.

Catell is kind of radioactive too, actually, in the sense that he's bad news through and through. He plans to sell his killer treasure, but has no idea the radiation is turning it into mercury. It's a cool set-up for a thriller by Rabe in his debut novel. You may be thinking 1952's Kiss Me, Deadly did it first, but Spillane's novel does not have the radioactive suitcase made famous by the movie adaptation, so this could be—could be, because we haven't read every book out there—the first time this nuclear gimmick appeared. It was originally published in 1955, which means it's also possible the nuclear angle was influenced by Kiss Me Deadly the film, which appeared in May the same year. But while Stop This Man is cleverly set up and is as hard-boiled as any crime novel we've come across, overall we felt it should have been executed at a higher level.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 26 2018
HELL TO THE CHIEF
Your partners all voted and decided to demote you to this shallow grave.


When the cat's away the mice will play, so the saying goes, and in Kill the Boss Good-By San Pietro crime kingpin Tom Fell goes missing for a month and a subordinate tries to take over his operation. When Fell reappears a power struggle ensues, while the top bosses in L.A. decide to wait and see who will come out on top. What makes the book a bit different is the reason Fell was missing—he was in a mental institution recovering from a breakdown with the aid of electroshock treatments. The new brain-scrambled Fell is calmer than the old Fell, but is he cured or is he worse? His enemies soon find out. Interesting hard boiled stuff from Peter Rabe, driven primarily by dialogue mixed with simple descriptive passages revealing a—dare we say it?—strong Hemingway influence. 1956 with cover art by Barye Phillips. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 20 2015
DUET RIGHT
If you're really going to keep sitting there, use your heel and hit that high a-sharp for me at the end of the chorus.

Above, Murder Me for Nickels, 1960, by Peter Rabe, née Peter Rabinowitsch, for Fawcett Publications’ subsidiary imprint Gold Medal Books. The novel tells the story of a low-level organized crime flunkie named Jack St. Louis who works for a jukebox magnate. Because they control the boxes in their unspecified town and its environs they also control who scores a hit record, which brings not just money but a lot of wannabe starlets their way, some of whom Jack funnels through his side business—a recording studio. Unfortunately, Jack gets caught in a takeover gambit when mobsters from nearby Chicago try to strongarm his boss’s jukebox racket. Making matters worse is his boss’s available wife, who wants to be a singer. Well reviewed everywhere. The cover art is by Robert McGinnis. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 27 2014
SERVICE AGREEMENT
I brought you two. As your butler I know this always leads to you rutting with some anonymous loser, so let’s just get you there as efficiently as possible.

New Man in the House is the work of Peter Rabe writing as Marco Malaponte for Universal Publishing and Distributing Corporation’s Beacon Signal imprint, 1963. Ignore our sub-head, because actually it’s the fiftyish butler that does the seducing here, setting his sights on sixteen-year-old Lorna Hornaday. Yeah, how nuts is that? Her name is Hornaday. Oh, and maybe she’s a teeny bit too young, but the servant also hopes to butle his way into the more age-appropriate mother’s knickers, which suits him fine because she’s an ex-actress who still looks amazing. Classic sleaze, written under a pseudonym, because who’d really want to claim this? Uncredited cover art, too. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
May 21
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
May 20
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
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