Vintage Pulp Jan 13 2024
OVER THE TOP
Powell shoots for a comedic mystery but doesn't have Hammett's perfect aim.

What is a "hilarious all-action thriller" like? That's the question that went through our minds when we impulsively ordered Richard Powell's 1946 novel All Over but the Shooting, though we were also drawn by the cover. The book was originally published by Popular Library, but the striking version you see above with art that's unfortunately uncredited came from the British imprint Hodder & Stoughton in 1952.

Powell weaves a tale set in 1942 about Richard Blake and his danger-magnet wife Arabella—Arab for short—who believes she's stumbled across a spy plot centered around a Washington, D.C. women's boarding house. Determined to delve for answers—and to her husband's chagrin—she pretends to be a single woman, takes a room, and starts poking around. Her suspicions are of course correct. The place is a den of Nazis.

Powell thinks outside the box about every aspect of his story: how the conspiracy is uncovered, how the investigation proceeds, what clues are found, and what leaps of intuition keep the intrepid Arabella moving toward a solution. But the entire story is preposterous. Example: when Arab seems likely to be connected to a raincoat she lost while fleeing for her life, her hubby manages to sneak into the room where it's being kept—while its occupant is just upstairs—and have it altered in five minutes by a conveniently situated maid. That way the coat won't fit Arab when the villain tries to say it's hers.

That and about two dozen other moments are silly. Powell achieved, we think, exactly what he set out to do as an author, but we didn't find the book to be exactly scintillating. It was no Thin Man, for example, Dashiell Hammett's smashingly successful amalgam of humor and danger. But in the same way Arab erodes her husband's disbelief and finally gets him to buy into her wacky ideas, she wore us down too. She's a fun character, and makes the book worth a read. We won't seek out Powell again, but one spin around wartime D.C.? Sure, okay.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 4 2023
BULLET POINTS
Say it with words! Seriously! I very much prefer words!


Say It with Bullets was written by Richard Powell and published by Graphic Books in 1954 with great Walter Popp cover art of the instant before all hell breaks loose in a bar. It's the tale of a man named Bill Wayne who, while serving as a pilot in China in World War II, is shot by another pilot, one of five who betray him over half a million dollars in contraband gold. He's left behind but survives, and years later, now in the U.S., has found where each of his almost-killers are residing. He books a spot on a cross-country bus tour called Treasure Trip of the Old West that happens to be passing through those cities, and plans to dispose of his compatriots one by one.

So, obviously, booking a tour that goes through Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where one's betrayers coincidentally live, is a reach. Actually, let's just call it impossible. But we're believers in accepting the premise of a book, and since Powell explains this set-up in paragraph five we were willing to go with it. Need we say that revenge isn't as clinical as Wayne imagines? It's complicated by a nosy tour director—young and beautiful, of course—an ambitious deputy sheriff, and the growing realization that he's being trailed by a party or parties unknown.

The book is unusual on multiple fronts but the most notable element is that Wayne is one of the biggest wise-asses we've come across in literature. Here's a typical line, delivered after he's taken a beating from the aforementioned sheriff and, dismayingly, run into him the next morning on a street corner: There was Deputy Sheriff Carson Smith, on leave of absence from a dude ranch advertisement. “Hello,” Wayne said. “Did your knuckles recover from that severe bandaging they got here last night?” Wayne is amusing—or tries to be—even in his direst moments. His attitude pushes Say It with Bullets into farce at times, but he also makes an uneven book more interesting than it deserves to be.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 6 2016
CAPTAIN HOOK
Guys, I just saw some incredibly rare— Oh. I was going to say clownfish, but you two have those beat.

A shell collecting vacationer in Florida comes across a damsel in distress during a late night beach walk and she of course draws him into intrigue way over his head. Before he knows it he's stumbled across a corpse and gotten involved in a murder investigation, as the damsel seems less and less like she's in distress as opposed to causing it for others. Author Richard Powell was known for the wit he mixed into his mysteries, and Shell Game is heavy on the repartee—if light on actual mystery. This Dell edition appeared in 1951 and the fun cover art is by Robert Stanley. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 13
1971—First of the Pentagon Papers Are Published
The New York Times begins publication of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret U.S. Department of Defense history of the country's political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers reveal that the U.S. had deliberately expanded its war with carpet bombing of Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, and that four presidential administrations, from Truman to Johnson, had deliberately misled the public regarding their intentions toward Vietnam.
June 12
1978—Son of Sam Goes to Prison
David Berkowitz, the New York City serial killer known as Son of Sam, is sentenced to 365 years in prison for six killings. Berkowitz had acquired his nickname from letters addressed to the NYPD and columnist Jimmy Breslin. He is eventually caught when a chain of events beginning with a parking ticket leads to his car being searched and police discovering ammunition and maps of crime scenes.
June 11
1963—Buddhist Monk Immolates Himself
In South Vietnam, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself to death by dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. He does it to protest the persecution of Buddhists by Ngô Đình Diệm administration, choosing a busy Saigon intersection for his protest. An image of the monk being consumed by flames as he sits crosslegged on the pavement, shot by Malcolm Browne, wins a Pulitzer Prize and becomes one of the most shocking and recognizable photos ever published.
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