Vintage Pulp May 3 2024
DRUM CIRCLED
Colonials in South Africa experience a different type of rhythm and blues.


South Pacific. South America. South of France. We don't care—we love books sets in exotic places wherever they might be. Tell It on the Drums takes readers to South Africa as five men attempt to escape with $250,000 in diamonds from a dusty mining town called Kimberley and reach Pretoria. The story is basically a western escape tale, set in the late 1800s, when places like the Orange Free State and Cape Colony still existed, and the law was something that could be outdistanced on the back of a good horse. Pursuit is inevitable, but paranoia too. And as you'd expect, the real problem is not the law but the fractious partnership between the quintet of fugitives, which includes fearsome U.S. Civil War rebel Adam, craven Boer mercenary Coenraad, and compulsive French thief Dénis.

The 24/7 throbbing of drums is intelligible to tribespeople, and relays news in rhythm about the robbery. The five fugitives are soon known throughout the land, as are their movements and deeds. They have an inkling reports of their heist have travelled by air, but still think they're escaping secretly. It's an illusion. Too bad none of them understand the drums, because they begin urging that the quintet be herded north for some mysterious purpose. Surprisingly, Krepps splits the group up at that point in the story. Coenraad and Dénis trek upcountry to trick tribesmen out of their riches. Adam and one other continue fleeing to Pretoria. The inside man-turned-unwilling accomplice bolts into the veldt but is taken on by a veteran hunter. All the while the drums say: north, send them north, and it's clear that a reckoning looms.

We'll stop there, but we want to note a great set piece—to steal a cinematic term—involving a mass charge by twenty enraged baboons. It's a centerpiece sequence, all teeth, fangs, gunsmoke, and blood, and it's well written. Krepps is a solid writer on all fronts. Tell It on the Drums moves quickly and there are no moments where the narrative falters or feels forced. All the usual warnings about mid-century literature set in Africa apply, but in this case Krepps gives South African tribespeople agency via his device of coded drum talk. Drums speak in most novels of this type, but this time they're in all places at all times, surrounding the white men, and seem to be the entity in control. It adds a nice layer of dread. Overall, an excellent book, with nice cover art by Robert Stanley.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 10 2014
ABBETTING AFTER THE FACT
A long overdue collection of Bob Abbett covers.


We’ve compiled a collection of Bob Abbett covers, something we should have done years ago. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, working in a couple of distinct styles, he produced some of the most striking book fronts to be found on newsstands. See eighteen pieces of evidence below.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
July 13
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
Richard Speck breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
July 12
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
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