Our recommendation: Take the Fifth.
We read Jonathan Latimer's The Fifth Grave in its retitled incarnation Solomon's Vineyard and talked about the book a few years ago. That edition was from Great Pan and appeared in 1961. The Popular Library version you see above came in 1950 with art by the great Rudolph Belarski. We think back to this strange and dark novel often. At the time we thought it was very good but not a classic. Years later, considering how much it sticks in the head, maybe we'd better bump it up to the top tier, and once again recommend that you read this unusual tale. After digging around we finally got ahold of a couple of other Latimers and we're really looking forward to those. Can he possibly equal The Fifth Grave/Solomon's Vineyard? We'll report back.
Sure, you can get a hot coffee—right in your lap if you don't get your meathooks off me
Rudolph Belarski once again shows his unique painterly skill on this cover for Mamie Brandon by Jack Sheridan. The book, which first appeared in 1949 in England, deals with Mamie Thomas, who runs a roadhouse in desolate central California. She becomes Mamie Brandon when she marries an older man for security, but quickly finds when an old flame reappears in town that money doesn't satisfy all her needs. You know the drill—attraction, infidelity, death. This Popular Library edition has two copyrights. The first date is listed as 1950 “by arrangement with the author,” but a second date specifies January, 1951. Since the book is slightly abridged, according to the editors, maybe the two copyrights make sense somehow.
It wasn't me! I swear! You want the goth chick in 4D!
Rudolph Belarski has some of the most recognizable artistic output of the mid-century period. This is his work on the front of the 1949 Popular Library edition of Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's The Death Wish, which first appeared in hardback in 1935. In the plot, it's actually two men wishing to be free of their marriages that starts all the trouble. The women are potential victims, though not wholly sympathetic ones. Do you wish you could read something convoluted and at times verging on the ridiculous? Congrats—this may be it. Still, it's a good book. Holding's rep as one of the top suspense writers of her period was deserved.
Who's the hottest? I'm the hottest. Who's the coolest? I'm the coolest.
David Westheimer's Day into Night is a more serious novel than its cover would lead you to believe. It was originally published in 1950 as The Magic Fallacy, and the fallacy is the one harbored by youth that everything in life is beautiful. Westheimer promptly proves otherwise by telling the tale of a sixteen-year-old boy named Pershing who is stricken when his mother leaves his father, and later absorbs another blow when his father's remarries to a twenty-year-old femme fatale. You know where this leads—the new bride homes in on Pershing's missile. Westheimer went on to publish the hit thriller Von Ryan's Express, source for the movie of the same name. The top notch cover on this Popular Library paperback is by Rudolph Belarski, from 1952.
These are people who definitely pay attention to the poles.
When you look at lots of paperbacks sometimes a common thread suddenly jumps out at you that went unnoticed before. Such was the case a few weeks ago when we noticed the large number of characters on mid-century covers leaning against poles—light poles, telephone poles, sign poles, etc. We suggested someone should put together a collection, but of course we really meant us, so today you see above and below various characters deftly using these features of the urban streetscape as accessories. Art is from Benedetto Caroselli, Harry Schaare, George Gross, Rudolph Belarski, James Avati, et al. You can see a couple more examples here and here.
Whew. I think I finally lost him. What a moron he is. What a klutz. What a big stupid fat balding jerk.
Like they teach you in driving class, look left, then right, then left again. Or is it the other way around? Whichever direction, you want to look a lot to avoid a potential fatality. More Beautiful than Murder tells the story of a man on trial for murder whose alibi is the testimony of his girlfriend, who was with him the night of the killing. Only one problem—he doesn't have a girlfriend and has never seen the woman on the witness stand before. But it all starts to make sense after he's acquitted and sucked into even more danger, including a few more killings. The main character is a guy named Steve Blake but the book is part of a series featuring author Octavus Roy Cohen's creation Lieutenant Marty Walsh. Originally serialized in Collier's magazine and published in 1948, this Popular Library paperback appeared in ’52, and the cover art, with its amazingly garbed Jane Russellian femme fatale, was painted by Rudolph Belarski.
In your culture girls kill after mating? Hmmph. How strange. What do you kill?
Whit Harrison’s Native Girl was first published in 1952 as Savage Love, received a name change later that year, then was reissued four years later in 1956 under the author’s real name Harry Whittington. The book is set on the island of Maui and opens, first sentence, with lead character Coles Cameron seeing his best friend’s Hawaiian wife Lani completely nude. From there it’s just matter of time before he gets himself a little jungle love—and of course only a matter of a little more time before he’s boiled in a pot and eaten. Well, not really, but things go almost that badly. Steamy stuff, if a bit overwrought.
The magazine that cried wolf.
For Men Only was launched in New York City by Canam Publishers Sales Corp., but changed ownership several times over the years, and was even acquired at one point by pulp kingpin Martin Goodman. This particular issue is from September 1956 and contains art from Rudolph Belarski, Frank Cozzarrelli, Elliot Means, Ben Thomas, Victor Olson, and Ken Crook. Actually, it’s a miracle all the art is credited. It doesn’t happen as often as it should in these magazines. The stories accompanying those art pieces range from espionage to wilderness adventure, including non-fiction from Jim Thompson about “America’s first murderer,” a man named John Billington who came to the New World on the Mayflower. After making trouble for years in Plymouth Colony, he was finally hanged for the slaying of John Newcomen. We checked, and Billington did in fact exist. His execution in September 1630 was the first of a colonist—but certainly not the last.
And another story caught our eye. It discusses an incident on the set of an Italian movie in which a wolf got loose and tried to attack actress Silvana Mangano. According to For Men Only, co-star Guido Celano rushed the wolf, grabbed it and threw it into the air, whereupon a rifle-toting crew member nailed it like he was skeet shooting. We’re calling bullshit on that one. A while back we wrote an article about guaranteed hunt farms and were able to see some rescued gray wolves up close. They’re big—about three feet high. European wolves are even bigger. No movie production would use one. Also, we don’t picture fifty-two-year-old, five foot three Guido Celano heaving a wolf into the air like a sack of laundry. No, it was just a dog—a German Shepherd, looks like. But it’s a good story, appropriate publicity for a movie—Uomini e lupi, aka Men and Wolves—that was still months from its premiere. We have about twenty scans below and an inexhaustible supply of magazines still to share.
Hah hah, it always cracks me up when you ask me that, baby. No, you can’t drive my convertible.
Passion Is a Woman is a Hollywood melodrama by Kate Nickerson, née Lulla Adler, focusing on aspiring but untalented actress Linda March, who hooks up with a series of men, including a director, an optometrist, and others. She eventually steals the actor husband of a fading but still powerful starlet, and has to contend with the spurned woman’s wrath. The art is from Rudolph Belarski, and the flipside of the book, posed by two models, is rather interesting too.
What do you call forty dead men? A good start.
Two years ago we shared five covers of women standing over men they had just killed and mentioned that there were many examples in vintage cover art of that particular theme. Today we’ve decided to revisit the idea in order to reiterate just how often women in pulp are the movers and shakers—and shooters and stabbers and clubbers and poisoners and scissorers. Now if they do this about a billion more times they’ll really be making a difference that counts. French publishers, interestingly, were unusually fond of this theme—so egalitarian of them. That’s why many of the covers here are from France, including one—for which we admit we bent the rules of the collection a bit, because the victim isn’t dead quite yet—of a woman actually machine gunning some hapless dude. But what a great cover. We also have a couple of Spanish killer femmes, and a Dutch example or two. Because we wanted to be comprehensive, the collection is large and some of the fronts are quite famous, but a good portion are also probably new to you. Art is by the usual suspects—Robert Maguire, Barye Phillips, Alex Piñon, Robert Bonfils, Robert McGinnis, Rudolph Belarski, et al. Enjoy.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
1995—Mickey Mantle Dies
New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle dies of complications from cancer, after receiving a liver transplant. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also an alcoholic and played drunk, hungover, and unprepared. He once said about himself, "Sometimes I think if I had the same body and the same natural ability and someone else's brain, who knows how good a player I might have been."
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
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