Ever wake up but feel like you're still having a nightmare?
In vintage crime fiction getting the hero laid—or at least having the opportunity arise—is almost a mandatory requirement. The main character of Evan Hunter's, aka Ed McBain's, 1952 novel The Evil Sleep is a heroin addict who, at a certain point, has had cold and hot sweats all day long, hasn't showered, shaved, or brushed his teeth, yet manages to get laid by a clean, beautiful woman. This was a dead giveaway that she was shady, and dead giveaways in mysteries are something authors should avoid. Even so, The Evil Sleep is an interesting book. It's about a junkie who wakes up with a corpse, and must dodge the police, find the real murderer, and get a fix, or somehow keep his shit together without one. It was later published as So Nude, So Dead. The cover you see here, which is unattributed, came from an auction site. Our copy, which came cheap as part of a lot, is basically coverless. By which we mean the femme fatale was cut completely out, probably to end up as part of some high-school art student's collage that has long since gone to a landfill. Very naughty. If you want to buy this in good condition the price might run $400. That's even naughtier.
Okay, losers. Each of you compliment my très chic pinstriped suit. The least convincing one gets pistol whipped.
Très chic is a good way to describe not only pin-striped suits on femmes fatales, but covers painted by Jean Salvetti for Éditions le Condor's and George Maxwell's Môme Double-Shot crime novel collection. We've shared five or six, and they're magnifique, including this one for 1952's San bauvures. Maxwell's star character in these was Hope Travers, and hope is exactly what she denies her enemies. She even once put out a cigarette on a guy's face. You can see that cover and others by clicking the keywords Éditions le Condor below.
She knows the best way to a man's heart—ballistically speaking.
It's been a couple of years since we had a cover by French illustrator Jean Salvetti, so here's one for Dorothy ouvre le bal, or “Dorothy opens the ball,” published in 1952 by Paris based Éditions le Trotteur and written by Oscar Montgomery, aka José del Valle. There were three books in the Dorothy series, with this one coming first. Short synopsis: Dorothy goes to Egypt, hurts a bunch of bad men. As you can see, Salvetti signed his work Salva. More Salva here, here and here.
Kenneth Anger explores Hollywood's darkest recesses in his landmark tell-all.
Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon is the grandaddy of all Tinseltown exposés. It was published in 1965, banned ten days later, and shelved until 1975. It's exactly as advertised, outing everybody that was anybody for everything. Entire chunks are devoted to Charlie Chaplain, Lana Turner, Errol Flynn, Fatty Arbuckle and other cinematic luminaries. Some of its claims have been proved false—for instance the assertion that Lupe Velez died with her head in a toilet, and that Clara Bow screwed the USC football team (we doubt anyone really believed that one, even back then). But other tales are basically true, including accounts of various legal run-ins and feuds.
Anger's writing is uneven, but at its most effective mirrors the type of pure tabloid style that influenced the likes of James Ellroy and others. Besides the salacious gossip the book has a ton of rare celeb photos, and those are of real worth. We've uploaded a bunch below. They came from a digital edition because our little paperback was too fragile to get on a scanner. By the way, don't feel as if we're working overtime on our website this Christmas morning—we uploaded everything in advance and are actually nowhere near a computer today. We're glad you took a minute to drop by. Copious vintage Hollywood below.
Just stay over there a minute. I want you to get the full effect of this awesome pose.
In Evan Hunter's 1954 novel Don't Crowd Me an NYC advertising copywriter seeks tranquility in the lake region but instead finds himself encountering two sisters with very different temperaments who both seem to find him irresistible. Then, of course, there's a murder to spoil everything, and it looks like he's the only one who can solve it. The plot may sound improbable, but Hunter, born Salvatore Albert Lombino, was better known by his pseudonym Ed McBain, which means you would expect this to be decently written. And in fact you would be correct. The cover art, which is great, was painted by Walter Popp.
Secondhand smoke is the least of his problems.
Above is another entry from Éditions le Condor’s collection Môme Double-Shot, Pas de salade, j’en vends!, appearing in 1953, with badass heroine Hope Travers showing how useful a lit cigarette can be. The cover art is by Jean Salvetti, and you can see other covers of his from this series here, here, and here.
Hitchcock's epic thriller shows his directorial gifts but misses the mark.
This Italian poster for Io ti salverò, aka Spellbound is wonderful. The movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, isn't. The central plot device involves a man who may have blacked out committing a murder. That's a good place for a thriller to start, but the actual psychiatric science is approached clumsily, the love story is overwrought, and the orchestral musical score is omnipresent and overbearing. You have to wonder if composer Miklós Rozsa actually watched the film, because while Spellbound is big, his music is positively galactic. A re-edit with 60% of his output removed would make this one a much smoother ride. It's always a danger to criticize a classic film, we know, but not all classics are created equal. This one lives on Hitchcock's reputation, the overall technical execution, and a groundbreaking dream sequence designed by renowned artist Salvador Dalí. At the end of the dream a faceless man drops a wheel. Maybe it was a steering wheel, because despite all the money and star power poured into Spellbound, somehow it went down a middling road. It premiered in 1945 and reached Italy as Io ti salverò today in 1947.
She’s one red hot môme.
We’ve shared several examples from Éditions le Condor’s collection Môme Double-Shot, which as we’ve discussed was written by George Maxwell, aka Georges Esposito, and deals with the adventures of gun-toting heroine Hope Travers. Today we thought we’d share two more. Above you see covers for La belle se joue à deux and J’peux pas l'encadrer, both with art by Jean Salvetti, aka Salva. We love these. Besides the art being so striking, there’s a lot of charm added by the haphazard freehand lettering. If you want to see more from this series, just dig around our site. They’re in here somewhere.
Mussolini’s watergoing love nest pops up in criminal proceeding.
You’ve won a colonial war of choice by shattering a non-violent Ethiopia as world powers such as Britain and France stood by and watched. You’ve rammed through privatizations, laws favoring the wealthy, and made unions virtually illegal. And you’ve got an ultra-nationalist, militarized police force to help you crush social unrest. What does a satisfied dictator do to unwind? Clearly, he takes his yacht out for a spin on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Italian strongman Benito Mussolini used that yacht—the Fiamma Nera or “Black Fire”—for aquatic romps with his hot mistress Clara Petacci, but scuttled the boat in 1943 after Italy’s World War II fortunes turned for the worse. The boat was raised and had several owners over the decades, but is in the news today because it was part of €28 million worth of assets seized from alleged organized crime figure Salvatore Squillante.
Squillante was thought to be just another high flying one-percenter until his dealings with a Rome-based mafia network run by neo-fascists emerged as part of a legal investigation. He already had been convicted of filing a fraudulent bankruptcy in 1993, and the new information suggests he may be tied to systematic corruption in Rome involving politicians and businessmen who teamed with mobsters to scrape profits off the top of public contracts. Squillante is also connected via property dealings to convicted murderer Salvatore Buzzi, who as part of the aforementioned investigation was caught on tape telling criminal associates that schemes taking advantage of desperate Middle Eastern and African migrants were more profitable than the drug trade. The implications of that statement are truly frightening considering the drug trade is so profitable that some of the biggest banks in the world are connected to it.
But as interesting as Squillante and Buzzi are (who, by the way, have a long way to go before they hold a candle to slippery Silvio Berlusconi, whose antics we detailed here, here, and here), it’s the bit about Mussolini’s love boat that’s most fascinating. We suspect it was totemic for its various owners, who all certainly knew Il Duce was a sex maniac who trysted with hundreds or thousands of women—at sea and land—during his time in power. Fiamma Nera is destined to increase even more in value now that people outside Italy are aware of its existence. Will we be subjected to the spectacle of some hedge fund manager buying it for a fortune? Some software princeling or fat oligarch? After all, it's been bought numerous times before. But by virtue of its seizure it's now owned by the state for perhaps the first time, which means there's an alternativeto selling it—make it a floating monument dedicated to the crimes and hubris of Il Duce and the evil of fascism. Or destroy the thing completely and eternally. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
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