Murder mystery explores the turbulent years of pre-Malaysia Singapore.
We grabbed this beautiful hardcover copy of Suddenly, at Singapore from Scottish publishers William Collins, Sons & Co. for two reasons. First, the cover art is by the legendary Barbara Walton, one of the great illustrators of the mid-century period, and the title promises exotic thrills. Though we're lucky enough to live in an exotic land ourselves, we never get tired of tales set in Asia, Africa, or the Mediterranean. And speaking of exotic, Gavin Black is a pseudonym far less exotic than the author's real name—Oswald Wynd. Why use a pen name when you're named Oswald Wynd? Beats us, though the fake name does sound more real.
Anyway, Suddenly, at Singapore involves the Harris Brothers, two adventurous anglos born and raised in Singapore who own a shipping company that, in addition to legit cargos, transports black market weapons around the Java Sea in a fleet of Chinese junks. The story opens with the older brother Jeff being murdered, and younger brother Paul vowing revenge—as soon as he figures out who ordered the killing. He's also involved in an as yet unconsummated martial affair, and is trying to send his wife back to the U.S. to get her out of his hair. The two plotlines eventually braid together, and pretty soon the hero and both his women are in all kinds of difficulties.
This was a quick read, decent not great, but with nice local color derived from Black's/Wynd's time spent in the region. The story takes place before Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak merged into Malaysia, and Black channels some of the political tension and economic lawlessness that prevailed during that time, but doesn't delve into it in a detailed way. He would do that later, though—we gather that this was the first of numerous Paul Harris thrillers. We also hear from those in the know that Suddenly, at Singapore is the worst of the lot, so we may try the second book Dead Man Calling when we get the hankering for South Seas craziness again.
French publisher borrows a face for L'assassin anonyme that isn't anonyme after all.
We did a double-take before reaching an inescapable conclusion—this is Jack Palance on the cover of the thriller L'assassin anonyme, published by the French group Éditions du Champ de Mars for its Collection Moulin Noir. After recognizing the face it was easy to find the photo you see below, a promo shot made for the 1950 movie Panic in the Streets. We thought the book might be a novelization of the film, but nope—it's straight up unlicensed usage of Palance's mug. The book was written by J. Scotland, which is of course a pseudonym, in this case for the prolific Viviane Cambon, who also wrote as Liane Méry, César Valentino, and—our definite favorites—Harry Mitchum and Mickey Spolane. Rumor has it she created or shared up to forty pen names. This effort is copyright 1959, and the art is uncredited.
Show me what's under yours and I'll show you what's under mine.
This beautiful cover for Neil McNeil's 1960 thriller Hot Dam featuring a redhead topped by a tam and wearing a kilt-like skirt is uncredited, if you can believe that. We checked around the usual spots and nobody has a clue, so into the unknown bin it goes. As for the fiction, Hot Dam is the fourth of seven novels starring McNeil's detectives Tony Costaine and Bert McCall, two toughs who don't hesitate to shoot their way into and out of trouble. This one tells the story of a valley about to be flooded after the construction of a dam, and the townspeople reluctant to move. Based on that description you'd think the good guys are the townspeople, but this is the golden age of consequence-free industry, which means it's the dam builders who are the protagonists. And of course those standing in the way of progress aren't doing it for environmental or sentimental reasons, but rather—as the cover notes—to protect a fortune in bootleg whisky hidden somewhere in the valley. The booze is owned by a clan of kilt clad Scots who have violent tendencies and a connection to old world druidism, but other villains want it too. And when McCall discovers he's related to the crazy Scots things get really interesting. Pretty good book all in all. It delivers action, an interesting setting, and both leads get laid multiple times. What more is there?
Section of CIA trove of declassified material reveals research into psychic phenomena.
The Central Intelligence Agency has just published 800,000 formerly classified files online. The data dump, comprising some 13 million separate documents, isn't technically new. The files had been declassified years ago, but had only been available at the National Archives in Maryland, on only four computers tucked away at the back of the building which were accessible only during business hours. A freedom-of-information group called MuckRock sued the CIA and forced it to upload the collection, and the process took more than two years. Among the discoveries in the trove are documents related to the Stargate Project, which was tasked with examining psychic phenomena. A subset of those investigations involved celebrity paranormalist Uri Geller in 1973.
For those who don't know, Geller is a guy who used to show up on television programs like The Tonight Show and perform various paranormal tricks. His fame drew the roving gaze of the CIA, and they had him come in for a series of tests. No word on whether he had a choice in the matter. The testers ultimately reached the conclusion that Geller was legit, stating in the declassified dox that he had, “demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous manner.” How did they reach that conclusion? Through doubleblind experiments, one of which involved sealing Geller in a room, having a worker make a drawing, and asking Geller to recreate the drawing without having seen it. The images above and below show three of the original drawings, and Geller's eerily accurate renderings.
Geller made a nice career for himself finding hidden objects, bending spoons, and reproducing hidden sketches, but the really interesting part is he may have been a spy. In 2013, a BBC documentary titled The Secret Life of Uri Geller–Psychic Spy? claimed Geller worked for the CIA, was recruited by Mossad, and performed such missions as using only the power of his mind to erase floppy discs carried by KGB agents. Geller allegedly spent years in Mexico working as security for President José López Portillo, and the aforementioned documentary suggests he was also involved in some capacity in the famed Israeli hostage rescue in Entebbe, Uganda in 1976. It may take a few more CIA declassifications before we get to the bottom of all that.
Geller is still around at age seventy (looking about fifty, which might the most convincing evidence yet of his paranormal ability) and he still appears in news reports for antics such as purchasing Lamb Island, off the eastern coast of Scotland, which was the site of many witch trials, and for building a 12 foot-tall statue of a gorilla made from40,000 metal spoons. We aren't believers in psychic ability or any form of the paranormal. And we won't be unless we see evidence proving these realms exist. But the CIA said Geller was the real deal, so that's worth something. Of course, they also said Iraq had a nuclear weapons program, so maybe their opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.
Ure definitely not messing around.
Above, a nice femme fatale style shot of Scottish actress Mary Ure, seen here brandishing a silenced pistol in an MGM promo from Where Eagles Dare, 1968. Sadly, her career was hampered by alcohol and mental illness until she fatally overdosed in 1975 aged forty-two.
Putting the pieces back together.
How many slayings over the years have been called “jigsaw murders”? Plenty. All a killer has to do is cut up the body and “jigsaw” becomes the go-to nickname. The particular jigsaw murders referred to on the cover of this August 1947 True Police Cases are ones committed in Lancashire, England during the late 1930s. A doctor named Buktyar Rustomji Ratanji Hakim—“Buck” for short, and aka Buck Ruxton—strangled his wife Isabella. And in a sad but classic case of wrong-place-wrong-time, a maid who had the misfortune of witnessing the event was also strangled.
But Ruxton wasn’t finished. He yanked out the women’s teeth, cut off their faces, chopped up their bodies, and disposed of the pieces in a stream 100 miles from his home. The guy was really using his head. Other than needing to explain the absence of his wife and maid, he had to feel pretty confident about going undetected. But he had wrapped some of the remains in newspaper—a newspaper sold only in his area. That helped police zero in. And when they noted the precision of the butchery, they immediately narrowed their search to medical professionals. Needless to say, there weren’t too many doctors in the Lancashire area whose wives were suddenly missing.
You may wonder what the trigger was for all this carnage. It was jealousy. It always seems to be jealousy. Isabella was socially quite popular, and Doc Ruxton thought she was cheating on him. He anguished over this constantly, and the couple fought often, which is the reason the poor maid didn’t realize until too late that she wasn’t witnessing just another fight. Ruxton had no actual evidence his wife was cheating, but in the end his lack of proof didn’t matter—that only meant she was too clever to be caught.
Because the police used newly developed forensic techniques to help solve the crime—for instance, superimposing photos of Isabella’s face over the decomposed head to aid identification—the case generated a lot of attention. True Police Cases scribe Alan Hynd wasn’t the only journalist with an interest. Many true crime writers wrote about it, and the story eventually became an entire book by T.F. Potter in 1984 called The Deadly Dr. Ruxton: How They Caught a Lancashire Double Killer. All these years later, of the many jigsaw murderers, Buck Ruxton remains among the most famous.
Private British crime collection could be opened to public.
The London Metropolitan Police’s 150-year-old collection of crime artifacts, currently held in room 101 at New Scotland Yard, may open to the public in the near future if the recommendations of the Greater London Authority are followed. The GLA’s report says charging the public to view the collection could generate millions of pounds—for example, even a 90 day exhibition at could raise £4.5 million if visitors were charged £15 each. What exactly does the Met have in its possession that's worth £15 a pop? The collection, begun in 1874 as a teaching tool for rookie officers, and then called the Black Museum, contains weapons, death masks, and assorted criminal tools, as well as unique items such as the umbrella and ricin pellet used to assassinate Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in 1978, the pots serial killer Dennis Nilsen used to boil his victims, along with some sludgelike human remains, Jack the Ripper’s infamous “From Hell” letter, and another letter he sent to London’s Central News Agency in September 1888 in which he gloated, “I am down on whores and I shan’t quit ripping them till I do get buckled.” The Museum also contains artifacts from other serial killers, including John George Haigh, John Christie, and Dr. Neil Cream. We think the items should be displayed for their historical value, but the opening of the collection is by no means a foregone conclusion. Only time will tell if the GLA’s recommendations will be met. If you want to read a detailed account of a visit to the Museum, we recommend visiting the London blog greatwen.com, where we found the above photo.
Nessie enthusiasts and debunkers solve nothing at science symposium except perhaps who can hold their liquor.
Upcoming on Sunday is the eightieth anniversary of the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness monster, which occurred April 14, 1933 when a couple claimed to have seen what they described as an enormous animal in the loch. In honor of the occasion, yesterday at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in Scotland, Nessie scholars held a symposium debating the creature’s existence.
The photo above, shot by Robert Wilson on April 19, 1934, remains arguably the most famous Nessie image, and for years was touted as proof something large lived in the loch, until 1984 when the British Journal of Photography published an analysis by Stewart Campbell concluding that the object in the water measured three feet—not nearly long enough to be the famed Nessie. Years later, a big game hunter named Marmaduke Wetherell, who you see here, was fingered as the brain behind an elaborate hoax resulting in the photo. But true believers have disputed the account.
Subsequent sightings and photos have all been inconclusive, which means of course that nothing was decided at the Edinburgh symposium. Those who believe in the creature have no hard evidence to prove their position, and those who disbelieve can’t prove it doesn’t exist. The latter isn’t a surprise, as it’s logically impossible to prove anything doesn’t exist, whether monsters and deities, Kang and Kodos of Rigel IV, or the chair you're sitting on right now.
Doubtless those involved in the symposium knew that, which means the event was probably just a good excuse to shoot the shit for an afternoon then adjourn to the raucous Edinburgh bars. From there it’s just a few pints until someone drops his pants and screeches, “Watch out! The monster is out of the loch!” So be forewarned—the next Nessie photo you see will probably be someone’s pale cock, and if photo analysis proves it’s three feet long that’ll be one proud scientist.
Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask someone who actually knew what they were talking about.
There’s an interesting item making the rounds today, not strictly pulp, but worth a mention. Apparently a 1684 sex manual entitled Aristotle’s Compleat Master Piece will be offered for sale by Lyon and Turnbull auctioneers in Edinburgh, Scotland. The book, which was written in English and published there but banned until the 1960s, is part reference guide, part medical manual, and part anti-sex screed. For example, while the text offers suggestions for sexual enjoyment, and contains medical style drawings, it also warns couples what can happen if children are conceived in sin—namely that it would be born covered with hair or that Siamese twins would result. The author of the Compleat Master Piece is not known, but it's clear nothing Aristotle wrote made it into the text. Which could be considered a good thing. Great thinker and all, certainly smarter than we’ll ever be, but nobody’s perfect, and he whiffed badly a few times when it came to sex. Like for instance, he believed testicles were merely weights, and semen was produced from blood via body heat, with the best stuff coming from the area around the eyes. Given the choice, maybe we’ll take our sex advice from the anonymous hack. Auctioneers expect the book to fetch up to $650.
Looks like the “do not disturb” sign isn’t working.
Walter Brooks isn’t mentioned as one of the great paperback illustrators, and he probably wasn’t, but certainly this cover for Harold R. Daniels’ The Girl in 304 is dynamite. From the angled, ominous male shadow, to the stylish font, and the blue color palette with checks of red and a splash of pink flesh and yellow fabric, this one is a winner in all categories. Brooks, who was born in Glasgow, served as president of NYC’s Society of Illustrators, wrote books about painting, and designed U.S. postage stamps. And notably, he was the art director at Dell Publishing in 1958 when he was shown the work of Robert McGinnis by agent Don Gelb. Brooks assigned McGinnis his first two covers, thus helping to launch a legendary career. He also gave William Teason, who illustrated more than 150 Agatha Christie covers, his first shot that same year. So even if Brooks was not a great himself, he certainly knew talent when he saw it. This piece dates from 1956.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
1961—Bay of Pigs Invasion Is Launched
A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro. However, the invasion fails badly and the result is embarrassment for U.S. president John F. Kennedy and a major boost in popularity for Fidel Castro, and also has the effect of pushing him toward the Soviet Union for protection.
1943—First LSD Trip Takes Place
Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann, while working at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, accidentally absorbs lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD, and thus discovers its psychedelic properties. He had first synthesized the substance five years earlier but hadn't been aware of its effects. He goes on to write scores of articles and books about his creation.
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