Dan J. Marlowe gives readers an immersive experience.
Death Deep Down, a thriller from the typewriter of the prolific Dan J. Marlowe, was published in 1965, which is a significant year compared to the books from the ’40s and ’50s we typically read. Books from the mid-sixties and later usually have pacing more similar to today's novels, with faster movement and more action-oriented plot beats. That's true here, and combined with good writing skill, the result is that there isn't a single page Marlowe has written that readers would likely be tempted to gloss over at any point. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The story revolves around a potential fortune-making modification to scuba equipment (or SCUBA if you prefer), and the various forces—business, government, and non-aligned—that all want the rights to it. When you think scuba you think warm waters, and the cover illustration reinforces that notion, but all the aquatic action is in the freezing waters of Long Island Sound, off Oyster Bay. The protagonist Rocky Conrad, a marine on leave from the Vietnam War, is drawn into the plot when his half brother, who developed the gear, is tortured to death. This is juxtaposed against an inheritance drama within a wealthy family, while lurking in background are mysterious assassins of sadistic bent, who flay skin, break bones, and cut out eyes. Who they're working for is one of several mysteries Rocky needs to unravel. He goes about it the way you'd expect of a guy with his name—fists first.
This was Marlowe's tenth novel, and he knew exactly what he was about. There aren't many flaws, though it's at times jarringly pervy, with female characters getting fully or partly naked according to flimsy authorial pretexts. We love nudity, but within the narrative flow. Rocky's asides get a little digressive. Even so, the female characters play important roles both behind the scenes of the caper, and front and center in the action. One such instance involves a vicious fight. We just mentioned how rarely authors write truly knock-down drag-out battles between two women, and presto—here you go. This fight is amazingly hateful, with face scratching, hair ripping, and the combatants rolling off a deck. At the end both require serious medical attention and are likely to be scarred for life. It's a nice punctuation in a book filled with good action. Turning to the striking cover, this Gold Medal edition features the instantly recognizable work of Robert McGinnis, and his genius shines through even on what is an understated effort by his standards. As often occurs with mid-century paperbacks, the blurb is misleading. Topside she was all honey and sex and woman—underwater she had the conscience of a shark. That's every woman in the book apart from the main love interest Dulcie, which makes it potentially foolish that Rocky treats them all dismissively. The only thing more dangerous than a femme fatale is, like, three of them. We're going to try another Marlowe. Based on how involved we got in Death Deep Down, more is mandatory.
I came up with it all by myself. Totally groovy, right?
These shots show U.S. actress Teresa Graves today in 1970, and despite the fact that her bizarro hairdo makes her look counterculture, she was in Washington, D.C. attending the Honor America Day celebration. If you've never heard of Honor America Day, that's because it was a one-off, hastily cobbled together by then-president Richard Nixon, who was under pressure due to his decision to send U.S. troops into Cambodia during the Vietnam War, a move which precipitated a protest at Kent State University at which Ohio National Guard troops shot and killed students.
Graves was a minor television star at the time, a recurring guest on the show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, however she was a natural for the D.C. event because she had built her career partly by touring Southeast Asia as a singer with Bob Hope's USO show. She would eventually become a major star on the police drama Get Christie Love! By then she'd ditched the hairdo that looked like it picked up signals from space for something conventional, as you can see at this link. But whatever shape her hair took, she was quite beautiful.
We expected lightweight erotica but got stuck in a quagmire.
“Don't worry, Mom. We've got penicillin...” With a cover blurb like that, we thought Vietnam Underside! might be something along the lines of L.J. Brown's infamous sleaze novel Viet-Nookie, but no. Instead, the book is a deadly serious history of prostitution and sexual practices in Vietnam from the mid-1800s to the date of publication, which is 1966. It's also—and there's no grey area here—virulently racist. Leland Gardner writes reams about the depravity of the Annamites (an 1800s word used to refer to the Vietnamese), disparages in the most detailed terms their hygiene, morality, ethics, customs, religion, history, mentality, intelligence, and more. He accuses them of practicing pederasty, of allowing incest between pre-teens, and of being inherently promiscuous. The diseases they're allegedly rife with include yellow fever, elephantaisis, syphilis, and gonorrhea, all subsequently inflicted upon ivory pure Westerners. When Gardner writes something true—for instance about the deleterious effects of betel nut chewing on the teeth and mouth—he goes on, and on, and on. He describes Vietnamese women as having “black lacquered teeth and blood red mouths” at least fifty times. Interesting, isn't it, that just when your country's overseas invasion is ramping up you find that, basically, your foes don't deserve to live? Gardner actually claims the Vietnamese were well on their way to self-destruction long before the Yanks showed up. He writes about the war: “[these] decadent, deteriorating people have been adopted by a benevolent Uncle Sam.” Right at that instant Vietnam Underside! got to be too much, so we scrambled to the top of the literary embassy and barely got the last helicopter out. When it comes to choosing books based on the cover art, you win some and you lose some.
In The French Love we learn that what the French love is sex.
Random Japanese poster art today, a promo for The French Love, starring Jacques Fugie, Eva Saint (not to be confused with Eva Marie Saint), and others. Fugie, Saint and all the other actors listed as performers here were pseudonyms, but ones fabricated especially for the Japanese market. Thus you won't find any reference to an Eva Saint or Jaques Fugie anywhere else. The French Love actually starred Herman Ryan, Catherine Franck, Patricia Hermenier, and Rod Cameron in the story of an American journalist hooking up with two French flight attendants in Paris while covering the diplomatic meetings leading up to the treaty that ended the Vietnam War. Heady times, no? Leave it to the French to mix social commentary with smut. The movie was directed by José Bénazéraf, a softcore veteran who helmed something like a hundred erotic films between 1963 and 1999, as well as starring in some. Release dates on The French Love, aka merely French Love vary—many sources say 1972, but we think it was 1973.
A politics-free Olympiad? Only in our dreams.
Something we've had lying around for two years, this is the week we finally get to share this Japanese poster for the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. History books and our fathers tell us what a turbulent Olympiad that was. It was the height of Vietnam and the civil rights struggle, and African American runners Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised up a black power salute on the medal podium while the U.S. national anthem was played. That is the event many seem to remember, but of great importance was the Mexican government’s massacre of unarmed student protestors in the Tlatelolco barrio of Mexico City. Although it happened before the Olympics began, the protest was tied to the games because part of the students’ dissatisfaction had to do with the Mexican government spending the equivalent of $7.5 billion to stage the event. Meanwhile, in Europe, the Soviet Union had invaded Czechoslovakia, prompting medal winner Vera Caslavska to turn her head away during the playing of the Soviet anthem. 1968—you wouldn’t really call it a good year. But at least we have this good poster.
All of America seemed to want George Hamilton sent to Southeast Asia.
We’re doubling up on Confidential this weekend because we have so many. Here’s another February issue, this one from 1967, with an unusual white cover featuring actor George Hamilton. What was the big deal about him joining the army? Well, he was dating Lynda Bird Johnson, who happened to be the daughter of Lady Bird Johnson, who happened to be the wife of president Lyndon Baines Johnson. Pro-Vietnam War Confidential is urging him to prove to America that he was not passed over in the draft because of his connection to the White House.
The idea of pressing for men such as Hamilton to be inducted also made sense to the anti-war left, which believed putting the scions of high society in jeopardy would hasten the end of the country’s Asian misadventure. You see that strategy being carried out below, by three members of the Ad Hoc Committee to Draft George Hamilton. We have no data on whether pushing for more upper class draftees hastened theend of the war, and we doubt any exists. But it’s true that minority participation and casualties fell as the conflict progressed—though the numbers didn’t shift as radically as many people think.
As far as whether Hamilton’s relationship with Lynda Bird Johnson actually kept him out of Southeast Asia, officially at least, he was eventually passed permanently over because he represented the sole means of support for his mother. It's a reasonable sounding excuse—far more believable than the bunions, bone spurs, and other conditions suddenly suffered by the rich—but Confidential shreds Hamilton's deferral succintly: "As sole support of your mother you escaped the draft. Now you have $1,000,000, a Rolls Royce, and a 39-room house. So what's holding you back, tiger?"
Eddie Adams’ photograph inadvertently helped change public opinion about the Vietnam War.
Above, one of the most important photographic images of the twentieth century, a Pulitzer Prize winner shot by photographer Eddie Adams. On a sweltering Saigon afternoon, a Viet Cong officer is executed by South Vietnamese national police chief Brig. Gen Nguyen Ngoc Loan, forty-two years ago today. There’s also a widely seen film of the gruesome incident. The photo galvanized the U.S. anti-war effort, but interestingly, Adams regretted taking it, saying that the circumstances around such a photo could never be adequately explained and Nguyen Ngoc Loan appeared to be a villain when perhaps he wasn’t. Such complex considerations are no longer a serious worry for war photographers. Due to Pentagon restrictions, it’s highly unlikely an image like this could now be captured.
Good thing Chris Noel dressed for warm weather, because she spent quite a bit of time in the jungle.
We ran across this 1970s-era Japanese celebrity magazine Movie Information featuring Chris Noel on the cover and absolutely had to share it. She was a notable figure during the Vietnam War due to her “A Date with Chris” radio program, which she broadcast twice weekly to American troops. The show was immensely popular. In fact she was thought by the Viet Cong to be such a morale boost that they reportedly placed a $10,000 bounty on her head. They never managed to kill her, but helicopters in which she rode often took ground fire, and two crash-landed with her aboard. Her efforts to make personal contact with U.S.troops were remarkable when you consider she had already established herself in b-movies and on television and may have been on the verge of becoming a star. Yet she put Hollywood on hold and instead became a radio broadcaster in a war zone. After Vietnam she tried to return to movies but the reception in Tinseltown was icy for a minor actress who was perceived to have supported a U.S. war of aggression. Eventually she gave up and opened a shelter for homeless veterans, which she still runs today. All in all it’s a remarkable—perhaps even movie-worthy—story.
History has written a last draft on Vietnam. The event is remembered by the majority of the world as an error, one that cost the U.S. considerable prestige, and resulted in a humanitarian disaster for the Vietnamese—more than two million civilian deaths according to the most conservative tallies. Even the war’s chief architect, Robert McNamara, who died recently, declared the conflict a colossal mistake. Today Vietnam remains under communist rule, but has restored diplomatic ties with the U.S. and is one of the most welcoming nations in the world, a placewhere American vets comment with amazement upon the Vietnamese ability to put the war behind them despite the ghastly suffering they endured. But whatever history’s take on that divisive period, personalities like Chris Noel are worth admiring. During a time when politicians, pundits, and protestors fought a war of their own over the direction of the United States, Chris Noel rejected the glitz and glamour of Hollywood in order to serve the grunts who were sacrificing their lives on the firing line. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Baby Face Nelson Killed
In the U.S., killer and bank robber Baby Face Nelson, aka Lester Joseph Gillis, dies in a shoot-out with the FBI in Barrington, Illinois. Nelson is shot nine times, but by walking directly into a barrage of gunfire manages to kill both of his FBI pursuers before dying himself.
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
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