Vintage Pulp Mar 27 2022
BUYERS CLUB
No, my husband doesn't mind that I have sex with other men. Though he probably would if he knew.


Ben Kerr, who we first knew as Mike Moran, then William Ard, might make the trusted author category. His 1957 novel Club 17 is a nice little yarn. It deals with a down-on-her-luck actress finally driven to prostitution, but her first customer is a vice cop out to bust the crime ring she works for, which operates out of an unassuming Manhattan watering hole called Club 17. She can't go through with the deed, which transforms the cop's appraisal of her from hooker to sweetheart, and romance is born.

We know what you're thinking, but the same old motif of love at first sight works because Kerr writes fast and with style. He had to write fast—he churned out three books a year, but his work didn't suffer for it. Some writers just have that gift. He pulls together a cohort of major characters—the cop, the call girl, the groomer, the pimp, a political climber, his two-timing wife, and a private investigator—and effortlessly sets the narrative spinning within only twenty pages.

Turning to the cover, which is amazing, it's unattributed, but we think it's by Ray Johnson. He was working with Popular Library from at least 1955 onward, as we've shown you here and here. The rear cover below reinforces our conviction on this. Look below and note the hair, the shape of the face, and that certain lift of the eyebrows, then check the links. He's the prime suspect. If so, excellent work, from a top rank illustrator.
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Vintage Pulp Jan 7 2022
ORANGE CRUSH
Packed with flavor and fortified with the recommended daily allotment of vitamin f.


Victor Kalin went the tight focus route with this cover of an orange femme fatale he painted for William Ard's 1958 thriller Deadly Beloved, also published as The Root of His Evil. We love the art, and we loved the book too. An insurance investigator named Tim Dane is hired to transport a $100,000 gambling debt from an unlucky loser to a Miami hood named John Cashman. Cashman plans to use the money to help finance a war in Latin America, but that's just background. The more immediate part of the narrative involves an exotic dancer named Lissa, real name Elizabeth Ann Miller, who he has ringfenced with the help of 24/7 bodyguards and a lifetime management contract. Dane ignores warnings to keep away and is soon giving Lissa deep nocturnal lovin'—a pleasure that could cost his life if Cashman finds out about it. Ard, who also wrote as Ben Kerr, Mike Moran, et al, is a talented stylist with an approach all his own. His way of cutting transitional exposition is pretty neat. Every writer is required to do it, but Ard can cross town within the space of a sentence and still not sound like he's rushing. We're already trawling the auction sites for more from him. Highly entertaining.
Edit: We got an e-mail asking exactly what we meant by "cutting transitional exposition." We don't want to search through the book for an example, so we'll make up one. It would go something like this. "He decided he'd have to drive to Coral Gables to ask Cashman in person, and two days later when the door opened to his knock, he was surprised that it wasn't a servant but Cashman himself who answered."

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Vintage Pulp Dec 9 2021
SAMBA DO CRIME
It's a carnaval of mayhem in Brazil.


We wanted to call attention one last time to an interesting Facebook page dedicated to vintage crime paperbacks published in Brazil by Edições de Ouro and Editora Tecnoprint. We started our webpage in 2008 and back then we had a lot of company. Somehow or other, regretfully, we've outlasted many of them. Maybe in the age of Twitter and Instagram, blogs with actual words have died. But for that reason it's exciting to see someone launch something new—especially dedicated to such an exotic (from our point of view) niche of paperback style. It was actually launched in 2017, but we saw it only recently. We can tell you this—we love Brazil, have been there for carnaval, and if we'd known these books were down there we'd have brought back more than just a long lasting cachaça hangover. We knew Brazil had produced some pulp style paperbacks—much of the art was repurposed from U.S. editions—but we didn't know it was this extensive. Carnaval 2022? Well, probably not. But one day, return we will, to old Brazil.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 30 2020
KISSY FACE
First of all, hell no. Second, why are you wearing lipstick? And third, crushed strawberry is not your color.


When it comes to mid-century fiction, basically all the guys had problems respecting women's boundaries. There are so many covers of the above type we could curate an entire collection. We can't think of any others, however, where the guy looks like he's wearing lipstick. We checked a few other examples of this one online, just in case this look was courtesy of some kid with a crayon, but he's wearing that crushed strawberry in all of them. Not that we disapprove. More guys probably should do it. We've done it, and it was fun, if not even educational. But maybe we're drilling too deep into this subject. Boundaries we were talking about, right? So, Mike Moran was aka Ben Kerr, Jonas Ward, and Thomas Wills, and this book deals with a private eye who takes a job bodyguarding a boxer who's run into problems as the night of a big bout approaches. Reviews are mixed to middling. But this cover opens the door to all sorts of discussion, which makes it worth sharing. 1953 on this.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 20 2018
TOPs OF THE POPP
A free class in Popp art from one of the best vintage paperback illustrators.


Above, a collection of covers from the U.S. artist Walter Popp, who illustrated numerous pulps before moving into paperback art, men's adventure magazines, and commercial package design. We've featured quite a bit of his work, including this cover and this one. You can be sure he'll Popp up again. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 27 2017
LESS THAN HERO
Femmes fatales are tough but are they bulletproof?

We've run across some low characters in paperback art, but these guys are the lowest. Faced with danger they've grabbed the nearest woman to use as a shield. Women in mid-century fiction have it rough—they're interrupted while skinny-dipping, carried off against their will, manhandled, spied on, tied up, and more. They have their victories too, thankfully—put a gun in their hands and they start dropping men like two-foot putts. Well, good thing femmes fatales are so tough, because they'll need to be hard enough to stop bullets to get out of these jams. We shared another cover in the same style back in 2009 and you can see that nice effort here.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 5 2017
LIKE MURDER THIS IS
Actually, the flap on my bikini does slim the hips. It also hides pistols. Now get your hands up, idiot.

William Ard's Like Ice She Was stars his detective creation Lou Largo in a missing persons case. He's looking for a former prostitute who robbed a Montreal casino owner and fled to Miami. He finds her, but the situation escalates to murder and an attempted frame-up. This character was supposed to tentpole a series, and it did, but this was the second and last Largo written by Ard, as he died after writing it. The books thereafter were ghost written by Lawrence Block, and later John Jakes. Like Ice She Was is copyright 1960, and the Monarch Books cover guide has the art as uncredited, which is a shame. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 11 2016
POLE POSITION
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.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 7 2014
HODGE PODGE
Virtually unknown French artist James Hodges shows he’s a top tier illustrator.

Above are fifteen more covers from French artist James Hodges, who we’re still trying to learn details about. Was he actually French, with a name like James? That much seems certain. Was he a genius? Clearly. We’ll keep digging until we know all there is to know.

Update: On the other hand, he could be less of a genius than we thought...

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 28
1958—Workers Assemble First Corvette
Workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolls off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year.
June 27
1950—U.S. Decides To Fight in Korea
After years of border tensions on the partitioned Korean peninsula, U.S. President Harry Truman orders U.S. air and sea forces to help the South Korean regime repel an invasion by the North. Soon the U.S. is embroiled in a war that lasts until 1953 and results in a million combat dead and at least two million civilian deaths, with no measurable gains for either side.
June 26
1936—First Helicopter Flight
In Berlin, Germany, in a sports stadium, Ewald Rohlfs takes the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 on its first flight. It is the first fully-controllable helicopter, featuring two counter rotating rotors mounted on the chassis of a training aircraft. Only two are ever produced, and neither survive today.
1963—John F. Kennedy Visits Berlin
22 months after East Germany erects the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West Berlin, John F. Kennedy visits West Berlin and speaks the famous words "Ich bin ein Berliner." Suggestions that Kennedy misspoke and in reality called himself a jelly donut are untrue.
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