Vintage Pulp Mar 5 2024
COLD HARD KASHMIR
British adventurers get high in South Asia.


The cover you see above for Berkely Mather's, aka John Evan Weston-Davies', 1960 adventure The Pass Beyond Kashmir is one of the more pleasing we've come across. It's by Barbara Walton, a preeminent dust sleeve illustrator from the 1950s until around 2000. We've featured her a few times, such as here, here, and here, and this effort maintains her incredibly high standard. The scene depicted makes one think there's a major romantic subplot in the novel, but the love interest is in the book for maybe twenty pages. It isn't Walton's fault that the art gave us expectations that weren't met. It happens with covers sometimes. No romantic adventure here.

The story actually revolves around a sardonic and extremely determined ex-intelligence operative named Idwal Rees who gets caught up in a search for missing documents in the Himalayas that might reveal the location of an oil discovery. The action takes the form of a quest from Bombay-Mumbai into the high mountains, with new difficulties encountered in each stop by he and partner Smedley, servant Safaraz, and reluctant informer Poison. Each obstacle is followed by desperate problem solving, and hairsbreadth escapes. The aforementioned sort-of love interest, a nurse named Claire Culverton, is mainly a source of consternation for Rees and a focus for his chauvinism.

The set-up and framework are fine, but we felt that the book got bogged down with too much local color. Obviously, authors wish to impart that they've at a minimum done their homework, and at a maximum lived some version of what they're writing about, but there's also such a thing as narrative flow. We get it—Mather was really in India and Pakistan. He even served in the army there. But in our opinion he needed another pass from an editor to make for a better book. Still, as it resolved, it was decent, though anyone of Indian, Pakistani, or Chinese descent—or of good conscience—will bristle at the treatment meted out by Rees and other Brits. But you know that going in, right?

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Vintage Pulp Nov 19 2020
ALL OF A SUDDEN
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.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 23
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder, Carmen Jones, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Stalag 17, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
April 22
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
April 21
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
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