Vintage Pulp Jan 2 2021
HAMMER AND SICKLE
One motivated American outsmarts an entire cabal of communists in Spillane crime drama.


Mickey Spillane's 1951 red scare caper One Lonely Night is, on one hand, classic Spillane starring his franchise sociopath Mike Hammer, but on the other, silly, polemical, and painfully dated. Mike Hammer the insane killer is kind of likeable, but Mike Hammer the insane killer with a political agenda is a bit tedious. Hammer's anti-commie pronouncements usually come across like set-ups for punchlines, as if he might go, “Just kidding! If we're comparing body counts we capitalists are running neck and neck! Gen-o-cide! Sla-vuh-ree!” But nope—Hammer remains both privileged and aggrieved throughout. In that way he's a very modern character. Since Spillane clearly thought Soviet influence in America was a serious threat he at least should have populated this violent slog through NYC's leftist underground with canny commies. But when they're this sloppy, why worry? Oh well. We'll always have Kiss, Me Deadly

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Vintage Pulp Dec 29 2020
PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB
You really don't want to wake this guy.


Here's an amazing piece of international pulp, a cover in Yiddish from M. Mizrahi Publishing for Robert Bloch's thriller Psycho. We recently posted a collection of Psycho covers, but we held this one back because it deserved its own moment. This was painted by an artist named Arie Moskowitz, sometimes referred to as M. Arie, who produced several more fronts we may share later. We found this one on Israeli Wikipedia, of all places, where it was posted by the National Library of Israel. It's quite a find.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 26 2020
COPYCAT KILLER
One esoteric murder method begets another. Possibly.


Concepts for thrillers can be hard to come by, so sometimes authors borrow from one another. Not long ago we read John D. MacDonald's The Drowner and shared the cover from the Gold Medal edition. Here you see British author John Creasey's, aka Gordon Ashe's, Death from Below. If you quickly click this link you'll notice the two books have identical art, thematically—a woman being pulled down into the water by an unidentified killer.

We figured Creasy borrowed from MacDonald, but interestingly, both books were originally published in 1963. Assuming months were spent actually writing them, it seems as if both authors simply had the same idea (we don't know if there was an earlier thriller with the same concept, but we wouldn't be surprised). The main difference between the tales is that MacDonald's killer drowns one person, where Creasy's goes full serial and drowns dozens, including children. His story also takes place in France, rather than the U.S., and has a deep—if unlikely—political element.

We know this scenario didn't happen, but we like to imagine both MacDonald and Creasy/Ashe walking into bookstores on opposite sides of the Atlantic sometime soon after both paperback editions had been released, seeing each other's on a shelf, and being mightily perturbed. At that point we like to imagine Creasy, in time-honored British fashion, saying, “MacDonald! That cheeky bugger!” MacDonald on the other hand, being American, probably went, “Creasy! That sneaky motherfucker!” Advantage: yanks.
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 24 2020
IF A MAN ANSWERS
Hi, I'm lost and alone and if I disappeared off the face of the Earth nobody would question it or care.


Above, very nice Mitchell Hooks art for Gil Meynier's Stranger at the Door, originally 1948, with this Crest Books edition coming in 1955. We gave it a read and you should think of it as an early Psycho. The main character Joe runs a Tucson boarding house, and we learn via his vivid internal dialogues that he hates all people, particularly those who possess authority through education or social position. His disorder soon focuses on Dorry, an attractive new boarder who has no idea how disturbed Joe really is. He schemes, sneaks around, spies, and steals, and his first attempt at serious harm involves running someone over with his car. That person isn't the last. An unusual book for the time period, which we enjoyed because it's so different.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 22 2020
FAST AND LOOS
Gentlemen prefer blondes. So do elderly billionaires, used car salesmen, and pornographers, but let's leave all that aside for now.


We said we'd get back to Anita Loos and here we are. We said that eleven years ago, but what can you do? Above you see a French edition of her classic comedy Les hommes préfèrent les blondes, better known as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with Marilyn Monroe—who starred in the movie version—front and center on the cover. We read the book a while back—its full title is actually Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady—but haven't talked about it, so we'll just tell you that it's simply ingenious, taking the form of the diary of a somewhat vacuous and entitled socialite flapper named Lorelei, who is to gentlemen what sugar is to flies. Lorelei is a material girl obsessed with wealth and status, who expects adoration and basically plies most of these guys for gifts. But of course she does choose someone in the end.

The novel is built from short stories Loos wrote for Harper's Bazaar in the early 1920s. It was originally published in book form in 1925, with this edition coming in 1959, a few years after film version's French run. Loos' masterpiece wasn't loved by critics, but it was a runaway success anyway and ended up being printed in thirteen languages. Little known factoid—unlike the film version, which takes place on a cruise ship, a chunk of the novel occurs aboard the Orient Express, with Lorelei displaying herself to the crème of European gentlemen from Paris to Budapest. She even meets Sigmund “Froid.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes obviously isn't pulp style at all, but Monroe had a pulp-worthy life, so that's connection enough for us. If you want a mental break from gunplay and mayhem, this is a good option.
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 21 2020
VENUS DE MURDER
This one has both her arms—and they're .38 calibre.


The versatile Mitchell Hooks is back, working in what we like to think of as his realistic mode on this cover for Ben Benson's The Venus Death. We wrote a little piece on Hooks and his various styles of painting. You can see that at this link. This novel is a solid thriller about the sparks that fly when a young state trooper named Ralph Lindsey crosses paths with an even younger femme fatale named Manette Venus. Yes, that's a ridiculous name, like something a stripper made up. So maybe it's no surprise that within the narrative it turns out to be a pseudonym. But Manette Venus isn't a stripper. She's just a woman with a secret—and some unsavory acquaintances.

Benson can write. He's not a master, but he also doesn't litter the narrative with grammatical clunkers or overcooked stylistic flourishes. In workmanlike fashion and in somewhat procedural detail, he tells the story of Ralph the trooper digging to the bottom of a baffling mystery involving a bizarre shooting, two guns, and the sometimes tricky place where presumption and proof clash. He learns at the end that sometimes people can be one thing, then seem to be the opposite, then turn out to be what you thought they were in the first place. That's vague, we know, but we liked the book, so you get no concrete hints. This edition came in 1954 from Bantam.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 14 2020
ALLA BOARD FOR ITALY
Next stop—FBI headquarters, Rome.


Above, a striking cover from Italian publisher Edizioni MA-GA for Wallace MacKentzy's, aka Mario Raffi's, Alla prossima fermata, or “at the next stop,” published in 1965 as part of MA-GA's Federal Bureau of Investigation Stories. The art is uncredited, but was certainly worth sharing. See another nice MA-GA FBI cover here, and another MacKentzy here.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 13 2020
CATHERINE THE GREATEST
I won! I knew I would once they restricted track and field to beautiful French actresses! Eat my dust Anouk Aimée!


Catherine Deneuve absolutely flew in this race. It wasn't nearly as close as the art makes it look. Espions!.. à vos marques was written by Paul S. Nouvel, aka Jean-Michel Sorel, and published in 1964 by Éditions de l'Araesque. The cover is unsigned, but it's probably by Jef de Wulf. If we get more info we'll update this. We can't wait for the triple jump. Hopefully, Catherine will win that too.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 11 2020
NIGHT FROM HELL
Wow, that night sucked. And considering we have to jump to the next rooftop, today's not looking so good either.


Every author of detective novels must wrestle with the problem of how to bring the hero into the case. Hartley Howard takes a unique route in 1959's The Long Night—a seeming crank call. A woman rings private dick Glenn Bowman in the middle of the night, drunk, despondent, and hinting at suicide. She sounds sexy as hell, so Bowman coaxes her address from her and speeds over there to prevent tragedy—and get a gander at this honey-voiced, late night phone phantom. The only problem is she isn't planning to commit suicide, and the call was never random in the first place.

From there the mystery takes on a familiar shape, as Bowman must solve a murder in order to stay out of hot water with cops who want to pin the crime on him. Despite the book's title, the tale spans multiple nights. Overall it's okay but it's hard to buy a guy constantly talking people out of killing him. Especially when he's such a pest. Like James Bond, none of the bad guys can seem to take the expedient route of just ventilating Bowman. At times this will leave you scratching your head, but Howard has the hard boiled lingo pretty well mastered, we'll give him that. Some prime examples:

Femme fatale in response hero's flirtations: “You got lots of crust, mister, but not enough pie.”

Hero after fighting a broken armed thug: For a guy with a busted fin he didn't make out so bad.

Hero wondering if a woman is going to shoot him: Deep in her eyes lay an enigma that only the gun could answer.

Hero in a car with distrustful femme fatale: We drove uptown like two people whose marriage had outlived its romance.

You get the picture. We'd never heard of Hartley Howard before, but we looked him up and learned that he was really Leopold Horace Ognall. Born in Canada but based in Britain, Ognall was not as obscure as we'd assumed. The Long Night was number thirteen in a series of thirty-eight Glenn Bowman novels he published between 1950 and 1979, and he also wrote forty novels under the name Harry Carmichel. Which just goes to show that there's always another major writer discover. That's why this pulp gig never gets old.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 9 2020
ODD'S MAN OUT
Has your husband ever kissed you on the neck like this? No? Well, it's called foreplay, and we lesbians do it all the time.


Above is a cover for Odd Girl by Artemis Smith. The book, published in 1959, is often called a lesbian classic, and since we just read Satan Was a Lesbian, we thought we'd double up on this theme. But there's really no comparison between the two books. Satan Was a Lesbian is a crude joke, while Odd Girl is the incisively written tale of Anne, a New York City beauty who thinks she's gay and goes about searching for her true self in a world of lesbian bars and among an assortment of friends and lovers. The other women—Cora, Skippy, Beth, Esther, etc.—run the gamut from butch to femme, and in Smith's competent hands have distinctly different personalities too. As far as the men in this tale go, the focus is on one—Anne's youthful mistake of a husband Mark, who she's desperate to get rid of via divorce or annulment. If only it were that simple. If vintage fiction teaches any lesson it's that bad men don't go away easily.

We liked this book. It was serious and adult, wasn't exploitative, and had the feel of realism. The latter quality we couldn't have confirmed through personal experience, not being gay women, but the tale simply felt accurate for the period. And no wonder, because when we checked into Artemis Smith it turned out she was actually a gay woman who lived in New York City, was the author of the lesbian oriented novels The Third Sex and The Bed We Made, and was active in the mid-century civil and gay rights movements. She's probably better known today as Annselm L.N.V. Morpurgo and has a very active Twitter feed of a progressive bent. If you intend to take a foray into early lesbian fiction, Odd Girl is about as good as it gets. It's not a literary masterpiece, but it's as well written as most genre novels, and is a consistently entertaining read. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
January 24
1961—Plane Carrying Nuclear Bombs Crashes
A B-52 Stratofortress carrying two H-bombs experiences trouble during a refueling operation, and in the midst of an emergency descent breaks up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs somehow activate before it lands via parachute in a wooded region where it is later recovered. The other bomb does not deploy its chute and crashes into muddy ground at 700 mph, disintegrating while driving its radioactive core fifty feet into the earth, where it remains to this day.
January 23
1912—International Opium Convention Signed
The International Opium Convention is signed at The Hague, Netherlands, and is the first international drug control treaty. The agreement was signed by Germany, the U.S., China, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, and Siam.
January 22
1946—CIA Forerunner Created
U.S. president Harry S. Truman establishes the Central Intelligence Group or CIG, an interim authority that lasts until the Central Intelligence Agency is established in September of 1947.
1957—George Metesky Is Arrested
The New York City "Mad Bomber," a man named George P. Metesky, is arrested in Waterbury, Connecticut and charged with planting more than 30 bombs. Metesky was angry about events surrounding a workplace injury suffered years earlier. Of the thirty-three known bombs he planted, twenty-two exploded, injuring fifteen people. He was apprehended based on an early use of offender profiling and because of clues given in letters he wrote to a newspaper. At trial he was found legally insane and committed to a state mental hospital.
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