Vintage Pulp Sep 9 2022
HITTING IT OFF
Since you're supposed to be so good at reading signs, what am I asking for right now?


Val Seran's 1967 novel Grand Slam Girl took us by surprise by being a sleaze novel. The rear cover text suggested a crime thriller set in the world of baseball, and it's that, but it's also an erotic novel littered with a dozen or so semi-explicit lovemaking scenes. Such scenes are fun when they're well written. Here they aren't, and an additional problem is that there are almost as many rapes as sex scenes, as a quartet of organized crime thugs use sexual assault as their go-to weapon. The thriller aspect of the story deals with a minor league pitcher named Jack Sweet who gets involved with the fiancée of his murdered brother. Did she kill him? We didn't care, and we weren't intrigued by the book's heroin smuggling subplot either. Somehow Seran, aka Curt Allen, managed to publish at least ten books. Based on this effort we find that surprising.
 
Edit: We've just learned that the cover, uncredited by Bee-Line Books, is repurposed Paul Rader art from the 1962 Midwood Books sleazer The Sex Game, written by Mike Skinner.
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Vintage Pulp Sep 6 2022
MY GRAINE HEADACHE
Ouch! Oof! I get it! I get it! You don't want to pick on someone your own size!


Above is another fun cover from Société d'Éditions Générales, or SEG, for its series Service Secret 078. Graine d'espion translates as “spy seed,” another inscrutable title, which by now you know is par for the course when it comes to French paperbacks. Francis Richard was in reality Paul Bérato, who you can learn a little bit more about here. As usual with SEG, the art is uncredited. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 5 2022
WILL BE WILD
Thompson's Town is the craziest patch of real estate west of the Potomac River.


Robert Maguire handled the cover work on this edition of Jim Thompson's Wild Town, which hit book racks in 1957. The pricing on this varies greatly. All we can say is please don't pay $450.00 for it, like one vendor was recently asking. We got ours—the same edition—for $15.

Set in the fictional boomtown of Ragtown, Texas, the tale's hard luck ex-con anti-hero Bugs McKenna lands a job as a hotel detective, but he's been funnelled into the position by the corrupt local deputy, apparently to serve nefarious—though unknown—ends. Is he to spy on the hotel owner? Participate in some shady plot involving a guest? Murder somebody? It could be anything, because the deputy who orchestrated the hiring is none other than Lou Ford, the main character of Thompson's 1952 tour de force The Killer Inside Me. If you haven't read it, long story short, he's a psychopath.

Trouble doubles when Bugs accidentally karate chops the hotel accountant out a window. The death was unwitnessed and is ruled a suicide—for the moment. Ford suspects foul play, but Bugs feels in the clear. Then someone starts to blackmail him, someone who says they were in the closet and saw the killing. Who is the blackmailer? Can Bugs outwit them somehow? He isn't that bright—a type Thompson specialized at writing—so his efforts to manage his difficulties are haphazard at best.

But maybe Bugs is brighter than he seems. He'll need to be, pitted as he is against Thompson's iconic Lou Ford, but in the end a woman may turn out to be his direst foe. That's not a spoiler—the cover text suggests that a femme fatale is pulling the strings, but even Bugs doesn't know who because he spends the book troubled by three. All of this makes for plenty of reading fun. Wild Town is no Pop. 1280—our favorite Thompson so far—but it's diverting enough. Another recommended effort from a deft architect of chaos and criminality. 
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Vintage Pulp Sep 3 2022
MIGHT MAKES ALRIGHT
And this stretch is great for the shoulders. We violent ones know how to take care of bodies in more ways than one.


Above is a Barye Phillips cover for Howard Hunt's 1950 novel The Violent Ones, about World War II vet Paul Cameron, summoned by his buddy Phil Thorne back to Paris, where they spent part of the war. Thorne needs help with an unspecified jam, but he's killed not long after Cameron arrives, who then vows revenge against any and all. There's nothing subtle here. He turns bull-in-china-shop, knocks heads, gets knocked, uncovers commies, and manhandles various women—who fall for him anyway. The murder has to do with the smuggling of gold to Hanoi. Cameron mocks the head smuggler at one point, “So now you're sending gold to your cousins in Indo-China so the Little Brown Man can come into his own?” Hunt couldn't imagine Vietnam escaping the western orbit, but it happened anyway. That's irony. He's an intriguing author and a uniquely interesting man, which means he may appear here again. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 31 2022
A RUBY IN THE ROUGH
Evelyn Berckman's treasure hunting mystery is a real gem dandy.


The cover art on this paperback edition of Evelyn Berckman's 1956 novel The Strange Bedfellow was painted by James Hill, and we'll go ahead and call it a masterpiece. We saw brilliant work from him recently on the cover of Thomas Sterling's Murder in Venice, and here his evocative effort gets right to the heart of a story about a museum researcher named Martha Haven beseeched by two older scholars to go on a quest for a priceless ruby called Kali's Eye. The jewel vanished more than two centuries ago in Germany, lost in the aftermath of a crime of passion. While Berckman doesn't necesarily bring anything new to the sub-genre of historical puzzlers, she's an excellent writer:

Incredible that from this passing association—a few words, a kiss or two—she could have become so obsessed with him. At first she had waited, with entire confidence, for the sick longing to lessen, fade away of itself. Far from lessening, it became worse. He was lodged in her like an incurable malady, like a lethal arrow. However she twisted and struggled she could not work it free. So they did happen, those instant, violent attractions of which one read with half-amused skepticism. By a damnable fluke, it had happened to her. She began leading two separate lives. Outwardly she continued doing what she had always done; inwardly she kept walking round and round without ceasing inside a circle of pain.

Love and heartbreak are the key ingredients of romance novels, and as the above passage indicates, there are plenty of love yearnings in Berckman's story, but in addition you get the ingredients of a pulp style treasure hunt: dusty bookstores, old churches, forgotten crypts, desiccated corpses, and the rest. The tale also delves into Jewish history in Europe, which is a harrowing story far beyond the parts most people know casually. Berckman handles all that well, slipping in a few historical lessons, writing from the point of view of a protagonist whose knowledge of what happened back then is spotty. And as a bonus she gets her plot rolling right away with murder on page four.

The book is good, but in our opinion there are two flaws. First, the treasure hunt is too linear—Martha speeds directly to the crumbling medieval hamlet where she thinks Kali's Eye rests, and turns out to be correct. A wrong turn or two would have been nice. And second, Berckman cheats at the climax a bit, relying upon a mechanism rather than Martha's wits to settle matters. An experienced thriller or mystery writer would have dropped Martha in even deeper soup, and invented a cleverer method for her to extricate herself. But neither problem is a dealbreaker. We'd read Berckman again because, simply, good literary skills make up for an awful lot.
 
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Vintage Pulp Aug 31 2022
RED LINES
Long story short, I said a lot of hateful shit about people, and as my agent I need you to make me look like the victim.


We're dying to read this. Certainly the possibilities for quips and puns based on the cover were endless, even though the type of cancellation referred to is murder, not banishment. We'll put this on our Holy Grail list and if it ever pops up we'll grab it. You see this cover all around the internet, but we first noticed it at the one and only Sleazy Digest Books. The copyright is 1952, and the art is by Howell Dodd.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 28 2022
MISS DIAGNOSIS
Well, I've made another head-to-toe exam and still can't find a thing wrong. Are you sure you want a third straight appointment tomorrow?


Above: a fun cover for The Dr. Lewis Affair by Lane Johnstone, the “frank and powerful story of a doctor caught up between his obligations as a husband and his overpowering needs as a man,” 1959, from Popular Library. Consider it an addition to our always growing selection of medical sleaze covers. The art is uncredited. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 23 2022
VERBODEN DANCE
The sweetest fruit is the type that peels itself.


A while back we learned about Dutch illustrator J.H. Moriën through his re-imagining of a famed Paul Rader cover, and here he is again doing good work on the front of Verboden Vruchten, an Erosex-Pocket paperback published in the Netherlands and written by Linda Michaels. We assume that's a pseudonym, but we can't find more info. We stumbled across the cover in a Flickr collection, so thanks to the original uploader. The title translates as “forbidden fruits,” although this particular fruit gets eaten plenty as the story deals with a stripper named Sophie and her various assignations, including with a horny judge named Johnson and an abuser named Leander. We don't know the copyright on this, but Moriën was working in this mode during the mid-1960s. We have other pieces from him that we'll show you later.

Update: We're now thinking this author is Joan Ellis, aka Julie Ellis, who sometimes used Linda Michaels as her pseudonym. After searching everwhere for info, you know where we learned that? Right here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 21 2022
DIPSO FACTO
I could stop drinking any time. But I'm no quitter.


Above: a pretty cool Charles Copeland cover for Martha Crane by Charles Gorham, originally 1953, with this Berkley Books edition copyright 1957. This could have fit into our cocktail tease collection, but as with Les affriolantes, which we talked about recently, we thought this needed its own spotlight because of how unusual the art is. As for the story, it's a look at the hard life of the titular Martha Crane, who deals with unwed motherhood, a descent into prostitution, a sociopathic pimp, and murder. It's a book meant to shock. We have a lot of Copeland art in the site, but for a quick glimpse at just a couple of pieces, check here and here

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Vintage Pulp Aug 20 2022
CONCERTED EFFORT
I can't believe I actually bluffed my way to the stage of Carnegie Hall. This'll sound like utter crap, but I'm too thrilled to care.


We love this cover because it teaches the all-important lesson to never let a lack of expertise stand in the way of advancement. Happy Failure is a collection of love stories, claimed to be true, and it was published by the British imprint William Stevens, Ltd. in 1950, with uncredited cover art. Dream big, people. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 02
1919—Wilson Suffers Stroke
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. He is confined to bed for weeks, but eventually resumes his duties, though his participation is little more than perfunctory. Wilson remains disabled throughout the remainder of his term in office, and the rest of his life.
1968—Massacre in Mexico
Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, a peaceful student demonstration ends in the Tlatelolco Massacre. 200 to 300 students are gunned down, and to this day there is no consensus about how or why the shooting began.
October 01
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
September 30
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant, East of Eden, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause, dies in an auto accident at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
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