Binger understates the obvious.
Above: a 1960 cover from Gold Medal Books for Hell Hath No Fury by Charles Williams. This was painted by Charles Binger and it's a beautifully simple watercolor composition, a very different approach from the almost fiery 1953 Barye Phillips cover. Of course, there's a good possibility that this is a random Binger not actually inspired by the book, but if so it's still interesting that Gold Medal would choose it. This is a reminder to track down more of Binger's work, and it's also a reminder that we're overdue to read another Williams. The cover says he was, “one of the best of all specialists in paperback-original suspense stories,” and it's true.
It's the year 11,959 and everything is screwed worse than ever.
We thought we'd hit the sci-fi genre, since it's been a while, and chose Edmond Hamilton's Star of Life. It's one of the books visible in the photo of a 1959 airport paperback rack we showed you in August. The story concerns an astronaut named Kirk Hammond whose lunar capsule goes off course toward the far reaches of the solar system. Hammond decides to end his life rather than starve in the void, and when he vents the capsule the absolute cold of space freezes him. He awakens in the hot spacecraft hurtling back toward Earth. Turns out he was frozen so rapidly that his cells sustained no damage, and re-entry has thawed and revived him.
He's thrilled to be alive, but when he lands he's stunned to learn he's made a long elliptical orbit through the solar system and returned to Earth 10,000 years after he left. He's immediately caught in the middle of a millennia-old conflict between two races—the Vramen, immortal humanoids who control all galactic space, and the Hoomen, descended from ancient humans, and imprisoned on Earth. At least that's how it all sets up at first. Revelations are in the offing. Hammond is rescued by the Hoomen, but the Vramen have seen the capsule arrive, and their search for this strange object sends Hoomen-Vramen tensions into overdrive, while Hammond himself, as a being 10,000 years old, has the potential to permanently alter the balance of power.
Star of Life has some big concepts and it's spread over a galactic backdrop, but like a lot of science fiction, it's written at basically a junior high level. We had to laugh when one of the characters dropped the nugget: “We made an hypothetical reconstruction.” Here's an helpful hint for Hamilton and his editors. Don't teach your impressionable young readers to talk like knobs. It's not good for them. Still, the book is entertaining—utterly weightless, mind you, but fun in an awkward, haven't-gotten-laid yet sort of way. This Crest edition is from 1959 and the psychedelic cover art is by Richard Powers. Now back to our regularly scheduled grown people fiction.
Finally! I've been waiting here an eternity for a man who looks like a success. Wanna get married?
This cover for She Had What It Takes by Kermit Welles is uncredited but it was definitely painted by Rudy Nappi, an amazing stylist, whose work is not always immediately identifiable due to the variations he showed when painting femmes fatales. The bangs and heavy eyebrows you see on this one mark her as Nappi all the way, but often his work resembled that of George Gross and Howell Dodd. We've never seen a less-than-excellent cover from him, though, and this one is especially good.
The story deals with a smalltown journalist named Jan Flowers who wants to make it to NYC, have her own society column, and marry rich. She dumps her true love Tony Bennett (not that one), jets to the Big Apple, and promptly finds every worm. The worst of her problems is probably that the cousin she's living with is consorting with a local gangster who's always in the apartment giving Jan the eye and threatening to take her by force. Or maybe the worst of her problems is the blackmail scheme she gets involved in to advance her career. Or maybe it's the employer who wants to play slip and slide and makes Jan feel that if she does he'll open doors for her.
Well, take your choice. The point is New York is can be rough on a single girl. But She Had What It Takes, while being a drama and a quasi-crime novel and a morality play about what can happen when you ride the sell-your-soul train, is also largely a romance, and a particularly saccharine one, which means things won't end up too terribly no matter what kind of bonehead decisions Jan makes. Despite the lack of real suspense, overall the book was alright. Ultimately lightweight, but readable and reasonably fun. For what we paid, we can't complain.
What happens next could be great or terrible, depending on how well you distinguish subtle shades of color.
Since we just saw Cleo Moore why not bring her right back? Here she is on the front of Carter Brown's Slaughter in Satin, 1954, from the Australian publisher Horwitz. We've long documented this publisher's usage of minor celebrities on its covers, and pondered whether it was copyright infringement. What caught our eye about this example, besides Moore, was the typesetting. Notice how the “s” in the title disappears into Moore's red jammies, so at first glance it reads as, “Laughter in Satin,” which is almost an opposite outcome from slaughter, like the difference between being lain or slain. Probably when the book was first printed the two shades of red stood out from each other more. Or maybe this visual trick was intentional. Or maybe it was a miscalculation that couldn't be repaired. We'll never know. See the other Moore here, and see the celeb Horwitz covers by clicking here and scrolling.
Of course you're a man. What's surprising is you're the man in the park who bums smokes and plays pocket pool whenever I walk past.
Satan takes many forms, as vintage literature makes clear—he's alternately a lesbian, a director, a guy named Stan, a goat-legged fellow, and even a presidential candidate. So, as this uncredited cover for Edward Hale Bierstadt's Satan Was a Man suggests, why not just a guy in the park. Even in such a mundane setting Satan could enjoy many small deceits and torments, like maybe ensuring that all the public restrooms are closed, or overfeeding pigeons so they'll crap on people. After all, posing as an investment banker or internet billionaire must get boring from time to time.
David Dodge explains how to travel like a boss even if you aren't.
Is The Poor Man's Guide to Europe pulp? Think of it as pulp adjacent. David Dodge was one of the better crafters of crime and adventure fiction during the mid-century, so when we learned that he had written travel guides we knew they were must-reads. His novels were often outward looking. To Catch a Thief was set on the French Riviera; Plunder of the Sun, Mexico; The Long Escape, several Latin American countries including Chile and Peru. And Dodge's first travel book How Green Was My Father dealt with Mexico and Guatemala.
But Europe is the subject here, and accompanied by Irv Koons illustrations, Dodge mines nuggets of valuable info from his continental experience for Americans who cross the pond. As this is a book about getting by on a budget, much of the info has to do with currency trading, a reduced concern these days, but the ins and outs of swapping cash make for some interesting insights into the various countries involved, and Dodge is clever at weaving travel anecdotes while keeping his narrative money focused. Example:
Night was falling with that dull thudding sound it makes when you don't know where you are going to sleep. By bribing the concierge I got three beds at a “first class” hotel across the street. It was terrible—overcrowded, noisy, and operated according to the old army slogan: Don't you know there's a war on, buddy? I got out early the next morning, walked three blocks to the center of town toward the Via Vittorio Veneto, and landed two bedrooms, a sitting room, a bathroom, and a balcony in a clean, old-fashioned, superbly operated Italian albergo with a wonderful cook and waiters who caught dropped napkins before they hit the floor. The patrono, who spoke six languages, took Elva and me to the opera as his guests three nights later while his wife babysat with Kendal, and the overall charge was 8,500 lira a day, about $13, all meals and table wine included.
And that's pretty much what travel is about for us—seizing victory from the jaws of defeat. Other anecdotes had us searching for confirmation, they were so hard to believe. For example, was it really the trend in 1953 for some women on the Cotê d'Azur to wear a cache-sexe? Dodge says it was. It's central to a tale about his friend crashing a rental car into a palm tree after seeing two cache-sexe clad women on the Croisette in Cannes. In case you don't know, this cache-sexe was a thong bottom and stick-on breast coverings that made women look almost nude when viewed from the rear.
We have topless and occasionally unclothed women on our beach, but still, we'd give a lot to see something like what Dodge describes, considering these women were not on the beach, but ambling down the street. We once saw two women in bikinis who had wandered several blocks from our beach to ponder the outside of the local cathedral, and that visual incongruity stuck with us for weeks. The cache-sexe must have absolutely scandalized people. And thrilled them too. Maybe that's why Dodge wrote a sequel guidebook focused entirely on the south of France with the tongue-in-cheek title The Rich Man's Guide to the Riviera. We bought that one too. Stay tuned.
Okay... love you too... too tight... need to breathe now...
This is a classic cover from highly respected paperback artist Ernest Chiriacka, aka Darcy, one of his very best. He specialized in couples. Embracing couples, smooching couples, angry couples, pensive couples, but in most cases his work has the same sort of feel you see above. We've put together a collection to show you in a bit. In the meantime, let this excellent example whet your appetite, and remember—if you love somebody set them free.
Since you're standing there, refill me, would ya? And if the chauffeur's union asks, tell them you drove me to drink.
Above: fun Bernard Safran art for Florence Stonebraker's 1954 sleazer Confessions of a Ladies' Chauffeur, for Croyden Books. We have other Stonebrakers, so we passed on this for $65. If it ever goes down we'll buy it and update this post. You have noticed we sometimes do that, right? Like this Stonebraker we updated not long ago.
American femme fatale turns up down Rio way.
Okay, let's try this again. Last week we posted this book and thought it had Peggy Cummins on the cover, but after having a short nap we awoke and saw that this was clearly not Cummins. Thanks for the e-mails, by the way, but we beat you to it. Hah! Anyway, you know by now one of our favorite ways to highlight Hollywood actresses is to note their usage on foreign paperback covers. This cool example from Brazil's Edições de Ouro was made for Irving Le Roy's Berlim: Os Pecados de Bárbara, and that's none other than Cleo Moore—not Peggy Cummins—having a smoke and a look around. The image comes from her classic 1953 film noir One Girl's Confession, a movie we talked about a while ago. This book was first published in France as Aventure Est-Ouest by Éditions Fleuve Noir in 1956, so it represents a cross-pollination of a different type—we've seen material move from the U.S. to many countries, but from France to Brazil is a new one for us. Le Roy, by the way, was aka Robert Georges Debeurre, and we've shown you one of his books before, here. The above image came from the Brazilian Facebook page we pointed out not long ago.
Focus on the job. Eyes forward. Carry and walk. Walk and— Shit! Visually stripped her again.
This cover for Paul Cain's long neglected but rediscovered pulp classic Fast One fronts the 1952 edition of the book, the second printing, following up the 1948 first paperback edition we showed you a few years ago. This was painted by Victor Olson. The book is interesting, well worth a read, as we describe at this link.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
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