Vintage Pulp Sep 3 2023
TWO DAYS TO REMEMBER
Everyone except me ended up hospitalized, jailed, or married. So yeah, it was pretty wild.


Above: a Monarch Books paperback, Wild Weekend by Henry Ellsworh, about the throngs that flee New York City during summer weekends to the adjacent wilds, in this case to the Bacchus Inn, and the various intrigues and peccadilloes that result. It was published in 1963, and the art, while it resembles that of Robert Schultz, is uncredited.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 2 2023
ANIMAL DESIRE
Eclipse Books strips buyer motivations bare.


We just talked about Bruno Fischer's The Lustful Ape, but we're circling back to it to highlight this cover from Eclipse Books because it's an example of a brief trend in crime and adventure paperbacks of nude models on covers. We shared a few French examples seven years ago, and we have more we may compile into post later. Obviously, the classic painted GGA covers sold sex too, but subtle like. Here Eclipse has stripped away the fig leaf of artfulness—along with everything else. Still, it's a nice bit of erotic photography.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 31 2023
DRESS FOR SUCCESS
Well, you both meet the basic requirements, but a job like this also hinges on having a big personality.


It's been a couple of years since we featured paperback illustrator Gene Bilbrew, so above you see a piece he painted for Hugo Paul's novel Topless Waitress, from Chevron Books in 1967. Paul allegedly wrote as many as 700 sleaze novels under more than forty pseudonyms. That level of output usually makes for rushed and mediocre final results, which was worry enough, along with a thirty dollar price tag, for us to pass on this book. Then we found an electronic copy going for virtually nothing, took the leap, and found ourselves reading the tale of Jody Moran, virginal and headed toward marriage, and her mother Marian, far from virginal and headed toward divorce.

The heart attack death of their father/husband followed by financial need brought on by a business scam sends mother and daughter into the San Francisco nightclub scene, with mom eventually taking a job as the topless waitress of the title, and daughter becoming a topless “a-go-go dancer” in the same club. Along the way they deal with many opportunistic men, including one nightclub owner who manages to bed down both women, pitting them as rivals. Does decadent San Francisco ruin the pair? We won't say. They're sufficiently taken advantage of to satisfy prurient readers. Paul goes lyrical rather than graphic with his sex scenes, which is fine we guess. He's a competent storyteller. In the end, though, we wouldn't say Topless Waitress is anything more than a typical mid-century sleaze novel built on various sexual (and a few sexist) tropes.

The cover art, on the other hand, is far from typical. It features one of Bilbrew's more striking scenes, with his trademark pneumatic women and almost comic book-style execution. He had a singular vision—clearly, considering one woman has a beehive and the other a bucket hat—and was, significantly, one of the only black paperback illustrators during the mid-century period. Since we've seen books with his art go for a hundred dollars, pricewise thirty is actually okay, even enticing, if we were inclined to resell one day. But somehow we never get around to reselling, so we think the cheap e-book route was a good decision. You can see more Bilbrew by clicking here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 30 2023
BEG, BORROW, OR STEAL
Not to complain, oh great master thief, but all you've stolen lately has been booze money out of my purse.

The thieving business runs hot and cold, and it reaches freezing depths when your girlfriend starts giving you a hard time about your earnings. Actually, let's not restrict that to thieving. It's true whatever your chosen field happens to be. John Trinian's Scratch a Thief was published in 1961 as an Ace Double Novel with Chester Warwick's My Pal, The Killer. Scratch a Thief later became a movie with Alain Delon and Ann-Margret in the leads, and at that time was retitled Once a Thief and credited to Trinian's pseudonym Zekail Marko. In reality, he was neither Trinian nor Marko, but Marvin Schmoker. So, you can understand the name changes. High school must have been hell for the guy. We haven't read him yet but we'll get around to it. And maybe to Chester Warwick too. You never know. But we'll for sure get around to the movie.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 28 2023
EVIL IDEAS
I take it from the way you're sprawled across the front seat that dinner and a movie is no longer the plan.


April Evil is a book that showcases John D. MacDonald on literary cruise control, as he confidently weaves together the tale of an elderly, widowed ex-doctor whose has a safe in his study filled with cash, the greedy relatives that hope he leaves his loot and property to them, and how, because rumors of the money have spread, three criminals decide to rob his house. Matters are even more complicated because the doctor has taken in a young married couple, and while the wife is not scheming to get his fortune, the husband is, and he has a big mouth. That mouth entices a psychopathic killer into hijacking the robbery scheme, with the ultimate plan of killing both his partners and—probably—everyone living in the house. For people acquainted with MacDonald but who haven't read April Evil, the approach will be familiar, particularly the character crosscurrents and fateful timing. It's well written, enjoyable, and free of pseudo-sociological content, which we consider to be a problem with McDonald's Travis Magee novels. We recommend it, even more so if you can score Dell's 1956 edition with Robert McGinnis cover art. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 27 2023
QUARTER OF A BILLION
You can't build an empire without breaking a few civilizations.


The Empty Quarter from 1962 is Lou Cameron's second novel, after his scintillating music and radio business drama Angel's Flight. Surprisingly, he leaves Southern California in the dust for the southern Arabian peninsula and the mid-century oil business, and the result is an excellent adventure dealing with a seismic surveyor who uses dynamite and aerial reconnaissance to pinpoint oil deposits. He's sent into Saudi Arabia's empty quarter to find what his backers hope is the motherlode of all gushers. Once out in the desert he deals with tough conditions and interpersonal conflict, while simmering in the background are religious zealotry, Sunni versus Shia rivalry, a race against looming war in the region, and much more. The scene of an oil worker running across the desert aflame stuck with us. Cameron can really weave a tale.

This is also a book with racial content that will make some readers cringe, with offensive slurs used possibly a hundred times by protagonists and antagonists alike. Of course, the attitudes reflected are certainly accurate for the time, but it's still hard to read these privileged characters viciously denigrating Arabs and Africans while hailing from countries that shattered the world as a result of unconscionable greed and disregard for human life. As fans of vintage literature you can guess where we stand on censorship. However, we also don't dismiss offended groups as simply thin-skinned. The language contained here, while giving the characters verisimilitude, also echoes centuries-old myths that were foundational to the genocides and slavery that killed hundreds of millions of human beings and led to the looting of entire lands.

So that's the elephant in the room concerning The Empty Quarter, and we wanted to address that. The killing and theft that fueled Western empires are hard for some to face, but it happened, and since this isn't Florida the facts can't be hidden or made illegal. We buy books with no detailed knowledge of what's in them. That would definitely spoil the fun. We don't even read the rear teaser text, for the most part. We buy books—only if the price is right—when we like the cover art, when the general opinion in the vintage book community is that it's a mandatory read, or when we've enjoyed previous efforts by the same author. We loved Angel's Flight, so another go-round with Cameron was on the cards. But because Angel's Flight was a bit saucy along racial lines, we weren't terribly surprised what was in The Empty Quarter. All in all, it's quite a book—for better and worse.
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Vintage Pulp Aug 24 2023
ROCK THE COAT
It's a must-have item for the fashion forward femme fatale.


Caviar et vodka, which is credited to Bob Toomey and is the first entry in French publisher SEF's Police Sexy series, came in 1978. That's late for our website, and we also tend to avoid photo covers, but the black-coated killer lady wearing nothing beneath her fur but some heavy steel makes it an appropriate share. The story is less police than espionage, having to do with a trio of Russian spies (interestingly named Elvire, Debrisse and Natacha) up to dastardly doings during the hottest period of the Cold War. Bob Toomey, a far less interesting name, was a pseudonym, but we can't trace it to its origin. There's a review of the book online and it isn't flattering, so maybe “Toomey” had only this one shot before being flushed out of the bottom of French publishing. In any case, cool cover. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 22 2023
INFERNAL AFFAIRS
I'm sorry to say it, but this has to end. I mean for today. I'll see you here tomorrow same time.


Does Hell Is a Woman look like a crime novel to you? Us either, but it is. Beacon Books decided to market this effort from Garrett W. Deas as sleaze, and used cover art from Jack Thurston to implant the idea into book rack browsers' heads. Beacon also wrote cover text in that vein, though it's wildly inaccurate.

Protagonist Sheriff Ben Randall's wife Helen loved other men behind his back? Not true. She has an affair with one man. Mary Ann, according to the cover, loved other men in front of Ben? Not true. She starts the novel as a corpse. Lorna loved in very special ways? Maybe. She pines for the sheriff and ignores other men. Also, Helen's cheating is meant by Deas to be a suspicion followed by a revelation. Beacon spoiled that. You take your chances with cover blurbs.

But all that aside, as a crime novel Hell Is a Woman is pretty good, with a rural setting that works, and Sheriff Ben as a likeable sort who doggedly tries to solve three murders while the county bigwigs want everything swept under the rug. The main flaw of the book is that the identity of the killer becomes obvious well before we think Deas means it to, but overall he did decent work. It seems to have been his only novel, though, which is too bad.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 19 2023
MONA OF PLEASURE
Would you go through a nightmare to make a dream come true?


Lawrence Block's 1961 novel Mona, which has also been published as Grifter's Game and Sweet Slow Death, is the old classic: a husband, a wife, and a lover talked into murder. The suspension of disbelief test here comes at the outset, when longtime grifter Joe Marlin steals a suitcase that happens to contain a fortune in heroin, then accidentally meets and starts an affair with the eponymous sexpot Mona, who's married to the suitcase's owner. Quelle coïncidence. Or not. Marlin has lived by wits and deceit for a long time, and his instincts scream for him to gallop out of town with the horse. Instead he braves organized crime retribution because he's fallen in love. Dames'll be your ruin every time. Good stuff from Block, fast and fun, with a crisp twist at the end. The cover art on this Gold Medal edition is uncredited.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 18 2023
FINGERING THE ACCUSED
*sigh* That was really unpleasant. I don't know why, but I always assumed it was just a euphemism.

This cover for Raymond Chandler's 1960 story collection Fingerman was painted by an uncredited artist, but once again we're thinking it's Sandro Symeoni on the brush. 1958 to 1960 was when he was working extensively with Ace Books, and this illustration is very much in his style, as we've discussed here and here. The book consists of four offerings: the stories “Finger Man,” which was first published in Black Mask in October 1934, “The King in Yellow,” from the March 1938 issue of Dime Detective Magazine, and “Pearls Are a Nuisance,” also from Dime Detective Magazine, coming in April 1939. The last piece is a Chandler essay titled, “The Simple Art of Murder.” A couple of the aforementioned tales also appeared in Five Sinister Characters. All the stories are good, but we talked about “The King in Yellow” in a bit more detail a while back, so if you're interested feel free to check here

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 24
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
September 23
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
September 22
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
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