Remember when politicians were motivated not by money and power, but by a desire to help people? Neither do we.
Below, a small collection of vintage paperbacks all featuring images of the U.S. Capitol. They're reminders that the building has always been a place of intrigue and treachery. Which is exactly why it's perfect for our website.
It looks amazing, baby. Er... aaaand should look even better on my lovely wife. Thanks for letting me test it on your neck.
Sometimes when you're caught you're caught. You can try and brazen the moment out, but it usually does no good, at least in mid-century fiction. From there it's just a short distance to mayhem, murder, trials, prison, and all the other fun stuff that makes genre fiction worth reading. From James M. Cain's iconic The Postman Always Rings Twice to J.X. Williams' ridiculous The Sin Scene, infidelity is one of the most reliable and common plot devices. What isn't common is cover art that depicts the precise moment of being caught. Of all the cover collections we've put together, this was the hardest one for which to find examples, simply because there are no easy search parameters. We managed a grand total of sixteen (yes, there's a third person on the cover of Ed Schiddel's The Break-Up—note the hand pushing open the door). The artists here are L.B. Cole, Harry Schaare, Tom Miller, Bernard Safran, and others. And we have two more excellent examples of this theme we posted a while back. Check here and here.
Sleaze imprint offers illuminating cover art.
Several days ago we said we'd revisit whoever painted this cover with an eye toward determining if they were really any good. At a glance these fronts from sleaze imprint Gaslight Books don't compare to the many beautiful efforts from Midwood or Gold Medal, but only at a glance. There's a distinctive style here, a certain beauty of form and color, an ease of execution like sketches brought to life. All are uncredited, but all are by the same artist, who hasn't gotten their due, in our opinion, for taking cover art in this unusual direction. Alternatively, we could simply be high. But give these a close look, revisit last week's cover, check the example we shared several years ago, and see what you think.
Cats always get in the way at the worst moments.
The above cover from the Milan based publishers Longanesi & Co. features U.S. glamour model Virginia Gordon fronting a 1959 translation of Ed McBain's The Pusher. McBain is basically a legend, but is it a stretch to call Gordon legendary too? We don't think so. She was Playboy magazine's January 1959 Playmate of the Month, and because of that her photos are highly collectible and expensive. You'd see two important reasons why if not for a mischievous cat, but you can outmaneuver him by clicking here or here.
Below we have a few more fronts from Longanesi, including Jonathan Craig's Case of the Village Tramp, which also has Gordon on the cover, and John Jakes' detective novel Johnny Havoc, featuring Carol Baker giving a nice over-the-shoulder glance. Like Australia's Horwitz Publications and several other non-U.S. companies, Longanesi used (probably) unlicensed images of Hollywood starlets and glamor models as a matter of habit. We'll show you more examples of those a bit later.
Who you gonna call when 007 can't get the job done?
We said we'd get to Clyde Allison's, aka William Knoles' Agent 0008 and here we are, sooner than you thought. Above and below are covers for all twenty entries in the series. The idea here, of course, is a sleaze riff on James Bond, or possibly even a riff on the many imitators of Bond. The dominant literary motif is satire, but as a wise man once said, just because it's satirical doesn't mean it's smart or good. The cover art on most of these is by Robert Bonfils, doing some of his better work, with Darrel Milsap handling the chores on Platypussy, and an unknown tapped for The Sin Funnel.
So we read a couple of these and they involve the spy agency SADISTO (Security and Administration Division of the Institute for Special Tactical Operations), which is located in a sprawling bunker beneath the Maryland countryside. There the agents, about sixty of them, male and female, attend briefings in a pillow covered den while lounging mostly nude, and take on assignments too difficult for MI5, the FBI, SPECTRE, the CIA, etc. Their main weapon is sex, and their main advantage is that they're utterly ruthless. They even use kidnapped college co-eds for live fire training sessions. Because they're sadistic like that.
In The Desdamona Affair SADISTO's budget has been cut, their fleet of Jaguars exchanged for Volkswagens, and their banks of IBM computers swapped out for calculators and an abacus. 0008 goes after a villainess named Desdamona Eva de Struxion (D. Eva de Struxion) in order to steal a secret formula that could eliminate world hunger. Along the way he fights trained panthers, is captured by Indian maidens, and imprisoned in an oil tanker, but ends up with all the money de Struxion has accumulated selling the formula, which means SADISTO can once again afford fancy cars and big computers. The whole narrative is absurd the same way Sharknado is absurd.
In Gamefinger 0008 is sent by SADISTO to the island of a madman named Cantwell Undershaft, aka Gamefinger, who wants to end war by broadcasting to the world via satellite lethal gladiatorial spectacles. The unwilling deaths of hundreds of kidnapped naked men and women, he reasons, will prevent the deaths of billions in World War III by slaking humanity's bloodlust. This book differs from the previous one due to the extreme violence, but the formula is the same. In a text with so many jokes, a few will hit the target, but the percentage is depressingly low and the glib approach generally wears thin.
At this point you must be wondering how we got through these. All we can say is they're curiostities—stupid, poorly written curiosities. We can't imagine anyone reading more than two—one to get the general dumb idea, and the second to confirm that the idea remains dumb. Most of the content is sex, but written entirely without making a single explicit reference to penises, vaginas, oral sex, or bodily fluids. Doesn't that sound stimulating? If you should happen to want your own copies of these they usually go for around $100, which we consider wishful thinking on the part of the vendors, but with online buying, if you bide your time, someone will always sell at a more reasonable price.
French publisher Editions Ferenczi had a Verrou unique way of doing things.
Collection le Verrou (The Lock Collection) consisted of 205 pocket-sized crime novels published in France by Editions Ferenczi from 1950 to 1959. Some were written by French authors using pseudonyms that sounded English or American, while other writers used their real names, such as Alexandra Pecker (yes, that's a real name) and René Poupon (idem). Other books were written by U.S. or British writers and had been previously published. For instance, above you see Le singe de cuivre by Harry Whittington, which you might know as The Brass Monkey, and below you'll find entries from Lawrence Blochman and English scribe Peter Cheney, better known as Peter Cheyney. The art on these books is generally quite colorful. The cover above was painted by Michel Gourdon, and below you'll find another piece from him, many efforts from Georges Sogny, and a couple from as-yet-unknowns. We really like Ferenczi's output, so expect us to share more covers from this publisher later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1924—St. Petersburg is renamed Leningrad
St. Peterburg, the Russian city founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and which was capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years, is renamed Leningrad three days after the death of Vladimir Lenin. The city had already been renamed Petrograd in 1914. It was finally given back its original name St. Petersburg in 1991.
1966—Beaumont Children Disappear
In Australia, siblings Jane Nartare Beaumont, Arnna Kathleen Beaumont, and Grant Ellis Beaumont, aged 9, 7, and 4, disappear from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, and are never seen again. Witnesses claim to have spotted them in the company of a tall, blonde man, but over the years, after interviewing many potential suspects, police are unable generate enough solid leads to result in an arrest. The disappearances remain Australia's most infamous cold case.
1949—First Emmy Awards Are Presented
At the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles, California, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents the first Emmy Awards. The name Emmy was chosen as a feminization of "immy", a nickname used for the image orthicon tubes that were common in early television cameras.
1971—Manson Family Found Guilty
Charles Manson and three female members of his "family" are found guilty of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, which Manson orchestrated in hopes of bringing about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise between blacks and whites.
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.
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