Vintage Pulp Feb 21 2020
NATURAL BORN KILLER
To a true hunter everyone is prey.


Richard Stark's, aka Donald E. Westlake's The Hunter, which was also published as Point Blank, is a landmark in crime literature, a precursor to characters like Jack Reacher. The standout qualities of this novel are its brutality and its smash cuts from set-piece to set-piece. As an example of the former, the main character, named Parker, basically scares a woman into committing suicide, dumps her body in a park, and slashes her face post-mortem as a way of foiling police attempts at identification. The latter quality, the narrative's disorienting transitions, is exemplified by a chapter that ends with Parker's hands mid-murder around an enemy's throat, and the next opening with him sitting in another enemy's house, holding a gun on him as he walks through the door. Westlake stripped away every bit of transitional prose he could in order to create breakneck pacing and heightened menace. Parker is not only dangerous, but is also emotionally barren. He feels nothing beyond the need to best his rivals. Permanently. Westlake's publisher knew The Hunter was something special, and convinced him to turn what was supposed to be a stand-alone novel into a series. Twenty-four entries in that series speak to its success. This first of the lot is highly recommendable. It came from Perma Books in 1962, and the excellent cover art featuring Parker's lethally large hands is by Harry Bennett. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 18 2020
MURDER MOST PECULIAR
The key to a successful assassination? Time management.


Just that quickly we have another Adam for you today. This issue is from this month in 1978, with a cover illustrating Norman G. Bailey's story, “The Assassination.” We're still trying to make sense of this take on the classic international hitman motif. If we understood it correctly, a highly skilled killer is hired for a hellishly difficult hit on a head of state in the fictional country of Damahomey. He travels by plane, boat, and train, cases the job, beds the femme fatale, pulls off the job, and returns home carrying a valise bulging with Damahomeen currency. But once back in the U.S., he finds he can't exchange this money for dollars because it went out of usage in 1930. Well, that's weird, considering everyone was using it in Damahomey. He subsequently finds that the man he assassinated was killed in 1930. So, seemingly, unbeknownst to him—or the reader—he traveled back in time and shot a guy. All without a machine or any bells and lights of any sort. We went through the tale again to see if we missed the part where he pushed a big red button marked, “Press Here To Travel Back in Time,” but nope, wasn't there. So the assassin was hired by time travelers, and somehow also time traveled through no agency of his own. Fine, we guess. Give Bailey credit for thinking outside the box. We have thirty-plus scans below, including rarities of Sharon Tate and members of the Manson Family, accompanied by Adam's take on the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 17 2020
GREAT WHITE HUNTED
He promised her a smashing time on safari but this was nothing like she had in mind.


Adam magazine's covers are nearly always the same—two to four people and a pivotal action moment. This front from February 1970 is a typical example. It shows an unfortunate hunter learning that elephants sometimes won't simply stand still and let you shoot them through the heart so you can turn their tusks into paperweights. The nerve, really. The painting is great. It's probably by Jack Waugh, but it's unsigned, so there's no way to know. He did sign a couple of the interior panels, though. The cover was painted for Ken Welsh's story, “Dirge for a Darling,” which deals with a woman on safari who wants her hunting guide to kill her rich, alcoholic husband. Risky, but when you stand to inherit fifty million dollars, what's a little risk?

We try to avoid spoilers, but since you're never going to have a chance to read this obscure story, we'll just tell you what happens. The husband is a terrible guy, and he spends his days shooting badly at wildlife, and his nights drinking himself into a stupor. The fact that he's always insensate by dark is what allows the wife to start bedding the hunter right in camp in the first place. Once the hunter has been convinced to do the job, he realizes he must devise a foolproof yet suspicion free murder. He plans and schemes for days, looking for an angle, and finally tells the wife he has an idea, but the less she knows the better. Her job is to convincingly play the grieving widow when it happens, so for the sake of realism it's better if she's in the dark.

One morning the hunter comes to fetch the husband for a foray into the bush. Elephants are near. Today is the day the husband will finally get a big tusker. But the husband is hung over like never before. He wants a trophy, but can't possibly go shooting. He asks the hunter to bag an elephant for him. As the cover depicts, the hunter gets trampled to death. When the news comes to camp, the husband smiles evilly. The hangover had been an act. He'd discovered his wife's affair and, while she and her lover were otherwise occupied, had filed down the firing pin on the hunter's rifle. The gun didn't work when needed, resulting in a squashing.

The husband has a celebratory drink and forces his wife—who hates liquor—to join him. The husband cramps, convulses, and dies in excruciating pain. The wife realizes the hunter's foolproof murder method was to poison her husband's beloved liquor in such a way as to make authorities think it had been a bad batch. Then she cramps, convulses, and dies in excruciating pain too. The story ends: “It was all very sad when you considered the talent of those involved, but there it was. The principals, no doubt, went to hell. The $50,000,000 went to charity.” We've read a lot of Adam stories, and this was one of the more entertaining efforts. We have numerous scans below, with Claudine Auger in the second panel, and more Adam coming soon.
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Vintage Pulp Feb 16 2020
JUST BETWEEN US
No secrets here—de Wulf is de best.


Above is a cover from French publisher Éditions R.R., for Secrets, by author René Roques. Easiest way to get published: own the publishing company. We discuss that and other things about Roques in a bit more detail at this link. The art here is by Jef de Wulf, whose work we've shared numerous times. We love him. There's a lightness and ease to his pieces that few paperback artists achieve. We'll have more from him later. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 12 2020
THE DAY OF UNREST
Instead of fighting about this, let's compromise. My soul will go to church with you while my body stays in bed.


Julian Paul does top work on this cover for Richard Matheson's 1953 thriller Fury on Sunday. Paul painted some nice covers for men's adventure magazines as well, two of which we showed you here and here. We read this novel, and from a complex intro that hurries to introduce five main characters, it settles into a streamlined narrative of people stalked and held hostage by a madman. Of the captives—the coward, the tart, the everyman, and the good girl—we knew right away who would be killed, which dampened some of the suspense. Another problem is that the characters do not make the smartest decisions, sometimes to the point of straining credulity. If Fury on Sunday were a horror movie they'd all be murder bait, pretty much. For those reasons the book, Matheson's second, resides in the same not-fully-realized territory as his first, Someone Is Bleeding, also published in 1953. But in 1954 he would strike gold. That year he published I Am Legend, which is a sci-fi classic and became a movie four different times. We have that book lined up for later. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 11 2020
TO KILL A TALKING BIRD
That was a real interesting story. I bet the cops would've loved to hear it.


Louis Malley's 1953 cop thriller Stool Pigeon might better be called “Stool Pigeons,” because it's about how crime solving hinges on a network of informants, and how reliable snitches make average detectives great. All the detectives in the book have their own, and they're sometimes kept so secret that nobody else on the police force knows who they are. If an informant's identity ever gets out they usually go from stool pigeon to cooked goose, as shown in the cover scene painted by James Meese. As we read this book we kept expecting one of the multiple stool pigeons to emerge as pivotal, and that's exactly what happens. We won't tell you which one proves most important, but we will say Malley takes a fresh angle on the typical cop novel and does it reasonably well.
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Vintage Pulp Feb 9 2020
SPOUSE OF PAIN
Ignore the skull. That belonged to an old boyfriend.


Barye Phillips does nice cover work on this 1953 Gold Medal edition of 1950's Savage Bride, Cornell's Woolrich's bizarre tale about a man who marries a very young woman who, despite her tender age, harbors some shocking secrets. Without spoiling it, let's just say her unusually rustic upbringing results in serious marital problems. There are warning signs. She has weird dreams and speaks in tongues. But she's hot, so her husband overlooks that stuff. He soon finds himself enduring unimaginable hell. Even so, in our opinion he actually gets off lucky—because for a fleeting second we thought his wife was a reanimated mummy. Trust us, it wasn't an unreasonable guess. Things don't get quite that crazy, but they come close. This is one problematic spouse. Marry wisely.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 6 2020
SWEET NOTHING
The Sugar high doesn't last.


This eye-catching cover for Adam Knight's 1960 mystery novel Sugar Shannon was painted by an uncredited artist. The image lured us toward a purchase, and reading the book we immediately discovered that the main character is supposed to be a sort of Honey West clone. We didn't think much of This Girl for Hire, the book that introduced West to the world, so a derivative version was probably never destined to thrill us. And indeed, the whole thing—which involves the title character and her sidekick Gwen trying to solve two murders in the New York City art underground—is pretty silly, and more than a little condescending. For instance, Knight makes constant references to Sugar's “girlish instincts,” “womanly intuition,” and “feminine corpuscles" (huh?), suggesting his investigative reporter heroine works less by logic than by a sort of gender-based magic. Sugar Shannon was supposed to be the first book of a series, but it turned out to be a series of one. That says it all. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 4 2020
NO PAIN, NO GAIN
But it's important to make sure the pain is someone else's.


American author Frank Kane is well known for his many Johnny Lidell detective mysteries, which appeared from from 1947 to 1967. The Living End, from ’57, sets the world of detectives aside and tells readers about aspiring songwriter Eddie Marlon's meteoric rise from assistant at a radio station to the biggest disc jockey in New York City. Along with that, naturally, comes the usual doses of greed, betrayal, hubris, and the sowing of the seeds of his own potential destruction.

The cover art by Victor Kalin depicts the moment Marlon's ascent begins. A big shot record exec whips an ambitious singer until she's close to death, slumped shirtless in a chair. Marlon is called in to take the blame. It's a huge risk, because if she dies he's up the creek, but if she doesn't he'll be rewarded with anything he wants, which is his own radio show. The singer survives, keeps her terrible abuse a secret because she wants a career in music too, and Marlon gets an on-air slot and is soon rising through the ranks of FM radio deejays. The whole incident feels a bit Weinsteinian, which makes it all the more visceral.
 
But did we mention those seeds of destruction? Getting to the top is hard, but staying on top is harder, particularly when you've stepped on so many people. The Living End is a good book, but one thing we didn't like was Kane's insistence on constantly—sometimes four or five times in a few pages—referring to Marlon as “the thin man.” Everyone within the narrative calls him “the kid.” So why not use that as his non-name reference? Strange. But otherwise, decent work, and a fun depiction of the payola days of FM radio. Apparently Kane revisited the music industry with a novel called Juke Box King. We'll try to find that and report back.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 2 2020
A SWING BY THE MALL
It's taken weeks to get here, but it will be worth it—in that fabled place I am told are stores that have shoes, boxer-briefs, bug repellant, and more.


We shared a Robert Stanley cover for Edgar Rice Burroughs' wild adventure Tarzan and the Lost Kingdom a while back. We'd be doing a disservice if we didn't also share the brilliant Frank Frazetta art used for Ace Books on its 1962 re-issue. Frazetta is an artist about whom there is no debate. He was a genius.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 23
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
February 22
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
February 21
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
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