Lange novel has plenty of friction but not enough heat.
This photo cover was made for the 1968 thriller Zero Cool, written by John Lange, who was in reality a guy named Michael Crichton. Zero Cool is a fantastic title for a crime novel, but there's little else to suggest Crichton would become the zillion-selling author of Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, except possibly a flair for gimmicky ideas. In this case, several unlucky people are dispatched by a means unknown, their bodies torn as if they had been attacked by a madman wielding a scalpel. The truth of how these killings are accomplished is classic Crichton—i.e. high-concept and probably impossible. The deaths are ancillary—the main plot involves an American doctor in Spain coerced into performing an autopsy, and forced to insert an unknown object into the body. This act leads to dangerous repercussions, but there's no heft or menace to the narrative, which means we can't recommend the book. For Crichton and crime, you're better off with later, more accomplished efforts like The Great Train Robbery and Rising Sun. In Zero Cool he's just warming up.
James M. Cain spins a tale about an unusual love and an unusual life.
Vintage Ace paperbacks are considered highly collectible for a few reasons, including the fact that the company popularized the double novel. But we like Ace because it often did well with art. This front for James M. Cain's The Moth is about as striking as cover illustration gets. It's uncredited, but we know exactly who it is. It's Sandro Symeoni. How do we know? Because the cover at this link is confirmed to be Symeoni, and there's no doubt the artist is the same as above. Not only is the style a match, but so is the time period. This came in 1958, and Ace used Symeoni's art several times between ’58 and ’60. That makes this paperback a super discovery, because Symeoni, a brilliant Italian artist who specialized in movie posters, rarely painted book covers. It's possible that, as with Arthur Miller's Focus (you clicked the link above, right?) the art was borrowed from one of Symeoni's posters, but if so we don't know which one. Doesn't matter. Sandro kills again.
Moving on to the novel, Cain, one of the towering figures of pulp literature, stretches himself here to tell the life story of a man through his first thirty-five years, spanning the Great Depression, Prohibition, and World War II; his various jobs, schemes, and hustles; and his ups, downs, ups, downs, ups, downs, ups... We're not putting an end on that sentence in order to avoid giving a hint whether he ultimately triumphs or fails. For a time Cain's protagonist works in the oil business. For years he's a hobo riding the rails. For part of his life he's a renowned soprano. But no matter where he goes or what he does, there's a past destined to come full circle to stare him in the face. This is Cain's longest book, but it's pretty involving. Its only flaw—if it can be called that—is that is doesn't surprise. You know which untrustworthy friend will come back to haunt him, and which unlikely love will reappear to offer a chance at redemption. Still, a good read. We recommend it.
Get down on your knees and pray—for it to end.
We decided to read another sleaze novel after being underwhelmed by Robert Silverberg's Passion Peeper, and ended up choosing Michael Knerr's 1962 effort The Sex Life of the Gods. Big mistake. It's adolescent nonsense, which is too bad, because the title intrigued us. Basically, a bunch of aliens kidnap a human and—for reasons we'll leave aside—plan to replace him with an exact duplicate. So the duplicate wings his way to Earth, but his ship crashes, and he comes out of it with amnesia. He has just enough intel to find the human's wife Beth, she fills in some facts for him, he thinks he's really her husband Nick, and voila!—they're soon boning on a bearskin rug. Nick was an artist, and when his impossibly hot studio model Janet learns he's devoid of memory, she sees it as a long awaited opportunity, sneakily lies that she's his mistress and voila!—they're soon boning in a secluded cabin. Clearly, in sleaze amnesia isn't so bad. Naturally, throughout all this, faux-Nick's alien buddies are searching for him, as are the local hick cops, and some federal types. When he finally clues in that he isn't really Nick, he decides the only just solution is to return the real Nick to Earth. Since Nick is imprisoned on the mothership, faux-Nick finagles his way back there, where he encounters his fiancée Jela and voila!—they're soon boning in zero g. We won't criticize the plot, the structure, the message, or the genre. It's sleaze fiction. You know what you're signing up for. The problem is Knerr should have had his writer's license suspended. We're going back to detective fiction.
Some people just can't say no.
Above is an alternate cover for N.R. de Mexico's classic drug sleaze novel Marijuana Girl, a surprisingly good tale of addiction and redemption we wrote about last year. That edition was from Uni Books and had a photo cover. This Beacon edition has a nice painted cover, which is signed but illegible. Have any idea whose signature this is below? Drop us a line.
Little Schmo Peep is such a creep and doesn't know how to stop.
1965's Passion Peeper, for which you see a Darrel Millsap cover above, is another sleaze novel credited to Don Elliott, but allegedly written by future sci-fi author Robert Silverberg. The blurb tells you all you need to know, as a voyeur named J. Martin Crispian gets his rocks off by spying on his female neighbors who live across the courtyard from his apartment. He describes himself as a schmo and a loser unliked by women, though he certainly likes them. Among his obsessions: a blonde who does nude calisthenics every night, a high school aged nympho, and this pair:
They were in a tight embrace. Mr. Crispian watched, startled by what he saw. These two young girls, framed in the window, were unmistakably kissing. [The redhead] began rubbing her hand over the brunette's blue jean-covered buttocks.
It had to be, Mr. Crispian thought. Two girls who were just roommates or good friends might kiss each other now and then, he figured. But they wouldn't kiss on the lips the way these two were doing. And they wouldn't go in for buttock grabbing and breast squeezing.
That's pricelessly funny. Interestingly, the peeper doesn't appear much through the middle of the story, as Elliott/Silverberg expands his narrative to encompass the lives of other characters. But everything circles back to him, as his spying puts him in the uncomfortable position, Rear Window fashion, of witnessing a possible crime. A clever ending follows, but future sci-fi legend or not, this is mediocre fiction. Silverberg was just trying to pay bills, which we can certainly respect. He later proved he could do much better.
Never make a redhead angry.
Above, a cover for Les aventures de Zodiaque #46, by Gaston Martin for Éditions de Neuilly, 1953, with cool art of a lethal redhead painted by Aldé. In French “manque” means “lack,” but we don't know “pot.” The phrase “mon pot” means something like mate or friend, but we have a feeling “manque de pot” could mean something unusual. Anyway, you can see more Les aventures de Zodiaque and learn a bit about its history by clicking the keywords below.
Update: Jo to the rescue again:
«Manque de pot» means «lack of luck»
Pot is a slang word for luck. No relation with a pot or a jar.
Oh no! Not his face! I like to sit on that!
The Pulp Intl. girlfriends thought our little subhead was vulgar, but that happens sometimes, because they have far more class than us. Sometimes they ask us why so many of our quips and puns are sexual. We're like, “Have you looked at the covers?” The sexual subtext is nearly always there. We just run with it. Anyway, here we have another issue of Adam magazine, this one published in May 1962, and we've lost count, is it the seventieth we've uploaded? *runs downstairs to consult researchers chained in windowless basement room* Yep, that's right. Seventy. We have probably thirty more unposted, and about a dozen we bought from Australia that may or may not arrive if the person who accidentally ended up with them really relinquishes them. Long story.
What's a short story is “Blood of a Gladiator,” which the above art by Phil Belbin was painted to illustrate. The tale is by Damon Mills and deals with a down-and-out ex-boxer who gets involved in a scheme to manage a hot new fighter and get him a title shot by any means necessary. Naturally there's a femme fatale. There always is. She's the sister of another fighter, and she complicates matters greatly, as femmes fatales always do. “Blood of a Gladiator” isn't the only boxing inside Adam, as the editors also offer readers a detailed story on American welterweight Freddie Dawson, aka the Dark Destroyer, who's remembered in Australia for decimating the ranks of local fighters while touring Down Under between 1950 and 1954. You also get a story on crocs (there's always a story on crocs), some unknown models, and plenty of cartoons. We have twenty-five scans below.
Hey, since you need cheering up, wanna split this Toblerone bar with me? It's got nougat in it.
James Hadley Chase was a double winner in 1951. That year You're Lonely When You're Dead was published in paperback by both Popular Library, which we showed you here, and by the Canadian imprint Harlequin, as you see above, and both received top notch cover art. Popular Library went literal and showed a body on a deserted nocturnal beach. Harlequin's art is more general, with a woman under a looming shadow. Subliminally the shadow seems to carry a gun, but it really could be anything. It could be a letter, or a ruler, or a candy bar. In fact, on the subject of nonspecific, the painting could have been used for virtually any crime novel. There's nothing that definitively ties it to this particular story. But it's still a great effort. Unfortunately, it's uncredited. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1971—First of the Pentagon Papers Are Published
The New York Times begins publication of the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret U.S. Department of Defense history of the country's political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The papers reveal that the U.S. had deliberately expanded its war with carpet bombing of Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and Marine Corps attacks, and that four presidential administrations, from Truman to Johnson, had deliberately misled the public regarding their intentions toward Vietnam.
1978—Son of Sam Goes to Prison
David Berkowitz, the New York City serial killer known as Son of Sam, is sentenced to 365 years in prison for six killings. Berkowitz had acquired his nickname from letters addressed to the NYPD and columnist Jimmy Breslin. He is eventually caught when a chain of events beginning with a parking ticket leads to his car being searched and police discovering ammunition and maps of crime scenes.
1963—Buddhist Monk Immolates Himself
In South Vietnam, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself to death by dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. He does it to protest the persecution of Buddhists by Ngô Đình Diệm administration, choosing a busy Saigon intersection for his protest. An image of the monk being consumed by flames as he sits crosslegged on the pavement, shot by Malcolm Browne, wins a Pulitzer Prize and becomes one of the most shocking and recognizable photos ever published.
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