Okay, boomer, you may be young and tough, but this old guy's gonna give you a whipping you'll never forget.
William P. McGivern's 1961 novel Savage Streets was part of a wave of juvenile delinquent fiction characterized by the novels of Hal Elson and Harlan Ellison, and a nice example of a genre that rose in response to middle American fear and fascination with youth gangs. The narrative begins when some junior league thugs who call themselves the Chiefs begin extorting money from the pre-teen kids of a nearby suburb. The kids steal from their parents to satisfy these demands, but the thefts go unnoticed only for so long. The truth comes out, a suburban father intervenes with the gang on behalf of his son, and a fistfight results. Other parents in this conservative enclave are infuriated at the gang, and a group of them go to the police, but when the results aren't satisfactory they decide to deal with the Chiefs in a way the gang will understand—by hitting back twice as hard.
From this point, McGivern takes his tale in an interesting direction. The dads expect the police to be an extension of their anger. Any attempt to give the Chiefs equal treatment or due process is met with outrage. In other words, they expect to be protected by the law without being accountable to it, while they expect the Chiefs to be accountable to the law without being protected by it. This leads not to resolution, but to increasing distrust, violence, and finally disaster upon disaster. Later the dads realize that the genesis of the crisis may not have been the Chiefs' extortion after all, but something the dads were involved with even earlier—a law they helped push through the city council. They might have realized the law was unfair, but none of them cared enough to bother looking closely at it. McGivern really hit pay dirt with this book. It's well written, immersive, and relevant.
Formal occasions in Mogadishu are murder.
Jef de Wulf works in a somewhat different mode with this cover illustration for Roger Vlatimo's, née Roger Vilatimo's 1963 spy novel Terreur en Somalie. His art is usually quite spare, often with a lot of negative space, but here he's produced something chaotic that fills the frame and draws the eye to various elements—gun, lipstick, a splash of color that gives the impression of flames, and of course the snake. The contrast with his work at its cleanest is stark. Look here or here to see what we mean.
Vlatimo wrote a stack of spy capers set in exotic places like Morocco, Iran, Turkey, and Vietnam. He also wrote a series as Youcef Khader, and those all starred a franchise character, Algerian special agent Mourad Saber. Additionally, Vlatimo wrote as Jean Lafay, Tim Oger, Roger Vlim, and Gil Darcy, which was a pseudonym invented by Georges J. Arnaud and used by several authors. Vlatimo's books were quite popular and some are even available today as e-books, which is the surest sign of success we can imagine. Vlatimo, though, died back in 1980.
Coffy gets scalding hot in explicit novelization.
A novelization of the blaxploitation classic Coffy? We had to buy it. Paul Fairman was tapped to bring the iconic character of Coffy to literary life, and we were surprised to discover that the result is x-rated. We assume Fairman's marching orders came from Lancer Books or/and American International Pictures, and in a way it's a clever gambit—readers had no choice but to imagine Pam Grier dispensing the blowjobs and sizzling bed sessions described. Unfortunately, the other edge of that sword is Fairman has Coffy raped, which didn't happen in the movie (though she was seriously threatened with such). Except for the kicked up explicitness, the tale hews close to the motion picture, with Coffy seeking bloody revenge against the degenerates who addicted her eleven-year-old sister to heroin.
Fairman writes with as much soul as he can muster, but it's quickly discernible that he doesn't exactly have his finger on the pulse of the black community. Some of his attempts at African American vernacular are cringeworthy, especially the constant interjections of, “Sheeee-it!” We really don't think many black authors would have made that choice, and Fairman, who's not black and is no Toni Morrison, should have rethought it. The book has this and numerous other flaws, and isn't well written overall. We're particularly let down that Fairman never solved the mystery of Coffy's real name. Her last name is Coffin, but we don't learn a first name in the movie, and we don't here either. Her sister calls her Flower Child, but we feel like that's understood to be a nickname.
We managed to get Fairman's Coffy for seven dollars plus shipping. We've seen sellers ask for a lot more, even as much as eighty dollars, but we'd caution against extravagant expenditure. You get less than you expect. The book has extra large type to help pad it into a normal sized paperback. With regular type, leading, and kerning we think it would run maybe 140 pages. Instead of typographic tricks, a more detailed portrayal of No-First-Name Coffin would have been better, but no such luck. Even so, we're glad we bought Fairman's novelizationsploitation. If we hadn't, we would have wondered about its contents forever. The cover art on this is uncredited, but it comes directly from the film poster. That art, in turn, is rarely attributed, but it's by George Akimoto. Excellent work.
Oooo... he's rich, widowed, and has a pig valve in his heart? I guess I could learn to love an older man.
Above: Carl Sturdy's classic digest novel Confessions of a Park Avenue Playgirl, 1947, from Phoenix Press. Sturdy specialized in medical romances with efforts like Unlicensed Nurse, Test Doctor, Doctor De Luxe, Suburban Doctor, et al, but this seems to be the book most people remember. Possibly that has partly to do with the striking art. The artist is unidentified, but it felt to us like a zoom of something larger, and it reminded us of George Gross. Working on those two assumptions, it wasn't hard to track down the source. As you see below, it came from the cover of a 1949 issue of Line-Up Detective Cases. It isn't really a much larger piece, but it is George Gross. Add another fun effort from his lengthy résumé.
They say true love lasts forever. But why can't it be brief? Like, a few hours? A few intense, very steamy hours?
You're not seeing double. This cover for Gene Harvey's The Loves of Alice Brandt is almost identical as the Howell Dodd art from Luther Gordon's Free and Easy, which we showed you recently. This novel, published in 1951, is aka Office Hussy, 1957, by John Hunter. Both Hunter and Harvey were pseudonyms of Jack Hanley. The art is unattributed, but it isn't by Dodd unless he was in a rush. Everything is a bit less detailed, a bit less dimensional—the hair, the dress, the background. But as a brazen copy of Dodd, you have to admire the mystery painter's bolas. You see the original art below.
Flee for your life like the Romans do.
Carlo Jacono painted this brilliant cover for La ragazza che scappa, or “the girl who runs away,” written by American author Adam Knight, aka Lawrence Lariar, for Ponzoni Editore's series Gialli Canarino, with the translation chores handled by Lydia Lax. We read a Knight book a while back, weren't impressed, and forgot about him, but here he is earning a translation into Italian. Does that mean the book is good? We've always assumed without evidence that translations were an indicator of quality, but now we have doubts. Or maybe that limp Knight yarn we read wasn't typical of his work. La ragazza che scappa was originally published in 1956 in the U.S. as Girl Running. We could probably find it if we wanted to, so we will actually consider picking up a copy if it's out there cheap. We're just curious enough.
I'm pummeling you extra because I know when you tell the story later you'll say a man did it.
We already showed you a great 1958 Panther Books cover for Dashiell Hammett's 1929 debut novel Red Harvest. This cover comes from Perma and hit newsstands in 1956 with art by Lou Marchetti. We found it on Flickr. Hammett falls into that rare category of authors: a game changer. And this first book length effort from him is amazing. You can read a bit more about it here.
If he's German we're a couple of Midwestern turkey farmers.
Erhard von Sprecher, author of 1954's Les mains rouges, or “red hands,” is a pseudonym. Has to be, right? French mid-century policier and espionage authors loved pen names, so much so that few of the authors wrote under their real names. We're not sure why, but we suspect that they felt it gave their books credibility if they adopted American sounding names like Patrick Rock (Louis Valgrand), Jerry Lewray (Louis de la Hattais), Slim Harrisson (Jacques Dubessy), et al. In this case, the name von Sprecher was used to give this tale about an S.S. agent who refuses to admit the Third Reich lost World War II a sense of firsthand German reality, but he was almost certainly a French writer—though one so obscure there's no information out there. Maybe something will turn up later. In any case, we decided to feature this book not because of von Sprecher's name, interesting as that is, but because of the striking red hand art. And guess what? We can't find out who did that either. C'est comme cela que ça se passe.
Let that serve as notice. I'm Splay-Footed Jack and I'm gonna shoot every pigeon-toed son-of-a-bitch in the county.
A high percentage of western paperback covers are unintentionally absurd, and this one by an unknown artist for the obscure 1959 novel Sierra Slayer fits the bill. This was written by Anthony G. Murphy, and he had us baffled for a while. Then we disscovered he was actually a Spanish writer named Antonino González Morales, who was both a journalist and novelist, using multiple pseudonyms, including Ambler Ketchum, Ana María Luján, A. G. Morales, A. G. Murphy, Alex Mor, Inglis Carter, Gordon C. McGuire, and possibly others. The name Anthony G. Murphy was generally reserved for his westerns, and Sierra Slayer, which was put out by George Turton Publishers in Britain, would, then, have to be a translation from Spanish. All of which brings us back to the art. Since Turton was not a major publisher, it possibly reused the Spanish art, and since Morales/Murphy wrote his westerns for Madrid's Editorial Rollán, and many of those were illustrated by Prieto Muriana, this could be Muriana's work. Then again, it easily could not.
What it lacks in maturity it makes up for in exuberance.
Above you see a cover of the Australian magazine Man Junior, which hit newsstands Down Under this month in 1963. An offshoot of Man magazine, it came from K.G. Murray Publishing, along with Adam, Pocket Man, Eves from Adam, Cavalcade, Man's Epic, et al. The Murray empire, run by Kenneth G. Murray, came into being in 1936, and the company's various imprints lasted until 1978—though the entire catalog was bought by Consolidated Press in the early 1970s. We've seen nothing from K.G. Murray that we don't love, so we'll keep adding to our stocks indefinitely. Or until the Pulp Intl. girlfriends finally revolt, which should take a few more years. Speaking of which, it's been a few years since our last Man Junior, but its positives and negatives are still intimately familiar to us. On the plus side, the fiction and true life tales are exotic and often good, and on the negative side the humor doesn't usually hold up, though the color cartoons are aesthetically beautiful.
Of all the stories, the one that screamed loudest to be read was, “The Hair-Raisers,” by Neville Dasey, which comes with an illustration of a bearded woman. It's an absurd, legitimately funny story about a con man who accidentally invents a hair growing tonic, which he then unintentionally splashes on his date's face. By the next morning she has a beard, which proves the tonic works, but the con man lost the magic liquid when he stilled it, and he ends up losing the formula to create it. But everyone ends up happy—the con man earns a contract that pays him regardless of whether he can recreate the formula, and his date ends up marrying the owner of the hair restoration company. We weren't clear on whether the formula wore off, or she had to shave regularly. Either way, the story is meant to be silly and it certainly achieves that goal. Twenty-eight panels below, and more from Man Junior here, here, and here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
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