Vintage Pulp May 23 2024
OUT OF OPTIONS
No help, no hope, no exit.


This is a really nice piece of art for Sam Ross's Lousiana crime thriller The Tight Corner. We don't know who painted it but we had to share it anyway. This came from Tower Books in 1956. We read the 1957 Signet Books edition a while back, and it was pretty good

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Vintage Pulp May 22 2024
THE PRICE OF EMISSIONS
You can go up if you guess what number I'm thinking. Hint: it has a dollar sign before it and two zeros after.


Above: more nice work from illustrator James Meese, this time for David Loughlin's novel A Private Stair. It originally appeared in hardcover in 1950, with this Signet paperback edition coming in 1956. 

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Vintage Pulp May 19 2024
PARIS HOLD 'EM
She'd be a distraction, but at least you'd know she wasn't hiding any cards.


Above: the 1951 novel Abattez votre jeu by Patrick MacEvoy‎ for Éditions C.P.E. and its La Mante collection. The cover is credited to someone named Cassaro. That's not the Italian illustrator Renato Casaro, but rather someone whose work we've seen never before. We've also never seen an outfit like this on any actual person, but it's nice. Fashion designers take note, and take action. The title translates as, “bring down your game,” but in this sitaution we think you'd need to step up your game.

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Vintage Pulp May 18 2024
A VERY PARTICULAR SET OF SKILLS
Wait, don't leave. I actually have a second talent, though I don't use it much. Let me just grab my banjo.


This cover for Josiah E. Greene's The Man with One Talent isn't anything special, but the title caught our eye because it's identical to that of an 1898 short story by Richard Harding Davis—who, speaking of talent, was an extraordinary war correspondent. The one talent referenced here by Greene is the capacity for violence, which the main character puts to use breaking up a union in a small New England town. This was originally published in hardback in 1951, with the Perma paperback coming the next year.

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Vintage Pulp May 16 2024
EXTREME WEATHER
It's characterized by a rise in freak events and a general increase in harming.


We used the term “swooning flowers of maidenhood” last time we read a Mignon Eberhart novel, and she holds true to form with 1949's House of Storm. It's set on a small Caribbean island—so small in fact that it's named for the family that runs a plantation there. Murder occurs as a tropical storm shuts down transport and strands swooning flower and bride-to-be Nonie Hovenden with others in a large house. The real storm is (of course) emotional and deals with a weighty romantic subplot centered around her wishing to escape her pending nuptials so she can marry the man she really loves—who soon becomes murder suspect number one.

It's less complicated than it sounds. The murder plotline is interesting enough and the atmosphere is reasonably well rendered, but all you really need to know is that Eberhart operated at the nexus of suspense and romance, and here Nonie's breathless flutterings are almost intense enough to riffle the book's pages. If you can take that sort of thing, you'll like House of Storm. We kept making moments to finish it despite our reservations, so we have to call it a success. But we're suckers for tropical island fiction—even when there's breastbeating romance at its core—so take our endorsement with a grain of salt.
 
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Vintage Pulp May 13 2024
NAVEL MANEUVERS
Hey, take it easy! If you keep that up you'll turn my innie into an outie!


Above: another cover from artist Robert Bonfils, this time for Richard B. Long's 1970 piece of fluff Swapper Power, which is about a woman who starts sleeping around to help her husband in business. Wait—didn't we just read one like that? Of course we did—it's a well worn plotline, and that's why we didn't buy this particular iteration. Plus we have several sleaze novels stacked up waiting to be read. Richard B. Long is an obvious pseudonym, likely used by numerous authors, but we don't know which ones. And they probably don't want us to find out, so it's all good. 

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Vintage Pulp May 9 2024
MOON SHADOW
Gonna wait till the midnight hour, when there's no one else around.


Above you see a cover effort by Gerald Gregg for Helen McCloy's 1945 mystery The Man in the Moonlight. This is from Dell Publications, and you probably recognized it right away as a mapback edition. You see that here too, with its fictive university campus.

The story is a variation of a locked room mystery, however it requires more than the usual helping of suspension of disbelief from readers. Basically, a university psychologist stages an experiment that's, more than anything, a form of live action role playing in which a colleague is to attempt to achieve the circumstances needed to commit a murder. But the psychologist is really testing more than his willing maze rat suspects, which is why in the midst of the experiment the parameters suddenly change in a way designed to induce panic. We won't get into the ethics of that.

It's during this emotional experiment that the murder occurs, and it just happens that police detective Patrick Foyle is on campus when it happens. He's on the case in seconds, but much of the investigation (and narrative) falls to a psychiatrist named Basil Willing. Between cop and headshrinker the culprit will out, as they always do. We didn't really buy any of it, but we did like the fact that the story was set in 1940 and brought in the specter of Nazi involvement. Here's a fun line: Even in the infinitely remote world of the molecule [no-spoiler] ran afoul of Nazi policy. It's always been true—fascists get their noses deep into everything. 

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Vintage Pulp May 7 2024
A HOT FLASH
I have a great idea. Since we met by chance on the same discount package tour, let's invite our travel agents to the wedding.

Above: an uncredited cover for Dale Wilmer's 1954 novel Jungle Heat. As we mentioned last year, this was the original edition of the 1960 book of the same title, which was credited to Wade Miller, who was really a shared pseudonym for Bob Wade and Bill Miller. Got all that? You can learn a bit more about the book here

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Vintage Pulp May 6 2024
HOW DO YOU DOOM
You heard me. Census taker, liver, a nice chianti, fava beans. Having guests for dinner has long been a passion of mine.


Rudolph Belarski is a top notch illustrator and his art is always immediately recognizable. We knew this was him without having to check (then we checked to be sure). Yup. It's him. To see more nice examples of his work look herehere, and hereLeo Brady's 1949 novel Edge of Doom isn't about eating anyone for dinner, though that would be fun. It's about murdering a priest, and was made into a 1950 film with Farley Granger as the disturbed man at the crux of the tale. Perhaps we'll get around to watching it down the line. 

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Vintage Pulp May 3 2024
DRUM CIRCLED
Colonials in South Africa experience a different type of rhythm and blues.


South Pacific. South America. South of France. We don't care—we love books sets in exotic places wherever they might be. Tell It on the Drums takes readers to South Africa as five men attempt to escape with $250,000 in diamonds from a dusty mining town called Kimberley and reach Pretoria. The story is basically a western escape tale, set in the late 1800s, when places like the Orange Free State and Cape Colony still existed, and the law was something that could be outdistanced on the back of a good horse. Pursuit is inevitable, but paranoia too. And as you'd expect, the real problem is not the law but the fractious partnership between the quintet of fugitives, which includes fearsome U.S. Civil War rebel Adam, craven Boer mercenary Coenraad, and compulsive French thief Dénis.

The 24/7 throbbing of drums is intelligible to tribespeople, and relays news in rhythm about the robbery. The five fugitives are soon known throughout the land, as are their movements and deeds. They have an inkling reports of their heist have travelled by air, but still think they're escaping secretly. It's an illusion. Too bad none of them understand the drums, because they begin urging that the quintet be herded north for some mysterious purpose. Surprisingly, Krepps splits the group up at that point in the story. Coenraad and Dénis trek upcountry to trick tribesmen out of their riches. Adam and one other continue fleeing to Pretoria. The inside man-turned-unwilling accomplice bolts into the veldt but is taken on by a veteran hunter. All the while the drums say: north, send them north, and it's clear that a reckoning looms.

We'll stop there, but we want to note a great set piece—to steal a cinematic term—involving a mass charge by twenty enraged baboons. It's a centerpiece sequence, all teeth, fangs, gunsmoke, and blood, and it's well written. Krepps is a solid writer on all fronts. Tell It on the Drums moves quickly and there are no moments where the narrative falters or feels forced. All the usual warnings about mid-century literature set in Africa apply, but in this case Krepps gives South African tribespeople agency via his device of coded drum talk. Drums speak in most novels of this type, but this time they're in all places at all times, surrounding the white men, and seem to be the entity in control. It adds a nice layer of dread. Overall, an excellent book, with nice cover art by Robert Stanley.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
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