Oh! Heh heh. You had something on your shirt and I was... er... just going to stab it for you.
It's been a while since we featured Michel Gourdon's work, so above you see a cover for L'évadée de Saint-Lazare by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, for Paris based publishers Éditions Robert Laffont, number 29 in its series Collection Rex. The book is about a ruthless criminal named Fantômas, who wears a blue mask and black gloves. He was one of the most popular creations in the history of French literature. Souvestre and Allain wrote thirty-two books about him between 1911 and 1913. That's not a typo. They wrote fast, about a book a month, and were greatly helped by the money earned by selling him to the movies, where he became a stalwart of France's early silent cinema. Éditions Robert Laffont republished the books during the 1960s, with Michel Gourdon illustrating all of them, and the above edition coming in 1963. We'll probably get back to Fantômas later.
Unless that's a tube of sunscreen in your swim trunks, your reaction to seeing a nude sunbather is wildly inappropriate.
Imagine a beautiful woman coming naked out of the ocean like a water nymph. Sounds like the ultimate male fantasy, right? She doesn't even mind you ogling her like a perv. But after she's gone not only doesn't anyone believe you ever met her—they all think your insistence that you did signifies the onset of mental illness. Is Girl on the Beach sleaze? Romance? Actually, when it finally gets around to a tangible plot it turns out to be a mystery having to do with high end art collecting and a painting that might be worth a fortune. The fact that the lead character is a famous painter, now inspired by the beach girl to new heights of creativity, is a sly lead-in to the book's crime element. We certainly appreciate author Max Day's effort to do something different, but we wouldn't go so far as to call the result good. Extra points for taking a road less traveled, though. The copyright on this is 1960 and the cover is uncredited.
We're not on the fence about it—this magazine is a lot of fun.
As macho names for men's magazines go Matclif Publications' Savage Adventure is right at the top of the list. This issue from October 1960 was its debut. We gave it a read and it lived up to its name. Our favorite story was “Lizzie Russel and Her Riverboat Bordello,” by George Peterson, which deals with a floating brothel called The Virgin Queen plying the Yukon River during the 1890s gold rush. Basically, the tale is one of bad decisions and bad luck, and indeed gets pretty savage.
The brothel's owner is warned that her paddlewheeler is too big to make it upriver to White Horse, and sure enough, it runs onto a sandbar in a remote area. Left aground in deadly below freezing temperatures, the boat's two Chinese engine stokers decide to take advantage of the work stoppage with a little opium break, but overdose. Late that night everyone wakes up to a freezing ship. The captain discovers the bodies and simply chucks them overboard. When they thud instead of splash that's how he discovers the river has frozen solid. Pretty savage already, this story, but it gets crazier.
The captain gets the fire going again, but because he doesn't know what he's doing the engine boiler explodes. Fire ravages the boat so quickly that half the women going overboard don't even have clothes. One prostitute jumps but lands head first on the ice. Not good. Another catches on fire. A third runs from her flaming cabin directly into the sub-zero air and the shock stops her heart. Stranded ashore, miles from White Horse, the only heat source is the flaming boat, but once the conflagration dies they're all going to freeze to death, some of them naked.
We'll stop there—remember, no spoilers—but as savage tales go, “ Lizzie Russel and Her Riverboat Bordello” is pretty good. Other wild stories include Carl Williams' “The Grizzly Came for Breakfast,” and Jim Cooley's “I Listened To Them Scream.” We're glad we picked this magazine up. We imagine, since it was the debut issue, the editors really tried hard to get it just right. Mission accomplished, at least in our opinion, but Savage Adventure folded after only four issues. That makes this example exceedingly rare.
The cover is signed, illegibly, but thanks to the internet we were able to learn that the cropped scrawl at the bottom of the art says Norm Eastman. We've featured his work before—here. Aside from the fiction, Savage Adventure offers readers a couple of exposés, some glamour photography, and several rather interesting ads. We scanned our two favorites—one for burlesque dancer Honey Bee, and another telling readers that they can make a mint investigating auto accidents—sexy auto accidents. You'll see what we mean below.
Crossing this desert we'll eventually be reduced to wearing filthy, sweat-crusted rags, but I'm glad we started out looking so fabulous.
The pretty Harry Bennett cover art on this paperback won us over. Plus we wanted to read something set in the Sahara. Our trip to Morocco incubated strong interest in vintage fiction set in the region. The Captive of the Sahara was written in 1939 originally, with this Dell edition coming in 1950. British author E.M. Hull—Edith Maud to her friends, we bet—conjures up a tale here that's pure Arabian Nights, one of those florid books filled with words like “insensibly,” and where women suffer from heaving breasts and quickening pulses. This was Hull's realm. She published other books with similar settings, including 1919's The Sheik, which became a motion picture starring Rudolph Valentino
In The Captive of the Sahara virginal one percenter Isma Crichton travels for the sake of adventure to the City of Stones, and there in the trackless Algerian desert lustful Sidi Said bin Aissa decides to make dessert of her. Full disclosure: we're too corrupted to really enjoy books that hint around sex with poetic language. We're pulp guys. We can't help wanting these pale, trembling flowers to get properly laid, three or four detailed times, but that isn't Edith Maud's writerly plan. What happens is bin Aissa forces Isma to marry him, and a battle of wills follows as he tries to convince and/or bully her into relinqushing what he feels is rightfully his—her vagina.
Under these circumstances we were not keen to see Isma laid, properly or any other way. And that's effective writing for you. We had sneered through most of the book but now were rooting for Isma to escape her desert prison and return to dashing David—a childhood friend whose confession of love was the original trigger for her fearful (did we mention that virgin thing?) departure and eventual trip to the City of Stones. We have to give Edith Maud credit—she sucked us into to this tale, and we liked it in most parts, but we certainly shan't (see her influence?) be recommending it. It's overwrought, often silly, and at times viciously racist. But hey, if you're looking for a literary adventure-romance, this might be it.
No need to be nervous. To a doctor your body is nothing more than a soft, seductive, infinitely pleasurable biological wonder.
More for the doctor sleaze bin, Roy Benard Sparkia's Doctors & Sinners, from 1960 for Pyramid Books. Sparkia was prolific in this genre, but he also wrote Build My Gallows High, which was the basis of one of the great films of the 1940s, the film noir Out of the Past, which starred Robert Mitchum.
Erm... before you shoot... I just want you to know it was all her fault.
Crime en deux temps, or “crime in two stages,” was originally released in 1939 as The Case of the Rolling Bones. For some reason the French publishers of this book, Presses de la Cité, call legendary mystery author Erle Stanley Gardner just Stanley Gardner, which sounds, well, non-legendary. Stanley Gardner is a guy at the office you don't talk to because he's a skin picker. Erle Stanley Gardner is a guy who, if he likes you, can get you into Nobu. So, the Erle is needed.
Plotwise, this revolves around greed, gold, and a group of people who want to prevent their relative from losing his fortune to his prospective wife. In order to stop this imagined horror, they commit the relative to a nuthouse before he can get married. Which backfires when he escapes. As always with Gardner there's a murder, which brings Perry Mason onto the scene to sort everything out.
As you might guess, because Gardner was (and is) an immensely popular author there are several English language paperback covers for this, and they all feature dice in some form. Which makes sense, because the original title came about because there's an actual die maker in the book. He makes crooked dice, and he gets murdered. This uncredited French cover from 1950 caught our eye because of its non-literal approach. No dice, but it's a winner.
On a map Route 66 runs east-west between L.A. and Chicago. In this book it turns sharply south and never stops.
We were pretty excited for Richard Wormser's 1961 novel Drive East on 66. It sounded like fun—a thriller set on an iconic U.S. road we've traveled parts of at least a dozen times. This road, for our international readers who may not know, was and remains for many Americans the embodiment of a specific type of freedom consisting of endless miles, open spaces, small towns, and the possibility of all sorts of adventure. It's a road where you'd expect to see strange sites and meet even stranger people. Which is pretty much what happens in Wormser's tale.
The protagonist is a lawman named Andy Bastian, who's paid $1,000 to drive a disturbed young man from California to a Kansas mental facility. Since the father wants to avoid publicity and the prospective patient is prone to violent freak-outs, flying or taking a train is not a possibility. That makes Route 66 the best way to go. It's a fertile premise but for the most part the book feels unrealized. Its plot is unlikely and its characterizations feel off-the-mark, particularly that of the student-psychiatrist along for the drive whose job is to keep the patient on an even keel. She's awful at her job, and the romance between her and Bastian is so clumsy an arranged marriage would feel more natural.
Wormser lost his way on this one, we think, but the book generated a follow-up, so there you go—our opinion means squat. If we had to guess, we'd say the concept alone helped put the story over for readers, because again, Route 66 is a piece of American iconography, and building a crime thriller around it will make up for a multitude of sins. Just not for us. The cover art here is uncredited, however some experts say it's by Mitchell Hooks, and we agree it looks like his work, but we're not experts. Absent official confirmation, mark it as unknown.
I think I finally understand why you only paint gigantic ears.
Above, the cover of Studio Lovers by Lee Jaquin for Knickerbocker Publications' imprint Regular Books, 1946. In general we've found that women enjoy being kissed on the ear, but digging for truffles is a whole different ballgame. Remember guys, never go down the ear canal unless explicitly asked.
Whoops, wrong room. Unless you're the one who wanted the kilo of blow.
Sometimes when you're a cop crime comes right to you, such as on this cover for Lady Cop by J. T. Pritchard. This was a fast read. Basically, when her father's death is ruled a suicide, a woman comes to believe it was murder and joins the police force with the ultimate goal of finding the killer or killers. Pritchard has zero inclination to make a true mystery of this, so he takes the easy route of having the killer come to the heroine. Then, having put her in hot water, he again takes the easy route by having someone else save her ass. The provocative cover by Eddie Chan doesn't actually reflect a scene in the narrative. Lady cop is smart enough to lock her door. Conversely, girl wrestlers are not—the art came from 1952's Loves of a Girl Wrestler, below. See another cover for that at this link. Copyright on Lady Cop is 1955.
Theft is what little people do, my dear. In politics we call it privatizing public assets.
Above, a cover for Paul Gallico's Thief Is an Ugly Word. The scan makes it look like a novel, but Dell's 10¢ books were really story length offerings bound as pamphlets. Dell's edition, all sixty-four pages of it, came out after the tale had already appeared in a May 1944 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. The above edition is from a little later, 1951, with art by Barye Phillips.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1959—Max Baer Dies
Former heavyweight boxing champ Max Baer dies of a heart attack in Hollywood, California. Baer had a turbulent career. He lost to Joe Louis in 1935, but two years earlier, in his prime, he defeated German champ and Nazi hero Max Schmeling while wearing a Star of David on his trunks. The victory was his legacy, making him a symbol to Jews, and also to all who hated Nazis.
1945—Nuremberg Trials Begin
In Nuremberg, Germany, in the Palace of Justice, the trials of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany begin. Among the men tried were Martin Bormann (in absentia), Hermann Göring, Rudolph Hess, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
1984—SETI Institute Founded
The SETI Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, the discovery of extrasolar planets, and the habitability of the galaxy, is founded in California by Thomas Pierson and Dr. Jill Tarter.
1916—Goldwyn Pictures Formed
In the U.S.A., Samuel Goldfish and Edgar Selwyn establish Goldwyn Pictures, which becomes one of the most successful independent film studios in Hollywood. Goldfish also takes the opportunity to legally change his last name to Goldwyn.
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