Vintage Pulp Dec 24 2020
IF A MAN ANSWERS
Hi, I'm lost and alone and if I disappeared off the face of the Earth nobody would question it or care.


Above, very nice Mitchell Hooks art for Gil Meynier's Stranger at the Door, originally 1948, with this Crest Books edition coming in 1955. We gave it a read and you should think of it as an early Psycho. The main character Joe runs a Tucson boarding house, and we learn via his vivid internal dialogues that he hates all people, particularly those who possess authority through education or social position. His disorder soon focuses on Dorry, an attractive new boarder who has no idea how disturbed Joe really is. He schemes, sneaks around, spies, and steals, and his first attempt at serious harm involves running someone over with his car. That person isn't the last. An unusual book for the time period, which we enjoyed because it's so different.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 22 2020
FAST AND LOOS
Gentlemen prefer blondes. So do elderly billionaires, used car salesmen, and pornographers, but let's leave all that aside for now.


We said we'd get back to Anita Loos and here we are. We said that eleven years ago, but what can you do? Above you see a French edition of her classic comedy Les hommes préfèrent les blondes, better known as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with Marilyn Monroe—who starred in the movie version—front and center on the cover. We read the book a while back—its full title is actually Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady—but haven't talked about it, so we'll just tell you that it's simply ingenious, taking the form of the diary of a somewhat vacuous and entitled socialite flapper named Lorelei, who is to gentlemen what sugar is to flies. Lorelei is a material girl obsessed with wealth and status, who expects adoration and basically plies most of these guys for gifts. But of course she does choose someone in the end.

The novel is built from short stories Loos wrote for Harper's Bazaar in the early 1920s. It was originally published in book form in 1925, with this edition coming in 1959, a few years after film version's French run. Loos' masterpiece wasn't loved by critics, but it was a runaway success anyway and ended up being printed in thirteen languages. Little known factoid—unlike the film version, which takes place on a cruise ship, a chunk of the novel occurs aboard the Orient Express, with Lorelei displaying herself to the crème of European gentlemen from Paris to Budapest. She even meets Sigmund “Froid.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes obviously isn't pulp style at all, but Monroe had a pulp-worthy life, so that's connection enough for us. If you want a mental break from gunplay and mayhem, this is a good option.
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 21 2020
VENUS DE MURDER
This one has both her arms—and they're .38 calibre.


The versatile Mitchell Hooks is back, working in what we like to think of as his realistic mode on this cover for Ben Benson's The Venus Death. We wrote a little piece on Hooks and his various styles of painting. You can see that at this link. This novel is a solid thriller about the sparks that fly when a young state trooper named Ralph Lindsey crosses paths with an even younger femme fatale named Manette Venus. Yes, that's a ridiculous name, like something a stripper made up. So maybe it's no surprise that within the narrative it turns out to be a pseudonym. But Manette Venus isn't a stripper. She's just a woman with a secret—and some unsavory acquaintances.

Benson can write. He's not a master, but he also doesn't litter the narrative with grammatical clunkers or overcooked stylistic flourishes. In workmanlike fashion and in somewhat procedural detail, he tells the story of Ralph the trooper digging to the bottom of a baffling mystery involving a bizarre shooting, two guns, and the sometimes tricky place where presumption and proof clash. He learns at the end that sometimes people can be one thing, then seem to be the opposite, then turn out to be what you thought they were in the first place. That's vague, we know, but we liked the book, so you get no concrete hints. This edition came in 1954 from Bantam.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 18 2020
GOODBYE CRUEL GIRL
I'm going to kill myself because I can't have you! You always ignored me, but you can't ignore this! Ahhhhhhhh....!


Above, a fun cover for Carter Brown Long Story Magazine. And long story short, when you make an epic gesture to your object of unrequited love, be sure she's actually watching. 1960 on this, with art by Grant Roberts.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 14 2020
ALLA BOARD FOR ITALY
Next stop—FBI headquarters, Rome.


Above, a striking cover from Italian publisher Edizioni MA-GA for Wallace MacKentzy's, aka Mario Raffi's, Alla prossima fermata, or “at the next stop,” published in 1965 as part of MA-GA's Federal Bureau of Investigation Stories. The art is uncredited, but was certainly worth sharing. See another nice MA-GA FBI cover here, and another MacKentzy here.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 13 2020
CATHERINE THE GREATEST
I won! I knew I would once they restricted track and field to beautiful French actresses! Eat my dust Anouk Aimée!


Catherine Deneuve absolutely flew in this race. It wasn't nearly as close as the art makes it look. Espions!.. à vos marques was written by Paul S. Nouvel, aka Jean-Michel Sorel, and published in 1964 by Éditions de l'Araesque. The cover is unsigned, but it's probably by Jef de Wulf. If we get more info we'll update this. We can't wait for the triple jump. Hopefully, Catherine will win that too.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 11 2020
NIGHT FROM HELL
Wow, that night sucked. And considering we have to jump to the next rooftop, today's not looking so good either.


Every author of detective novels must wrestle with the problem of how to bring the hero into the case. Hartley Howard takes a unique route in 1959's The Long Night—a seeming crank call. A woman rings private dick Glenn Bowman in the middle of the night, drunk, despondent, and hinting at suicide. She sounds sexy as hell, so Bowman coaxes her address from her and speeds over there to prevent tragedy—and get a gander at this honey-voiced, late night phone phantom. The only problem is she isn't planning to commit suicide, and the call was never random in the first place.

From there the mystery takes on a familiar shape, as Bowman must solve a murder in order to stay out of hot water with cops who want to pin the crime on him. Despite the book's title, the tale spans multiple nights. Overall it's okay but it's hard to buy a guy constantly talking people out of killing him. Especially when he's such a pest. Like James Bond, none of the bad guys can seem to take the expedient route of just ventilating Bowman. At times this will leave you scratching your head, but Howard has the hard boiled lingo pretty well mastered, we'll give him that. Some prime examples:

Femme fatale in response hero's flirtations: “You got lots of crust, mister, but not enough pie.”

Hero after fighting a broken armed thug: For a guy with a busted fin he didn't make out so bad.

Hero wondering if a woman is going to shoot him: Deep in her eyes lay an enigma that only the gun could answer.

Hero in a car with distrustful femme fatale: We drove uptown like two people whose marriage had outlived its romance.

You get the picture. We'd never heard of Hartley Howard before, but we looked him up and learned that he was really Leopold Horace Ognall. Born in Canada but based in Britain, Ognall was not as obscure as we'd assumed. The Long Night was number thirteen in a series of thirty-eight Glenn Bowman novels he published between 1950 and 1979, and he also wrote forty novels under the name Harry Carmichel. Which just goes to show that there's always another major writer discover. That's why this pulp gig never gets old.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 9 2020
ODD'S MAN OUT
Has your husband ever kissed you on the neck like this? No? Well, it's called foreplay, and we lesbians do it all the time.


Above is a cover for Odd Girl by Artemis Smith. The book, published in 1959, is often called a lesbian classic, and since we just read Satan Was a Lesbian, we thought we'd double up on this theme. But there's really no comparison between the two books. Satan Was a Lesbian is a crude joke, while Odd Girl is the incisively written tale of Anne, a New York City beauty who thinks she's gay and goes about searching for her true self in a world of lesbian bars and among an assortment of friends and lovers. The other women—Cora, Skippy, Beth, Esther, etc.—run the gamut from butch to femme, and in Smith's competent hands have distinctly different personalities too. As far as the men in this tale go, the focus is on one—Anne's youthful mistake of a husband Mark, who she's desperate to get rid of via divorce or annulment. If only it were that simple. If vintage fiction teaches any lesson it's that bad men don't go away easily.

We liked this book. It was serious and adult, wasn't exploitative, and had the feel of realism. The latter quality we couldn't have confirmed through personal experience, not being gay women, but the tale simply felt accurate for the period. And no wonder, because when we checked into Artemis Smith it turned out she was actually a gay woman who lived in New York City, was the author of the lesbian oriented novels The Third Sex and The Bed We Made, and was active in the mid-century civil and gay rights movements. She's probably better known today as Annselm L.N.V. Morpurgo and has a very active Twitter feed of a progressive bent. If you intend to take a foray into early lesbian fiction, Odd Girl is about as good as it gets. It's not a literary masterpiece, but it's as well written as most genre novels, and is a consistently entertaining read. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 8 2020
FALLEN ANGELS
Yup, that's them, but do they have to go to jail? I felt like they brought a real touch of class to skid row.


A line-up of women at the mercy of a witness and the police? You know this isn't going to end well. Angels in the Gutter is classic scare fiction (i.e. if you're not careful this could happen to someone you know—or even you!) originally published in 1955 by Fawcett Publications for its Gold Medal line, with this second printing coming in 1959. We really should have bought this book. It's cheap and there are no reviews online. That's the daily double for us. Plus the wraparound cover (below) is excellent. But we have about ten times as many books lined up as women lined up at this police station, and that's no exaggeration, so this one was a difficult pass.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 6 2020
HUNTER KILLER
Hell hath no fury like the pious denied.


Above is a beautiful but uncredited 1964 Mayflower Dell cover for Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubb, an author we knew only from horror fiction until we read this. We'd seen the movie a few times, and it's brilliant, as everyone knows. Well, so is the book. It's well written, and of course introduced to the world its iconic serial murderer Preacher, aka Harry Powell, who has l-o-v-e tattooed across the fingers of his right hand, h-a-t-e tattooed across the left, and puts those hands to use in his violent quest for hidden bank robbery loot that may be in the possession of two children. This was Grubb's first novel, coming in 1953 originally, and it's as assured a debut as you'll ever read. Every passage in the book is good, but for a typical example, here's a short one:

Her hand rose to her mouth then, the lips gasped suddenly, and presently the teeth settled, gently, grinning, in the glass of spring water, while Icey turned her back on them and fell into the healthy sleep of a fat, innocent child. Yet Walt lay awake. It was something he had learned to do in their marriage: hammering his thoughts into the shape she wanted. It was the price of peace, of sleep itself. Whatever unframed and as yet unshaped suspicions he had of Preacher were gone—stamped and trodden into the soil of domestic orthodoxy.

It's just a couple going to bed, with one of them beginning to have doubts about the preacher who's come to town and infiltrated several lives. But even in minor passages Grubb shines, showing that good writers work hard to describe even less significant moments well. That level of attention to detail helps Grubb build tension to the point where it's hard to bear—almost to the level of one of his horror tales—as Preacher psychologically dominates the children at the center of his obsession. His mental tortures are mere precursors to his physical violence.

Night of the Hunter became a great movie because the source material was as deep and rich as a seam of buried of gold. Filmmakers often make major changes to material and produce something amazing. Other times it's best to keep riding the same horse that took you to the rodeo. For those who have never seen the film, Grubb's novel will be a special—if terrifying—treat. But we think the book is worthwhile even for those who know what's going to happen. And we consider Preacher, whose twisted interpretation of scripture is designed to serve his lust for money and power, a relevant character in 2020.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
January 16
1942—Carole Lombard Dies in Plane Crash
American actress Carole Lombard, who was the highest paid star in Hollywood during the late 1930s, dies in the crash of TWA Flight 3, on which she was flying from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after headlining a war bond rally in support of America's military efforts. She was thirty-three years old.
January 15
1919—Luxemburg and Liebknecht Are Killed
Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, two of the most prominent socialists in Germany, are tortured and murdered by the Freikorps. Freikorps was a term applied to various paramilitary organizations that sprang up around Germany as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I. Members of these groups would later become prominent members of the SS.
January 14
1967—Summer of Love Begins
The Human Be-In takes place in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park with between 20,000 to 30,000 people in attendance, their purpose being to promote their ideals of personal empowerment, cultural and political decentralization, communal living, ecological preservation, and higher consciousness. The event is considered the beginning of the famed counterculture Summer of Love.
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