Upfield's franchise character is never quite fleshed out.
Bony and the White Savage, for which you see a Pan Books cover above, has as its central character a half aborigine detective named Napoleon Bonaparte—Bony for short. The idea of this person made us think immediately of Ed Lacy's creation Toussaint Marcus Moore, considered to be the first African American detective in literature. But Upfield may have been first to create a black detective of any nationality—that is if we accept being half black ethnically as being fully black culturally. It's certainly that way in the U.S., as we've talked about before. Upfield created his Bony character and first published him way back in 1929, almost thirty years before Lacy, and the above installment of what was a long running series of Bony novels is from 1964 and sees the hero on the trail of a rapist and overall hellion who's holed up somewhere in the wild crags of the southwestern Australian coast.
Good premise, but in short, our hopes that this book would be something akin to Ed Lacy were misplaced. The way it's written, Bony being half aborigine is wasted—which is to say it impacts nothing and nobody mentions it. That approach might be commendable from a purely fictional perspective, but is it realistic? We've lived outside the U.S. for a long time, so we understand—trust us, we understand—that compared to the rest of the world Americans tend to overdo things. Like, everything. So Upfield would definitely be more subtle than Ed Lacy, who made the color of his Toussaint character central, but Upfield veers pretty far in the other direction, presenting a colorblind outback we know for a fact doesn't exist today. Was it colorblind back then? We doubt it, but Australian aborigines have recessive genes for blonde hair and blue eyes, so Bony might have fit in physically a lot better than we imagine.
But let's set that aside, because this is fiction, and a writer can do anything he or she wants. At least that's what we think. They're required to pull it off, though. Purely in terms of the plot, we had pretty high expectations here and they went unmet. Despite the exotic setting, interesting set-up, the unusual hero, and the fearsome antagonist, Bony and the White Savage isn't special. And we were really looking forward to reading an entire series of Down Under adventures, with all its local quirks and idiosyncrasies. But you know us by now. We're tenacious. This particular book, which was the only one available to us, is number twenty-six in the Bonaparte series. We're going to try again. We suspect that the qualities we anticipated are in the first book, The Barrakee Mystery, in which this Bony person must be more fully fleshed out. So we'll read that. If we can find it.
In Hatter's novel Hawaii is blue in more ways than one.
Amos Hatter, aka Ben West, aka James Lampp, originally published Island Girl as Island Ecstasy in 1952. Most copies of Island Girl are from a couple of years later, but somehow ours is also from 1952. The art, which is identical for both titles, is uncredited but very nice. The novel is about a Hawaiian beauty named Consuela Marlin, Connie for short, who takes a liking to a WASPish researcher named Jay Carter, and determines to win him over by any means necessary. Surprisingly for a 1952 novel, that leads to Connie bedding him—repeatedly.
Jay's a haole in Hawaiian lingo, a non-islander, which makes the romance a culture clash. It's also a clash of substance—Connie's relatable in every way, while Jay's goodhearted, but infuriatingly laissez-faire in his romantic attitudes. A complication soon arises in the form of a one percenter who lands on Oahu and decides he wants and is entitled to Connie. Forced kisses, stalkerish schemes, gaslighting, and browbeating are his tools, but this being a mid-century book, Hatter doesn't write him as a particularly bad guy, so much as a determined rival. What are the results of this shitty behavior? He gets what he wants—repeatedly.
These vintage sex dramas are strange as hell sometimes, but you know that going in, so you roll with it. Hatter's depiction of Consuela as independent yet submissive is dubious, but is in no way a surprise in a genre built around depicting the availability of women. We're just glad we didn't live during the era when men who were violent toward women were considered to be “a little forward” or “within their rights.” All that said, Island Girl is well written and worth a read, if for no other reason than the generational and sociological differences of the era it highlights.
So many choices, so little time.
We found this interesting photo on Reddit. It shows an actual pulp rack at the Detroit Metro Airport in 1959. It's amazingly full. We had no idea the racks offered this level of choice. Jonathan Latimer once famously described his books as being about, “booze, babes and bullets,” and the choices shown here certainly reflect the simple enticements of popular mid-century fiction. We were surprised and pleased to find that we own three of those shown. Carter Brown's The Dame and None but the Lethal Heart, and Edmond Hamilton's The Star of Life, are currently in our holdings. Seeing them on an actual spinning rack circa late-1950s is cool. It gives them new life for us.
Speaking of new, the international mails have been working flawlessly of late, and we've received some very choice items, including a stack of digest novels from Uni, Rainbow, and similar imprints, and some Dell and Signet crime paperbacks. We've already begun posting some of this stuff, for example The Nude Stranger and Dirt Farm. We also got our hands on the novelization of the blaxploitation film Coffy. Look forward to that. And on top of everything else, we also bought some fun French nudie mags, and a fresh lot of periodicals from Australia, including more issues of Adam, Man, and Man Jr. We'll get to scanning and you can expect those to start popping up pretty soon.
I vant to suck your jelly donut! The raspberry filling is irresistible!
This cool cover fronts the original Hebrew translation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. It looks vintage but it's actually from 1984. It was made from a promo image, as you see, with Bela Lugosi wearing a very hungry expression. Vampires crave blood, but this look must be for something even better, like one of those Israeli jelly donuts—sufganiyot they're called. They'd make anyone modify their diet. Luckily, Dracula wears a cape, which means he won't need a napkin to wipe the powdered sugar off his mouth. Pulp style art from Israel is hard to find, as you can probably imagine. Is this pulp style? We think so, kind of. Anyway, we've located a few things—for example, this cover for Psycho. We'll keep looking and share anything we find.
What she thinks is written all over her face.
Above is an uncredited 1951 cover for The Agony Column by Earl Derr Biggers, a book we read a couple of years ago solely because of its strange title. It was originally published in 1916, turned out to be a sort of romance rather than the thriller we expected, and taught us that big city newspaper sections where people wrote anonymously to other readers were called “agony columns.” Example: “Dear Pulp Intl. girlfriends. Don't you know I'd treat you better than those two glib losers? I'm funnier than those guys too. Anonymous admirer.” To which we'd reply, for example, you'd better stay anonymous, or we'll teach what agony really is. You can read what we wrote about the book here.
Turns out Barye Phillips and Dom Lupo lived at the same address, but at different times.
We've talked often about vintage paperback art being copied. We have another example today involving Dom Lupo and Barye Phillips. Hearing those two names you'd think it was Phillips, who was a stalwart of mid-century paperback illustration, who'd been copied by Lupo, talented but lesser known. Nope—it's the other way around. Above is Lupo's cover for 13 French Street, which was used by Gold Medal Books in 1951. You also see here Phillips' cover for Little Tramp (larger version here), which dates from 1957. Naughty Barry.
But Lupo copied too, sort of. He seems to have used as his inspiration a promo photo of U.S. actress Rita Gam, below. Using photos as the basis for illustrations was pretty normal, as we've documented before, so Lupo was just doing what artists did. You can see he changed the angle a bit, so it's not a true copy so much as a template. There's an internet replication error we should note: a few places say the Gam photo is from her 1952 thriller The Thief. Which means, obviously, she could not have inspired Lupo unless she had a time machine. Since the poses are so similar, we assume the attribution to The Thief is simply wrong—though ironic, because in art, everyone is a little bit of a thief. Great work by all involved.
...and I had a shattering orgasm. Let's see, next up, the thirty-second time I committed the sin of lust. I was nineteen...
Above: The Sins of Allie-May by Albert L. Quandt, 1950, from Quarter Books. This company wasn't great at crediting artists, and this piece, predictably, is unattributed. Could be George Gross. Could be Howell Dodd. Could maybe even be Rudy Nappi. But officially, it's a mystery.
I know you had plans today, but I got bad news. Our ox done come up lame. So let's get the plow strapped on you and get to tilling that back forty.
We recently bought a stack of digest paperbacks. These books generally came in the early 1950s and were often sexually charged dramas with women as the main characters. Dirt Farm falls into that basic category, though the lead is male, a war vet named Bern Winter who takes a fieldhand job hoping to exorcise his personal demons with hard work. Unfortunately, he's had the misfortune to walk right into a family out of Erskine Caldwell. There's the developmentally disabled man-child who's also a potentially dangerous physical brute. There's the amoral sex maniac who has lascivious designs on a sibling. There's the paragon of perfect femininity onto whom everyone attaches their hopes and dreams. There's the subservient domestic staffer bestowed with the wisdom of the ages. There's the emotionally crippled accident victim who wanders around in a daze playing a fiddle. And there are secrets. Secrets galore that bespeak the decadence of the South and its moneyed class. The straight shooting manly-man protagonist could ignore all this lunacy or disrupt it, and of course he dives in head first. These digest books are usually pretty good. Far better than you'd suspect if you haven't read any. But Dirt Farm feels like a rushed attempt to take advantage of the burgeoning southern noir sub-genre, and is shoddily constructed and ultimately pointless. Onward and upward.
When you choose an inspiration choose the best.
Above you see a cover from Beacon Signal books, circa 1960, for All Woman by Matt Harding. The woman in this case is the legendary Bettie Page, rendered by illustrator Jack Faragasso. Page appeared on vintage book covers several times, either in photo or painted form. We've shown you examples of both types here and here, and you'll notice one of those covers is also by Faragasso. Clearly he had an affinity for Page, and there's a reason. When he was attending the Art Students League of New York in 1951 he shot nude photos of her. This was before she was well known. Faragasso later published those images in a book, but as far as using them as inspiration for paperback covers, he did it only twice. We'll keep an eye out for more Page covers. For that matter, we'll keep an eye out for more Faragasso covers too.
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