Getting what you want is all in how you ask.
It seems as if no genre of literature features more characters in complete submission to others than mid-century sleaze. And how do these hapless supplicants express their desperation? They break out the kneepads. Above and below are assorted paperback covers of characters making pleas, seeking sympathy, and professing undying devotion. Though some of these folks are likely making the desired impression on their betters, most are being ignored, denied, or generally dumptrucked. You know, psychologists and serial daters say a clean break is best for all involved, so next time you need to go Lili St. Cyr on someone try this line: “I've decided I hate your face now.” That should get the job done. Art is by Harry Barton, Barye Philips, Paul Rader, et al.
Cleanliness is next to bawdiness.
Below, a small selection of paperback covers featuring characters getting more from their daily rinse than just a squeaky clean feeling.
Mid-century paperback art and the race to judgment.
Science has given humanity a lot over the centuries. What will turn out to be one of its most important gifts is its conclusion, widely disseminated beginning in 1950 but by today firmly proven thanks to DNA sequencing, that race doesn’t exist in any scientific way. Of course, many don’t consider that fact a gift—but many people also had serious problems with the revelation that the Earth wasn’t flat. The concept of anti-black racism came entirely from the human imagination within about the last five-hundred years, principally as a means to justify the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Seen in that light, scientific proof that race doesn’t exist represents not new knowledge, but a return to knowledge that was the norm before the drive for riches caused men to deliberately warp human thought as a means to cover for mass cruelty.
As an imaginary construct, however, race is persistently powerful, which the collection of paperback fronts above and below strongly illustrate. We weren’t around when any of these were written, but their existence reveals a surprisingly (to us) lively market in such material. Were all the books you see here of great worth? Certainly not. But even with their flaws—particularly woman-blaming for rape—these books are artifacts of a fascinating racial dialogue that we suspect, on balance, was beneficial. We have fifty examples and there are at least a couple dozen more we didn’t include (Black Dicks for Marcie was just a bit too out there). Some of those pieces will pop up later in a slightly different themed collection. In addition to what you see here, we also put together a related group last year featuring an Asian theme and you can see that here.
An equitable exchange of services.
Are you old enough to have experienced the swinging craze? We aren’t, and we wouldn’t have taken part anyway (are you reading this, Pulp Intl. girlfriends?), but it does look kind of fun on vintage paperbacks (you aren't reading this are you, Pulp Intl. girlfriends?). We’ve shared a few covers in the past dealing with the subject of swapping, and you can see a few here, here, and here. For today we decided it was finally time to do what every pulp site must—put together a large, swap-themed collection of sleaze paperback covers. So above and below is a vast assortment for your enjoyment. The trick with these was to make sure they weren’t all from Greenleaf Classics, which is a company that through its imprints Companion, Candid, Adult, Nightstand, et al, published hundreds of swapping novels. That means we had to look far afield to avoid having the entire collection come from that publisher. We think we’ve done a good job (though we will put together a Greenleaf-only swapping collection later—it’s mandatory). Want to see even more swapping books? Try the excellent sleaze fiction website triplexbooks.com.
For better or worse, in sickness and health, women in pulp don’t have a heck of a lot of choice about it.
Pulp is a place where the men are decisive and the women are as light as feathers. We’ve gotten together a collection of paperback covers featuring women being spirited away to places unknown, usually unconscious, by men and things that are less than men. You have art from Harry Schaare, Saul Levine, Harry Barton, Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan, and others.
I haven’t laughed like this since I was the Duchess of Discomfort. Life was so much simpler back then.
We love the outrageous art from Greenleaf Classics, which means we always have to circle back to it, this time to the above Pleasure Reader entry Queen of Cruelty, by Donald Westlake writing as Alan Marshall. This appeared in 1967 with Tomas Cannizarro assuming the cover duties. You can see a few of our favorite Greenleaf covers here, here, and here.
Faced with this position surrender is the only option.
Here you see a pose that appears over and over in vintage paperback art—one figure looming menacingly in the foreground as a second cowers in the triangular negative space created by the first’s spread legs. This pose is so common it should have a name. We’re thinking “the alpha,” because it signifies male dominance and because of the a-shape the pose makes. True, on occasion the dominator isn’t male, sometimes the unfortunate sprawled figure is depicted outside the a-shaped space, and sometimes the art expresses something other than dominance, but basically the alpha (see, that just sounds right, doesn’t it?) has been used scores of times with only minor variation. You’ll notice several of these come from subsidiaries of the sleaze publisher Greenleaf Classics. It was a go-to cover style for them. We have twenty examples in all, with art by Bob Abbett, Robert Bonfils, Michel Gourdon, and others.
They’re having a hard day at the office in more ways than one.
Where would sleaze fiction be without Midwood Books? The company was launched in 1957 by Harry Shorten, and the sub-genre of office sleaze quickly became one the new company’s linchpins. Below are some examples of these books, with art by the always excellent Paul Rader and others. Thanks to all the original uploaders.
Catch you on the flipside.
Another great cover today for an Alan Marshall sleaze novel. This time it’s The Orgy Inspector, featuring a lecherous older swing dancer whose favorite maneuver pays high dividends when he tries it on his young partner. You get the impression that by the time she completes her revolution she might end up completely undressed. Girls, let this be a lesson that the whole room is apt to get a good look at the kitty kat if you go swing dancing without undies, so always wear a pair and— Wait. Did we say always? Er, never. That’s the word we were looking for.
How exactly did I superglue my breasts to a mirror? Well, that’s actually an interesting story...
We saw this over at the excellent and comprehensive website triplexbooks.com and couldn’t resisting borrowing it. Alan Marshall was a pseudonym that was inhabited by Donald Westlake and possibly others, which makes it highly collectible. Not only does triplexbooks sell this item, but they also make it available for download. So tempting. In fact, we’d definitely do it if it turned out that a character actually superglued herself naked to a mirror, but we’re pretty confident we’d only be disappointed. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
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