Vintage Pulp Jul 24 2017
A MANNEQUIN APART
So that's where your other arm went. The damsel in distress thing was just an act, wasn't it?

Dead As a Dummy is a thriller set in the unlikely locale of Tucson, Arizona, where a premiere for a horror movie called The Invisible Zombie goes completely awry when it becomes the backdrop for three murders. The main character is Ben Logan. His job is kind of hard to describe. Basically, he works for a cinema chain, and he handles whatever needs to be handled. Think of him as a troubleshooter. He puts together a lobby display for The Invisible Zombie featuring a coffin with a mannequin corpse inside, only to find the set-up put to use by a clever killer. The main attraction here besides the plot is good southwestern flavor, something author Geoffrey Homes was adept at after previous forays in the same milieu. The cover art on this is generally credited to George Fullington, but that's one of those cases of the internet replicating an error. It happens. We've done it ourselves. The art is by Ray Johnson—says so right on the second page—and the copyright is 1949.  

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Vintage Pulp Jul 2 2017
WINE, WOMEN, AND SCHLONG
*Sigh* Well, at least my liver still works perfectly.


Ernest Hemingway is a polarizing writer, but those who call him overrated are wrong. You can't be overrated when you changed the DNA of prose in the English language. There was a style of popular writing that was dominant before Hemingway, and a style that became dominant afterward, with the shift entirely of his doing. The Sun Also Rises originally appeared in hardback in 1926, and this Bantam paperback edition is from 1949. The cover looks a hell of a lot like the work of Ed Paulsen, who painted this cover for Bantam in 1949 featuring a man with a near identical face. But officially, this was painted by Ken Riley, who was also working with Bantam in 1949. It's a pretty nice piece, establishing definitively three main characteristics of Hemingway's writing—booze, women, and anguish, with the latter deriving in this case from the ex-soldier protagonist having had his penis shot off or rendered non-functional, yet being in love with the beautiful Lady Brett Ashley. The problem is infinitely compounded by the fact that she loves him too, but must seek physical pleasures from other men. If you know any iconoclasts who've told you this book isn't worth your time, we suggest you ignore them. The Sun Also Rises is a tough, affecting, unforgettable read. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 17 2017
MAKEUP REMOVAL
Hollywood is seen without its face on.

We have something a bit different today, a cover of Pete Martin's tinseltown tell-all Hollywood without Makeup. What you get here are tabloid style bios of various cinematic luminaries, including Greer Garson, Ava Gardner, and Maria Montez. The info on the stars probably makes this one worthwhile by itself, but as a bonus you get tabloid style writing in long form. It's a type of prose that isn't practiced anymore, but it can be quite entertaining to read. Here's an example:

When first stumbled upon, the conception of the lady sounds as if those who are promoting it are deliberately plying a fire extinguisher to quench the flames of publicity that might singe her career.

We don't even fully understand what that means, really. Here's a more straightforward passage:

She operates on the theory that standing up on her two eye-filling legs and yelling for her rights, while at the same time clubbing people over the head with her overpowering personality, will bring home a choice brand of bacon generously streaked with lean. The head screwed on her decorative shoulders is not stuffed with goofer feathers or idle girlish vaporings. The mind behind her velvet-textured Latin facade closes on an opportunity like the jaws of a bear trap.
 
Aside from being incredibly condescending, it's an interesting style. You find this type of baroque writing in all the high budget tabloids, such as Confidential, Hush-Hush, and Whisper. It's self-indulgent, but fun to read. Does it sound like your cup of tea? Then go for it. Regarding the cover art, we aren't sure whether we're dealing with a painting or a photo-illustration, but in either case it's uncredited. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 16 2017
WOOD IF HE COULD
Well, it's not super dark. Just darker than the rest of me. Here—give it a feel.

The cover art for Bantam Books' paperback edition of Christine Weston's The Dark Wood is another good example of the pulpification of mid-century literature. This is a seriously phallic effort. The proximity of the woman's hands to crotchville is suggestive enough, but the penile shadow really leaves no doubt what the artist is thinking here. The original hardback art, which you also see, is more fitting for what the book really is—a psychological drama in the style of Daphne DuMaurier about a widow who meets a man that resembles her dead husband, and proceeds to try to turn that man into her lost love, with damaging results. The book debuted in 1946, and World War II and its aftereffects are central to the plot. The Bantam art, while nice, certainly gives a different impression. Just more proof of the power of provocative visuals. It's from 1949 and was painted by Ed Paulsen.  

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Vintage Pulp Jun 14 2017
GREAT FRIGHT WAY
Aspiring actress gets shot on Broadway.


She was looking to get a shot on Broadway, not get shot, but you have to be 100% clear or people will get confused. Especially a guy like Waldo, the crazed mutiliation killer of David Alexander's Terror on Broadway. Waldo, who taunts the police with snide notes, has knocked off four women, all in the Broadway theatre district, and he has more in his sights unless hero Bart Hardin can stop him. Hardin isn't a private detective or cop—he's the editor of a newspaper, but he's tough enough for the task. Unrealistically so to us, though this is explained by his youth as a boxer and his stint in the military. Overall, Terror on Broadway is pretty heavy stuff for 1954, and the book was banned for a time in Australia. The art on this edition, though, is uncommonly pretty. It was painted by John McDermott, aka J.M. Ryan, who was an animator for Walt Disney before branching out into cover work. He later went on to write his own novels and make a couple of films, so the guy was multi-talented. We'll run into him again down the line, we're sure. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 5 2017
UNDERHANDED BEHAVIOR
Pair arrested in payoff scheme profess shock. “We were incredibly subtle about it,” claim jailbirds.


This cover for Ira Wolfert's The Underworld is uncredited, which is a shame considering it's wonderfully executed and wraps cleverly around to the rear of the book. Wolfert won a 1943 Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles about the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, aka the Battle of the Solomons, then the same year wrote Tucker's People, which was the original title of The Underworld. The Bantam paperback edition above was published in 1950. The book details the numbers rackets of New York City, which were executed far more subtly than the not very casual depiction in the art. The story captured Hollywood's attention and was produced as 1948's Force of Evil, starring John Garfield. We'll get around to talking about that movie a bit later.

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Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique Feb 18 2017
ELECTION FRAY
They do vote! By the millions! And only for Democrats!

We couldn't resist a comment on the recent election. Generally we keep Pulp Intl. a politics-lite zone, but every once in a while a book cover or movie pushes us in that direction, and today's has done that. Out here in the reality based world here's what the facts show: there haven't been even a hundred verified cases of voter impersonation in the U.S. since the year 2000, and of course impersonation is the only type of fraud the voter ID laws so many conservative lawmakers are pushing would prevent. So when a law is designed to stop a handful of lawbreakers (thirty-one in fifteen years according to one extensive study) at cost of the rights of millions of people, we can safely call these laws attempts to suppress the vote. At least, in the real world we can do that.

But the lies around voter impersonation continue to grow—we now hear of 3 million illegal votes cast in 2016, people bused from one state to another, etc. All of this taking place, of course, with no paper or digital trail, no sign of organization at any level, and for sure no suggestion that a single one of these alleged fraudsters voted Republican (Trump: “If you look at it they all voted for Hillary."). Meanwhile, absent actual evidence, the besmirching of the electoral system continues. It deserves to be besmirched, of course, but because of the ridiculous choices on offer, not because of fantasies of systemic fraud. Yet politicians cynically keep trying to generate mistrust. They're playing a dangerous game, and if they keep it up there will be serious consequences down the road.

If you've visited Pulp Intl. a lot you know we've spent time in some gnarly corners of the planet. Here's how it goes: first, all losses are contested, even losses by millions of votes, and orderly transitions of power fail to occur. Second, violence at polling places becomes commonplace. Third, election seasons become destabilizing events, often requiring a police presence, which suppresses the votes of marginalized communities. Fourth, economic and diplomatic activity suffers as the country is perceived by the international community to be a bad place for investment. And mixed in throughout are the passing of laws ostensibly designed to fix the system, but really meant to consolidate power. The cycle, once established, repeats and worsens. If you think it can't happen, consider that The Economist—that hive of leftwing villainy and scum—recently downgraded the U.S. from a “full” to a “flawed” democracy.

That's our missive from the factual universe, to be heeded or ignored as you please. Stiffs Don't Vote has nothing to do with any of that, not directly, anyway. There's a crooked political campaign involved, but the story actually deals with an axe murder investigated by the heroes Humphrey Campbell and Oscar Morgan. The book was originally titled Forty Whacks, referencing the famed Lizzie Borden rhyme, and the murder in the story constantly makes the protagonists think of Borden. The copyright on this Bantam edition is 1947, and the unusual cover art was painted by Hy Rubin, who we've never featured before, but will again, if this is any indication of his talent. We'll see what we can dig up. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 27 2016
EAVESDROPPING IN
Well, he says his name is Manny Slaughter, but for some reason I don't think he's as harmless as he seems.

Elizabeth Daly fashioned herself as a U.S. version of Agatha Christie, writing the same kind of mysteries but setting them in New York City. We gather that she was even Christie's favorite mystery author, which is quite an accolade. Murder Listens In is seventh in Daly's Henry Gamadge series—the main character being a sleuth who writes mystery novels—and he's drawn into this puzzle by a crumpled note with his name and address on it found by a postman outside an Upper East Side mansion, and is soon dealing with a client who insists on anonymity to the point of throwing him notes out a window. Someone in this house filled with distant relatives and servants is in deep trouble, and Gamadge, with the help of his wife Clara and his sidekick Schenck, has to figure it out before someone (else) dies. Exceedingly well reviewed, and deservedly so. Originally published in 1944 as Arrow Pointing Nowhere, with this Bantam paperback appearing in 1949 graced by Harry Schaare cover art. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 1 2016
MOST WANTED
An American crime story.

Written by The Gordons, who were the tandem of spouses Gordon Gordon and Mildred Gordon, FBI Story follows Agent John Ripley as he investigates the disappearance of a woman named Genie. She's wanted for theft by the FBI, and by the Los Angeles police as a person of interest in a murder case. Ripley finds that he and the missing woman have a lot in common, a fact revealed by his perusal of her bookshelf and diary. Is she really a criminal or just a desperate woman in deep trouble? As the investigation unfolds and the search spans the entire United States, we learn that other people are after her, including a millionaire American fascist who looks like Hitler and rants about the master race. Eventually Ripley uncovers jewel thievery, treason, and the mysterious Genie herself.

Originally published in hardback on the heels of World War II in 1950, FBI Story delves deeply into the weariness and cynicism of combat vets, of which Ripley is one, yet all the agents are unswervingly dutiful and honest. Considering the fact that the novel is dedicated to J. Edgar Hoover, one could be excused for branding it propaganda. In fact, Gordon Gordon was an ex-FBI agent and had J. Edgar Hoover approve his work. Even so, FBI Story is generally considered a good read. It was later turned into a movie starring James Stewart and Vera Miles. The Bantam edition of the book is from 1955 with uncredited art, and the Corgi one appeared in 1957 with Mitchell Hooks on the cover chores.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 23 2016
MR. FIX IT
To a hammerer every problem looks like a nail.


In Dorothy Salisbury Davis's A Gentle Murderer a man visits a confessional and reveals murdering someone with a hammer and flees into the night before the priest knows what to do. The dismayed padre decides to search for the mysterious man who burdened him with this terrible knowledge, thus taking on the role of detective in the story, though the police are on hand to conduct a parallel investigation. Naturally, another murder will soon occur if the killer isn't caught. The plot is similar to that of Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, but appeared in hardback two years earlier. However, the Hitchcock movie was actually based on Paul Anthelme Bourde's 1902 play Nos deux consciences, so perhaps Davis was inspired by either the play or Hitchcock's adaptation. Whatever the genesis, the result was a highly regarded mystery, considered by some to be among the best of the era. The cover art on this Bantam paperback edition is by Charles Binger, and dates from 1953. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 24
1915—Ship Capsizes on Lake Michigan
During an outing arranged by Western Electric Co. for its employees and their families, the passenger ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan due to unequal weight distribution. 844 people die, including all the members of 22 different families.
1980—Peter Sellers Dies
British movie star Peter Sellers, whose roles in Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the Pink Panther films established him as the greatest comedic actor of his generation, dies of a heart attack at age fifty-four.
July 23
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
July 22
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
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