Bond is born in Ian Fleming's 1953 Cold War thriller.
We've read a few Bond novels, but not his debut in 1953's Casino Royale. When it comes to secondhand bookstores and yard sales you read what you find. But we decided to finally made a deliberate effort to go back to the beginning with an edition from Signet, which appeared in 1960 with Barye Phillips cover art. The debuts of franchise characters leave room for continuing adventures by design but we've never read a book that was so deliberately a prequel as Casino Royale. It's the essential novel for understanding Bond. You know the basics already: Cold War intrigue, opposing teams taking the field for a long struggle, a Soviet spy named La Chiffre who's dipped into funds not his and who hatches a desperate plan to restore them via the baccarat tables of a famous French casino, Bond dispatched to outplay him, break him, and ensure his downfall for stealing the money.
The book is fantastic from its opening, through its tremendously tense middle sections, and on to its brutal punchline of an ending. Bond is imperfect as both a spy and a man. He's sometimes kind, prone to sentiment, and philosophical about his work; he's also sexist, racist, and generally regressive. Casino Royale is designed to explain how the first three qualities were destroyed, making him a perfect spy. The latter three qualities remain. While in serious fiction many authors of the period were writing about racial equality and the essential sameness of people, Ian Fleming was declaring that Asians are terrible gamblers because as a race they lack resolve. None of this is a surprise because much is known about Fleming's personal views. Bond is an icon, but of a less enlightened era. We're readers, of ours. Yet we can meet on the page, and—with a tolerance Fleming never showed others—still manage to have a little fun.
Hiding behind her won't help you. She's my wife, and this morning she demanded a divorce.
Here's another cover to add to our collection of women being used as human shields, Faut pas me la faire by Robert Chirze, aka Georges Claveyre-Peyre, for Éditions le Trotteur's collection Les Grandes Roman Noirs, 1953. The art is a particularly nice example of the work of Alex Pinon, and you can see another piece here.
I know I'm new to lifting, but are you sure a spotter is supposed to just sit there and stare at me?
Unimprovable French actress Mylène Demongeot pounds the iron in this production photo made when she was filming the comedy Doctor in Distress in London in 1963. Mylène in impossibly short shorts was a sort of trademark, seemingly. See another example here.
Pulp and art deco. Two great tastes that rarely went together.
The pulp era is generally agreed as having commenced the last several years of the 19th century and having ended during the 1950s. Art deco is agreed to have begun around 1900 and ended around the beginning of World War II. Despite co-existing, they occupied the same place surprisingly little. You would see crossover in cinematic adaptations of pulp material such as Flash Gordon, with its deco styled spaceships and costumes. Some pulp magazines had art deco influenced fonts, and some hardbacks had art deco sleeve art, such as those designed by Edna Reindel for W.R. Burnett's novels Iron Man and Saint Johnson. But when popular paperbacks and magazines began to focus on high quality cover art they developed their own visual style which we think of today good girl art, or GGA.
But even if pulp and art deco didn't mix much back then, they mix here. Today we have an issue of Paris Plaisirs published in 1929 with drawings, paintings, studio photography, French wit and more. The cover photo-illustration was shot by Lucien Waléry, also known as Stanisław Julian Ignacy Ostroróg. Though his name was Polish he was a British citizen, born in London after his father Stanisław Julian Ostroróg—also a famed photographer—emigrated there in 1856 and became a citizen in 1862. The younger Ostroróg took the pseudonym Waléry and thus forever created confusion with earlier photographers who had used the same name. We won't bother unwinding all those Walérys. You can see another of our Waléry's beautiful art deco covers here, and we have other issues of Paris Plaisirs you can see by clicking the keywords at bottom.
French publisher Editions Ferenczi had a Verrou unique way of doing things.
Collection le Verrou (The Lock Collection) consisted of 205 pocket-sized crime novels published in France by Editions Ferenczi from 1950 to 1959. Some were written by French authors using pseudonyms that sounded English or American, while other writers used their real names, such as Alexandra Pecker (yes, that's a real name) and René Poupon (idem). Other books were written by U.S. or British writers and had been previously published. For instance, above you see Le singe de cuivre by Harry Whittington, which you might know as The Brass Monkey, and below you'll find entries from Lawrence Blochman and English scribe Peter Cheney, better known as Peter Cheyney. The art on these books is generally quite colorful. The cover above was painted by Michel Gourdon, and below you'll find another piece from him, many efforts from Georges Sogny, and a couple from as-yet-unknowns. We really like Ferenczi's output, so expect us to share more covers from this publisher later.
Okay! Please, enough! How about we just admit we're both wrong and leave it at that!
So, after all these years the consensus among experts finally is that cover artist Jacques Thibésart's stylized signature should be read Mik instead of Nik, so we've shared this cover today to call attention to the change we've made to all his previous mentions on Pulp Intl. The man has caused no end of trouble. But he's worth it, because just look at this piece above, with a femme fatale Harveying the living daylights out of a problematic male. This fronts Bevis Winter's Quand elles se mettent à cogner... which was published by Éditions Le Trotteur in 1953 for its series Le Roman de Choc, or Shock Novel. Winter was an English author active during the 1950s who published as Hyman Zoré, Al Bocca, Gordon Shayne, Peter Cagney, and other pseudonyms. It's possible—but not certain—that Quand elles se mettent à cogner... is actually a translation of Larry O'Brien's 1950 thriller Angels Bruise Easy. But don't quote us on that, because French mid-century popular literature is a constant mystery and not even the experts seem able to unravel it.
The eyes have it in for you.
Above, a beautiful promo poster for the film noir Mildred Pierce made for the film's run in France, which began today in 1947, more than a year after its U.S. premiere. This is pure awesomeness from artist Roger Rojac. Note that it touts Joan Crawford's Academy Award triumph, her win as best actress. It was also nominated for best picture but beaten by Lost Weekend, which is these days considered a bit of a cheeseball classic. We have our earlier write-up on Mildred Pierce here, and a nice promo image for the film at this link.
National Enquirer disappears Demongeot's midriff.
This National Enquirer with the amazing Miss Mylène Demongeot on the cover was published today in 1962, and it's a photo we've never seen of her before. Demongeot has always been a full-bodied woman by cinematic standards, so there's some clumsy retouching happening here. Why do such a thing? And to Demongeot, of all people? She can't possibly be improved, so why bother? But it's still a striking shot.
If you think this is painful wait until I tell you all the kinky things I did with your husband.
T'as triché marquise was written by the pseudonymous author George Maxwell and published in 1953 as part of Editions le Condor's collection La Môme Double-Shot. This is of the more violent entries in the series and the cover art reflects that. What we like best about it is how effortless the blonde makes her submission hold on the brunette look. Not a single golden hair has moved. Many of these Double Shot covers were painted by Jean Salvetti, but this one is by Jacques Thibésart, also known as Nik, or more likely Mik (we're still avoiding changing all those old posts but we'll get around to it). In any case, fine work. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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