Vintage Pulp Nov 10 2017
URBAN DECAY
Population 1280. Correction—1274.


Purely by coincidence, we also read a novel that's the dark twin of Never Say No to a Killer. The book was Jim Thompson's Pop. 1280, and in this one the main character is a self-described moron, and so is everyone else. At least it seems that way at first. Or maybe it's kinder to say they're simply unpretentious and earthy. Check out this exchange between two lawmen from adjacent counties:

Pre-zactly! Ken said. “So I'll tell you what to do about them pimps. The next time they even look like they're goin' to sass you, you just kick 'em in the balls as hard as you can.”

Huh? But don't that hurt awful bad?

Pshaw. 'Course it don't hurt. Not if you're wearing a good pair o' boots.

I mean, wouldn't it hurt the pimps?

Once we're immersed in this chaw-and-cornbread milieu, one character emerges to be considerably more cunning than the others. The aphorism applies again. Though he doesn't consider himself to be smart, somehow he's more than up to the task of conniving his way through multiple nefarious schemes to reach his ultimate goals, which consist of getting laid and not working too hard as sheriff.

The book is set during the Great Depression and its portrait of man-woman and white-black relations is both horrifying and hilarious. Thompson's approach is partly satirical, but the actual ideas espoused by his characters are deadly serious, as well as historically grounded, such as in a conversation about whether the county's black residents have souls. The consensus is they don't. Why? Because they aren't really people.

It's a pointed commentary on the distant Jim Crow south, yet the very same question of black humanness festers at the core of America's 2017 problems. If you doubt it ask yourself how the same observers who have limitless sympathy for a white rancher shot after initiating a standoff with federal lawmen somehow have none for unarmed black men shot in the back, or why rich white ranchers who refuse to pay their federal grazing fees are perceived as persecuted, while a poor black man trying to survive by selling loose cigarettes is not.

Critic Stephen Marche once described Pop. 1280 as “preposterously upsetting,” which is as apt a description as we can imagine. The idea of who's really human, what is sexual consent, what are the obligations of lawmen, and what is evil are played for laughs by Thompson, but always with an incisive twist that lets you know where his sympathies lie. Yet as shocking as the book is to read, it's addictive and consistently entertaining, particularly when various characters dispense their tabacky soaked wisdom…

… about women: “I'd been chasing females all my life, not paying no mind to the fact that whatever's got tail at one end has teeth at the other, and now I was getting chomped on.”

... about the mentally challenged: “You probably ain't got as long a dingle-dangle as him—they tell me them idjits are hung like a stud hoss.”

… about learning: “I mean I caught him reading a book, that's what! Yes sir, I caught him red-handed. Oh, he claimed he was only lookin' at the pitchers, but I knew he was lyin'.

We recommend Pop. 1280 highly. The Gold Medal paperback you see above with its Robert McGinnis cover art is expensive, but numerous later printings are available at reasonable prices. Just go into the reading with your psyche girded. You'll root for the main character Nick Corey, but he's merely one of the most charming bad apples in a town that's rife with rot. That rot leads to the reliable pulp staples of adultery, betrayal, and murder many times over, but in the most unique and enjoyable way.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 5 2017
GOLD DIGGER
Let's trade. You give me what's in your hand and I'll give you what's in my pants.


The cover for this Lion Books edition of Jim Thompson's The Golden Gizmo is as quirky as Thompson's prose. The title of the book has a double meaning. A gizmo is a special ability, a gift. If you had a sense for knowing when someone was bluffing at poker, you'd say, “My gizmo told me he had nothing.” Or if you had a knack for meeting beautiful women, you'd say, “My gizmo kicked in as soon as I walked into the party.” The main character's gizmo is the ability to sniff out scenarios that lead to profit, which comes in handy in his work as a freelance gold buyer. But there's a literal gizmo here as well—a priceless gold watch that he steals by accident. In the end both gizmos cause him no end of trouble, and the question is whether he can get out with his hide intact. The story is enlivened by the main character's fiery alcoholic femme fatale wife Elaine. Strange, but pretty good. The strikingly pretty cover art is uncredited, sadly. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 12 2016
BAGGAGE CHECK
A suitcase and a sense of adventure will take you anyplace you want to go (and some places you don't).

As noted in the above post, we've gotten a trip together for this summer, so we thought we'd inspire ourselves by collecting a set of paperback covers featuring characters with suitcases. Just about anything can happen once you leave the comfy confines of home and we're hoping several of the scenes depicted here come true for us. See if you can guess which. Hint: not the one above—we already did that last year when we got caught in a monsoonal downpour that shut the airport on the day we were supposed to fly. No, we're thinking we want something more like the below cover to happen. And actually, that's a guarantee because the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are coming with us. Anyway, this group of covers serves as a companion set to our hitchhiker collection from last year. Art is by Robert McGinnis, Mitchell Hooks, George Gross, and others.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 19 2015
THE ONLY WAY
The magazine that cried wolf.


For Men Only was launched in New York City by Canam Publishers Sales Corp., but changed ownership several times over the years, and was even acquired at one point by pulp kingpin Martin Goodman. This particular issue is from September 1956 and contains art from Rudolph Belarski, Frank Cozzarrelli, Elliot Means, Ben Thomas, Victor Olson, and Ken Crook. Actually, it’s a miracle all the art is credited. It doesn’t happen as often as it should in these magazines. The stories accompanying those art pieces range from espionage to wilderness adventure, including non-fiction from Jim Thompson about “America’s first murderer,” a man named John Billington who came to the New World on the Mayflower. After making trouble for years in Plymouth Colony, he was finally hanged for the slaying of John Newcomen. We checked, and Billington did in fact exist. His execution in September 1630 was the first of a colonist—but certainly not the last.

And another story caught our eye. It discusses an incident on the set of an Italian movie in which a wolf got loose and tried to attack actress Silvana Mangano. According to For Men Only, co-star Guido Celano rushed the wolf, grabbed it and threw it into the air, whereupon a rifle-toting crew member nailed it like he was skeet shooting. We’re calling bullshit on that one. A while back we wrote an article about guaranteed hunt farms and were able to see some rescued gray wolves up close. They’re big—about three feet high at the shoulder. European wolves are even bigger. No movie production would use one. Also, we don’t picture fifty-two-year-old, five foot three Guido Celano heaving a wolf into the air like a sack of laundry. No, it was just a dog—a German Shepherd, looks like. But it’s a good story, appropriate publicity for a movie—Uomini e lupi, aka Men and Wolves—that was still months from its premiere. We have about twenty scans below and an inexhaustible supply of magazines still to share.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 20 2013
SELFISH JEANS
It’s not their fault—it’s a jean-etic disorder.
 
In pulp and sleaze fiction there are many types of bad women—vamps, golddiggers, black widows, you name it—but women who wear jeans, or even jean shorts, are destined for a special brand of trouble. Some of these women are already corrupt while others are merely at the gateway, but they all end up in the same place—Calamity City, daddy-o.
 

 
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Vintage Pulp Mar 19 2011
MCQUEEN FOR A DAY
Have shotgun, will travel.

This rare promo piece for Steve McQueen’s 1972 thriller The Getaway was produced for the film’s run in Japan in 1973. Based on a novel by Jim Thompson, co-starring Ali McGraw, directed by Sam Peckinpah, written for the screen by Walter Hill, and scored by Quincy Jones, The Getaway delivers on multiple levels, as does this poster. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 27 2009
BAD MEDICINE
Nursed by the worst.

Acclaimed pulp author Jim Thompson was an alcoholic, and his characters were all hard drinkers. The Alcoholics is set in a detox ward called El Healtho run by a doctor facing financial struggles. Keeping the clinic open may mean compromising his ethics; letting it close means abandoning the patients he’s tried so hard to cure. It’s a bit like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, complete with black humor, bizarre patients, and a sadistic nurse (nicely depicted in the cover art above). It’s atypical Thompson, but is perhaps a more important read than many of his other works, considering drink eventually hastened his death. If abusing alcohol is truly a type of slow-motion suicide, as some believe, then The Alcoholics is Thompson’s note.

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Intl. Notebook Jan 1 2009
WILD WESTLAKE
One of the most prolific thriller writers ever dies.

Novelist and screenwriter Donald Westlake died Friday of a heart attack at age 75. Westlake who began publishing in 1960, wrote more than 100 books under his name and several pseudonyms. He won three Edgar awards from the Mystery Writers of America, and his screenplay of Jim Thompson’s novel The Grifters earned him an Academy Award nomination. Fifteen of his novels were adapted to film, including 1972’s The Hot Rock, with Robert Redford, and 1999’s Payback, with Mel Gibson.

Like many pulp authors, Westlake wrote a few erotica novels, these under the pen name Alan Marshall. Curiously, a visit to Westlake’s official website finds no mention of Marshall, which we count as an official disavowal. Nevertheless, you see an Alan Marshall cover below. Westlake said he published under so many names because it would have been unbelievable that one person wrote so much. His feverish output will continue even after death—his latest novel Get Real is due to be published in April.

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Modern Pulp | Vintage Pulp Dec 5 2008
GRIFTING AWAY
Ever considered the downside to having a hot mom?

Based on a novel by revered crime writer Jim Thompson, The Grifters treated filmgoers to a heavy dose of amorality and incestuous sexual tension. We’re talking dark, folks. It was directed by Stephen Frears and starred John Cusack, Annette Bening, and the always-brilliant Anjelica Huston as an extremely dangerous milf. Bening had appeared already in Valmont and Postcards from the Edge, but her role here as the slinky predator Myra Langtry made her a star. And who can forget that hotel scene? See below. The Grifters premiered today in 1990.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 18
1916—First Battle of the Somme Ends
In France, British Expeditionary Force commander Douglas Haig calls off a battle against entrenched German troops which had begun on July 1, 1916. Known as the Battle of the Somme, this action resulted in one of the greatest losses of life in modern history—over three-hundred thousand dead for a net gain of about seven miles of land.
1978—Jonestown Cult Commits Mass Suicide
In the South American country of Guyana, Jim Jones leads his Peoples Temple cult in a mass suicide that claims 918 lives, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo J. Ryan, who had been visiting the makeshift cult complex known as Jonestown to investigate claims of abuse, is shot by members of the Peoples Temple as he tries to escape from a nearby airfield with several cult members who asked for his protection.
November 17
1973—Nixon Proclaims His Innocence
While in Orlando, Florida, U.S. President Richard Nixon tells four-hundred Associated Press managing editors, "I am not a crook." The false statement comes to symbolize Nixon's presidency when facts are uncovered that prove he is, indeed, a crook.
November 16
1938—Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Created
In Basel, Switzerland, at the Sandoz Laboratories, chemist Albert Hofmann creates the psychedelic compound Lysergic acid diethylamide, aka LSD, from a grain fungus.
1945—German Scientists Secretly Brought to U.S.
In a secret program codenamed Operation Paperclip, the United States Army admits 88 German scientists and engineers into the U.S. to help with the development of rocket technology. President Harry Truman ordered that Paperclip exclude members of the Nazi party, but in practice many Nazis who had been officially classified as dangerous were also brought to the U.S. after their backgrounds were whitewashed by Army officials.
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