|Vintage Pulp||Mar 5 2017|
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 10 2016|
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 17 2015|
John P. Marquand won a 1938 Pulitzer Prize for The Late George Apley, so the above effort may seem a bit lightweight for him, but Marquand started out in genre fiction before becoming a leading literary figure. In his prime he specialized in satire of the upper classes, and Sun, Sea and Sand follows in that tradition, telling the tale of Epsom Felch, a problematic member of the snobbish Mulligatawny Club, which is located in the Bahamas. Epsom is a bit of a prankster, and the stuffy club membership are increasingly fed up with him, even though—as his main defender Spike constantly points out—pretty much every fun or memorable event that ever took place at the club was Epsom's doing. Everything comes to a head at the annual Pirate Night ball.
We really like Marquand. Always have. He's a funny and subtle writer, at least in his literary guise, and here you get that classic sense of the upper class cutting off its nose to spite its face, as club members conspire to boot a non-conformist though he's the only person bringing adventure and joy into their circle. Sun, Sea and Sand is novella length, and indeed its entirety first appeared in the May 1950 issue of Cosmopolitan, at right. The compact paperback edition, which is really little more than a pamphlet, comes from Dell, and the amusing cover art is by S.B. Jones.
|Intl. Notebook||Feb 1 2010|
Above, one of the most important photographic images of the twentieth century, a Pulitzer Prize winner shot by photographer Eddie Adams. On a sweltering Saigon afternoon, a Viet Cong officer is executed by South Vietnamese national police chief Brig. Gen Nguyen Ngoc Loan, forty-two years ago today. There’s also a widely seen film of the gruesome incident. The photo galvanized the U.S. anti-war effort, but interestingly, Adams regretted taking it, saying that the circumstances around such a photo could never be adequately explained and Nguyen Ngoc Loan appeared to be a villain when perhaps he wasn’t. Such complex considerations are no longer a serious worry for war photographers. Due to Pentagon restrictions, it’s highly unlikely an image like this could now be captured.
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 21 2010|
This is a brilliant cover for Jerome Weidman’s 1938 novel What’s in it for Me?, with its grinning sleazeball seeming to offer a free breast exam to a nubile young acquaintance. But the book was actually serious, depicting greed and amorality in New York City’s garment industry. Weidman went on to write the scathing Too Early To Tell about the Office of War Information, an American propaganda agency where he was employed during World War II, and then tackled the newspaper business with The Price Is Right. In Weidman’s fiction everything was a commodity to be bought, whether fabric or facts, and all humans were deficient. In 1960 he co-wrote a book of the popular musical Fiorello! about NYC mayor Fiorello Henry LaGuardia, and along with his collaborator won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. He drifted into a distinguished literary twilight, serving as president of the Author’s League of America, publishing his memoirs in 1986, and eventually passing in 1998. Though virtually unknown now, Weidman was an author in the class of John Updike or Ernest Hemingway. There are many bios of him on the Web, but we like this one.
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 10 2009|
Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize winner To Kill a Mockingbird happens to be one of our favorite books. Actually, strike that. We think it’s one of the ten best American books ever written. So imagine our excitement when we found that the French hardback had been illustrated by Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon, one of the top artists of the pulp era. Interestingly, the title of the novel is slightly different in France. A rossignol is a nightingale, rather than a mockingbird. In French a mockingbird is a moquer, but that also means simply “to mock,” so that word would have given the title a slightly different meaning to the French. In any case, we love this cover.
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 2 2008|
This month in 1952, right wing scandal rag Confidential hit newsstands for the first time. It was owned by Robert Harrison, who got his start in publishing at the New York Graphic, one of the earliest celebrity scandal sheets. Confidential was based in New York City, but its focus was Hollywood and its environs. To gather information Harrison cultivated a vast network of west coast informants—everyone from hotel concierges to taxicab dispatchers. The magazine was lurid, filled with doctored photos, and shamelessly exploitative of hot-button social fears. A typical issue might accuse Hollywood glitterati of using illegal drugs, sympathizing with communists, associating with other races, or working for the mob.
The formula worked. Within two years Confidential grew into a bestselling magazine. It screamed from American newsstands about interracial affairs, LSD parties, and backalley abortions, always in a glaring red-yellow motif that would become its visual trademark. Humphrey Bogart once famously called Robert Harrison “The King of Leer,” sentimentswhich were echoed throughout Hollywood. Stars were galled not just by the magazine’s constant attacks, but the fact that they originated from three-thousand miles away. It meant Confidential either fabricated its stories, or gathered info by means of spies. Neither possibility was pleasing to consider.
Hollywood began fighting back. Ronald Reagan, who at the time was a snitch for Tinseltown’s hated blacklisters, chaired a committee that smeared Confidential staff. Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield at one
point banned mail delivery of the magazine. In 1957 the Kraft Commission put Robert Harrison on trial for conspiracy to publish criminal libel. The trial ended in a plea deal, but not before Hollywood stars realized their greatest ally was the legal system. Lawsuits kept Confidential in litigation from that point forward, and Harrison finally sold out in 1958.
The new owners managed to keep Confidential going, but mindful of lawsuits the magazine had lost under Harrison in 1956 and 1957, operated more cautiously. Soon, readers began to suspect the tabloid was no longer living up to its stated credo: “Telling the facts and naming the names”. Confidential stopped flying off newsstands. Sales dipped to a third what they had been at their zenith. A 1970s shift in editorial focus toward hippie counterculture did little to reverse fortunes, and Confidential finally folded in 1978.
Though defunct, its twenty-two year run was a success by almost any standard. Confidential outlasted a dozen competitors, and its influence extends into today’s newsstand tabloids, Hollywood-oriented television shows, celeb blogs, and even popular fiction. Author James Ellroy’s award-winning pulp thrillers frequently reference Hush Hush, a Confidential copycat. And Pultizer Prize winning columnist Stephen Hunter wrote a bestselling thriller about the Mafia’s presence in Hot Springs, Arkansas during the 1950s, a subject Confidential covered in its very first issue.