I'm not usually a quitter! But right now! I'm considering! Going back! To delivering pizzas!
And speaking of trains, above you see the cover of Lawrence G. Blochman's novel of foreign intrigue Bombay Mail, a murder mystery set in India and staged on a Calcutta to Bombay mail train. The lead character isn't actually a postal worker, but rather an investigator, Leonidas Prike of the British C.I.D., also known as the Criminal Investigation Department. This was Blochman's debut, originally appearing in hardback in 1934, which was the same year another celebrated trainbound mystery—Murder on the Orient Express—was published.
About that copyright date, by the way. Nearly every place you look will have Bombay Mail listed as arriving in 1934, but it may have appeared, at least in limited form, in 1933. We deduced this because the movie Bombay Mail, which was based on the novel, premiered in the U.S. in January 1934. We have a hard time imagining a debut novelist selling his book to movies before it hit the stores, so 1933 might be the actual publication date. One thing we're sure about, though, is this Dell mapback edition arrived in 1943, and the art is by Robert Stanley.
Gringo adventurer goes down South American rabbit hole looking for Inca treasure.
Pulp fiction, genre fiction, crime fiction—call it what you want. Basically, none of it will ever win a Pulitzer Prize, but it can be mighty enjoyable when done just right. Plunder of the Sun is faster than fast pulp-style fiction from To Catch a Thief author David Dodge. The rough and tumble protagonist Al Colby tries to unravel the secret of an Inca quipa—an ancient numero-linguistic recording device—which may tell the location of an impossibly huge hoard of gold. The tale speeds from Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru and into the high Andes by boat, train, and tram to a climax on the highest lake in the world.
This is a confident yarn from an author who traveled widely in the countries portrayed, and his tale avoids the cultural judgments you often find in these types of novels. His descriptions of cities, hotels, and transport are unflattering but accurate, yet his treatment of the Peruvian and Chilean villains has no whiff of condescension. They're just the villains, nothing more—smart, tough, deadly, and motivated. The book's only flaw is its late turn toward romantic matchmaking. Still, it was a very good read. It became a movie of the same name in 1953, placed in a new setting, with Glenn Ford and Diana Lynn. The art on this 1951 Dell paperback is by Robert Stanley, and as a bonus it comes in a collectible mapback edition.
That wasn't you panting? Oh... Does that mean I don't excite you?
A. B. Cunningham wrote more than twenty mysteries starring small town sheriff Jess Roden, with Death Haunts the Dark Lane coming fourteenth. An heiress is murdered and the sheriff has to sniff out the killer—literally making use of tracking dogs, which is why you see a hound in Robert Stanley's cover art. The series was popular at the time, but isn't that fondly remembered today. But this Dell mapback edition from 1948, like all the company's mapbacks, is highly collectible.
Okay, okay, I'll take out the garbage when I get home. Just let me finish this other thing first.
Our subhead is a little inside joke with the Pulp Intl. girlfriends. But not really that inside, because inside jokes can't be figured out by outsiders, whereas this is pretty straightforward—we always forget to take out the garbage. The look on the woman's face is perfect. We see it constantly. Cover artist Robert Stanley used this type of guileless expression often. He really had painting it down pat. There's only one explanation for that—he forgot about the garbage all the time too.
Guys, I just saw some incredibly rare— Oh. I was going to say clownfish, but you two have those beat.
A shell collecting vacationer in Florida comes across a damsel in distress during a late night beach walk and she of course draws him into intrigue way over his head. Before he knows it he's stumbled across a corpse and gotten involved in a murder investigation, as the damsel seems less and less like she's in distress as opposed to causing it for others. Author Richard Powell was known for the wit he mixed into his mysteries, and Shell Game is heavy on the repartee—if light on actual mystery. This Dell edition appeared in 1951 and the fun cover art is by Robert Stanley.
He lives in a fetid swamp, has terrible grooming habits, and zero career prospects. But at least he listens to me.
David V. Reed’s, aka David Vern’s The Thing That Made Love was originally published in Mammoth Detective in 1943 as The Metal Monster Murders. The first paperback version appeared in 1946 as I Thought I’d Die, and the above version from New York City’s Universal Publishing and Distributing Corporation, which marketed digest sized paperbacks under the imprint Uni-Book, hit stores in 1951 with Robert Stanley cover art. What you get here is a man blamed for murder, but who claims the slayings were the work of a metal swamp monster. The women die battered, but with ecstatic facial expressions. Which raises the question—what exactly is happening to them? You can read a review of the book here.
Update: We learned that Stanley's cover art also appeared in 1952 on Florenz Branch's Whipping Room, for Intimate Novels. Often these cover reworks are clumsy, but we think this makeover is actually pretty good. Not as good as the original, but close.
As your decorator, I recommend putting the rug over there for a splash of color, and the clock over here to remind you that you’re basically just worm food.
Carter Dickson was the pseudonym of John Dickson Carr, one of the most prolific authors of the pulp and post-pulp periods, as well as what is known as the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. He published novels from 1930 to 1972, and also wrote radio scripts and worked in television and movies. 1958’s The Skeleton in the Clock is not one of his most appreciated books, but we love the Robert Stanley cover art. By the way, there’s literally a skeleton grandfather clock in this book, which prompted us to wonder if such a thing existed in real life. After much searching, the answer is no, apparently, but we did remember there was a coffin clock with a skeleton inside in the midnight movie classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Time is fleeting indeed.
Um, what exactly did you mean when you said your boyfriend was a big dumb ape?
We love this cover for Fredric Brown’s 1949 thriller The Dead Ringer, with art by Robert Stanley. Brown wrote about 250 books, including The Fabulous Clipjoint. This one includes the same protagonists as Clipjoint, Ed Hunter and Uncle Ambrose, sticking close to Am’s circus roots (he was a carny pitchman before he became an amateur sleuth) as they try to solve a series of slayings plaguing a traveling carnival. This one may be worth a read solely for the bizarre fact that a chimp gets murdered. How many mysteries can say that?
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
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