|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Jul 29 2014|
Above is a very nice True Detective from July 1959 with a Brendan Lynch cover depicting a woman startled by the arrival of a criminal. It’s actually a perfect cover, because inside the issue you get an interesting story related by Elma Baldwin, who was kidnapped by a paroled convict named Richard Arlen Payne. Payne snatched Baldwin and three her kids at gunpoint as part of an ill-conceived plan to trade them for the release of his former cellmate Burton Junior Post, aka Junior Starcher, who was serving time at West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville. Payne didn’t want Starcher out because they were buddies. Quite the opposite—he had vowed to kill the man, and threatened to torture and murder the Baldwins if his demands weren’t met. He wrote in a note to Governor Cecil Underwood, “My purpose is to kill and take the head of my worst enemy, who is now out of reach. I must kill him or go mad.”
You’re probably asking why Payne never did anything to Starcher while they were cellmates. Payne’s answer was simple: “I could have killed him at any time, and I thought about it very seriously. At times I had a blade to his throat. But he was as good as done for anyway, because I knew once I got in the free world there were ways that I could get at him.”
Well, maybe not so much. In any case, the kidnapping was big news in 1959, probably owing to its sheer incomprehensibility. Today it’s mostly forgotten but remains a good case study of the benefits of being able to let go one’s anger. The entire event lasted only twenty hours, ending with a brief shootout in which nobody was injured, followed by Payne’s admittance to a mental asylum. Asked if Starcher had done anything specific during their time at Moundsville to engender such hatred, Payne said, “Well, nothing I can put my finger on. It was just a sort of natural hatred.”
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Dec 28 2013|
True Detective gives readers the lowdown on several crimes in this issue published this month in 1958, but the most chilling story involves 18-year-old Marjorie Schneider, who was parked in a secluded lover’s lane near Fort Collins, Colorado with her date and another couple when she was abducted at gunpoint. True Detective scribe Jonas Bayer tells readers how the perpetrator was a man named Floyd Robertson, who first shot up the car, then robbed the quartet inside, and finally dragged the screaming Schneider away, saying, “I want the blonde to come with me.” With the car non-functional, the survivors ran two miles to a telephone. Their call touched off one of the largest searches in Colorado history. When police caught Robertson just days later, he admitted that he had abducted and raped Schneider, shot her three times in the head, then buried her body 600 feet up the side of an incline overlooking Highway 14. Robertson was later convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison. The cover art on this issue is by Joe Little, who painted covers for Master Detective, Saga, Male, Man’s World, and many other mags. More from him later.
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 16 2013|
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 4 2012|
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 4 2012|
Dalton Stevens’ cover for this January 1931 issue of True Detective looks a bit like a horror illustration, but it's actually supposed to represent Robert E. Burns, who in 1922 helped rob a Georgia grocery, earned himself 6 to 10 at hard labor, but escaped and made his way to Chicago, where he adopted a new identity and rose to success as a magazine editor. Years later, when he tried to divorce the woman he had married, she betrayed him to Georgia authorities, and what followed was a legal battle between Georgia courts and Chicago civic leaders, with the former wanting Burns extradited, and the latter citing his standing in the community and calling for his pardon. Burns eventually went back to Georgia voluntarily to serve what he had been assured would be a few months in jail, but which turned into more hard time on a chain gang.
Angered and disillusioned, Burns escaped again, and this time wrote a book from hiding, which True Detective excerpts in the above issue and several others. This was a real scoop for the magazine—it was the first to publish Burns’ harrowing tale. The story generated quite a bit of attention, and Vanguard Press picked it up and published it as I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang, which led directly to Warner Brothers adapting the tale into a hit 1932 motion picture starring Paul Muni. The movie differed somewhat from the book, of course, which differed somewhat from reality (Burns himself admitted this later), but his account cast a withering light on the chain gang system. The exposure helped chain gang opponents, who claimed—with some veracity—that the practice was immoral because it originated with the South's need to replace its slave labor after defeat in the U.S. Civil War.
Burns continued to live life on the run, but was eventually arrested again, this time in New Jersey. However, the governor of the state refused to extradite him. The standoff meant Burns was, in practical terms, a free man. That practical freedom was made official in 1945 when he was finally pardoned in Georgia, and his literary indictment of the chain gang system helped bring about its demise. Well, sort of—it returned to the South in 1995, was quickly discontinued after legal challenges, but may yet be reintroduced as politicians push for more and more extreme punishments to bolster their tough-on-crime credentials.
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 1 2011|
The woman who finds herself standing over a dead (or possibly drugged) man is a classic motif in pulp magazine cover art. Sometimes the woman is responsible for what's happened, while other times she simply has the bad luck to stumble into the situation. Covers of this type, you're probably already aware, fall under the category of Good Girl Art, with the “good” referring to the woman’s appearance, rather than her morals. Above and below are unlucky thirteen examples from mid-century true crime magazines, with art from Barye Phillips, Jay Scott Pike, George Gross, Jack Rickard, and others. We borrowed one of these from Fringepop, and most of the rest we culled from online auctions where they’ve been languishing for months if not years. Feel inclined to collect a few classic true crime magazines? There are plenty of choices out there right now. Thanks to the original uploaders.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Nov 14 2011|
Above is a cover of True Detective from November 1958 and inside is a story on the murder of Irene Morey, a Los Angeles woman who was found strangled along with one of her two young sons. The murder was eventually pinned on a gas station attendant named Charles Earl Brubaker who had met Morey a few days earlier when she had car trouble. Either in gratitude or because she was romantically interested in him, Morey invited him to her place for dinner a few nights later, and the date went wrong. When Brubaker was in the middle of choking the life out of Morey, the older of her two sons walked in, so Brubaker strangled him too. Brubaker confessed to the murders and was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in the gas chamber. That sentence was later overturned by Judge Joseph A. Wapner (who would become famous on his 1980s television show The People’s Court), and instead of seeing the inside of the death chamber Brubaker served hard time until his parole in 1976. After his release he faded from public view, but his crime never will because its aftermath is part of the USC Digital Library’s collection of more than 200,000 Los Angeles Examiner negatives. Irene Morey and her son appear below, in life and in death. We highly recommend you take a spin around USC's Examiner collection. There’s more dark and forgotten history in there than you can imagine.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Nov 23 2010|
This True Detective from November 1939 features a cover painting of mobster Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, whose flight from authorities had taken him from the U.S. to Mexico, and then to Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Cuba, and across the ocean to England, France and Germany. Buchalter had begun his career in organized crime by shaking down pushcart operators in Brooklyn, and had risen through the ranks of the criminal-controlled fur industry by doing every type of dirt imaginable, from issuing threatening phone calls to garment union activists to throwing acid in a competitor’s face. Eventually he was running a criminal empire that stretched to both coasts, and was acting as head of the infamous assassination squad Murder, Inc.
In 1936 Buchalter went into hiding after he became aware that criminal charges were being prepared against him. Not long after he dropped out of sight, he was indicted for smuggling an estimated $10 million in heroin into the U.S. from Hong Kong. The FBI printed a million posters and displayed them in every post office, police station, and federal building in America. All this attention was a problem for U.S. mob bosses, and so with characteristic unsentimentality, they decided Buchalter had to surrender. Convincing him was not difficult. While he undoubtedly had the flair and intelligence to dodge the feds indefinitely, living in another country away from the old neighborhood and away from the hundreds of underlings who respected him was not his style. Buchalter was a mobster through-and-through. To him, an anonymous existence, even in a tropical paradise or cosmopolitan foreign capitol, was little different from being in prison.
Buchalter’s associates got word to him that if he came back to the U.S. he would be able to surrender personally to J. Edgar Hoover. Surrendering to the Feds meant he would not face a more serious group of charges brought by Manhattan D.A. Thomas Dewey. But it was wishful thinking. The federal charges were rapidly followed by Dewey’s charges and Buchalter earned a fourteen-year jolt in the pen. His legal team hoped tohave the sentence reduced via appeals and procedural maneuvers, but when a snitch fingered Buchalter for ordering the murder of a candy store owner named Joe Rosen, he was tried for the killing, convicted, and sentenced to execution. By some estimates Buchalter had been responsible for a thousand murders as head of Murder, Inc., but all it took was one to seal his fate. Louis "Lepke" Buchalter was electrocuted in Sing-Sing prison's famous "Old Sparky" electric chair on March 4, 1944, perhaps while realizing life on a beach in Costa Rica hadn’t been so bad after all.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Jun 8 2010|
|Vintage Pulp||Mar 29 2010|
Above is a True Detective cover from August 1960, with a story about convicted rapist Caryl Chessman. Chessman had been executed in the California gas chamber several months earlier, but not before the U.S. Supreme Court heard his appeal. The case was complicated. Chessman was the Red Light Bandit, a rapist who preyed on motorists parked in secluded areas. Using what looked like a dome light to make them think he was a policeman, he would approach them, rob them at gunpoint and sometimes violate the women. At trial prosecutors used the Little Lindberg Law to argue for the death penalty. That law was written to punish criminals who kidnapped their victims. Chessman hadn’t done that, but he had dragged one girl a short distance away from her car. Prosecutors argued that this constituted kidnapping, and in so doing promptly gave anti-death penalty advocates a textbook example of death penalty abuse. The case became national news, but after ten years of various legal battles, Chessman finally met the executioner on May 2, 1960. Three months later, True Detective waded into the continuing uproar over abuse of the Little Lindberg Law to remind people that there were actual victims involved. Their article claimed that the end justified the means. We bet how you feel about that depends on how you feel about the legal system in general. But as far as how you feel about True Detective's cover art, we'll go out on a limb and assume you think it's as brilliant as we do.