Shoot first, pray later.
You know how you read a book or watch a movie and the lead character has a total failure of imagination? He kills a guy then goes home to pack rather than just hopping the next freight westward. Or he steals a million dollars and hangs around spending big in New York City rather than beating it for Santorini. A crucial section of Elliot Chaze's 1953 thriller Black Wings Has My Angel hinges on just that sort of boneheadedness, but it in no way ruins the book because it's simply too well constructed and written to be ruined by anything. Here's a passage we liked:
“Pretty soon a matronly brunette in a brocaded man's dressing gown came skating out of a door and she and Virginia were hugging and kissing. It was good old Mamie. And Virginia I'll be damned. And isn't this a hell of a note. And Lord how I've wanted to see you. And when they were finished with the italics Mamie was shaking hands with me and shaking up some drinks we didn't need.”
That's a bit beat, isn't it? A bit Kerouac? Which is not to say Chaze is a literary giant in pulp clothing, but it's still a cool little passage, and we'd say he possesses better technical chops than most of his peers. The only thing that mars the book—besides what we mentioned at top—is an ending that, in the interests of irony and symbolism, pushes the bounds of likelihood. But still, this was an excellent tale well told about a man who meets a dark and dangerous woman who becomes central to his plans to execute a spectacular robbery, then becomes central to his heart.
She tried rational discussion when she was younger but it never got her anywhere.
Above, the front and rear covers for I Prefer Murder by Browning Norton (aka Frank Rowland) and Charles A. Landolf, 1956, for Graphic Books. We compared this to other examples and the yellows on this one seem to have faded considerably, but it's still a nice piece, for which you can thank artist Saul Levine. You can see more of his work here.
It's not a party until someone gets broken.
Ramona Stewart's The Surprise Party Complex is a mostly forgotten tale of West Coast weirdness, with wannabes, once-weres, and their children mixing in and around a Hollywood boarding house called the Pyrenees. The goings-on of a particular summer are chronicled by fifteen-year-old Pauline, who's been dragged out to Tinseltown by her father, a man intent on restoring a lost fortune by making a big score on a silver mine. Pauline ends up chumming aimlessly around with two other Pyrenees teens, both of whom have bad parents and lots of idle hours. They have some comic misadventures, and naturally one of them has problems a bit darker than the other two. The basic theme here is all that glitters in Hollywood is not gold, and the young generation has issues. Yes, it sounds like the same novel that has been written about every generation since at least World War I, but this is one of the better efforts, we think, and cleverly written too. It captures a place and mood that, as former L.A. residents, really enthralled us. This 1963 Pocket Books edition initially caught our eye because of the excellent cover art by Harry Bennett. This happens to us a lot—i.e. come for the art, stay for the story. Well, Harry certainly did his job here. We've talked about him before, and he once again shows what a unique painter he was.
Satanic mentoring program expands from boardroom to bedroom.
Devil: Now that she's out of her wedding gown, grab it and we'll sell it on Ebay. Snag her ring too.
Man: Get out of my head, shoulder devil!
Devil: Tie her to the bed and use her body until it's a dried out husk.
Man: Shhh... quiet!
Devil: What are you worried about? She can't hear us.
Man: Just stop, devil. It's my honeymoon. Take the night off.
Devil: No can do. Our pact is 24/7.
Man: But that was for you to make me a better businessman!
Devil: Trust me, what you wanna do to her is what big business wants to do to everybody. Now insult her and act like she deserved it. I taught that one to the president and he loved it.
I see dead people. Not next week's lottery numbers. Not future stock fluctuations. Just useless, creepy dead people.
Richard Matheson was a well known writer who published many novels and short stories, penned teleplays for The Twilight Zone, and wrote the novel Psycho—which later became Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller—but his 1962 supernatural novel A Stir of Echoes is a bit obscure. It's probably better known as a 1999 movie starring the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon. The story here deals with a man whose talent as a medium is accidentally unleashed when he's hypnotized at a party. The book isn't elegantly written. A typical sentence: He walked weavingly toward the door. But you don't have to be a master stylist to tell a good story and that's what Matheson did over the course of his long career, churning out great concept after great concept, here unspooling the tale of a man who can't control his unbidden psychic talent. With the power to see the future, the protagonist gains unwanted knowledge of kidnapping, adultery, a shooting, and other violent and nightmarish occurrences. It defies belief that all this happens in a week or two on a formerly quiet suburban street, but A Stir of Echoes is an entertaining story with a nice twist ending. We haven't seen the movie but we're curious now.
But I don't want a new husband. I never even liked the old one.
The Widow is typical Orrie Hitt sleaze about a man torn between nice but sexy Norma, and bad girl Linda, whose husband leaves the narrative early when he cracks up his hot rod. The main character Jerry, a widower who hasn't been the same since that tragic event, soon finds himself not only caught between the nice girl and the new widow, but being pushed into a murder-for-money plot. This is always a bad idea, but reading Hitt is sometimes a good one, as long as you can appreciate his unique stories without being too concerned with writing ability. We just scored eight of his books, so you'll be hearing about him in more detail. 1959 on this one, with uncredited cover art.
Why don't you get undressed and we'll have a coming in party instead.
It's mandatory to occasionally share a cover from Midwood-Tower, so above you see Coming Out Party by Kimberly Kemp, who was a pseudonym, in this case occupied by Gilbert Fox. The story involves a homeless beauty picked up on the street by a wealthy NYC couple who give her a place to live but turn her into a plaything—topless chores, nude photographs, sexual duties with the heads of house. You know—the usual maid stuff. They may be dirty people but at least everyone ends up sqeaky clean. The cover art is by Paul Rader, and the copyright is 1965.
Then when he tripled my rent so he could evict me and give my place to some Silicon Valley tech jerkwad I just snapped.
Yet another subset of pulp novels was the true crime book, and this effort called San Francisco Murders was edited by Joseph Henry Jackson, written by Allan R. Bosworth, Hildegarde Teilhet, and others, and details ten San Fran murders that took place over the course of a century. Among the killers: Jerome von Braun Selz, aka The Laughing Killer, Theodore Durrant, aka The Demon of the Belfry, and Cordelia Botkin, who had no nickname but probably should have, considering she killed rather exotically with arsenic laced chocolates. She was trying to do in her ex-lover's wife and ended up poisoning not only her target, but a hungry bystander as well. We're thinking the Accidental Chocolatier, or maybe the Bitter Chocolate Killer. Right? Yeah? San Francisco Murders was originally copyright 1947, and this Bantam paperback edition came in 1948 with cover art by Bob Doares.
Hello, ma'am. I'm from the ACME home security company and I'm selling new and improved shorter door chains.
The Fabulous Clipjoint is the 1947 debut novel by Fredric Brown, published originally as Dead Man's Indemnity in Mystery Book Magazine in April 1946. This edition came from Popular Library in 1948. The basic idea here is a hapless alcoholic is murdered in Chicago and his son and brother decide to find the killer or killers. As their investigation unfolds, the son learns his father wasn't hapless at all, but rather had lived a full life that included adventures in Spain and Mexico, winning a duel, romantic entanglements, and more. None of it has to do with why he died. It merely serves to awaken his son to the possibilities of life, and helps convince him to run off to join a carnival. A clipjoint, literally speaking, is a nightclub or strip bar where customers are promised everything, delivered little, and cheated down to their last dime. The clipjoint of The Fabulous Clipjoint is figurative. It's the city of Chicago, perhaps even the entirety of life itself. As a metaphor it's grand, but the novel is less so. It's competent, but Brown would do better later in his career. The cover art here featuring the world's most useless security chain is by Ed Grant, and fits nicely into our collection of women confronting trouble at their doors. See that here.
Caught you! Get back to the book cover you came from, young lady, and stay there!
Above is a rather nice cover for Knipoog naar de hel, which in Dutch means “wink to hell.” This was published by the Rotterdam based company Uitgeversmij, and it's a translation of Henry Kane's 1964 thriller Snatch an Eye. As you can see at right (unless you're on a mobile device, in which case it's above), Uitgeversmij borrows art from Frank Kane's (no relation) 1956 Dell Publications novel Green Light for Death. The art for that was by Victor Kalin. The Dutch art is obviously a reworking of the original.
So here we go again. Is the copy by Kalin? Was it licensed? In this case, we think the art is Kalin's original, rather than a knock off by some random unknown, because the actual figure is identical, though the background has been replaced and the spotlight has a marginally different outline. Perhaps this was licensed and Kalin actually got paid, but we doubt it. Why bother to change it in that case? More likely it was appropriated via the use of a good camera, a crisp negative, and a little retouching. Whatever the case may be, we really like this piece. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
1995—Mickey Mantle Dies
New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle dies of complications from cancer, after receiving a liver transplant. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also an alcoholic and played drunk, hungover, and unprepared. He once said about himself, "Sometimes I think if I had the same body and the same natural ability and someone else's brain, who knows how good a player I might have been."
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
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