Wait. Okay, you're right. No argument. I really messed up. But wouldn't it be an even bigger sin to shoot me?
Verne Tossey's cover art on this 1953 Signet paperback edition of Jack Webb's The Big Sin suggests that the sinner of the title is either the armed woman or her unseen target, but actually the sinner is someone who isn't even alive. It's a beautiful Mexican showgirl named Rose Alyce whose death has been ruled suicide by gunshot. But protagonist Father Shanley believes her death had more sinister origins, because Alyce was a devout Catholic he knew as sweet Rosa Mendez, and he's convinced she would never commit “the big sin.” You can only truly know someone inside the confessional booth, apparently. Shanley uncovers government corruption and teams up with detective Sam Golden on the way to solving the mystery, of which mobsters are an integral part. We ran across a beautiful dust jacket for the book from British publishers T. V. Boardman, which came from an interesting site called dustjackets.com that reproduces hardback sleeves for vintage books. That strikes us as a pretty cool idea. You can have a look at that site here.
All right guys, new rules—I've decided to speed this process up by taking you two at a time.
You're familiar with the Mann Act, right? Basically, it's a law that forbids transporting any female across state lines for debauched purposes. Generally, it was applied to men who had sex with underage girls, but not always. In One by One, the hero drives a dancer named Dolly Dawn from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and has sex with her, whereupon she threatens to call police and have him prosecuted under the Mann Act if he doesn't continue to indulge and take care of her. The action revolves around his repeatedly thwarted efforts to extricate himself from her sticky web. One very interesting aspect of the book is that it's a period piece, set nineteen years before its 1951 publication date. Also, if you're looking at the cover blurb and thinking “less morals” sounds weird, you're right that it's grammatically off. Morals is a plural noun, so you'd have fewer morals, not less. We imagine the editors knew that and wrote the blurb colloquially to connect with the reading audience. It probably didn't matter, because the cover art alone pretty much sells this book. But it's uncredited, which is a shame.
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.
Don't panic. Maybe he's not here for us. Maybe he's here to put that stranded humpback whale out of its misery.
Down on their luck everymen often have unlikely backgrounds. Killer Take All! features a guy who wanted to be a PGA golfer but didn't quite make it. The golf angle provides the entry point into the action, as he's asked to be a country club golf pro by a shady character, and soon finds himself tangled up with the man's femme fatale wife, sucked into fraudulent business practices, and suspected of murder. Talk about ending up in the rough. The author here, James O'Causey, aka James Causey, is one of those cases in crime fiction of a guy that published a few fairly well regarded thrillers then stopped writing. He had preceded the novels with some short stories, and penned a television script afterward, but that was it for his output. The consensus online is that he should have written more. Killer Take All! appeared originally in 1957 for Graphic Books, and this Australian edition from Phantom showed up in 1959.
These two are just dying for a vacation.
Yes, it's another book about people stranded on a boat. We just finished the excellent Dead Calm a few days ago, and wrote about it yesterday, and afterward we read all of Return to Vista in time to write about it today. Yes, it literally took one day to blaze through, and we even mixed in a few glasses of white wine and assorted interactions with the Pulp Intl. girlfriends. Return to Vista is not as ocean bound as Dead Calm. In fact, most of it takes place on dry land. Well, semi-dry—the action starts in New Orleans, moves to Vista Island, and stars a cynical journalist back home from some tough years covering the Korean War.
Various online sources say Return to Vista led to an obscenity bust for publisher Sanford Aday. We came across mention of it more than once. But we dug a bit deeper and as far as we can tell it isn't true. It can be difficult to keep track of this stuff, because Aday had run-ins with legal authorities everywhere from his hometown of Fresno to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and all the way out to the Hawaiian Islands. Today in 1961 police raided his facility on North Lima Street in Burbank, empowered by a search warrant that specifically mentioned the novel Sex Life of a Cop, discussed here.
However, the warrant also said police could gather additional relevant material, so they loaded up other books, as well as mail, packages, cartons, bank statements, checks, bills of lading, work records, labels, rubber stamps, et al. They basically emptied Aday's offices with the intent of depriving him of the ability to conduct business. Return to Vista was seized in the raid, but it was part of a haul that included sixty-two titles comprising an astonishing 400,000 paperbacks. Thus we don't think it's accurate to say Return to Vista specifically resulted in an obscenity bust. Unless there's more info out there than we know about—which is always possible.
Return to Vista's purplest passages deal with interracial sex. Also, the two characters you see on the cover decide one last romp is in order before they starve at sea. Sex must bring them luck, because they survive to fight commies. Or at least, they think they're dealing with commies. Turns out the people they're up against are actually even purer utopians than the political sort. Return to Vista wasn't good, exactly, but it was fun. Author John Foster, whose actual name was John West, showed some imaginative touches. He went on to write 1961's Campus Iniquities before fading from the literary scene. The above is from 1960 with uncredited cover art.
A thousand miles out to sea there's nobody to help you if you can't help yourself.
Above, a Bill Johnson cover for the Charles Williams thriller Dead Calm, originally published in hardback in 1963 with this Avon paperback coming in ’65. We love this cover. It gets more interesting the more you look at it. As for the story, it deviates from the 1989 Nicole Kidman movie in several important ways, including the number of characters, the approach the heroine Rae takes toward being stranded on a sailboat in the middle of the South Pacific with a madman, and the climax. The movie is excellent, of course, but it's interesting the choices screenwriters make. In the movie Rae uses sex as part of her arsenal but Williams has more imagination than that—or less, depending on your point of view. In any case, Dead Calm is a recommended read.
Let's explore that in more detail. What exactly do you mean by uncontrollable compulsion to have degrading sex?
Though it looks like another entry in the much beloved psychoanalysis sleaze genre, Nigel Balchin's 1945 novel Mine Own Executioner is actually serious literature dealing with the treatment of a traumatized World War II vet who has symptoms of what today we call PTSD. The book was made into a well reviewed 1947 movie of the same title starring Burgess Meredith as the therapist. Based on our summary, you could be forgiven for assuming the war vet in question is not a twenty-something hottie, and you'd be right. And you might subsequently assume that the cover is misleading, but you'd be wrong. The therapist does take on an important female patient—his wife's beautiful friend Barbara, which of course presents all sort of problems. And she does in fact have sexual issues that need working out. The Penguin Signet edition of the book you see here appeared after the movie, in 1948, and the art is by unknown. You can see our collection of psychoalanysis sleaze covers here, and see some fun individual entries here, here, and here.
You're just in time. Your apartment's on fire. Someone threw matches in the window. Someone who doesn't like waiting I bet.
Whenever we see this sort of distinctively sculpted red hair on a cover femme fatale we think the artist is Howell Dodd, but Gary Lovisi's Dames, Dolls and Delinquents: A Collector's Guide to Sexy Pulp Fiction says this is actually Rudy Nappi's work on the front of Orrie Hitt's Sheba. Nappi did his share of sculpturally coifed redheads, so Lovisi is probably right. The cover banner says Sheba Irons would sell anything, which might be true, but her actual job, once she secures it, is to sell cars. She and the other employees at the dealership sucker customers into unscrupulous financing deals, but this is Hitt fiction, which means the details of the business are minimal—the recipe here is sex and scandal. The men at the dealership all want Sheba, and when they eventually find leverage they seek revenge for having been rejected. We've seen this called one of Hitt's worst books, but anyone who would say that really doesn't know Hitt. There's no worst—they're all bad. This one is solidly middle-of-the-road for him.
When he was in med school we all called him Resident Yes. Time really changes people.
We ran across this interesting dust jacket for Ian Fleming's Doctor No, from a hardback edition published by U.K. based Macmillan in 1958. There have been so many James Bond covers over the decades it's almost impossible to find one that is less known, but we think this example is just a bit more obscure than others. The prominent octopus in the art by H. Lawrence Hoffman, in case you haven't read the book, represents a component of a diabolical torture Dr. No puts Bond through at one point. That didn't make it into the movie.
Okay, I'll take one last guess. You're from Parks and Wildlife and you want to check my fishing license.
African American illustrator Gene Bilbrew uses his unique aesthetic to create yet another arresting paperback cover, this time for Lee O. Miller's 1967 sleazer Vacation Fun. Bilbrew is one-of-a-kind. When we first saw his work we pronounced it “not great,” but since then we've come to understand how unique and talented he really was. So has the art world—we've seen pieces of his priced upward of $12,000. We have a small collection of his work here, so have a look and judge for yourself.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
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