Vintage Pulp Aug 17 2018
MICRO MANAGER
If anyone can get these people whipped into shape it's her.


Above is a cool cover for Jak Delay's 1953 thriller Mission “microbienne”, a title that would translate as “microbial mission.” He wrote it for Éditions Le Trotteur and the art is by Mik, aka Jacques Thibésart, someone we've talked about extensively. We particularly like his femme fatale here. She's carrying a whip, the indispensable accessory for any modern woman, perfect for keeping male subordinates in line, and good for getting the attention of bartenders and waiters. The microbienne aspect of the story has to do with chemical warfare. The heroine Isabel Didier is tasked with retrieving French bacteriological weapons stolen by East German spies. As usual in these types of tales, Isabel is a real hotty and that's basically her main advantage dealing with various hapless commies. Or put another way, the Cold War warms up quickly thanks to Isabel. Mission “microbienne” could be the first in a series. We aren't sure. But maybe we'll check into that and report back. In the meantime, more Mik covers here and here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 15 2018
HANGOVER CURE
There's only one sure way to get rid of a headache. Murder him.


Hangover House was originally conceived as a stage play and was written by Sax Rohmer, aka Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, and his wife, Elizabeth Sax Rohmer, who obviously borrowed his pseudonym. We haven't read the play, but the novel is one of those fun British murder mysteries where everyone is stuck in a mansion as cops try to solve the crime. But the police are secondary. The main guy here is private investigator Storm Kennedy, also stranded in Hangover House after being hired to keep an eye on one of the guests, the young and beautiful Lady Hilary Bruton. In his efforts to protect Lady Hilary, Kennedy becomes the prime murder suspect. By 1949, when this was originally written, guys like Cain and Hammett had taken crime fiction to violent, depraved places, so Hangover House may seem to some readers both overly genteel and too romantic—“Oh, Storm, will you save me from myself!”—but we liked it anyway. The surprise ending actually did surprise us. This Graphic Books paperback appeared in 1954, and the cover artist is uncredited. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 13 2018
AVENGING ANGEL
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.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 12 2018
A WOMAN'S PREFERENCE
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.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 11 2018
REVEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
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.


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Vintage Pulp Aug 9 2018
A HELL OF A GUY
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.  

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Vintage Pulp Aug 8 2018
UNHAPPY MEDIUM
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.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 6 2018
SINGLED OUT
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. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 3 2018
BABE WITH THE BATHWATER
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. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 2 2018
SAN FRANCISCO VALUES
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

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 18
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
August 17
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
August 16
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
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