All her problems turned out to be relative.
Cool French cover art for Mignon G. Eberhart's 1937 mystery novel Danger in the Dark, also known as Hand in Glove, and released in France by Presses de la Cité in 1947 as Une clameur dan la nuit, which translates as “a scream in the night.” A man means to stop the distant cousin he loves from getting married, but when her fiancée turns up dead the two relatives decide to make the scene look like a robbery to avoid the police suspecting them of murder. But who did the killing? Eberhart had a long and distinguished literary career, typically mixing her mysteries with strong elements of romance and ending up with Christie-meets-Harlequin. This is a prime example, but a well reviewed book.
What's in the box? Uh, you know, lipstick, gum, cigarettes, the souls of men I consume. The usual.
Above, really nice front and rear cover art for The Blonde on the Street Corner by David Goodis, which was published by Lion Books as a paperback original in 1954. Set in Philadelphia during 1936, the book examines a bunch of guys who have big dreams but no money, no motivation, and no ideas how to escape dead-end Philly. The narrative is basically plotless, like the characters' lives. Talk about a great depression. The cover art, by Robert Maguire, is beautiful but the blonde depicted is nothing like the blonde Goodis writes about. Goodis's blonde is overweight, married, and in her mid-thirties. She does have a sexual aura, though, and certainly fits the mold of a femme fatale. This is considered lesser Goodis, but it's still good enough.
The point of no return.
Most mid-century lesbian fiction was written by men disguised behind pseudonyms. While Sloane Britain was indeed a pseudonym, its owner was actually a woman—Midwood-Tower editor Elaine Williams, who published from 1959 until committing suicide in 1964 at age thirty-three. The Needle concerns a woman who gets hooked on heroin and follows her long and winding road downhill, with the expected stops at dealing, prostitution, withdrawal, and relapse. But there are also a couple of great twists you don't get in typical heroin novels. Considered a classic of the drug sleaze genre, it was published in 1959. This fits nicely with our collection of needle paperback covers from a few years ago, which you can see here.
Good sleaze can be like beautiful music.
Above you see a really nice Robert Bonfils cover for Bogus Lover, published by Newsstand Library in 1960. What's bogus, though, is how the author got ambushed on this one. According to mysteryfile.com, Hy Silver—his real name, by the way—originally wrote a standard detective thriller that was converted without consent into a sleaze novel. And what a conversion: “Her hips began to sway in low, rhythmic circles, eager with anticipation, then faster until they were undulating to a restless mambo beat.” Note to aspiring novelists—remember to use Latin American music as a metaphor for really good sex. The rumba works, as do the samba and bolero, and the tango is a really good one, especially when describing the interaction of two tongues. We're giving you this for free. Run with it.
Some people are just terrible at waiting.
From reliably sleazy Midwood-Tower comes Wait Your Turn, published in 1962 and written by John Plunkett inhabiting the Jason Hytes pseudonym. A soldier returns home from two years away and finds that his virginal bride has not only caved in to another man's advances, but has also been set upon by a trio of local lowlifes who aren't remotely finished with her. Besides the elements of voyeurism and sexual aggression, one thing you could always expect from Midwood sleaze was well-executed cover art, and this one is very nice, but sadly it's uncredited. Should we guess who painted it? Well, we could, but we won't bother, because another thing Midwood was good at was hiring artists who could execute its signature style, which means this cover could really be any of several regular illustrators. Luckily, cover credits tend to come out in the fullness of time thanks to the tireless work of numerous aficionados more dedicated and better connected than us. We'll just have to hope something turns up on this eventually.
I could screw my way to the top but this method is so much more satisfying.
Above you see the covers for the 1958 and 1954 Signet editions of Death Before Bedtime, by Edgar Box, who was in reality literary legend Gore Vidal. This novel is the middle entry of a trilogy—the first is Death in the Fifth Position and the third is Death Likes It Hot. All feature public relations exec/amateur detective Peter Sargeant II, and the story in this one takes place in Washington, D.C., and involves a murdered senator, his promiscuous daughter, his widow, and various figures ranging from pure to corrupt. It owes plenty to Agatha Christie in that the murder—via dynamite, by the way—occurs in a house and everyone who was on the premises is a suspect. Unsurprisingly, there's almost as much sex as sleuthing, but there's also plenty of Vidalian wit. The top cover was painted by Robert Maguire and the second was the work of Clark Hulings.
Lady, if you don't start cooperating, you're going to be sorry, you hear me? Now for the last time—pull my finger!
The 1959 mystery Crime Cop was written by Larry Holden, which was a pseudonym used by author Lorenz Heller. Why he didn't want to call himself Lorenz Heller is the real mystery, as that's about as writerly a name as one could hope to have. Actually, he did publish under his own name one time when he debuted in 1937, but soon chose new identities, including Burt Sims, which was reserved for his television writing. In this novel cops Flavin and Gilman hunt a strangler. The cover art, which is battered but beautiful (just like us!), is by Harry Schaare.
Going for the throat.
First rate Harry Barton art of a guy devouring his girl's golden delicious adorns the cover of Ronald Simpson's Eve's Apple, the story of a university student who embarks on a troubled affair with an older woman. Rear cover blurbs are an art form, and this one, using dialogue from the novel, is sublime:
“Well sir, it's a bit embarrassing. There's this married woman..."
“And you've been having an affair with her?”
The professor stared blankly for a moment before committing himself. “Well, Hobie, perhaps I shouldn't say this, but boys will be boys.”
“But—but she's pregnant, sir.”
“Hobie, you really have a problem.”
“No, sir. The problem's yours. You see, it's Eve—your wife, sir.”
We can only assume the professor fails Hobie at that point. 1964 copyright, from Monarch Books.
Look who's all grown up.
Above, a promotional photo of Iowa born actress Sue Lyon, who played Dolores Haze in the film version of Lolita. In Vladimir Nabokov's shocking but excellent book Haze was a pre-teen, but for Stanley Kubrick's 1962 adaptation the character was made into a teen. Lyon was fourteen at the time of shooting, but this nice shot was made when she was twenty-one in 1967. She went on to good parts in Night of the Iguana and Tony Rome, but managed only about a dozen cinematic roles before leaving movies behind for good in 1980.
Getting what you want is all in how you ask.
It seems as if no genre of literature features more characters in complete submission to others than mid-century sleaze. And how do these hapless supplicants express their desperation? They break out the kneepads. Above and below are assorted paperback covers of characters making pleas, seeking sympathy, and professing undying devotion. Though some of these folks are likely making the desired impression on their betters, most are being ignored, denied, or generally dumptrucked. You know, psychologists and serial daters say a clean break is best for all involved, so next time you need to go Lili St. Cyr on someone try this line: “I've decided I hate your face now.” That should get the job done. Art is by Harry Barton, Barye Philips, Paul Rader, et al.
, Aaron Bell
, Alan Marshall
, Mickey Spillane
, Robert Colby
, Philip Tremont
, Ronald Simpson
, Harold Robbins
, John Plunkett
, André Soubiran
, Talmage Powell
, Horace McCoy
, J.X. Williams
, James Hadley Chase
, Greg Hamilton
, Marcos Spinelli
, Dante Arfelli
, Whitfield Cook
, Charles Petit
, Harry Barton
, Conrad Lueger
, Marlene Longman
, Adam Coulter
, Paul Rader
, Barye Phillips
, cover art
, cover collection
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Plane Hits Empire State Building
A B-25 bomber crashes into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors. One engine plows entirely through the structure, lands on a nearby apartment building, and sparks a fire that destroys a penthouse. The other engine falls down an elevator shaft. Fourteen people are killed in the incident.
1965—Vietnam War Heats Up
U.S. president Lyndon Johnson commits a further 50,000 US troops to the conflict in Vietnam, increasing the military presence there to 125,000. Johnson says about the increase, "I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth... into battle."
Film legend Bob Hope dies of pneumonia two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.
1945—Churchill Given the Sack
In spite of admiring Winston Churchill as a great wartime leader, Britons elect
Clement Attlee the nation's new prime minister in a sweeping victory for the Labour Party over the Conservatives.
1952—Evita Peron Dies
Eva Duarte de Peron, aka Evita, wife of the president of the Argentine Republic, dies from cancer at age 33. Evita had brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before, but was hated by the nation's powerful military class. She is lain to rest in Milan, Italy in a secret grave under a nun's name, but is eventually returned to Argentina for reburial beside her husband in 1974.
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