Hmm... you should be on the ground writhing in agony by now. What's this material? Polyester?
We talked about the Charles Williams thriller A Touch of Death back in 2015. Shorter version: it's great. But we didn't show you the alternate cover art. This edition came first, in 1954, from the brush of Saul Tepper. See the other cover here.
Okay, I take it back—you don't hit like a girl.
Above you see a great Sam Peffer cover for Jonathan Latimer's Solomon's Vineyard, originally published in 1941, and banned in the U.S. until 1988. We could go into why it was blacklisted, but as always it doesn't really matter, because save for a brief mention of underage sex the book is not racy by today's standards. Its best quality is not sexual innuendo anyway, but toughness. To give you an example, we'll transcribe one of its many interesting scenes. The main character Karl Craven—a burly ex-football player-turned-private detective—becomes upset at the layered deceptions he's had to deal with and finally loses his temper:
I grabbed her by the arms and shook her. Her false teeth fell out and rolled across the carpet. [snip] I started into the parlour, but a thin man in shirtsleeves was in the way. I hit him and he went down. In the parlour the blonde who'd slugged me with the lamp began to scream. She thought I was coming for her. I went to the big radio in the corner. I picked it up, tearing out the plug, and tossed it across the room. It shattered against the wall. I kicked over a table with two lamps on it. I tore some of the fabric off a davenport. I threw a chair at a big oil painting over the fireplace. I took a metal stand lamp and bent it up like a pretzel. I pulled up the oriental rug and ripped it down the middle.
That's going berserk like you mean it. We won't bother with a long plot summary since you can find those all over the internet, but basically the protagonist is hired to spring a woman from a cult and finds himself neck deep in corpse worship, hidden treasure, police corruption, and sado-masochism. The book is reasonably well written, very hard boiled, and built around a set of unlikely characters—including a femme fatale known by all as “The Princess.” Great Pan published it in 1961, and it had an alternate cover which you also see here. It was re-issued several times after its debut—including by Popular Library as The Fifth Grave—which means it isn't hard to find. We recommend you give it a read.
Hey solider—ever made it in a smoking ruin with the stench of death in your nostrils?
We don't know if there were enough prostitution-in-the-ruins novels written during the postwar period to qualify as a sub-genre, but it seems to us we've seen quite a few of them. We highlighted Scott Graham Williamson's Torment around this time last year, and now we have another—Erika, aka Fräulein, by James McGovern. The book revolves around a woman who is tricked into becoming a prostitute in divided Berlin before finally finding Mr. Right and escaping. She's named Erika Angermann, a symbolic name if ever there was one, hinting at what the men in her life put her through. Erika aka Fräulein was a hit when published in 1956, and became a 1958 movie with Dana Wynter and Mel Ferrer. The book is bit obscure today, but was well regarded in its time. We'll look into how many novels like this are out there and if there are enough maybe we'll put together a group post.
It wasn't me! I swear! You want the goth chick in 4D!
Rudolph Belarski has some of the most recognizable artistic output of the mid-century period. This is his work on the front of the 1949 Popular Library edition of Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's The Death Wish, which first appeared in hardback in 1935. In the plot, it's actually two men wishing to be free of their marriages that starts all the trouble. The women are potential victims, though not wholly sympathetic ones. Do you wish you could read something convoluted and at times verging on the ridiculous? Congrats—this may be it. Still, it's a good book. Holding's rep as one of the top suspense writers of her period was deserved.
My pa shouldn't be back for hours. But just in case he does show up, do you prefer burial or cremation?
A double shot of rural sleaze today, Norman Bligh's Once There Was a Virgin, 1950 from Exotic Novels, and Gail Jordan's The Affairs of a Country Girl, 1952 from Cameo Books. George Gross provided the art for these covers, which are cropped differently, but between the two you see pretty much the entirety of the original piece. We think this is one of his better efforts. We're putting together a small collection of paperback covers set in barns and haylofts, so consider this a preview, along with the covers here, here, and here.
Cuban program to clone Fidel Castro goes horribly wrong. Multiple Castros result—all are rampaging capitalists.
The lead character in Dave Patrick's 1965 novel Patterns of Sin is a college professor and ex-CIA operative named Thomas Keith who happens to be a millionaire. Only in sleaze fiction, right? When his latest girlfriend is almost kidnapped by rogue Cubans, he suspects there's more to her than meets the eye, and there is—she fled to the U.S. after some particularly sticky island dealings involving a long lost twin brother/incestuous lover who was a famed counter-revolutionary. Sadly, there are no clones, but who needs 'em? The incest angle is weird enough: “Tom had so reminded her of her brother that she'd almost called him by her brother's name as they made love.” She actually tells Thomas about her brother, and he's fine with it.
“Are you sure, Tom?” she whispered.
“Do the other women I've had bother you?”
“No, but men are supposed to be different. They're supposed to want virgins.”
“Every girl's a virgin to me, until I've made love to her.”
The government is interested in Tom's girlfriend and her Cuban connection, so he's brought back into the CIA, given a hot partner and—this being a sleaze novel—the partner is a woman with whom he has a steamy history. But they don't get together—the partner is gay now, prefers the Cuban girlfriend, and gets her. Thomas's reaction? “It's a waste of a beautiful woman as far as I'm concerned, but it's your life.” You may be wondering if there's any actual plot here. Not enough to matter. The anti-commie aspect is a mere placeholder between love scenes. The book was bad. We knew it would be bad. But we had to find out what it was about. It wasn't about clones the way the cover art might make you think, but maybe it should have been. That art, by the way, is by Bill Edwards—the mole on his female figures always gives it away.
Don't worry—last time I saw your husband he was making a spear to kill some pig he claims is lurking around.
How many times have we talked about Harry Whittington? Plenty, but he wrote so many books, and had a habit of making them consistently interesting. In The Naked Jungle a plane crash leaves three survivors stranded on a deserted tropical island. There's Krayer, who's driven and a bit crazy; there's his wife Fran, who's lusty and unhappy; and there's Webb who wants Fran—badly. Three people, limited resources, and zero trust. On the flight Webb had overheard Fran tell her husband that their marriage is over, so he's not too worried about sticking his nose—or any other body part—where it doesn't belong. And Krayer didn't want to share survival supplies with Webb in the first place, so you can imagine how he feels about sharing his wife. It's all a recipe for more Whittington fun. The dramatic cover art is, sadly, uncredited, though it looks a lot like James Meese to us. Just a guess.
Tell you what—no-strings-attached sex, plus a twelve pack, and I'll order pizza. Now do you wanna come over?
Above, James Howard's I'll Get You Yet, 1954 from Popular Library's sub-imprint Eagle Books, with art by an unknown generally suspected to be Ray Johnson or Owen Kampen. The cover wraps around, and the rear gives you the gist of the plot, which involves a man trying to defend a woman and her sister from organized crime baddies. Regarding the art, we think Johnson is the more likely perpetrator, though we may never have an official answer. But you can see why we're guessing Johnson by taking a look at another of his pieces here. See if you don't agree there's a strong stylistic similarity. Also, this uncredited cover is definitely the same artist. Johnson too? We suspect so.
99% of the time having backwards arms is terrible. But being able to do this brings a smile to my face.
This weird cover caught our eye for obvious reasons. And as guys who have to help our girlfriends get their necklaces on nearly every day, we sometimes wonder if they'd trade their normal arms for a pair of backwards ones. With backwards arms the girls could also give themselves back rubs, which seems to be one of our primary functions. Seriously. One of our girlfriends literally walks in the room pointing at her own lats, which is semaphore for “back rub time.” Anyway, British author Hugh Clevely, who also wrote as Tod Claymore, produced this entry in the Sexton Blake Library, and the eponymous Blake—in case you aren't familiar with him—is basically an ingenious sleuth patterned after Sherlock Holmes, but with a tendency toward duelling to deal with his enemies. The character was immensely popular and eventually appeared on stage, radio, on television, and in movies. The Strange Affair of the Widow's Diamond's was published in 1955.
I hereby claim this land and everything in it for the British Emp—er, I mean for me!
Since we're on the subject of tropical islands (see below), here is a really beautiful cover for Adam Shaw's 1966 novel Pleasure Island. We first saw it at killercoversoftheweek, which informed us that it was painted by Ron Lesser, one of top illustrators of the mid-century era. Taking a close look at the art, it seems to us that the characters depicted are thinking two entirely different things at this moment.
Him: Wow, she's hot! I can't wait to have her. I think I'll call this place Pleasure Island.
Her: *sigh* It was nice while it lasted. Looks like we'll have to invent clothes and self defense classes now.
The locale in the story is one of the Marquesas Islands. Shaw's characters made a habit of stumbling upon natural wonders, because he followed Pleasure Island with Isle of Delight and Shipwrecked on Paradise. Safe to assume pleasures, delights, and paradise-like qualties were quickly ruined in each place. See more Lesser cover art here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
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