|Vintage Pulp||Oct 29 2017|
We like this pretty cover for Loose Ladies, a "Love Novel" written by Wright Williams, aka Watkins E. Wright, for Knickerbocker Books. Williams also wrote Bar-Fly Wives, Borrowed Ecstasy, Carnival Girl, Cheaters at Love, and a bunch of other books of this ilk. Loose Ladies was number forty-eight in Knickerbocker's Love Novels series and appeared in 1946. You'll often see these referred to online as sleaze, but they're chaste by today's standards, though this one actually touches on the idea of test tube babies, weirdly. The uncredited cover painting is in a style seen on true pulp novels of the 1930s and 1940s, before good girl art took over. Maybe we'll put together a Knickerbocker collection later. Keep an eye out.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 26 2017|
Charles Williams wrote more than twenty novels, and though the ones we've read have been good to serviceable, we were expecting eventually to come across an absolute winner. Hell Hath No Fury is that book. It was Williams' fourth novel, written in 1953, and features a tough drifter who becomes a used car salesman in a brokedick country town where he happens to notice bank security is lax. But robbing the bank is the mere entry point to all the problems he encounters. There's also a one-woman nightmare of a femme fatale, a shockingly adept sheriff, a filthy blackmailer, an irascible boss, and a sweet local beauty ripe for love. Williams uses the best line in the book on her:
I took her face in my hands and kissed her. And then they dynamited the dam.
There's no dam. That's just what the kiss does to him. And it's a brilliant pulp moment. A book like this screams for film adaptation, and it was eventually put onscreen in the form of 1990's The Hot Spot, with Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, and a radiant Jennifer Connelly. We haven't watched the film, but it's on the slate. The only flaw to the book, besides the usual stuff general to 1950s crime fiction, is the title. The main character Harry Madox thinks he's rid himself of the femme fatale Dorothy Harshaw, but hell hath no fury. Those four words tell us she'll be back plenty mad and will have a say in how matters conclude. It takes a little of the suspense away. Otherwise, top notch.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 25 2017|
The title of Jonathan's Craig's novel Junkie! is a bit misleading. The junkie in question has little part in the action save as the damsel in distress, mostly kept offpage. But the art by Ketor Seach captures the book's mood nicely, even if it highlights someone other than the actual protagonist, a jazz musician named Steve Harper who prowls the mean streets and smoky clubs of Washington, D.C. trying to solve a murder, then another, then another. A trio of beautiful women keep him thoroughly baffled, and a specially made couch plays a crucial role. Harper's characterization as an actual musician is thin, but the book is a good read, with short chapters and spare prose. Though the fertile milieu could have led to a higher quality result, we recommend the final product.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 23 2017|
“It is at this point—still on the Great Plains, but with the towering mountains so close that it seems as if a man could reach out and touch them—that Skyline City occurs. The city itself has had many incarnations. At first it was no more than a stagecoach stop, a fort and a trading post. Then, with the advent of cattle ranching on the plains and the discovery of gold in the Rockies, it grew and prospered. It became a center of trade and finance—the capital of an enormous Western empire."
These days Denver is the capital of an enormous collection of immigrants from other states. More than three-hundred thousand came from California, mainly fleeing the west coast's culture, taxes and—ironically—its immigration. Such people would not recognize the city described in Sex on Arrival, but indeed, Denver was once a live-and-let-live paradise where the foolishness described by the author wouldn't have raised an eyebrow. And we're talking about during the eighties when we were young. We can't even imagine what the city was like in 1968.
Thus the book, though set before our time, is a bit of a nostalgia trip for us. On the whole it's a love story—with numerous sexual detours of semi-explicit variety. Semi explicit as in: “Then she wriggled around and her lips were on him. And the sensation radiated outward from his groin in stronger and stronger waves. It was almost more than he could bear. Almost more than any man could bear.” It's racy but not pornographic, and the interludes are short and widely spaced, as actual plot rears its ugly head.
Midwood sleaze titles were generally written under pseudonyms, and this particular author was probably Donald E. Westlake, who admitted producing close to thirty books as Marshall and Alan Marsh. But other authors used the Marshall name too. It isn't possible to know whether this is Westlake—at least not for us—by looking for hints of his style. Whoever wrote this worked fast, and the haste shows. But if you can pick it up cheap—and we mean real cheap—it's worth a read.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 20 2017|
The Big Bet tells the story of a professional gambler and owner of a gaming parlor who faces three obstacles—his health is poor, his son is ashamed of him, and his wife is unhappy. Retirement and a move to Florida seem to be the answer to all three problems. Over the course of one night the protagonist Charley King sees two lucky gamblers whittle away his fortune in a card game, learns that a police raid and jail is imminent, and is served a legal summons. In mounting desperation he must win his fortune back and deal with the other problems—and quickly—if he has any hope of escaping to a better life. If that sounds compelling we can tell you it is. The book, which appeared in 1945 under the title Any Number Can Play, was made into a stage production, and subsequently into a 1949 film starring Clark Gable and Alexis Smith. The cover art on this 1948 Bantam edition was painted by Robert Doares.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 18 2017|
Above is a nice cover for Ed Lacy's Blonde Bait. We talked about Lacy recently—he was a white writer who lived much of his life in Harlem and wrote many black characters. Blonde Bait isn't one of those books. It's about a guy named Mickey who's sailing the Florida Keys on his yacht and comes across a woman stranded on a sand bar. Strangely, she has a suitcase. Her name is Rose, and how she got there, as well as what's in the bag, is what the book is all about. That and whether she's telling the truth about highly connected and dangerous men trying to kill her. Lacy wasn't a master stylist—at least not this time around—but for those who like books with boats, islands, and mysterious femmes fatales, this one will fit the bill. The art on this beautiful 1959 Zenith Books edition is by Rudy Nappi.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 17 2017|
Above, another entry in the office sleaze genre—B. J. Gillan Jr.'s Office Playgirl, from Newsstand Library, 1960. We've included the rear cover so you can get the gist of it yourself. The art is uncredited,
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 15 2017|
Above, just another brilliant effort from illustrator Paul Rader, this time for The Reluctant Nympho by Joan Ellis, 1968.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 12 2017|
The woman on the cover of Ed Lacy's, aka Leonard Zinberg's 1952 novel Sin in Their Blood is supposed to be dead, but we kind of like our alternate interpretation that she's clowning around. Whether dead or joking, though, based on the art you'd never guess the book is about a rightwing organization extorting a black man who's passing as white—thus the sin in his blood—but that's exactly what's at the crux of this tale. Lacy, who was white, dealt with African American issues quite a lot. He's actually credited by some with inventing the first black private eye—Toussaint Marcus Moore. The first Moore novel, 1957's Room To Swing, won an Edgar Award—crime fiction's top honor.
African American subject matter was important to Lacy. From the earliest years of his career he explored racial issues, for instance in 1940's Walk Hard—Talk Loud, which is about a black prizefighter. During the 1950s he was married to a black woman and lived in Harlem, so he was always writing what he observed personally. Harlem is where he blossomed as a writer, where he lived much of his life, and where he died in 1968. Today Lacy is remembered as an important contributor to crime fiction, and we recommend his work. As a side note, the above cover would have fit perfectly into this collection, one of the most interesting groups we've shared over years, we think. And for good measure you can see another in the same style here.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 11 2017|