A deserted island, a pair of killers, and very little time.
We just finished reading Aground, which Charles Williams wrote in 1960, and it was a solid if unspectacular outing from a highly experienced author. In this one John and Rae (two characters who meet here but would later marry and appear in Dead Calm) are trapped with two weapons smugglers on a yacht that's stuck on a reef. The only way to free the boat is to lighten the load, so the crooks make the couple help unload tons of guns onto the atoll, and thus we get the ticking clock for this thriller—when the boat is light enough to float, the criminals will move it to slightly deeper water, make their captives reload the guns, kill them and be off. A fun gimmick, perhaps not exploited to fullest advantage, but the end result is worthwhile. The Crest paperback edition above, with uncredited art, appeared in 1961.
The classification system isn't the only thing that's dewey around this library.
This is a cover we've seen around the internet more than once, but we don't mind that it's been used a bit. Nympho Librarian was written by Jake Moskovich under the pseudonym Les Tucker, and the copyright is 1970. The art was painted by Paul Rader, and we rate it a top effort from him, possibly even iconic, considering these days you can buy this cover as a refrigerator magnet. Quick question: do you go to the library? Well, you should, because with usage declining, doing the above without getting caught is probably easier today than ever. Give it a try. Nymphos are in the stacks right between nutrition and oceanography.
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.
We guarantee this won't be the last Waltz.
This Technicolor lithograph doesn't have the blank advertising banner at top the way our many other examples do, but it's the same idea, manufactured by Copr. C. Moss and titled “Rhapsody in Red.” This was a particularly popular image, and it was picked up by more than one company. While the above version is from C. Moss, we've also seen a version from the mid-1950s manufactured by J.S.J. and titled “Sandra.” But the model is not Sandra—she's Playboy centerfold Margaret Scott, who was also known as Marilyn Waltz, and that fact goes a long way toward explaining why this image became so popular.
Scott/Waltz posed for the C. Moss shot in 1950 when she was nineteen but didn't hit Playboy's pages until 1954, when she was the centerspread for April. The magazine then brought her back as a playmate in April 1955, so obviously Hefner loved her. After either the first or second Playboy appearance, we suspect the enterprising owner of the 1950 negative recognized her and decided to sell her image for a fresh run as a lithograph. J.S.J. stepped up, bought the neg, and called her Sandra. This is an amazing image. Waltz has another litho we haven't shared yet, but we'll get around to that at some point. Bonus shots below. Click her keywords and you'll see our other posts on her.
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.
Always beware of charming strangers.
Above, an Italian poster for René Clement's classic drama Delitto in pieno sole, which was originally made in France as Plein Soleil and is known is English as Purple Noon. The movie, you may already know, is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel and tells the sinister story of the psychopath Tom Ripley. The poster art is by Averardo Ciriello, a prolific illustrator of not only movie promos, but also paperback covers and comic books. Click his keywords below to see more, and you can see another brilliant poster for Plein Soleil here.
Curiosity mutated the cat.
The Creeper, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1948, has a sinister, attention-getting poster, which you see above, but the film is long on atmosphere and short on frights. It concerns a doctor trying to develop bioluminescence in human organs so they're self lighting and will make surgery easier. You read that correctly. He wants to make organs glow just in case you need to be cut open one day. But instead he ends up, through his experiments on cats, creating a beast that slinks around mauling people to death. We never see an entire killer kitty—that wasn't in the budget it seems—but we do see
cheap stuffed animal paws fearsome razor sharp claws. Ultimately The Creeper is a mood movie—which is to say, if you're in the right mood it may work for you. A six-pack could help get you there. Something even more psychoactive could get you there faster. But even then we can't guarantee you'll enjoy it.
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.
Why did Lancaster cross the mob? To get to DeCarlo's side.
This is a beautiful poster for Doppio Gioco, better known as the U.S. film noir Criss Cross, with Burt Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo. We were unable to determine who painted the piece, but it's a bang-up job. As for the movie, Burt Lancaster comes up with one of the classic terrible ideas in film noir history, and that's really saying something, because the genre practically hinges on cockamamie schemes. We talk about it in our brief write-up of the film here. Doppio Gioco opened In Italy today in 1949.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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