Vintage Pulp Jun 20 2024
What is it about being deep inside the dark, damp earth that makes me incredibly horny?

We bought Henry Lewis Nixon's 1955 novel The Caves—for which you see an Ace Books cover above with uncredited art—based upon the rear teaser blurb. It told us that the tale was about a group of people who face deadly problems after becoming trapped in an underground cavern system. That struck as unusually high concept for the 1950s, so we took the plunge. The book wastes no time, opening with the group in mid-descent. Trouble strikes immediately, then again, then again, ad infinitum. There's hypothermia, epilepsy, a broken foot, a bottomless pit, and other obstacles. Nixon doesn't let up, and for that he deserves credit. But while the story is interesting and propulsive, there's one major flaw—it's written at a level that feels young reader.

That isn't inherently bad. The Hobbit is written at young reader level, and it's great. But Nixon didn't mean for The Caves to be that way. There are many adult concepts—sexual predation and PTSD among them—but his characters are so cardboard, their ruminations so shallow, their motivations so transparent, that there's no way for them to resonate for adult readers. At least as far as we're concerned. One character loves sex, for example. It would take a very good writer to make her obsession with getting laid—in a freezing cavern and to the detriment of her own safety—anything other than sophomoric. Even the multiple womb metaphors don't make the book less like youth material. It's ironic, but Nixon's story about a fraught subterranean exploration needed to be deeper.

History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 19
1966—Sinatra Marries Farrow
Superstar singer and actor Frank Sinatra marries 21-year-old actress Mia Farrow, who is 30 years younger than him. The marriage lasts two years.
July 18
1925—Mein Kampf Published
While serving time in prison for his role in a failed coup, Adolf Hitler dictaes and publishes volume 1 of his manifesto Mein Kampf (in English My Struggle or My Battle), the book that outlines his theories of racial purity, his belief in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and his plans to lead Germany to militarily acquire more land at the expense of Russia via eastward expansion.
July 17
1955—Disneyland Begins Operations
The amusement park Disneyland opens in Orange County, California for 6,000 invitation-only guests, before opening to the general public the following day.
1959—Holiday Dies Broke
Legendary singer Billie Holiday, who possessed one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, dies in the hospital of cirrhosis of the liver. She had lost her earnings to swindlers over the years, and upon her death her bank account contains seventy cents.
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