Vintage Pulp Jun 26 2023
Fatal Manhattan pile-up caused when multiple cabs simultaneously try to pick up same fare.

The last Milton K. Ozaki book we read left us cold, but because 1952's Deadly Pick-Up has beautiful cover art we decided to give it a shot. Graphic Books during the early 1950s routinely had brilliant covers. About a paragraph into reading this we realized it was the same Ozaki as before, but we forged ahead into the tale of a man wrongfully suspected of a woman's strangulation, who must solve the crime before he's snared by the cops. The dead woman's sister, a private detective, helps him out, and they discover the reason for the killing was $60,000 in counterfeit bills, which turn out not to be fake after all.

In terms of specific problems with the book, we'll highlight a couple. First, the sister detective is immediately pushed by Ozaki into a background role, protected and sidelined by the main character. We'd be okay with it if the hero were a qualified tough guy. But he's a damned insurance salesman. It seems as if Ozaki was imaginative enough to create a female detective, but not imaginative enough to conceive of her refusing to let some rando tell her how to do her job. In an era where other writers had already created tough and competent women detectives it was simply a whiff. A second issue, more serious in our view, is the tortured similes Ozaki uses. Some choice examples:

With his bat in hand he hurdled the bar as gracefully as a ballet dancer sailing over a papier mâché bush.

He kept watching me as though my nose were an independent organism likely to do tricks.

Thinking was like trying to bounce a rubber ball in a puddle of wet, sticky mud.

Crime writing and hard boiled similes go hand-in-hand, but you have to do better than that. Ozaki does manage to create a few unusual moments, including steering the investigation into a gay bar—where the hero is physically attacked twenty-against-one when he's assumed to be a morals spy. The gay characters in the book do not—obviously—fare well descriptively. That's never fun to read, but it's what you have to expect considering the time period. Ozaki would not have earned our future trust regardless. He just doesn't write well. But we're glad to have the book because the cover—uncredited, sadly—is aces. 

History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 22
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
April 21
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
April 20
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
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