|Vintage Pulp||Jul 3 2017|
The Novel Library 1950 paperback edition of Maxwell Bodenheim's 1930 book Naked on Roller Skates has one of the most famous covers from the mid-century era, thanks to master illustrator Peter Driben. This image has appeared on prints, postcards, and even bottles of wine. You'll notice it's cut off on the right edge so that Bodenheim's name is incomplete. That's the cover, not the scan. Call it a design defect, or a miscalculation at the printer.
The book is about a fifty-something traveling salesman who meets a carefree young woman who has never seen the big city but wants to experience life's thrills unfiltered—i.e. to live naked on roller skates. She uses the phrase, “Punched in the face.” She wants to be punched in the face by life. And so the two make a deal to hook up for a year and head off to New York City.
There they meet gangsters, brawlers, indulge in the nightlife of Harlem, run a food stand, and try to deal with the unscrupulous characters that descend upon them. All of this may have been familiar to Bodenheim, who seemed to live as fast as his characters. Despite writing at least three bestsellers, he was broke later in life, homeless along with his wife, and they ended up murdered in a slum rooming house. We may get into that sordid tale later.