Vintage Pulp Dec 16 2023
THE DEAD ZONE
When people say the town is dying they mean it literally.


Oliver Brabbins teamed with Graphic Books to provide beautiful cover art once again, this time for The Corpse Next Door by John Farris. Before we get into the fiction let's take a few moments to appreciate how good this art is. Brabbins has created multiple levels of perception in this piece. The cop outside on the street at a call box sees the woman in the foreground, and via her direct gaze, she sees you. Whatever nefarious deed she's up to, you're in it as well. Brabbins nailed the close-up perspective of the blinds, where the angle becomes edge-on in the middle of the scene, allowing the cop to be visible. Assorted impressionistic street details form the background, and daubs of gold at the woman's ears and neck complete this top tier effort. With art like this, the book better be good.

This was the debut novel from Farris and came in 1956. In the story, Bill Randall, cop in the town of Cheyney, suspects murder and a frame-up in what had been officially closed as a jailhouse suicide. His belief that the official determination is wrong pits him against his own department, specifically his chief Sam Gulliver, who's stubborn, angry, physically imposing, and dangerous. As Randall digs, the murder seems connected to past crimes and the future political career of local chosen boy Nathan Fisher, who has a raft of problems that threaten to derail his lofty ambitions.

The narrative is gritty and the action is a cut above, particularly in a scene during a shootout where a character shoves a refrigerator down a flight of stairs at two gunmen. On the minus side there's an unlikely plot device in which a woman who's shot in the woods removes her bra before dying in order to impart to the police that they should seek a clue at a pawn shop called Brassier's. We let that bit pass and were rewarded with a stimulating climax, so on the whole the novel was a plus. Farris would go on to success in horror fiction, including with his 1976 novel The Fury, made into a 1978 film starring Kirk Douglas. The talent is clear in this first book. We'll keep a watch for more of him on the auction sites, and certainly for more of Brabbins.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
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