Vintage Pulp Jul 21 2022
A KNIFE IN THE ART
For a fulfilling killing nothing beats a blade.


Today we have for your pleasure a collection of vintage paperback covers featuring characters on both the giving and receiving ends of knives—or knifelike tools such as icepicks. Above you see Harry Bennett art of a poor fella getting a knife from nowhere. Maybe Damocles did it. It's a funny cover because we don't think we'd grab our throats if we got stabbed in the spine, but let's hope we never find out. Below, in addition to numerous U.S. and British offerings, you'll see covers from France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. There are many, many paperback fronts featuring knives—we mean hundreds—but we decided to stop ourselves at thirty-two today. These do not represent the best (as if we could decide something like that), or our favorites, but merely some interesting ones we've come across of late. If you're super interested in this particular motif we have plenty more examples in the archives. They'd be hard to find, because we don't keyword for knives, so here are some links to get you there: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 18 2022
LAST TANGLE IN PARIS
Knight falls in the City of Light.


We weren't impressed with Adam Knight's Sugar Shannon, but excellent Paul Rader cover art earned him another chance with Girl Running, published in 1956 by Signet. It has the built in advantage of being set in Paris, but in the end we have to conclude that Knight just isn't a good writer. Here's a sample, and note that when he says “stay alive” he's talking about staying awake:

I beat it back to the hotel, fighting hard to stay alive for a little while longer. I lost the fight. A shower only rocked me for a brief pause. Then the important muscles gave way and fatigue took me to bed for a cat nap. I told myself that I could sleep two hours. I phoned the desk to jerk me awake at about noon. Then Morpheus grabbed me.

Knight's main character goes to sleep three times in that paragraph—or twice, if we want to be generous. Also, the idea of a “cat nap” is incongrous with total fatigue. A cat nap is light sleep. Even sleeping for only two hours, he'd be dead to the world. The snippet is a microcosm of the book—messy, disarranged, and lacking flow and rhythm. So when it comes to Knight we'll call it a day. He's just not our thing.
 
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Vintage Pulp Nov 27 2021
RUN IN ROME
Flee for your life like the Romans do.


Carlo Jacono painted this brilliant cover for La ragazza che scappa, or “the girl who runs away,” written by American author Adam Knight, aka Lawrence Lariar, for Ponzoni Editore's series Gialli Canarino, with the translation chores handled by Lydia Lax. We read a Knight book a while back, weren't impressed, and forgot about him, but here he is earning a translation into Italian. Does that mean the book is good? We've always assumed without evidence that translations were an indicator of quality, but now we have doubts. Or maybe that limp Knight yarn we read wasn't typical of his work. La ragazza che scappa was originally published in 1956 in the U.S. as Girl Running. We could probably find it if we wanted to, so we will actually consider picking up a copy if it's out there cheap. We're just curious enough. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 6 2020
SWEET NOTHING
The Sugar high doesn't last.


This eye-catching cover for Adam Knight's 1960 mystery novel Sugar Shannon was painted by an uncredited artist. The image lured us toward a purchase, and reading the book we immediately discovered that the main character is supposed to be a sort of Honey West clone. We didn't think much of This Girl for Hire, the book that introduced West to the world, so a derivative version was probably never destined to thrill us. And indeed, the whole thing—which involves the title character and her sidekick Gwen trying to solve two murders in the New York City art underground—is pretty silly, and more than a little condescending. For instance, Knight makes constant references to Sugar's “girlish instincts,” “womanly intuition,” and “feminine corpuscles" (huh?), suggesting his investigative reporter heroine works less by logic than by a sort of gender-based magic. Sugar Shannon was supposed to be the first book of a series, but it turned out to be a series of one. That says it all. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 6 2018
FLASHY GORDON
Cats always get in the way at the worst moments.


The above cover from the Milan based publishers Longanesi & Co. features U.S. glamour model Virginia Gordon fronting a 1959 translation of Ed McBain's The Pusher. McBain is basically a legend, but is it a stretch to call Gordon legendary too? We don't think so. She was Playboy magazine's January 1959 Playmate of the Month, and because of that her photos are highly collectible and expensive. You'd see two important reasons why if not for a mischievous cat, but you can outmaneuver him by clicking here or here.

Below we have a few more fronts from Longanesi, including Jonathan Craig's Case of the Village Tramp, which also has Gordon on the cover, and John Jakes' detective novel Johnny Havoc, featuring Carol Baker giving a nice over-the-shoulder glance. Like Australia's Horwitz Publications and several other non-U.S. companies, Longanesi used (probably) unlicensed images of Hollywood starlets and glamor models as a matter of habit. We'll show you more examples of those a bit later. 
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Vintage Pulp Jul 17 2015
ULTIMATE FIGHTING
Vintage paperback violence gets up close and personal.


We have another collection today as we prepare to jet away on vacation with the girls. Since the place we’re going is known for rowdy British tourists (what place isn’t known for that?), we thought we’d feature some of the numerous paperback covers featuring fights. You’ll notice, as with our last collection, the preponderance of French books. Parisian publishers loved this theme. The difference, as opposed to American publishers, is that you almost never saw women actually being hit on French covers (we’d almost go so far as to say it never happened, but we’ve obviously not seen every French paperback ever printed). The French preferred man-on-man violence, and when women were involved, they were either acquitting themselves nicely, or often winning via the use of sharp or blunt instruments.

Violence against women is and has always been a serious problem in the real world, but we’re just looking at products of the imagination here, which themselves represent products of the imagination known as fiction. Content-wise, mid-century authors generally frowned upon violence toward women even if they wrote it into their novels. Conversely, the cover art, stripped of literary context, seemed to glorify it. Since cover art is designed to entice readers, there’s a valid discussion here about why anti-woman violence was deemed attractive on mid-century paperback fronts, and whether its disappearance indicates an understanding of its wrongness, or merely a cynical realization that it can no longer be shown without consequences. We have another fighting cover here, and you may also want to check out our western brawls here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 29 2012
STARING DOWN THE BARREL
Stop whining. You deserve this bullet and you know it.

We love vintage paperback covers featuring armed women. But we especially love them when the women are directing their attention toward the viewer. Since pulp style literature is read primarily by men, such illustrations speak implicitly about a man’s thwarted expectations, and conversely of threatened women turning the tables to become empowered. We see this above, where a beleaguered woman defends her helpless man against an enemy we can't see because we're living inside his body. Below are thirteen more examples of women menacing you the viewer, with art by James Avanti, Robert Maguire, Harry Schaare, Rudolph Belaski, Harry Barton, and others. Thanks to flickr.com for some of these.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 26
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
September 25
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
September 24
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
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