When you choose an inspiration choose the best.
Above you see a cover from Beacon Signal books, circa 1960, for All Woman by Matt Harding. The woman in this case is the legendary Bettie Page, rendered by illustrator Jack Faragasso. Page appeared on vintage book covers several times, either in photo or painted form. We've shown you examples of both types here and here, and you'll notice one of those covers is also by Faragasso. Clearly he had an affinity for Page, and there's a reason. When he was attending the Art Students League of New York in 1951 he shot nude photos of her. This was before she was well known. Faragasso later published those images in a book, but as far as using them as inspiration for paperback covers, he did it only twice. We'll keep an eye out for more Page covers. For that matter, we'll keep an eye out for more Faragasso covers too.
For a good time all you have to do is call.
Beth Hubbard is bored. That falls into the category of first world problems. Which is to say, she should really be able to cope, but she's an entitled suburban housewife who wants the best of everything, so she has an extramarital fling for thrills, ends up paid for the encounter, and from there is lured by the promise of easy money and good sex into continuing the affair. She has feelings for her new side piece, and as a result convinces herself she's simply doing what comes naturally while being given considerate gifts. Little does she know that this is all a set-up engineered by one of her best friends to sucker her into becoming a high class prostitute. Pretty soon the guy she likes disappears, his place is taken by others, and poor Beth starts to dislike what she sees in the mirror. The key with these housewife sexploitation books is to convincingly draw the main character into a life of vice, and the more seamlessly and realistically it's done, the better the book. Part-Time Call Girl is pretty good for the genre. We bought Beth as a character, and ultimately empathized with her plight. And that's pretty much all you can ask.
I always wanted to do more for the less fortunate, but I never knew sharing could feel so good.
Beacon-Signal was mighty prolific with sleaze novels during the 1960s. We've read such gems as Lady Cop, The Man Eating Angel, and the out-there classic Troubled Star. Brad Hart's 1963 sleazer Bella Vista's Wives, for which you see uncredited cover and original art above and below, has the expected sex, but also delves in a believable way into the details of fundraising from the rich, as main character Bob Jennings is hired to raise millions for an upgrade to Bella Vista's hospital. Little known but proven fact about giving—the poor give more than the rich, as a percentage of income. High bracket folks give the most when measured in sheer dollars, but on the whole get stingier the richer they get. Thanks to Hart we now know why—the rich are busy trying to screw each other's spouses. As sleaze goes this was brilliant. When has a sex novel ever explained the tax breaks behind making charitable gifts of appreciated stocks? Only here. Game, set, and match—Brad Hart.
Don't just turn over a new leaf. Turn over twelve of them.
Let's start the year right. Everyone is hoping for a better 2021 than 2020. That's assuming you adhere to constrained, non-scientific ideas about time—for cynics and realists it's just another day. But in any case, above you see the cover of a 1959 nudie calendar that came inside an issue of the U.S. magazine Cocktail, a creation of Beacon Publications. The interior is below, and those with sharp eyes will spot a few notables—burlesque dancer Candy Barr in June, Madeline Castle in July (her pose is the same as from the famed promo poster for the sci-fi film The Astounding She-Monster, though Shirley Kilpatrick played the monster), Shirley Kilpatrick in August (what a coincidence), and Jean Nieto, aka Ramona Rogers, in November. The other models may be well known too, but not by us, at least not today. When the cava hangover wears off, maybe our brains will work better. Then again, maybe the damage is permanent. Only time will tell. Happy New Year.
Has your husband ever kissed you on the neck like this? No? Well, it's called foreplay, and we lesbians do it all the time.
Above is a cover for Odd Girl by Artemis Smith. The book, published in 1959, is often called a lesbian classic, and since we just read Satan Was a Lesbian, we thought we'd double up on this theme. But there's really no comparison between the two books. Satan Was a Lesbian is a crude joke, while Odd Girl is the incisively written tale of Anne, a New York City beauty who thinks she's gay and goes about searching for her true self in a world of lesbian bars and among an assortment of friends and lovers. The other women—Cora, Skippy, Beth, Esther, etc.—run the gamut from butch to femme, and in Smith's competent hands have distinctly different personalities too. As far as the men in this tale go, the focus is on one—Anne's youthful mistake of a husband Mark, who she's desperate to get rid of via divorce or annulment. If only it were that simple. If vintage fiction teaches any lesson it's that bad men don't go away easily.
We liked this book. It was serious and adult, wasn't exploitative, and had the feel of realism. The latter quality we couldn't have confirmed through personal experience, not being gay women, but the tale simply felt accurate for the period. And no wonder, because when we checked into Artemis Smith it turned out she was actually a gay woman who lived in New York City, was the author of the lesbian oriented novels The Third Sex and The Bed We Made, and was active in the mid-century civil and gay rights movements. She's probably better known today as Annselm L.N.V. Morpurgo and has a very active Twitter feed of a progressive bent. If you intend to take a foray into early lesbian fiction, Odd Girl is about as good as it gets. It's not a literary masterpiece, but it's as well written as most genre novels, and is a consistently entertaining read.
I dyed my hair red months ago, but the old nickname stuck. Folks around these parts ain't fond of change.
The above cover for Gordon Semple's 1953 novel Waterfront Blonde features Warren King art, possibly repurposed from the front he painted for Forbidden Fruit, below (and previously seen in this post). We say possibly only because we don't know which cover came first. Maybe Forbidden Fruit was repurposed from Waterfront Blonde. Both books are copyrighted 1953. In our non-professional opinions, we think Waterfront Blonde was second. There are several reasons why, any of which could be picked apart by someone with the opposite view. For example, if Waterfront Blonde came first, why not make the female figure's hair blonde? On the other hand, if it came second, that means King changed the hair color of the male figure, but didn't bother doing the same with the woman. Either way it's odd, but the main thing to note here is how the art has been recycled, which occurred often during the mid-century heyday of paperback fiction. We'll surely have more examples down the line.
Before we start let me just warm my hands by the fire. Last time your little guys shriveled up like two prunes.
More classic sleaze, 1964's Sexurbia County, by Orrie Hitt, who we've discussed often. We didn't read this, and there's no need—we've braved several of his novels now, and they're all pretty much the same. We're putting together a collection of suburban sleaze covers you should find somewhat entertaining. Look for that in a bit. The art on this is uncredited.
Don't flatter yourself, lady. I was planning to frolic naked and carefree in this pond long before I ever saw you.
The cover text of Ben Smith's 1960 sleaze novel Wanton tells you most of what you need to know. A call girl named Lois tries to hide from her past by accepting a marriage offer blind and running away to rural Minnesota. Once there she finds that her husband is not such a great catch after all. Not only doesn't he ring her bell, but he makes her work like a mule. The scene depicted here isn't predatory. Lois has been surprised, but it's by accident and by the man she really loves—her husband's brother. Oh, what a tangled watering hole we swim. The plot, on the other hand, isn't tangled at all. In general, the promise of eroticism is unfulfilled, and without that, there isn't much to see here. The cover art is uncredited.
Sex with you is out of this world. Which makes total sense, considering you're from Alpha Centauri.
Lately we've been reading mid-century sci-fi novels, in this case George O. Smith's Troubled Star, from 1957, for which you see cover art by Edmund Emshwiller. It doesn't really fit the book, but this is what happens when the publisher wants good-girl-art at all costs—you get your basic horny detective novel couple, but with the guy in a silver jumpsuit and gadgety bracelets. It's nice art anyway, and there is actually a bit of human/alien sex in the book. The overall premise is interesting. An advanced interstellar civilization decides it needs to turn the Sun into a blinking variable star to mark a galactic space lane, and they decide to relocate the Earth—literally tow it across the galaxy in mere minutes and set it in orbit around a similar star. Since this new parent star is closer to the galactic center the Earth would get lethal doses of gamma radiation, which isn't discussed, but whatever. The book is big picture stuff. Details don't matter.
The aliens have used a special device to determine the most appropriate Earthling to approach about this, and this device measures human goodwill. Basically, it helps them discern who is the most respected person on the planet. In their way of thinking, this person would be a leader, but unfortunately the device picks a movie star. Interestingly, this actor, Dusty Britton, is famous for playing a space hero, and all the people on Earth thinking of Britton in this way makes the aliens think humans have an advanced space program when they really don't. In short, these denizens from the gulfs of the cosmos are smart enough to initiate and execute interstellar infrastructure projects, but they're actually not so bright. Britton is troubled by their plan, and so the title Troubled Star becomes a double entendre, because, you see, the Sun is in trouble, and Britton, a movie star, is...
Oh, screw it. Just don't bother reading this. It's for adolescents (If you're an adolescent, though, feel free, but what are you doing on this website? Get off! It's not good for you!). The last five sci-fi novels we read before this one were The Ant Men, (silly), Rogue Queen (decent), I Am Legend (good), The Body Snatchers (excellent), and Gladiator (excellent). They cover a wide range of subject matter, and are written in wide-ranging styles. Though the most recent two have been less successful than the others due to both being junior high school level in terms of their content, in general these have been entertaining forays into the far realms of imagination. As we mentioned yesterday about sci-fi movies, speculation is a major attraction. If you run into any obscure vintage sci-fi, it can serve as a nice break from hard-boiled fiction. If the stars align, you may luck into a real gem.
She's not great on her feet but once she's horizontal—watch out.
We love the dancer on this cover of the 1962 sleaze novel Sex Dancer. We picture her coming out like, “Va-va-va-voom! Boom shakalaka! Wah-wah-waaa—” before remembering she despises her job and shifting into, “Oh, screw this. Just pay me.” Which is the progression most people go through with their jobs. The main character Jean is supposed to be a hell of a lot hotter than the deflated looking figure in the art. The story from the imagination of veteran author Clayton Matthews deals with a woman who headlines the burlesque attraction at a traveling carnival. She wanted to be a star on Broadway, but now must resist pressure from her boss to do more than just dance. It's a ripe concept but goes mostly unrealized, degenerating into a banal love story, as Jean falls for a stunt motorcyclist who's lost his nerve. After a few nights with her, though, he gets back his nerve, his verve, and his swerve, and the two plot a better life. The only question is whether they can get there. We weren't thrilled with this, but it's reasonably well written, so we may try Mr. Matthews again later. The art is uncredited.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
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