I'm going to reach the top and I'll do it by using the most American method of all—buying my way there.
Above are the cover and original uncredited art for the sleaze novel Convention Girl, written by Rick Lucas for Beacon Signal and published in 1954. This was a one-day read. Basically, at a yearly Washington, D.C. convention staged by the Association of Young Executives, oil tycoon Holly Carroll and beer baron James Barton are both convinced by AYE string-pullers to run for the position of association president. Both are promised the inside track to victory by means not solely involving how many votes they actually get. As ex-lovers, the complications soon pile up between them, as well as between other highly sexed characters. The reasons they were asked to run for president are obscure, but they eventually boil down to a vast communist plot to undermine the free enterprise system. Commie scare fiction mixed with sleaze? What a concept! Sadly, as usual with these anti-commie books, the political aspects are laughably simple-minded. But we expected that. The hurdle that can't be overcome is the tepid eroticism. There's just not much heat—and this in a book with so many reds. We don't think we'll be reading Mr. Lucas again.
Sorry, that was a mix-up in the ad. It's actually pay now love later. There's also an admin surcharge and a damage deposit.
Elaine Dorian's 1961 novel Love Now Pay Later has more depth than usual for Beacon Signal sleaze fiction. She has a real feel for the setting and her lead characters, Ross and Gay, two people trying to find happiness while swept up in the fast paced worlds of publishing and politics in New York City. For both of them ambition is their undoing, though of different types—Ross will do anything for success, including throw away love, and Gay will do anything for love, including throw away success. Both lose their way, and both debase and publicly embarrass themselves, though again, in different ways. Dorian serves up strong anti-sex undercurrents, but her story basically works. We wouldn't call the book good, exactly, so much as better than average. But in vintage sleaze, that's good enough.
You're not gonna be able to get my dress off. I needed two guys just to get it on.
This is a nice piece of cover art, though unattributed, for Lee Brill's 1962 novel The Skin-Tight Sheath. The above-the-title teaser text is almost exactly backwards. This is really about one man who uses everyone to even the score with one woman. Or tries, anyway. Stuck in a loveless but socially necessary marriage, he wants to have his cake and eat it too by hooking up with an old flame, keeping both wife and mistress. His plan goes great—until it goes wrong. His downfall? He's sadistic, and his need to hurt people begins to destroy him. If only the real world had the same moral clarity as sleaze novels. Reasonably entertaining, but not unmissable.
I didn't notice you trying to claw your way out of the room, so we're both hitch-hike hussies, in my view.
Above is a 1959 cover for Hitch-Hike Hussy painted by Saul Levine, who we've shown you before, such as here and here. This cover was also used in 1954 for Hans Habe's Walk in Darkness, but with a different male figure and background. The duo of John B. Thompson and Jack Woodford are the minds behind this tale, the story of a hitch-hiking runaway named Sunny Neversen, and her adventures and sexual involvements, which include a young trucker named Jim Bottomly, a man in his sixties named Mumford Basserman, and others. None of it is convincingly erotic, and little of it actually takes place on the road. She mostly works in a gambling hall, and after a few guys get to sample her wares Bottomly turns up again to sweep her off her feet. This is rote sleaze fiction, one of many mid-century books to use the hitchhiking gimmick. The only interesting aspect of this is pondering why it took two people to write it. Nothing to see here, people. Move along...
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. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
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