What can I say? My parents taught me to always demand more.
Above, classic sleaze from Gordon Semple, Man-Crazy Hussy, aka Blonde Temptress, 1954, from Croydon Books. Often these novels seriously examined ’50s stereotypes, particularly those concerning what was appropriate sexual behavior for women, but the authors had little control when their serious stories were given crazy titles and wrapped in titillating covers. We can't tell you whether this novel is an attempt at real literature or if it's pure sleaze, because we aren't going to pay thirty bucks for it. We never go above ten dollars per—including shipping. But we're tempted. The art here is by Bernard Safran. See another example of his work here.
Just ignore my daughter. She gets bitchy whenever she thinks I don't spend enough time with our son.
Bernard Safran is an artist we don't see nearly enough of, considering how much we like his work. He's responsible for the above cover of Love Cult, by William Vaneer for Croyden Books, 1953. The art tells all. A naive young woman rushes into marriage and finds herself trapped in a polygamous commune in the isolated Ozarks. In short order she loses her bodily autonomy, her virginity, and her dignity—but not her desire to escape. An unlikely alliance gives her a chance, but she still needs to outwit her husband somehow, and he's clever, mean, sneaky, and violent. Giving him the slip will take some work. We won't reveal more, except to mention that author William Vaneer is really James W. Lampp under a pseudonym.
Did we ever mention that there's a commune in our town? Actually, its residents live not in town, but on a hill a half mile to the east. They grow stuff up there and sell it in a local shop they own down in the main tourist area. They also run a restaurant. When you go in they try to interest you in their various communities in different countries, and are inordinately smiley and nice. Like in-your-personal-space nice. One time a waitress squeezed into a booth with us to take our lunch order, which was creepy enough that we never went back. But after reading Vaneer's potboiler maybe we'll visit again just to find out what they're smiling about. If you never hear from us again it's because we're having culty sex up on the hill.
It looks amazing, baby. Er... aaaand should look even better on my lovely wife. Thanks for letting me test it on your neck.
Sometimes when you're caught you're caught. You can try and brazen the moment out, but it usually does no good, at least in mid-century fiction. From there it's just a short distance to mayhem, murder, trials, prison, and all the other fun stuff that makes genre fiction worth reading. From James M. Cain's iconic The Postman Always Rings Twice to J.X. Williams' ridiculous The Sin Scene, infidelity is one of the most reliable and common plot devices. What isn't common is cover art that depicts the precise moment of being caught. Of all the cover collections we've put together, this was the hardest one for which to find examples, simply because there are no easy search parameters. We managed a grand total of sixteen (yes, there's a third person on the cover of Ed Schiddel's The Break-Up—note the hand pushing open the door). The artists here are L.B. Cole, Harry Schaare, Tom Miller, Bernard Safran, and others. And we have two more excellent examples of this theme we posted a while back. Check here and here.
Fine. Explain. But don't turn around. I hate your face so much right now I might shoot it on general principle.
Above, a cover for Erle Stanley Gardner's The Case of the Haunted Husband, eighteenth in the acclaimed Perry Mason series, from Pocket Books. Generally considered one of the best Mason mysteries, this one tells the story of a female hitchhiker who accepts a ride from a guy who gets a little too handsy, leading to a multi-car crack-up. The woman awakens behind the wheel, with the driver nowhere to be seen, and a fatality in one of the other cars. The cops don't believe she wasn't the driver, so they arrest her and charge her with negligent homicide. Things get worse when the car turns out to be stolen, and suddenly she's on the hook for that too. Enter Perry Mason. Nothing is haunted in this book, but the mystery is a winner. We also were reminded how effective short chapters can be in drawing a reader into a story. The hardback of The Case of the Haunted Husband appeared in 1941, and the above paperback with Bernard Safran art followed in 1949.
Mid-century paperbacks and the many sides of erotic dance.
We've seen more paperback covers featuring dancers than we can count. No surprise—they are after all an essential element of crime fiction, and many of the covers depicting them are excellent. But as you might imagine, novels that feature strippers, showgirls, and burlesque dancers as characters also fall into the sleaze genre quite often, which in turn makes for a lot of low budget cover work. So we have the full range for you today in a collection depicting the kinetic art of stage dancing, with illustrations from Bernard Safran, Robert Maguire, Robert McGinnis, Gene Bilbrew, Doug Weaver, and others, as well as numerous unknowns. Enjoy.
Baby, you are something special. And to imagine I once thought a quality spread only referred to the stock market.
They say money can’t buy love, but it can certainly buy a reasonable facsimile. That’s not our opinion—that’s empirical reality. It works even if you’re even as old as this guy. Gordon Semple, aka William Neubauer, Norman Bligh, et al., explores the theme of love-for-money in Love-Crazy Millionaire, as a rich man gets tangled up with a woman who’s decided it’s time to get ahead in life. It comes from Croydon Publishing Company, and the excellent cover art is by Bernard Safran, who we need to feature more often. 1954 copyright on this.
And now, the top 20 financial terms that sound sexual but aren’t:
20: Backup withholding
19: Tender offer
18: Liquidity put
17: Horizontal acquisition
16: Gypsy swap
14: 30-day wash rule
13: In-service withdrawal
11: Open position
10: Jointly and severally
9: Receipt of deposit
7: Pump and dump
6: Naked straddle
5: Escheat period
4: Fallout risk
3: W-type bottom
2: Front-end load
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying
. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
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.
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