Vintage Pulp Jul 9 2021
FRESH SEAFOOD
Turns out sharks like the catch of the day too.


As soon as we saw this cover for Peter Cheyney's 1950 novel Dark Bahama we had to read the book. We had to find out if this was a literal illustration. And yep, a guy gets eaten by a shark. The artist here, John L. Baker, painting this for Fontana's 1960 edition, must have really enjoyed creating something different from the usual gun toting studs and chain smoking femmes fatales. The story is different too. In a tale set on the fictional Bahamian island of Dark Bahama, Cheyney creates an array of Afro-Bahamian characters, filling roles from fishermen to police officials, and, surprisingly, writes them with something nearing respect. The addition of a mysterious Belgian character makes for another fun spot of diversity.

The protagonist is Julian Isles, a British detective hired to locate a globetrotting ingenue and rescue her from Dark Bahama before her partying and dubious associations permanently embarrass her family. Isles immediately walks into a murder scene, is suspected by the local cops, begins to think his client has lied to him, and sets about defying orders and expectations to get to the bottom of it all. Getting to the bottom involves working with the aforementioned Belgian cipher, Ernest Guelvada, a tough, romantic, eloquent, and ruthless operative of vague provenance. We thiink he's one of the best characters we've come across in mid-century literature. Just listen to this guy:

I am delighted to meet you. I am more than delighted to bring a little excitement into your—what is the word—prosaic existence. Yes, goddam it, you will agree with me that there is nothing like a couple of murders to stir the blood of a police commissioner at three-thirty in the morning.”

And:

You think so? You lie. More than that, my friend, you love her. That I know. When you speak of her I see the look in your eye. I have discovered your secret. I will tell you something else. I also love her. I, Guelvada, who loves every woman in the world, love her at least as much as the other few million.”

And:

When I go into action, my friend, I like a lot of room and a lot of space. Like great armies I must have room to develop. Like great fleets I must have space to maneuver. You understand? It is for this reason that I do not wish this island to be cluttered up with non-essential women, and at the moment our beautiful Miss Lyon is non-essential. Therefore, she will stay in Miami.”

To us, that sounds like a writer having a very good time with an off-the-wall character. Guelvada's reasons for turning up change Dark Bahama from a mystery to an espionage tale, but we won't reveal the details. We suggest reading it yourself. Cheyney is famous for his Lemmy Caution series, which began back in 1935, but we think he's better here fifteen years later—a better stylist and a better conceptualizer, who's produced a generally better read than we think he was capable of back when he started out. The story is engaging, the femme fatale is fascinating, the secondary characters ring true, the bizarre Ernest Guelvada keeps reader interest high, and the island backdrop adds atmosphere and spice. With Dark Bahama Cheyney gave us more than our money's worth.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 1 2021
EVA SAY NEVER
Sex scare movie cautions women to keep their vaginas in their pants.


Ukrainian illustrator Constantin Belinsky did special work on this French promo poster for Eva s'éveille à l'amour, which was originally made in England and is better known as That Kind of Girl. The French title translates as “Eva awakens to love,” which sounds nice, but this is actually a sex scare flick starring Margaret Rose Keil as a young Austrian woman in London who dates around a bit and as a result finds herself dealing with serious consequences. She only finds out there's a problem when she's attacked and the police force her to take a medical exam. Did you know that in Britain the euphemism for rape back then was to be “interfered with”? Neither did we. Those Brits are so circumspect. “But I told you he didn't interfere with me,” Keil insists to the cops. Nevertheless, off to the clinic she's sent, where the bad news comes down like a thunderclap—syphilis. This isn't just a b-movie—it's a vd-movie.

Poor Keil caught the clap from her first British lover, and gave it to two more. One of those two probably gave it to his fiancée. And worse, Keil works as an au pair, may have given it to the child she cares for, and has to tell the entire family they need to go to the clinic. Talk about mortifying. But that's the point of scare movies—for you to walk away afraid to have premarital sex/smoke marijuana/peruse a socialist pamphlet. The movie even lifts straight from the puritan playbook about “respecting your body”—i.e. people have premarital sex because they have no self worth. Some people actually believe this even today. It all sounds like a drag, we know, but as moral warning movies go this isn't bad thanks to the slice of London life it presents. Do you need to put it in your queue? We wouldn't say so, but if you do it won't be a waste of time. After premiering in England and other countries in 1963, That Kind of Girl opened in France today in 1964.

I have a natural facility for the carnal arts. What's a girl supposed to do?

It seems unfair that I should have gotten a disease from something so fun.

Why did the doctor have to call it "fire in the ho"? Was that really necessary?

And then he said once the penicillin works he'll call me for a date. Doesn't that violate his hypocritic oath? It's all so confusing.
 
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Vintage Pulp Jun 1 2021
TOFF BRAND DESIGNS
John Creasey's franchise sleuth gets all the best lines.


Above, mid-century design in the form of Panther Books' Toff series by British author John Creasey. These covers from 1964 and 1965 combine photo-illustrations with beautiful line-based graphic design to excellent effect. The Toff is the nickname of a character named Richard Rollinson, the classic gentleman sleuth. Creasey published more than fifty Toff novels between 1938 and 1977, and more than six hundred books total under his name and twenty eight pseudonyms. We haven't read any, and the volume of output makes us question whether his books can be of high quality, but we may try the Toff anyway. Those upper class English gents are so hard to resist.

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Vintage Pulp May 20 2021
RIGHT JABS
A shot in the arm may finally set us free.

We got our vaccinations today, and in commemoration we have a collection of paperback covers featuring syringes. These should be considered a supplement to the larger collection of needles we put together in 2013. The process of vaccination was surprisingly efficient. The health pros were going thorough people at a rate of about one per minute. There's been no controversy here. No talk about refusing. Vaccinations are considered the right and sensible thing to do. We've had some shots before in our lives and mostly didn't feel them. This one felt exactly someone stabbing you in the arm with a long, sharp object.

During the last year-plus about ten friends got sick and recovered, and a couple of friends died, one in Guatemala and one in the U.S. But we can't complain about how the period has gone for us. We have plenty of space, an ocean view, mellow girlfriends, and we work online. Having all of that makes us reflect upon how difficult it's been for so many others. Early last year we threw a birthday party for PSGP. That party turned out to be the last get together between our social group, the last hurrah. Well, when it seems safe we're having a first hurrah. And we'll toast to our lost friends. Let's hope all these vaccinations work. More needles below.
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Femmes Fatales Feb 22 2021
NATURAL BORN KEELER
The calm at the center of the storm.


Christine Keeler, who died several years ago, was born today in 1942. You've seen this image of her before. It shows her in 1963, infamous at the time due to her relationship with the married British Secretary of State for War John Profumo. You know that episode as The Profumo Affair. While we've seen this shot many times, today it really struck us how nice it is—as is its variation below. They were made by Lewis Morley to promote The Keeler Affair, a film that was never released. But Morley's shot was leaked to The Sunday Mirror, and it exploded over the stuffy British public like a bomb and remains one of the most iconic images of the 1960s. Some websites say Keeler is straddling a chair made by famed designer Arne Jacobsen, but it was actually a cheap copy. We've written on Keeler before—as has everyone else—but if you want to see what we did, you can check here, here, here, and here. We also have one more link for you. If you follow it, you'll see that the above shot is the latest in an ongoing series featuring famous women in unusual chairs. Trust us, it's worth a look.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 12 2021
SLIDING DORS
It's a slippery slope down to the gutter—especially when you're pushed.


This cool British poster was made to promote Passport To Shame, a vice scare flick, a cautionary tale for women about how easy it is to end up a hooker. A number of such films were made back in the day. This one even has some authority figure or other introducing the film in stentorian tones, telling how a dead end life of vice is just one bad decision away. After the oratory, we see how the leaders of a prostitution ring use labyrinthine scams to force women onto the stroll. They frame Odile Versois into debt, lure her from France to London, and convince her she needs a work permit that she can only obtain by marrying a Brit.

The “Brit” is U.S. actor Eddie Constantine, who's being scammed to participate, also by being tricked into debt. We were baffled as to why he needed at all, but hey, it's in the script, so we went with it. The most curious part of the gang's scheme is that they own a boarding house connected to an adjacent boarding house via a secret door. We suppose this portal makes it easy for the ringleaders to get back and forth, but Odile, duly installed in the legit boarding house, finds the secret door to Sodom with the help of her inquisitive kitten, sees all the hookers hooking, and realizes she's been had.

She's going to be had in a different way by multiple men if she can't get out, but it isn't easy. Her keepers threaten her, starve her, and even drug her, which leads to a hallucinatory Spellbound-style sequence in which the addled Odile sees the literal pits of hell filled with half naked guys waiting to ravish her. Yup—she's in deep shit. But somewhere out there Constantine, her sham husband, who agreed to the marriage assuming Odile knew what she was getting into, realizes she's actually a naive young thing in need of help.

Of course the main selling point for film studio United Co-Productions was Diana Dors, an interesting actress, and an outsize personality in real life. Even though she's second billed, and probably third in screen minutes, she gets pole position on the poster because she was who audiences wanted to see. She plays a jaded prostie named Vicki, also in the game against her will, held by the cruelest of means. Her character has a pivotal part in how this drama turns out, but you'll have to watch to movie to find out what that is. We recommend it. Passport To Shame premiered in the UK today in 1959.
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Vintage Pulp Feb 3 2021
WAYS AND MEANS
Can I not die? No? Then I'll take: in bed, very elderly, after earth shattering sex with my 25-year-old boytoy.


This Pocket Books edition of John Ross MacDonald's The Way Some People Die features the first cover we've acquired by British illustrator Charles Binger, and quite a nice one it is. It reminds us of Ernest Chiriaka's work, this one for instance. This is a Lew Archer thriller, third of eighteen, and as we mentioned before, this series is said to improve as it goes. We'll see about that. This one is a standard caper that starts when a mother hires Archer to find her missing daughter, who's gotten mixed up with the proverbial bad crowd. We're talking the worst of the worst—hustlers, gangsters, heroin addicts, and, most terrifying of all, failed actors. Archer beats down a few tough guys, gets hit over the head in classic detective novel fashion, has beautiful women express their romantic interest, and in the end is shotgunned in the face, dismembered, and incinerated in an industrial kiln. Oh, wait—that's not correct. Actually, he comes out on top again, bruised but triumphant. Not bad, but not great yet. Onward to book four.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 24 2021
VENTURA HIGHWAY
It's my way or I'll pump you fulla holes. I know that doesn't rhyme, but you get the idea.


Above, a promo photo of British actress Viviane Ventura, who appeared in such films as Docteur Caraïbes and A High Wind in Jamaica, and television shows such as I Spy and The Man from U.N.CL.E. This shot was made when she was co-starring in Battle Beneath the Earth in 1967.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 26 2020
COPYCAT KILLER
One esoteric murder method begets another. Possibly.


Concepts for thrillers can be hard to come by, so sometimes authors borrow from one another. Not long ago we read John D. MacDonald's The Drowner and shared the cover from the Gold Medal edition. Here you see British author John Creasey's, aka Gordon Ashe's, Death from Below. If you quickly click this link you'll notice the two books have identical art, thematically—a woman being pulled down into the water by an unidentified killer.

We figured Creasy borrowed from MacDonald, but interestingly, both books were originally published in 1963. Assuming months were spent actually writing them, it seems as if both authors simply had the same idea (we don't know if there was an earlier thriller with the same concept, but we wouldn't be surprised). The main difference between the tales is that MacDonald's killer drowns one person, where Creasy's goes full serial and drowns dozens, including children. His story also takes place in France, rather than the U.S., and has a deep—if unlikely—political element.

We know this scenario didn't happen, but we like to imagine both MacDonald and Creasy/Ashe walking into bookstores on opposite sides of the Atlantic sometime soon after both paperback editions had been released, seeing each other's on a shelf, and being mightily perturbed. At that point we like to imagine Creasy, in time-honored British fashion, saying, “MacDonald! That cheeky bugger!” MacDonald on the other hand, being American, probably went, “Creasy! That sneaky motherfucker!” Advantage: yanks.
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 7 2020
NEEDLE AND DREAD
Medical malpractice reaches epidemic proportions in wartime murder mystery.


This poster for the thriller Green for Danger, which was made in England and premiered there today in 1946, asks about its central syringe image, “Murder weapon or clue?” Psst! It's both. That's not a spoiler. We call attention to it because it's strange that the question even made it onto the poster. It's not as if one answer precludes the other. In any case, there's more than one murder weapon. But the weapon used in the central murder is not a word that rolls off the tongue, so we guess the filmmakers opted to focus on the syringe used in a later murder because it was simple. That isn't a spoiler either.

Green for Danger, which is based on a 1944 novel by Christianna Brand, is set in World War II era London, when the city is being besieged by German V-1 buzz bombs. These bombs, actually more akin to missiles, couldn't be aimed, so instead were designed to run out of fuel over a general area and fall wherever. The point was terror. In the film, when people hear the devices flying somewhere overhead they don't panic, but if the sound of the engine stops, everyone knows death is coming down and runs for cover.

When a victim of one of these bombings dies in surgery in a London hospital, a staff member comes to think it was murder. She voices her suspicions, foolishly as it turns out, and is the next to be dispatched. At that point in comes the shambling detective to solve the crime. He's played by Alistair Sim with considerable humor, which may seem inappropriate in a thriller, but this the movie is also a bit like a wartime soap opera, young doctors in love, that sort of thing, so Sim's wry personality sort of fits.

But it's still mainly a whodunnit, and such movies usually end either with the dick explaining to the assembled suspects who committed the crime, or with him concocting some baroque scheme to cause the killer to unmask himself. This one ends with Sim doing both, which leads to a preposterous set-up for the finale, but we won't spoil that either. In the end Green for Danger—equal parts thriller, melodrama, whodunnit send-up, and comedy—was good fun.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 27
2003—Hope Dies
Film legend Bob Hope dies of pneumonia two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.
July 26
1945—Churchill Given the Sack
In spite of admiring Winston Churchill as a great wartime leader, Britons elect Clement Attlee the nation's new prime minister in a sweeping victory for the Labour Party over the Conservatives.
1952—Evita Peron Dies
Eva Duarte de Peron, aka Evita, wife of the president of the Argentine Republic, dies from cancer at age 33. Evita had brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before, but was hated by the nation's powerful military class. She is lain to rest in Milan, Italy in a secret grave under a nun's name, but is eventually returned to Argentina for reburial beside her husband in 1974.
July 25
1943—Mussolini Calls It Quits
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini steps down as head of the armed forces and the government. It soon becomes clear that Il Duce did not relinquish power voluntarily, but was forced to resign after former Fascist colleagues turned against him. He is later installed by Germany as leader of the Italian Social Republic in the north of the country, but is killed by partisans in 1945.
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