I don't go home with strangers, mister. So let's take a few minutes and get to know each other.
Our copy of Albert Quandt's Passion C.O.D. holds together only thanks to the miracle of scotch tape, yet the great George Gross cover still shines through. It's another masterpiece from him—and another nice addition to our collection. The “c.o.d.” in the title doesn't relate to Quandt's story in any discernible way, unless we start speculating that the “c” stands for something other than “cash.” That's right—we just went there, because this is an unusually lusty novel, considering its 1951 copyright. The main character, the beautiful Sheila Salem, defying norms for literature of the period, gets with multiple men and arrives in the tale with a history of having done so for years. That's fine—we love lusty women. She also habitually ruins men. Is absolutely driven to do it. Again, fine. Hell, those two elements are vintage crime literature in a nutshell—lusty women; dudes ruined. Huzzah.
But on the down side for modern readers, Sheila believes forceful, even violent men, are “real men.” If any of you are seeking Exhibit A for a seminar on male authors writing female characters as embodiments of sexist mid-century attitudes, this is your baby right here. But we can't say Quandt is unable to write. For this genre, he's a better author than most. His story sustains interest. As Sheila discards empty husks of men behind her, gets one guy sent to prison, shoots another, and is soon consorting with criminal types, the only question becomes whether her behavior with these dupes will cost her. In pulp, dupes are expendable, so we were rooting for Sheila all the way. But to find out what actually happens you'll have to lay out cash for the book yourself.
You say I'm beautiful now. But when you find out I have an unabsorbed twin attached to my abdomen you'll change your tune just like every man.
Yup, it's Amos Hatter again. He makes yet another appearance here, this time with his 1952 carny novel Girl of the Midway. This was a natural: we love carny novels, and Hatter specializes in sleazy quasi-romances, which we also like. In this one a naive young woman named Margy Brophy, who works for her father's merry-go-round concession at an amusement park called Dreamland, gets involved with a man named Bill Tanner who plans to bring a big stage show onto the premises. The carnies fear the show will put some of their concessions out of business, so Margy's affair is an uncomfortable case of consorting with the enemy. However, Tanner has no intention of stealing customers. He tries but can't convince the carnies that, given time, his show will actually increase the patronage at their concessions. The battle lines harden, then the most recalcitrant of the carnies is murdered.
The homicide aspect of the book isn't much of a mystery. You merely have to look past the obvious red herring and choose the next most unpleasant carnival denizen, which you'll do automatically. But Hatter isn't a mystery writer anyway. His jam is sexual titillation, and though he does that reasonably well here, at this point we have to accept that he'll probably never again approach the heights of his Hawaii-based novel Island Girl. Of course, in general, you're not looking for nail-biting thrills, deep insight, or remarkable literary style with these types of books. They're meant to give you a semi-boner or three. There are no boners, semi or otherwise, caused by Girl of the Midway. But there's a good amount of carnival atmosphere, and that was enough for us to enjoy the book. Even so, we can't recommend it. We do, however, recommend that you appreciate the cover art by Rudy Nappi. It's perfection.
Sorry to interrupt, ladies. Just a reminder—senior medical staff considers attendance at tonight's sponge bath seminar mandatory.
We might as well, right? Okay then, quickly, here's the Rudolph Belarski cover for Sylvia Erskine's Nurses' Quarters that he slipped into his piece for Male Ward, mentioned in the above post. Nurses' Quarters is copyright 1954 for Cameo Books. And you also see the original art.
They say true love lasts forever. But why can't it be brief? Like, a few hours? A few intense, very steamy hours?
You're not seeing double. This cover for Gene Harvey's The Loves of Alice Brandt is almost identical as the Howell Dodd art from Luther Gordon's Free and Easy, which we showed you recently. This novel, published in 1951, is aka Office Hussy, 1957, by John Hunter. Both Hunter and Harvey were pseudonyms of Jack Hanley. The art is unattributed, but it isn't by Dodd unless he was in a rush. Everything is a bit less detailed, a bit less dimensional—the hair, the dress, the background. But as a brazen copy of Dodd, you have to admire the mystery painter's bolas. You see the original art below.
In Hatter's novel Hawaii is blue in more ways than one.
Amos Hatter, aka Ben West, aka James Lampp, originally published Island Girl as Island Ecstasy in 1952. Most copies of Island Girl are from a couple of years later, but somehow ours is also from 1952. The art, which is identical for both titles, is uncredited but very nice. The novel is about a Hawaiian beauty named Consuela Marlin, Connie for short, who takes a liking to a WASPish researcher named Jay Carter, and determines to win him over by any means necessary. Surprisingly for a 1952 novel, that leads to Connie bedding him—repeatedly.
Jay's a haole in Hawaiian lingo, a non-islander, which makes the romance a culture clash. It's also a clash of substance—Connie's relatable in every way, while Jay's goodhearted, but infuriatingly laissez-faire in his romantic attitudes. A complication soon arises in the form of a one percenter who lands on Oahu and decides he wants and is entitled to Connie. Forced kisses, stalkerish schemes, gaslighting, and browbeating are his tools, but this being a mid-century book, Hatter doesn't write him as a particularly bad guy, so much as a determined rival. What are the results of this shitty behavior? He gets what he wants—repeatedly.
These vintage sex dramas are strange as hell sometimes, but you know that going in, so you roll with it. Hatter's depiction of Consuela as independent yet submissive is dubious, but is in no way a surprise in a genre built around the supposed easy availability of women. We're just glad we didn't live during the era when men who were violent toward women were considered to be “a little forward” or “within their rights.” All that said, Island Girl is well written and worth a read, if for no other reason than the generational and sociological differences of the era it highlights.
All these books are on our bucket list.
When you look at paperback covers every day it's interesting the common elements you notice. Of late, we've noticed buckets. They pop up on backwoods and rural sleaze novels, usually in amusing fashion, often in the possession of hardworking women going about difficult chores while nearby men don't do dick. We'll just tell you—that's not the way it works around our place.
There's nothing quite like a roll in the hay.
You'd think we'd eventually run out of themes in mid-century paperbacks, but the possibilities are seemingly endless. We can add illicit love in the hayloft to the many other time honored subjects exploited by paperback publishers. We've already shared several covers along these lines, such as this one, this one, and this one, but today we have an entire set for your enjoyment. Personally, we've never had sex in a hayloft—in fact, we've never even had the opportunity—but we imagine that once you get past the smelly manure and the scratchy hay and the jittery animals it's pretty fun. Or maybe not. There are also numerous books, incidentally, that feature characters trysting by outdoor haystacks, but for today we want to stay inside the barn. Thanks to all the original uploaders of these covers.
My pa shouldn't be back for hours. But just in case he does show up, do you prefer burial or cremation?
A double shot of rural sleaze today, Norman Bligh's Once There Was a Virgin, 1950 from Exotic Novels, and Gail Jordan's The Affairs of a Country Girl, 1952 from Cameo Books. George Gross provided the art for these covers, which are cropped differently, but between the two you see pretty much the entirety of the original piece. We think this is one of his better efforts. We're putting together a small collection of paperback covers set in barns and haylofts, so consider this a preview, along with the covers here, here, and here.
Next challenge—getting the potato chips from the kitchen without moving any part of my body.
Reefer Girl is one of the most collectible vintage paperbacks in existence. How collectible? We saw someone selling it for $750, which is quite an ask, considering it was going for $125 just five years ago. Both prices are an awful lot of money for something that, if you leave it on a table for a few minutes, you might walk back into the room to find your girlfriend swatting a fly with it. We've uploaded the rear of the book below so you can see how funny author Jane Manning's, aka Ruth Manoff's take on weed is. The book was published in 1956, and here we are sixty-one years later having made the journey from marijuana being an object of total hysteria to it reaching legal status in multiple parts of the U.S. That's progess—for as long as it lasts, at least. The cover art here is by Rudy Nappi, and his stuff is always top quality.
It doesn’t look like much now, but slap on some paint, scatter some knick-knacks around, and we can open a bed & breakfast and make a fortune.
Initially published in 1953 as House of Lost Women, Frank Haskell’s Boarding House acquired its new title in 1954 when re-published by Cameo Books, and retained the new name on the above 1969 edition from Macfadden-Bartell. Frank Haskell was a pseudonym for author Haskell Frankel, whose real name strikes us as a bit more literary sounding than his moniker, whereas the pen name sounds like it belongs to maybe a high school football coach or a union president. No artist info on this, but it’s unusual and we like it.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage
, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
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