Vintage Pulp Apr 24 2024
MIDNIGHT RUN
The very moment you need help is the moment there's nobody around.


Harry Bennett put together yet another a unique paperback cover, this time for Vin Packer's 1963 novel Alone at Night. Bennett was a master illustrator who specialized in loose yet highly skilled pieces, but he had a range that we've marveled over many times. Just check his solidly representational efforts here, here, and here, as opposed to his somewhat more abstract stylings here and here, then note how he splits the difference between the two here. He's always interesting, and Alone at Night is also an interesting novel.

Vin Packer was a pseudonym for Marijane Meaker, and she sets her story in the actual small town of Cayuta, located in south central New York state. She tells us about a man named Donald Cloward who's sent to prison for fatally running over a woman. By the time he's paroled eight years later he's come to doubt the official story. On the night in question he'd been nearly incapacitated by alcohol, and had blacked out the events, yet has the vaguest memory of being placed behind the wheel of the deadly car—presumably by someone who wanted him to crash and be killed. Once dead, people would assume he stole the car.

Who would do such a thing? His father-in-law, possibly. He had offered his sedan though Cloward was clearly unable to drive. Since his father-in-law loathes him, and is not a generous man—certainly not enough to lend anyone his car—his guilt seems a good bet. On the other hand, the woman who was killed happened to be the wife of a man who desperately wanted out of his marriage in order to wed someone else. Maybe he arranged everything. After all, Cloward was found in that man's Jaguar. Yes, there may have been a switch. Cloward thinks he remembers getting into one car, even though he ended up in another. Is it a false memory?

Alone at Night is built around a leapfrogging present-past structure, and has a multi-pov narrative in which the reader soon knows all, but the characters don't. In trying to sort it all out, Cloward decides that his father-in-law moved him from the sedan to the Jaguar after realizing the second car was already pointed toward the drop-off of a cliff. After all, why merely hope for a road accident when one is already likely just by virtue of the choice of a parking space? But is he missing a few pieces of the puzzle? We won't say more about the plot. This is excellent work from Packer/Meaker. It's our second book from her, and won't be our last. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 23
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
June 22
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
June 21
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
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