What a perfect day. It's days like this that make me glad we invested early in cryptocurrency and retired before thirty.
Above is a Charles Binger cover for John D. MacDonald's 1959 novel The Beach Girls. At this point, we know anything he wrote pre-Travis McGee is going to be good, and even the McGee books are mostly entertaining despite the main character's off-putting social judgments. The Beach Girls is a bit different from other MacDonalds we've read, largely written in a sort of round robin style where the final words of each chapter lead mid-sentence into the first words of the next, but with a change in first person point-of-view. The book cycles through numerous characters via this interesting trick before settling into standard third person narration for the finish.
The story deals with the inhabitants of a marina in fictional Elihu Beach, Florida, some of whom are friends, others enemies, some longtime residents, others newcomers, and how jealousy and resentment lead to a shocking act of violence. From the earliest pages you know this event is coming, and as the book wears on you become pretty sure who's going to be the unfortunate though deserving recipient, and who's going to be the giver. The main question becomes whether MacDonald will subvert these expectations and throw readers a curve. We'll just say it wasn't a predictable tale.
The only thing we don't get is why it's called The Beach Girls. The nearby beach area of the town is mentioned only a few times, no scenes are set there, and the book has an ensemble cast, with the women no more important than the men. There are groups of tourist women that pop up here and there, but they don't impact the story at all. Oh well. The title is a mystery, but an unimportant one. We'll get back to MacDonald a bit later. These 1950s efforts of his have been very worthwhile.
Binger understates the obvious.
Above: a 1960 cover from Gold Medal Books for Hell Hath No Fury by Charles Williams. This was painted by Charles Binger and it's a beautifully simple watercolor composition, a very different approach from the almost fiery 1953 Barye Phillips cover. Of course, there's a good possibility that this is a random Binger not actually inspired by the book, but if so it's still interesting that Gold Medal would choose it. This is a reminder to track down more of Binger's work, and it's also a reminder that we're overdue to read another Williams. The cover says he was, “one of the best of all specialists in paperback-original suspense stories,” and it's true.
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.
Alrightee nurse, I guess that's enough warm-ups with Donnie the Delivery Doll. Let's try the real thing now.
That None Should Die was Frank G. Slaughter's first book, published in hardback in 1941 and in this Perma paperback edition in 1955. Slaughter was a doctor and wrote mostly—but not always—about his own field. This particular book focuses strongly on treatments, ethics, and the pro forma central love story between young doctor and young nurse, but it's most curious for its firm opposition to government involvement in health care. Of course, government run health care works like a charm in so many places, but the key to its success is the understanding that citizens aren't just profit sources, therefore they shouldn't die for being poor, shouldn't sacrifice their life savings for cures, and shouldn't pay through the nose for insurance. Since those foundational concepts weren't widely accepted in the U.S. in 1941 (or now, for that matter), it's no surprise how Slaughter feels about the issue. The book was well reviewed, and helped him establish a literary career that quickly supplanted medicine for him and lasted for decades. No surprise—there's no government bureaucracy in literature.
To a hammerer every problem looks like a nail.
In Dorothy Salisbury Davis's A Gentle Murderer a man visits a confessional and reveals murdering someone with a hammer and flees into the night before the priest knows what to do. The dismayed padre decides to search for the mysterious man who burdened him with this terrible knowledge, thus taking on the role of detective in the story, though the police are on hand to conduct a parallel investigation. Naturally, another murder will soon occur if the killer isn't caught.
The plot is similar to that of Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 film I Confess, but appeared in hardback two years earlier. However, the Hitchcock movie was actually based on Paul Anthelme Bourde's 1902 play Nos deux consciences, so perhaps Davis was also inspired by the play. Whatever the genesis, the result was a highly regarded mystery, considered by some to be among the best of the era. The cover art on this Bantam paperback edition is by Charles Binger, and dates from 1953.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
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