Vintage Pulp Jul 27 2023
VOICE LESSENS
Speak softly but carry a big gun.


Mort Engel art fronts this Avon edition of Frances and Richard Lockridge's Death Has a Small Voice, a book we were eager to read because of the promise of The Norths Meet Murder, the debut tale in the Mr. and Mrs. North series of which the above book is a part. That promise is not fully realized here. Perhaps it's our fault for not reading the series in order. Seventeen entries in, maybe the Lockridges were trying to shake up their formula a bit. But we don't have much control over which books in a series are obtainable for us. We buy what's out there. In this tale Pamela North is kidnapped in the first few pages, and because she's isolated, the story misses the entertaining dialogue she provided in the debut. That makes the “small voice” of the title ironic—it's supposed to refer to the whispering kidnapper, but it's Pamela whose voice is diminished.

But it's a readable book anyway, even with Pamela ruminating in the dark for multiple chapters. Basically, someone has murdered an author named Hilda Godwin after becoming aware that he's been negatively portrayed in the draft of her upcoming novel. Through circumstances we won't detail here, she manages to record her own attack and killing. The recording is mailed to Gerald North's literary agency and the killer is desperate to retrieve it before anyone hears it. But the recording falls into Pamela's hands, and when the killer comes for it she manages to hide it. So the killer kidnaps her, planning to make her reveal the hiding place.

These are treacherous circumstances, and anything less than a horrible ordeal for Pamela would be unrealistic, which is why it's a good plot move by the Lockridges to have her escape almost immediately. From that point she's lost in a forest, while her husband and the cops are trying to fit the puzzle pieces that might lead to her rescue. Since the Lockridges are good writers this all works fine, but because Pamela seems to us to be the main attraction of series (based on the mere two books we've now read), we had little choice but to come away a bit disappointed. But like we said, after a while authors will try new ideas. What we'll try is to find book two in the North series Murder Out of Turn at a reasonable price, international shipping included. If we do we'll report back.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 18 2023
FATEFUL MEETING
Oh, it's a body. In my head I'd already blamed the weird smell around here on your dirty tennis shoes.

Originally published in 1940, the above Pocket Books edition of The Norths Meet Murder arrived in 1942. It was also published as Mr. & Mrs. North Meet Murder by Avon in 1958. The characters, Gerald and Pamela North, a Manhattan married couple who find themselves solving mysteries, had appeared in the New York Sun newspaper throughout the late 1930s, but The Norths Meet Murder is their first foray in novel form. We haven't read any of the others, but we own one, and we'll get to it.

We've read a few mysteries featuring married sleuths. What's different here is that the authors Frances and Richard Lockridge write Pamela as an intuitive thinker whose leaps of logic—or illogic—leave her husband and the police scratching their heads. It could read as though she were a space case, but the Lockridges compensate for that by making her right most of the time. It's a winning formula in this tale that commences with Pamela deciding to throw a party in the empty apartment on the top floor of her building and discovering a corpse in the bathtub.

We were surprised that a detective named Weigand was the central character here, with the Norths serving in a supporting capacity. But that's just the Lockridges setting up the cop as a contact and pal for future novels, we suspect. By the end he was routinely enjoying cocktails with the Norths, though he initially suspected them of the murder. Pamela eventually figures out the solution about the same time as Wiegland, and it's clear she's gotten a taste for sleuthing. All very fun. In our view, for mystery fans The Norths Meet Murder is probably mandatory.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 4 2018
FINAL PAYMENT
Turns out too big to fail was a strictly financial concept.


You wouldn't think when you work for one of the industries most responsible for screwing up the planet you'd get much sympathy when you wind up dead, but Frances and Richard Lockridge's Payoff for the Banker was written in a previous era. This banker, George Merle, was loved by many and respected by all. Well, not all. At least one person hated him, and police think it's the woman in whose apartment his body was found. Enter husband and wife sleuths Pamela and Jerry North to solve the case. The fact that husband and wife sleuths were written by husband and wife authors interests us, as we have trouble collaborating on a trip to the store with the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, but that's why fiction is different from reality. The Lockridges were so good at working together they even made the Norths into franchise characters who appeared in twenty-six books. They also were portrayed on radio, stage, television, and cinema. We bet the Lockridges argued mostly about how to spend all their earnings. Originally published in 1946, this Pocket paperback edition appeared in 1948 fronted by Donald Beck art. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 10 2017
HANG TIME
Thirty feet in the air.


Below you see covers featuring characters who died suspended by their necks. Were they suicides? Murder victims? Hint: the books wouldn't be very interesting if they were suicides. There are others we could share, but thirty feet sounded nicer than thirty six or thirty eight. Maybe we'll add more later. For now see two in the same style here and here.

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Vintage Pulp May 2 2015
BLOOD BATHS
They’ve gotten themselves into hot water for the last time.

There’s no safe place in pulp—especially not the bathtub. Above and below is a collection of vintage covers featuring various unfortunates who chose the wrong time to be naked and defenseless. Well, most of them are naked. A few have clothes on for reasons we cannot discern. Art is by Willard Downes, Barye Phillips, Robert Bonfils, Jef de Wulf, and others. See another good example here.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
June 20
1967—Muhammad Ali Sentenced for Draft Evasion
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was known as Cassius Clay before his conversion to Islam, is sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. In elucidating his opposition to serving, he uttered the now-famous phrase, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”
June 19
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
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