Vintage Pulp Jun 8 2023
Africa gets extra hot in Garnier jungle drama.

Once again we've been drawn to literature set in Africa, this time in the form of Christine Garnier's romantic drama Fetish, originally published in 1951 in French as Va-t'en avec les tiens! Our edition is from 1953, published by Dell, translated into English, and bearing excellent cover art by Griffith Foxley. The rear cover is interesting as well, particularly because Dell toplined a middling review from Time magazine after molding it into glowing praise: As stirring and authentic as a native dance... throughly convincing... effective... flashing. What the review actually said, in part, was: Garnier [combined] her minor talent for fiction with her knowledge of African life. The result was Fetish, a novel which sold a phenomenal (for France) 135,000 copies. Garnier still lacks skill as a novelist, but in Fetish it scarcely seems to matter. The book's main virtue is its French West African background, as stirring and authentic as a native dance.

Okay, Time magazine can take a flying leap. Garnier can write just fine. Fetish is about a Westernized African woman named Doéllé who works in the Manoho district of Togoland as a nurse for a French doctor. She has a white lover named Flavien who's a local magistrate. When the doctor's hot wife Urguèle arrives from Paris, every white man in the district—including Flavien—desires her. Doéllé is likewise thought by all to be quite a dish. But she isn't white. Urguèle's easy assertion of privilege, and her husband's eventual realization that she wishes to stray, sets up a dangerous love rectangle that propels Doéllé toward—let's say—locally traditional solutions for the problem, despite her education and Westernization.

Fetish avoids some pitfalls of mid-century novels written by whites about Africa. Actually, “avoid” makes it sound conscious. Garnier is simply a sensitive writer, and because the story is narrated by Doéllé, it lacks some of the usual arrogance toward its setting. Time noted that authenticity is a strength of the book, and that's correct. One aspect of this authenticity that goes against the grain of every book we've ever read set in Africa is that, according to Garnier, it was impossible for whites to have a secret affair. Africans were so fascinated and mystified by these pale aliens, as well as wary of them, that they never left them unobserved, and shared everything seen and overheard. Even barred from places, they still noted all who came and went where they themselves weren't allowed. That extreme lack of privacy rings true to us, due to our many experiences as foreigners in tropical hamlets.

As we said, Doéllé narrates Fetish, and because she's acquainted with so many native children and servants in Manoho, she's the beneficiary of all their observations, eavesdropping, and gossip, as described above. The book's point of view shifts between first person, to third person filtered through the many eyes and ears of the district, and even farther, as Doéllé extrapolates Urguèle's, Flavien's, and others' innermost thoughts and musings. In practice she's a first-person, limited-third-person, and unlimited-omniscient narrator. We thought that was a nice trick by Garnier. So Fetish has authenticity, atmosphere, star-crossed lovers, and a good story, all well woven. Time can get bent. Was the book pulp? Not really, but there's passion and danger, and we found it enjoyable.


Vintage Pulp May 7 2018
There's a sucker born every minute. And they die just as fast.

Fredric Brown's Madball was hard as hell to get at anything approaching a reasonable cost but we finally scored a copy. It's one of the more famous novels in the fertile carny niche, and had two amazing covers which you see above, the first by Griffith Foxley for the 1953 Dell edition, and the second by Mitchell Hooks for the 1962 Gold Medal edition. What's a madball? It's a gazing crystal. What's Madball about? After an insurance settlement a carnival worker comes into a couple of thousand bucks. When he's murdered his nest egg seems like the motive. But what nobody knows—or what nobody is supposed to know—is that he'd also been an accomplice in a bank robbery and possessed not just a couple of thousand dollars, but more than $40,000. That's about $380,000 in today's money—sufficient to inspire desperation and bloodthirsty viciousness. Madball is set apart by its weird backdrop, its odd carny denizens, its multi-pov narrative, and its sexual frankness. It's a mad tale, improbably plotted, testing the limits of believability, but recommended. See more carny fiction here, here, and here


Vintage Pulp Jan 6 2015
Okay, we’re ready to go. Um, anytime lazybones. Helloooo. Geez, it’s like he doesn’t even hear us.

Above, a cover for Three Women in Black, a mystery by the prolific American author Helen Reilly, née Helen Kieran, 1953. Part of the Inspector McKee series, this is the story of a wealthy man murdered in a roomful of people, an event which is followed by a second murder, and the uncovering of motives involving blackmail and a hidden inheritance, with a love triangle to add spice to the proceedings. Reilly was a heavyweight in the mystery genre and most of her books sold well and read well, but this one is among her best. The nice art is by Griffith Foxley. 


History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
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