Ugh. The last thing I remember is running out of Jell-O shots then washing down Jell-O powder with straight vodka. Sometimes I'm too smart for my own good.
Elmore Leonard once advised fledgeling authors to not write things readers tend to skip. He meant long descriptive passages and lengthy interior musings. Benjamin Appel's 1934 crime novel Brain Guy has a lot of both. The narrative is packed with paragraph after paragraph of description and rumination, many of them as long as a page. They're all stylishly written, though, so maybe Elmore should have added: “Unless you're really good at that sort of thing.”
His body was host to many disputing beings, walking drunken as if he were striding down some nebulous stairway of dream on queer missions, inevitable, sadistic. His head whirled and it wasn't from fresh morning but late night, his brain sick from wildness, now, suddenly lucid, or regretful, by turns melancholy, exalted, mournful, stolid. And all these moods knew one union, the walking forward of the body containing them.
That's stylish writing. It's also writing that doesn't tell you as much as it should. If this confident prose moved the story or helped us to understand the character better, we'd like it more. But too often neither happens, which means, even as well written as the book's long passages sometimes are, they try the patience.
Still, some of Appel's turns of phrase are epic. In one scene a character is stabbed to death and drops a bottle he's holding. Appel writes that it fell from the man's slack fingers and, “the ginger ale ran out from the narrow neck as if it too had been murdered.” All of this clever prose encompasses a nobody-to-somebody crime story that, at its core, could be more compelling, but we may try Appel again. He's fun to read.
Welch makes world's most unwieldy laundry technique look like a good idea.
This piece of art has two things going for it—it was painted by Italian genius Enzo Nistri, and his painting is of Raquel Welch. We know—we had you already at Enzo. Consider Welch a bonus. El Verdugo is Spanish for “the executioner,” and this is a Spanish poster, despite the artist being Italian. The film is better known as 100 Rifles, a 1969 western about a revolutionary who knocks off a bank to fund the purchase of guns. It's counterculture all the way—Burt Reynolds plays a half-Native American named Yaqui Joe, Jim Brown co-stars as a lawman sent to recover the cash, Welch is also supposed to be Indian, and the subtext of revolution was meant to mirror the social unrest in the U.S. We wrote about it in detail here. Welch takes a shower in the middle of the film, and you see below we have some promo images of that. A clothed shower? It's silly. Welch did not do nudity*, so the filmmakers should have simply left the scene out. Within the script the shower is an ambush so she can get some Mexican soldiers' guards down then ventilate them, but just set up the ambush a different way. Don't know about you, but if we came across someone showering clothed, whatever the circumstances, we'd immediately start looking over our shoulders because it's strange. That said, the photos are fun. They show what a huge sex symbol Welch was. Douse her with water and men got hot and bothered seeing hardly any skin at all. El Verdugo opened in Spain today in 1969. *Regarding Welch nude scenes, there's a nude photo of a woman who resembles Welch and is believed by some to have been taken on a movie set. It's plausible in the sense that back then actors got naked for scenes that were nude in scripts but not meant to be shown nude or fully nude onscreen—such as here and here—but we doubt Welch did it.
Dashed hopes and bad dreams fuel classic pulp collection.
Above, a cover for Nightmare Town, which is a collection of four short stories Dashiell Hammett wrote for pulp magazines between 1927 and 1933. You get 1924's, “Nightmare Town,” best of the four tales in our opinion, which deals with a tough guy who fetches up in a lawless desert way station and soon finds himself in the middle of violence and murder. It's similar to Red Harvest, Hammett's novel of another town lashed by a bloody hellstorm, except this novella length tale ends almost apocalyptically. The other tales here are 1925's “The Scorched Face,” 1933's “Albert Pastor at Home,” and 1925's “Corkscrew.” All are good, though we think Hammett is better in longer formats. You get illustrations too. Those are not very good, objectively speaking, but you're buying this purely for the fiction anyway. Also, the 1950 Dell edition you see here is a collectible mapback edition, which is a bonus. But no matter what, Hammett always hits the spot—usually a major organ or artery.
I've already had nine episodes. Once I have you my season will be complete.
Above you see a cover for Mack Reynolds' Episode on the Riviera, published in 1961 by Monarch Books. If you check Reynolds' Wikipedia profile it tells you that he wrote five sex novels from 1961 to 1964, and that this is one of them. Everyone's got bills to pay, right? Well, we don't know about the other four, but this one isn't a sex novel, or even a sleaze novel. While the language is bit more frank than usual and a couple of then-esoteric acts are implied, it's actually a David Dodge influenced lightweight drama, and it's as confidently put across as anything Dodge ever wrote. Most of the action takes place at French Riviera casinos, beaches, and parties, and in main character Steve Cogswell's travel agency, one of whose customers a particular summer week is Nadine Whiteley, a woman determined to solve what she perceives as her own sexual problem by having an anonymous affair with any suitable swinging dick she stumbles across. Cogswell seems to fit the bill, but he has his own sexual quirks. Just when these two look set to get together, both their exes arrive from the U.S—Nadine's to blackmail her into marriage so he can get his mitts on her money, and Steve's to win him back after she's betrayed him with his best friend. While the sexual problems of both characters are imperfectly handled, overall this one is a winner, an easy and effervescent summer read.
In a field full of wildflowers she's the wildest of all.
Exotic Tina Aumont, whose father was French actor Jean-Pierre Aumont and mother was Dominican actress Maria Montez, built an appropriately international film career mainly in Italy and France. But surprisingly she was American. In fact, she was born in Hollywood. Some of her films include Salon Kitty, La principessa nuda, aka The Nude Princess, and Satyricon—the Gian Luigi Polidoro one, not the Fellini one. Though she did later star in Fellini's Casanova in 1976. The photo above is from 1975 and first appeared in Italian Playboy.
Is it just me or is our fire, like, totally out?
We've mentioned before that when you see the name Charles Williams on a book buy it. Unless it's the wrong Charles WIlliams. Fires of Youth was published by a fly-by-night imprint known as Magnet Books in 1960 and credited to a Charles Williams, but who was actually James Lincoln Collier, who happened to choose for a pseudonym the name of an actual working, thriving thriller author, for reasons we cannot ascertain. Obviously that created confusion and still does, but this is definitely not the Charles Williams who wrote such great thrillers as Hell Hath No Fury and Dead Calm. Magnet Books didn't last long, and in just a year or two was out of business. In true pulp style, at that point a man named Don Robson, who was languishing in Her Majesty's Prison Dartmoor in Devon, England, found Fires of Youth in the prison library, retyped the entire text, presented it as his own work, and in 1963, with the help of the prison's credulous governor, managed to get his plagiarism published in Britain as Young & Sensitive. The book won the Arthur Koestler Literary Prize, which had been established to recognize creative output by British convicts, but Robson's robbery soon came to light. It's a funny story, and you can read a good account of the tale at this link.
You're soaked. Good thing I was here to lend you my jacket. Now let's go somewhere and get you out of those wet clothes.
Bad luck. It's laid many a pulp protagonist low. In the 1938 thriller You Play the Black and Red Comes Up, written by Richard Hallas, aka Eric Knight, luck never seems to run the way the main character wants. The cover art on this 1951 Dell edition is by Victor Kalin, and depicts a scene in which the narrator Dick Dempsey gives his coat to a woman who has emerged naked from the sea. The fact that Dempsey is on the dock at that moment seems like the best possible luck, but luck can start good then turn bad, start bad then turn worse, and in all cases end up mockingly ironic. At one point Dempsey is trying his best to lose at roulette and the wheel hits black eleven times in a row, as he disbelievingly keeps letting his pile of cash ride. Then when he finally shifts it to red he's stunned when the wheel hits that color too.
The money that's causing Dempsey trouble isn't the fortune he won gambling—it's the fortune he stole during a robbery. In classic Damoclean style this loot hangs over him the entire book. He can't give it back, can't confess, and can't leave it behind. He just knows, like in roulette, whatever he does will turn out to be the wrong bet. You Play the Black and Red Comes Up is one of those books that was out of print for a while, but we can see why it was revived. Besides having the best title of possibly any crime novel ever written, its late-Depression, southern California setting makes a nice backdrop for weird events, bizarre characters, and outlandish existential musings. Critics of the day were divided on it. Was it homage to hard-boiled fiction, or a parody of it? To us it seems clearly the former. In either case, Hallas's tale has its flaws, but it's tough, spare, and very noir, all good qualities in vintage crime fiction.
The queen of sexual torture takes her talents to the Middle East.
Today is the day we finally complete the trifecta of Ilsa movies with Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, for which you see two Japanese posters above. The movie premiered in the U.S. in March 1976, and opened in Japan today that same year. The Japanese titles of Western movies are sometimes like lists of ingredients. The translation of アラブ女地獄 悪魔のハーレム is “Arab hell devil harem.” Even with that clear warning, Japanese audiences—who aren't fazed by much—must have said, “These Yank filmmakers are fucking crazy.” Which is to say that the Ilsa trilogy is among the most irredeemable sexploitation cinema ever produced, the type of stuff that will never, ever be made again, at least not in the U.S., where every instance of cinematic nudity is a political event. Generally, we decry that, but only when it keeps realistic and healthy sexual interactions from being shown onscreen. Harem Keeper is not healthy. Not on any level.
But we digress. This was the second installment of the Ilsa trio, and all starred Dyanne Thorne. She reprises her role as the cruel dominatrix Ilsa, and this time she's in charge of a sheik's harem. She rules this desert roost with utter cruelty, indulging in random acts of corporal punishment, and assisting her boss as he derives both income and pleasure from auctioning kidnapped women to wealthy pervs. Ilsa and the sheik discover that their little set-up has been infiltrated when they catch a spy sent by the granite-jawed Max Thayer, who later himself arrives on the scene and is quickly a prized guest in Ilsa's bed. We could get into the major subplot involving war with a rival sheik, but suffice it to say that the entire plot is just an excuse to string together set pieces featuring vile faux-violence and silly faux-sex. How low does the movie sink? At one point Ilsa uses her incomparable creativity to implant a harem girl with an explosive diaphragm that will detonate during intercourse. It's no electrified dildo (see installment one), but it's close. Yes, Ilsa is cruel as hell, but it's nothing excellent sex won't cure. That's right up Thayer the Layer's alley. He works his way to Ilsa's creamy center, at which point she decides to switch allegiances and betray her sheik. Will she get away with this outrage? Well, we've already mentioned there were three Ilsa movies and this was the second, so theoretically, she gets away with it. On the other hand, she died at the end of the first movie, so you never know. Regardless, without putting too fine a point on it, this is a terrible movie. But the participation of porn actress Colleen Brennan, nudie model Uschi Digard, and blaxploitation beauties Tanya Boyd and Marilyn Joi as Ilsa's usually-topless enforcers, make this worth a guilty watch. Just don't let anyone know you did it, or you might lose your job, your friends, your family, and even your cat—and cats generally don't give a fuck. But that's how bad this flick is. We have a ton of promo images below. Some came from an interesting French-Canadian website called Cinepix. You can check it out here.
*sigh* I'm still confused how I was charged for not having something.
They say possession is nine tenths of the law, but that last tenth can get mighty interesting if the thing you don't possess when the cops come along is, for example, identification, or clothing, or, apparently morals. Paul Hunter's 1961 novel Morals Charge deals with an eighteen-year old named Nancy who is lusted after by her mother's boyfriend, falls into the clutches of a big city racketeer, is jailed on a morals charge and abused by cops intent on using her to snare bigger prey. Paul Rader handles the cover work here, and it's a typically excellent effort. Mid-century paperback art would be far less entertaining without him, and though everything he does is great, if you want to see some of our favorites, check here, here, here, and here. We also have a mini-collection here.
You never forget the first time.
We recently saw the latest reboot of the classic blaxploitation film Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson, Jesse Usher, et al, and while the parties involved in that effort have their unique charms, this photo pretty much covers what made Richard Roundtree the best. He was, and remains, a bad mother— Shut your mouth! He was born today in 1942, and this photo dates from 1971.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—Manson Followers Continue Rampage
A day after murdering actress Sharon Tate and four others, members of Charles Manson's cult kill Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. Manson personally orchestrates the event, but leaves the LaBianca house before the killing starts.
1977—Son of Sam Arrested
The serial killer and arsonist known as Son of Sam and the .44 Caliber Killer, is arrested in Yonkers, New York. He turns out to be 24-year-old postal employee David Berkowitz. He had been killing people in the New York area for most of the previous year.
The United States detonates a nuclear bomb codenamed Fat Man over the city of Nagasaki. It is the second atomic bomb dropped on Japan. 40,000 to 75,000 people are killed immediately, with tens of thousands more sickening and dying later due to radiation poisoning. The U.S. had plans to drop as many as seven more bombs on Japan, but the nation surrendered days later.
1969—Manson Followers Murder Five
Members of a cult led by Charles Manson murder pregnant actress Sharon Tate and coffee heiress Abigail Folger, along with Wojciech Frykowski, Jay Sebring, and Steven Parent. The crimes terrify the Los Angeles celebrity community, and even today continue to fascinate
the worldwide public.
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