Vintage Pulp Dec 16 2023
THE DEAD ZONE
When people say the town is dying they mean it literally.


Oliver Brabbins teamed with Graphic Books to provide beautiful cover art once again, this time for The Corpse Next Door by John Farris. Before we get into the fiction let's take a few moments to appreciate how good this art is. Brabbins has created multiple levels of perception in this piece. The cop outside on the street at a call box sees the woman in the foreground, and via her direct gaze, she sees you. Whatever nefarious deed she's up to, you're in it as well. Brabbins nailed the close-up perspective of the blinds, where the angle becomes edge-on in the middle of the scene, allowing the cop to be visible. Assorted impressionistic street details form the background, and daubs of gold at the woman's ears and neck complete this top tier effort. With art like this, the book better be good.

This was the debut novel from Farris and came in 1956. In the story, Bill Randall, cop in the town of Cheyney, suspects murder and a frame-up in what had been officially closed as a jailhouse suicide. His belief that the official determination is wrong pits him against his own department, specifically his chief Sam Gulliver, who's stubborn, angry, physically imposing, and dangerous. As Randall digs, the murder seems connected to past crimes and the future political career of local chosen boy Nathan Fisher, who has a raft of problems that threaten to derail his lofty ambitions.

The narrative is gritty and the action is a cut above, particularly in a scene during a shootout where a character shoves a refrigerator down a flight of stairs at two gunmen. On the minus side there's an unlikely plot device in which a woman who's shot in the woods removes her bra before dying in order to impart to the police that they should seek a clue at a pawn shop called Brassier's. We let that bit pass and were rewarded with a stimulating climax, so on the whole the novel was a plus. Farris would go on to success in horror fiction, including with his 1976 novel The Fury, made into a 1978 film starring Kirk Douglas. The talent is clear in this first book. We'll keep a watch for more of him on the auction sites, and certainly for more of Brabbins.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 5 2018
MOLL SHOOTING
The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a worse girl with a gun.


Steve Brackeen's, aka John Farris's, Baby Moll tells the tale of a former mob tough guy who's dragged away from the normal life he's built for himself to help his former boss survive the attentions of an assassin. It seems that years ago the bossman torched a building and a young girl survived with burns. The girl has grown up and is presumably behind the murder attempts. But the book isn't really focused on her, which makes Barye Phillips' excellent cover art and the accompanying tagline a bit misleading. The various women spend little time on the page. Baby Moll is really about how the protagonist goes about his investigation. There's a good amount of action and an assortment of interesting characters, but we wouldn't go so far as to call the book either exceptional or well written. It's okay. It goes in the South Florida crime bin, so the setting might be enough to put it over for many readers. 

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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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