Vintage Pulp Feb 23 2022
CORRUPTED DRIVER
How do you fix a malfunctioning operating system? Become an expert trouble shooter.


Al Fray's 1958 novel Come Back for More is fronted by John McDermott art. It's unusual and a bit sinister, and though it doesn't really fit the story, we love it. The novel tells the tale of Swede Anderson, a soft, chubby, civic-minded bank teller in River City who testifies against the bank's robbers and realizes afterward that the cops who encouraged him to testify and told him everything would be fine never cared about him and never had a plan to keep him safe from retribution. After his car is blown to bits with the wrong person inside he escapes town on a box freight, rides the rails, works odd jobs, and generally goes off-grid.

He returns four years later—forty pounds lighter, much tougher, infinitely more cynical, and with a broken nose and scar that change his facial appearance. His name is now Warner McCarthy, and he wants to even the score. He sets into motion a plan to get close to the crooks who robbed the bank and somehow get revenge. He soon learns that they're ensconced in a local trucking firm and operate the local Teamsters union. What follows is a sort of deep cover thriller, with McCarthy being pulled into the center of the corrupt syndicate, and deeper into the their illegal enterprises. Along the way he meets a woman—pro forma—who happens to own a competing trucking company the crooks want put out of business.

This was a pretty good tale. It's like a precursor to the Jack Reacher books in the sense that McCarthy, for all the murderous thugs he deals with, is always in control. Many people die, but the worst he deals with is a hurt hand. Telling you this isn't a spoiler because if you're an experienced reader of crime novels it'll become clear pretty quickly that Fray's plan is to show how much smarter and more determined his hero is than the villains. We were fine with it. The Reacher books prove that some modern readers like a sort of invulnerability. Well, it worked in 1958 too. Not top notch, but worth a read.
 
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Vintage Pulp May 30 2019
YOUR BODY, THEIR CHOICE
Jack Finney's alien invasion novel is filled with close encounters of the worst kind.


This paperback cover was painted by John McDermott, aka J.M. Ryan, and it's iconic, as is Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchers. You know the story. Aliens come from space in the form of pods that grow into exact duplicates of humans, who are replaced and dissolved into dust. Finney deftly blends sci-fi and horror, and the result is great—simply put. As with many macabre tales, the fear factor subsides somewhat once the monsters move from the shadows to center stage, but it's still very good even after that point.

The Body Snatchers became a movie in 1956, 1978, 1993, and 2007. The ’56 Don Siegel version is famously considered by many to be a direct Cold War allegory, and is the best of the quartet of adaptations, but the ’78 iteration is damned good too. In terms of metaphor, the book seems to be less about the Cold War and more clearly about the overall loss of freedom
in American society. Other than the freedom to buy things that process continues to accelerate. Finney claims the book is just popular entertainment, so we'll take him at his word, but he wouldn't be the first writer to unwittingly let subtext sneak into his work.
 
The novel originally appeared in 1955 as a serial in Colliers Magazine, with this Dell edition coming the same year. The cover artist McDermott is someone we've featured before, and if you're curious you can see more of his nice work here and here. Some book dealers actually try to sell this edition for $100, if you can believe that. Money snatchers is more like it. Buy a cheap new edition, read it, and enjoy it.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 14 2017
GREAT FRIGHT WAY
Aspiring actress gets shot on Broadway.


She was looking to get a shot on Broadway, not get shot, but you have to be 100% clear or people will get confused. Especially a guy like Waldo, the crazed mutiliation killer of David Alexander's Terror on Broadway. Waldo, who taunts the police with snide notes, has knocked off four women, all in the Broadway theatre district, and he has more in his sights unless hero Bart Hardin can stop him. Hardin isn't a private detective or cop—he's the editor of a newspaper, but he's tough enough for the task. Unrealistically so to us, though this is explained by his youth as a boxer and his stint in the military. Overall, Terror on Broadway is pretty heavy stuff for 1954, and the book was banned for a time in Australia. The art on this edition, though, is uncommonly pretty. It was painted by John McDermott, aka J.M. Ryan, who was an animator for Walt Disney before branching out into cover work. He later went on to write his own novels and make a couple of films, so the guy was multi-talented. We'll run into him again down the line, we're sure. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 8 2015
LAID TO REST
Now if I put the remote over the blood and ESPN on the tv it should be days before anyone notices he’s dead.


We’ve seen this cover on a few other sites, but we love it, so we thought we’d share it anyway. Deadlock concerns a New York City detective (Ruth Fenisong’s ongoing character Gridley Nelson—yes, Gridley) trying to solve the murder of a philanthropist who turns out to be less of a saint than previously thought, and whose murder is followed by a second and third that eventually shed light on the mystery. 1953, with John McDermott the hand behind this art, with its deftly executed overhead perspective.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 12
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
August 10
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.
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