Vintage Pulp Jul 6 2024
LITTLE GIRL BLUE
She makes sure a Pheasant time is had by all.

We were attracted to the 1958 John Boswell thriller The Blue Pheasant not only because of the lovely cover art, and the tale's setting in East Asia and New Zealand, but because the title suggests that a bar plays a central role. We always like that, whether in fiction or film. The teaser text confirms it. The title refers to a fictional bar in Hong Kong. Irresistible.

The book stars professional photographer, amateur painter, and rolling stone Chris Kent, who's at desperate ends and takes a job to travel from Hong Kong to far away Auckland to recover two Chinese scrolls that are the keys to a vast inheritance. Needless to say, there are other interested—and ruthless—parties. In addition there are three femmes fatales: Sally Chan, the bar dancer who puts Kent onto the job; Sonya Sung, whose family are the rightful owners of the misplaced scrolls (or are they?); and Ann Compton, mystery woman who becomes Kent's reluctant partner.

We were amused by how easily Kent's head was turned by all three women. He's tough, but he's also an all-day sucker. In trying to sort out why women are so confounding to him, there are numerous moments of, “Well, what's a guy to do when women are ________” By the end, though, he starts to wonder if he's the problem. Spoiler alert: pretty much. The actual caper is well laid out, with a lot of sleuthing and surveillance, a few moments of swift action, a suspicious Kiwi cop, a love/hate dynamic between Kent and Compton, and precise local color in both Hong Kong and Auckland.

We consider The Blue Pheasant to have been a worthwhile purchase. That was actually almost a given, considering the low price for the book (Seven dollars? Sold!). But our point is that you never know what you'll get with a writer as obscure as Boswell. Well, now we do. And we have his sequel, 1959's Lost Girl. We'll get around to reading that later.

Turning back to the cover for a moment, the example at top is one we downloaded from an auction site because the William Collins Sons & Co. edition, which is a hardback with a dust jacket, shows the wonderful art painted by British talent John Rose to best advantage. The edition we actually bought is a paperback from Fontana Books, and our scans of that appear below. They're fine, but the cleaner Collins version is frameworthy. We have another Rose cover at this link, and we'll be getting back to him again shortly.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 9 2021
EXTREME CAUTION
Lemmy put it to you as directly as possible.


Peter Cheyney debuted as a novelist in 1936 with the Lemmy Caution novel This Man Is Dangerous, and true to the title, his franchise character is one bad mutha-shut-your-mouth. We like the scene where he leg locks a guy around the neck, then proceeds to lecture him for two pages about how he's going to kill him and enjoy it, before actually breaking his neck. The crux of the story involves a plot to kidnap an heiress in London. Cheyney details Caution's wanderings around the dark recesses of the Brit underworld and slings the slang like few writers from the period. Much of it is amusing, though he never quite makes it to the level of “moo juice.”
 
But here's the thing about loads of slang in vintage literature—it can wear on you after a while. And when paired with a storyline that doesn't exactly sprint like Usain Bolt, it can really wear on you. You have to give Cheyney credit, though. He was unique. And successful. This Man Is Dangerous was adapted to the screen as the French film Cet homme est dangereux in 1956, and numerous other novels of his made it to the moviehouse as well. We weren't thrilled with this tale, but it's significant in the crime genre, and objectively we think many readers will love it. The Fontana edition you see above has amazing cover art by John Rose and was published in 1954.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 19
1966—Sinatra Marries Farrow
Superstar singer and actor Frank Sinatra marries 21-year-old actress Mia Farrow, who is 30 years younger than him. The marriage lasts two years.
July 18
1925—Mein Kampf Published
While serving time in prison for his role in a failed coup, Adolf Hitler dictaes and publishes volume 1 of his manifesto Mein Kampf (in English My Struggle or My Battle), the book that outlines his theories of racial purity, his belief in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and his plans to lead Germany to militarily acquire more land at the expense of Russia via eastward expansion.
July 17
1955—Disneyland Begins Operations
The amusement park Disneyland opens in Orange County, California for 6,000 invitation-only guests, before opening to the general public the following day.
1959—Holiday Dies Broke
Legendary singer Billie Holiday, who possessed one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, dies in the hospital of cirrhosis of the liver. She had lost her earnings to swindlers over the years, and upon her death her bank account contains seventy cents.
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