Vintage Pulp May 16 2021
THE FANTOM OF PARIS
He kills, robs, and terrorizes—yet still has panache. How very French.


This is one of the oldest book covers we've shared. Fantômas, written by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, was originally published in 1911 by Librairie Arthème Fayard with uncredited art. We located a digital translation and were treated to a complex and somewhat episodic novel pitting the titular murderer and thief Fantômas against a clever and determined detective named Juve in a deadly pan-Parisian cat-and-mouse. Juve knows that many crimes committed in and around the city are the work of Fantômas, but catching him—when many believe he's just a figment of fearful imaginations—is another matter.
 
Fantômas and Juve are both adept with disguises, and a third character disguises himself as a woman. The focus on such playacting makes us believe costumes held a particular fascination for the French at that time. The main surprise for us with this book was how evil Fantômas is. He kills one guy, crams him in a shipping crate, and injects his body with some chemical or other to keep the smell down. He shows his brutality in other instances as well. It's hard to wrap our heads around the fact that French readers embraced a tale that starred a serial killer, but then again the French were traditionally ahead of the artistic curve.
 
For francophiles Fantômas is probably a can't miss, and while it's perhaps less on target for readers used to structure and action from books written post-1970, it's certainly atmospheric as hell. Successful too—the book sold mountains and Fantômas became a franchise character. We're sorry to give away that he survives this novel, but it isn't as if you have a choice about finding that out, considering this book is referred to in numerous places as Fantômas #1. We wouldn't quite label him #1, but he's pretty fun.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 24
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
June 23
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
June 22
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
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