Vintage Pulp Apr 24 2024
MIDNIGHT RUN
The very moment you need help is the moment there's nobody around.


Harry Bennett put together yet another a unique paperback cover, this time for Vin Packer's 1963 novel Alone at Night. Bennett was a master illustrator who specialized in loose yet highly skilled pieces, but he had a range that we've marveled over many times. Just check his solidly representational efforts here, here, and here, as opposed to his somewhat more abstract stylings here and here, then note how he splits the difference between the two here. He's always interesting, and Alone at Night is also an interesting novel.

Vin Packer was a pseudonym for Marijane Meaker, and she sets her story in the actual small town of Cayuta, located in south central New York state. She tells us about a man named Donald Cloward who's sent to prison for fatally running over a woman. By the time he's paroled eight years later he's come to doubt the official story. On the night in question he'd been nearly incapacitated by alcohol, and had blacked out the events, yet has the vaguest memory of being placed behind the wheel of the deadly car—presumably by someone who wanted him to crash and be killed. Once dead, people would assume he stole the car.

Who would do such a thing? His father-in-law, possibly. He had offered his sedan though Cloward was clearly unable to drive. Since his father-in-law loathes him, and is not a generous man—certainly not enough to lend anyone his car—his guilt seems a good bet. On the other hand, the woman who was killed happened to be the wife of a man who desperately wanted out of his marriage in order to wed someone else. Maybe he arranged everything. After all, Cloward was found in that man's Jaguar. Yes, there may have been a switch. Cloward thinks he remembers getting into one car, even though he ended up in another. Is it a false memory?

Alone at Night is built around a leapfrogging present-past structure, and has a multi-pov narrative in which the reader soon knows all, but the characters don't. In trying to sort it all out, Cloward decides that his father-in-law moved him from the sedan to the Jaguar after realizing the second car was already pointed toward the drop-off of a cliff. After all, why merely hope for a road accident when one is already likely just by virtue of the choice of a parking space? But is he missing a few pieces of the puzzle? We won't say more about the plot. This is excellent work from Packer/Meaker. It's our second book from her, and won't be our last. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 23 2019
BEST EFFORT
I think this book will win me the ignoble prize.


Robert McGinnis shows his unique skills again, this time on a 1960 cover for The Girl on the Best Seller List by Vin Packer, who is in reality the prolific Marijane Meaker. The art is a hair misleading, since the author character in question is well into middle age, and is an everyday woman, not a lithe McGinnis beauty. It's important, because the reason she writes a book in the first place is because her dreary existence in a medium sized town filled with depressingly mediocre people becomes unbearable. When she slams virtually everybody she knows, including her own husband, the townsfolk get plenty angry. Revenge may be on the agenda. A vindictive author and a town full of dreary people means there's nobody truly worth rooting for in the story, but Best Seller List is still interesting as a chronicle of a rural enclave that's had its illusions of goodness ripped apart. If you find it cheap, it's worth a read. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 28 2008
ART OF NEGOTIATION
But baby, sweetie, please, all the other guys are going.


“But I’ll be back early, I promise.”

“No.”
 
“I’ll only have a few drinks.”
 
“You mean like last time? Forget it.”
 
“You and I will do something fun tomorrow night.”
 
“No.”
 
“I’ll wash the dishes.”
 
“You’re going to wash the dishes anyway, buster.”
 
Above is one of our favorite Robert McGinnis covers, produced for Vin Packer’s The Damnation of Adam Blessing, a book that has nothing to do with marital negotiations, but rather is the story of a charming psychopath similar to Patricia Highsmith’s famed Tom Ripley. Packer was one of several pen names used by prolific American author Marijane Meaker, and interestingly, she and Highsmith had a romantic relationship for two years in the late 1950s. Using the Packer identity Meaker wrote twenty novels, with this one appearing in 1961.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 15
1939—Adams Completes Around-the-World Air Journey
American Clara Adams becomes the first woman passenger to complete an around-the-world air journey. Her voyage began and ended in New York City, with stops in Lisbon, Marseilles, Leipzig, Athens, Basra, Jodhpur, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Wake Island, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
1955—Nobel Prize Winners Unite Against Nukes
Eighteen Nobel laureates sign the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons, which reads in part: We think it is a delusion if governments believe that they can avoid war for a long time through the fear of [nuclear] weapons. Fear and tension have often engendered wars. Similarly it seems to us a delusion to believe that small conflicts could in the future always be decided by traditional weapons. In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapon that scientific technology can produce.
1997—Versace Murdered in Miami
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot dead on the steps of his Miami mansion as he returns from breakfast at a cafe. His killer is Andrew Cunanan, a man who had already murdered four other people across the country and was the focus of an FBI manhunt. The FBI never caught Cunanan—instead he committed suicide on the houseboat where he was living.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
July 13
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
Richard Speck breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
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