Vintage Pulp Nov 16 2022
WAY OVER HER HEAD
Dan J. Marlowe gives readers an immersive experience.


Death Deep Down, a thriller from the typewriter of the prolific Dan J. Marlowe, was published in 1965, which is a significant year compared to the books from the ’40s and ’50s we typically read. Books from the mid-sixties and later usually have pacing more similar to today's novels, with faster movement and more action-oriented plot beats. That's true here, and combined with good writing skill, the result is that there isn't a single page Marlowe has written that readers would likely be tempted to gloss over at any point. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The story revolves around a potential fortune-making modification to scuba equipment (or SCUBA if you prefer), and the various forces—business, government, and non-aligned—that all want the rights to it. When you think scuba you think warm waters, and the cover illustration reinforces that notion, but all the aquatic action is in the freezing waters of Long Island Sound, off Oyster Bay. The protagonist Rocky Conrad, a marine on leave from the Vietnam War, is drawn into the plot when his half brother, who developed the gear, is tortured to death. This is juxtaposed against an inheritance drama within a wealthy family, while lurking in background are mysterious assassins of sadistic bent, who flay skin, break bones, and cut out eyes. Who they're working for is one of several mysteries Rocky needs to unravel. He goes about it the way you'd expect of a guy with his name—fists first.

This was Marlowe's tenth novel, and he knew exactly what he was about. There aren't many flaws, though it's at times jarringly pervy, with female characters getting fully or partly naked according to flimsy authorial pretexts. We love nudity, but within the narrative flow. Rocky's asides get a little digressive. Even so, the female characters play important roles both behind the scenes of the caper, and front and center in the action. One such instance involves a vicious fight. We just mentioned how rarely authors write truly knock-down drag-out battles between two women, and presto—here you go. This fight is amazingly hateful, with face scratching, hair ripping, and the combatants rolling off a deck. At the end both require serious medical attention and are likely to be scarred for life. It's a nice punctuation in a book filled with good action.

Turning to the striking cover, this Gold Medal edition features the instantly recognizable work of Robert McGinnis, and his genius shines through even on what is an understated effort by his standards. As often occurs with mid-century paperbacks, the blurb is misleading. Topside she was all honey and sex and woman—underwater she had the conscience of a shark. That's every woman in the book apart from the main love interest Dulcie, which makes it potentially foolish that Rocky treats them all dismissively. The only thing more dangerous than a femme fatale is, like, three of them. We're going to try another Marlowe. Based on how involved we got in Death Deep Down, more is mandatory.
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Vintage Pulp Oct 1 2022
THE MARLOWE MAN
Garner's portrayal of a classic detective feels a lot like a Rockford Files test run.


Raymond Chandler's novels have been adapted to the screen several times. One of the lesser known efforts was 1969's Marlowe, which was based on the 1949 novel The Little Sister and starred future Rockford Files centerpiece James Garner as Chandler's famed Philip Marlowe. You see a cool Spanish popster for the movie above, painted by Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, also known as Jano. As usual when we show you a foreign promo for a U.S. movie, it's because the domestic promo isn't up to the same quality. In this case the U.S. promo is almost identical, but in black and white. The choice was clear.

Since you know what to expect from a Chandler adaptation, we don't need to go into the plot much, except to say it deals with an icepick murderer and ties into show business and blackmail. What's more important is whether the filmmakers made good use of the original material, either by remaining true to its basic ideas or by imagining something new and better. They weren't going for new in this case. They were providing a vehicle for the charismatic Garner and ended up with a movie that features him in the same mode he would later perfect in Rockford.

Marlowe has a few elements of note. Rita Moreno plays a burlesque dancer, and it's one of her sexier roles. Bruce Lee makes an appearance as a thug named Winslow Wong. Garner is the star, so it isn't a spoiler to say that Lee doesn't stand a chance. He's dispatched in unlikely but amusing fashion. Overall, Marlowe feels like an ambitious television movie and plays like a test run for Rockford, but it's fun stuff. We recommend it for fans of Chandler, Moreno, Lee, Carroll O'Connor (who co-stars as a police lieutenant), and especially Garner. It premiered in the U.S. in 1969, but didn't reach Spain until today in 1976.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 9 2022
DAMNED YANKEE
An American con man in London.


Amazing that we haven't talked in detail about Night and the City yet, but all things in good time, and the time is now. Directed by Jules Dassin, this is one of the top entries in the film noir cycle, featuring Richard Widmark playing an American named Harry Fabian who's trying to hustle his way to riches in postwar London. Being a hustler, he long ago gave up the idea of working a fair job for a fair wage, and instead has been involved in so many spurious get-rich-quick schemes that nobody believes in him anymore. But when he stumbles upon the greatest greco-roman wrestler of all time, he cooks up a plot to take over wrestling promotion in London—and this scheme is a sure thing.

Widmark's performance hinges upon nervous energy and emotional desperation, as he shapes Harry Fabian into one of the greatest characters in the film noir annals, a man who's equal parts pitiable, ridiculous, and dangerous. He's the ultimate noir loser, a man who simply cannot see the forest for the trees. Gene Tierney, who any normal man would worship twenty-four hours a day, plays his girlfriend, beautiful and forbearing, but whose presence Fabian warps into yet another reason to grift his way to a fortune. He feels that a guy in his meager circumstances doesn't deserve her—which completely overlooks the fact that he already has her.

As Widmark tries to hold his caper together the rug is pulled from under him multiple times, yet like any serious hustler he manages to stumble improvisationally onward with lies and wishful thinking. His constant sowing of the seeds of his destruction is hard to watch, because as viewers we can see where and how he's going to fail—or possibly, just possibly, fate will grant him a miracle though he very much deserves to fail. One of the cool things about film noir is that its leads tend to be terribly flawed, but here Widmark is a human clearing house for bad character traits, and the worst of them is the one he has no control over—he was simply born under a bad star.

All in all Night and the City deserves its reputation. We have a few quibbles, but they're purely personal. For example, female leads in these old films often perform a song and Tierney's is atrocious, sadly. And if we were going to be very picky we'd add that it's also hard to buy the wonderful Tierney and the unctuous, work-averse Widmark as a couple, but of course, willing suspension and all that jazz requires that we go with it. The movie works even if Widmark refuses to. Give it a watch. You won't regret it. Night and the City had its world premiere today in 1950.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 9 2021
SAMBA DO CRIME
It's a carnaval of mayhem in Brazil.


We wanted to call attention one last time to an interesting Facebook page dedicated to vintage crime paperbacks published in Brazil by Edições de Ouro and Editora Tecnoprint. We started our webpage in 2008 and back then we had a lot of company. Somehow or other, regretfully, we've outlasted many of them. Maybe in the age of Twitter and Instagram, blogs with actual words have died. But for that reason it's exciting to see someone launch something new—especially dedicated to such an exotic (from our point of view) niche of paperback style. It was actually launched in 2017, but we saw it only recently. We can tell you this—we love Brazil, have been there for carnaval, and if we'd known these books were down there we'd have brought back more than just a long lasting cachaça hangover. We knew Brazil had produced some pulp style paperbacks—much of the art was repurposed from U.S. editions—but we didn't know it was this extensive. Carnaval 2022? Well, probably not. But one day, return we will, to old Brazil.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 1 2021
EVA SAY NEVER
Sex scare movie cautions women to keep their vaginas in their pants.


Ukrainian illustrator Constantin Belinsky did special work on this French promo poster for Eva s'éveille à l'amour, which was originally made in England and is better known as That Kind of Girl. The French title translates as “Eva awakens to love,” which sounds nice, but this is actually a sex scare flick starring Margaret Rose Keil as a young Austrian woman in London who dates around a bit and as a result finds herself dealing with serious consequences. She only finds out there's a problem when she's attacked and the police force her to take a medical exam. Did you know that in Britain the euphemism for rape back then was to be “interfered with”? Neither did we. Those Brits are so circumspect. “But I told you he didn't interfere with me,” Keil insists to the cops. Nevertheless, off to the clinic she's sent, where the bad news comes down like a thunderclap—syphilis. This isn't just a b-movie—it's a vd-movie.

Poor Keil caught the clap from her first British lover, and gave it to two more. One of those two probably gave it to his fiancée. And worse, Keil works as an au pair, may have given it to the child she cares for, and has to tell the entire family they need to go to the clinic. Talk about mortifying. But that's the point of scare movies—for you to walk away afraid to have premarital sex/smoke marijuana/peruse a socialist pamphlet. The movie even lifts straight from the puritan playbook about “respecting your body”—i.e. people have premarital sex because they have no self worth. Some people actually believe this even today. It all sounds like a drag, we know, but as moral warning movies go this isn't bad thanks to the slice of London life it presents. Do you need to put it in your queue? We wouldn't say so, but if you do it won't be a waste of time. After premiering in England and other countries in 1963, That Kind of Girl opened in France today in 1964.

I have a natural facility for the carnal arts. What's a girl supposed to do?

It seems unfair that I should have gotten a disease from something so fun.

Why did the doctor have to call it "fire in the ho"? Was that really necessary?

And then he said once the penicillin works he'll call me for a date. Doesn't that violate his hypocritic oath? It's all so confusing.
 
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Hollywoodland Dec 28 2019
INSIDE HOLLYWOOD
The more things change the more they stay the same.


Above is a cover of the U.S. tabloid Inside Story published this month in 1955. There's a lot in this magazine, but since we keep our write-ups short we can't cover it all. One story of note concerns Betty Furness, an actress and pitchwoman whose squeaky clean image Inside Story claims is false. This is a typical angle by mid-century tabloids, the idea that a cinema or television sweetheart was really a hussy, lush, ballbreaker, or cold fish. Furness receives slander number four, with editors claiming she has “ice bound emotions,” “a cold, cold heart,” and is, “tough and tightfisted.” It's interesting that sixty years later resistance to a woman being anything other than a nurturer really hasn't diminished all that much, as many women with high public profiles would confirm.

Another story concerns the death of actress Virginia Rappe and the subsequent arrest of Fatty Arbuckle. In short, Rappe died after attending a party thrown by Arbuckle, with the cause of death attributed to either alcohol induced illness or rape and sodomy with a Coke bottle. Arbuckle went to trial three times before winning a final acquittal, though certain details of the death remained murky. The case was muddied by the influence of sensationalistic journalism, as publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst's nationwide chain of newspapers deemed sales more important than truth. The Coke bottle, for example, was entirely fabricated, but Hearst was unrepentant. He'd fit into the modern media landscape perfectly today, because for him money and influence justified everything.

And speaking of money, a final story that caught our eye was the exposé on the record business, namely the practice of buying spins on radio. The term for this—“payola”—was coined in 1916 but not widely known until the ’50s. Inside Story helps spread the terminology with a piece about pay-for-play on national radio stations. Like the previous two stories, this one feels familiar, particularly the idea that the best music rarely makes it onto the airwaves. Those who engaged in payola understood that people generally consumed whatever was put in front of them, therefore what was the point of worrying about quality or innovation? This remains a complaint about entertainment media today, but repetition still rules. To paraphrase the famed colloquialism: If you ain't going broke, don't fix it. We have thirty-plus scans below.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 20 2018
TOPs OF THE POPP
A free class in Popp art from one of the best vintage paperback illustrators.


Above, a collection of covers from the U.S. artist Walter Popp, who illustrated numerous pulps before moving into paperback art, men's adventure magazines, and commercial package design. We've featured quite a bit of his work, including this cover and this one. You can be sure he'll Popp up again. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 13 2017
TROUBLE AT THE DOOR
If someone knocks, don't answer.

It's a good thing the real world isn't like the worlds of pulp and mid-century crime fiction. In those realms, when a woman receives an unexpected visitor the result is often disastrous. Bad cops, evil crooks, ruthless blackmailers, lecherous uncles, and all sorts of nasty characters usually await on the other side of the door. Above and below you see a collection of mid-century paperback fronts showing those fraught moments just after a woman opens her door to trouble, or trouble takes matters into its own hands and busts its way in. Our recommendation: in the event of an unexpected knock just go out the window.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 10 2015
GIRL MEETS CORPSE
What do you call forty dead men? A good start.

Two years ago we shared five covers of women standing over men they had just killed and mentioned that there were many examples in vintage cover art of that particular theme. Today we’ve decided to revisit the idea in order to reiterate just how often women in pulp are the movers and shakers—and shooters and stabbers and clubbers and poisoners and scissorers. Now if they do this about a billion more times they’ll really be making a difference that counts. French publishers, interestingly, were unusually fond of this theme—so egalitarian of them. That’s why many of the covers here are from France, including one—for which we admit we bent the rules of the collection a bit, because the victim isn’t dead quite yet—of a woman actually machine gunning some hapless dude. But what a great cover. We also have a couple of Spanish killer femmes, and a Dutch example or two. Because we wanted to be comprehensive, the collection is large and some of the fronts are quite famous, but a good portion are also probably new to you. Art is by the usual suspects—Robert Maguire, Barye Phillips, Alex Piñon, Robert Bonfils, Robert McGinnis, Rudolph Belarski, et al. Enjoy. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 26 2012
DR. STRANGELOVE
Nurse, just think of what we're doing as a form of alternative medicine.

Aussie writer Shane Douglas may win the all time pseudonym prize. He was really Richard Wilkes-Hunter, but besides writing as Douglas, he wrote as Kerry Mitchell, Michael Owen, Leslie Wilkes, Shauna Marlowe, Sheila Garland, R.W. Hunters, James Dark, Tod Conrad, Tod Crane, Ted Conway, Caroline Farr, Diana Douglas, Adrian Gray, Alison Hart, Lucy Waters, and so forth. Under his Douglas pseudonym, he wrote a lot of doctor and nurse novels, so we thought we’d share some of those amusing covers today. Above and below you see five, all from the early 1960s, with art by unknown. 

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 30
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
November 29
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
November 28
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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