Vintage Pulp Dec 7 2022
FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN
I know it's life or death, honey. It's also life or death that I finish my toes.


The Devil's Spawn was a random acquisition, a cheap throw-in within a six-book lot. It's a 1956 Dell original with cover art by Mitchell Hooks, was written by Robert Carse, and is a very interesting and unusually graphic tale about an escapee from Cayenne Prison in French Guiana (now Guyana) who lives under a new identity in New York City, but learns that one of the four men he fled with has been targeted by a blackmailer. That means, as the protagonist Jean Prevot puts it, “the trail might be followed down to the next, and the next.” That's exactly what happens, and the blackmailer is from Cayenne Prison, the one person everyone there feared—its sadistic executioner, known as le Bouc.

That's a compelling set-up for a novel, and Carse is an able writer. Especially interesting are his shifts from third-person narrative into second-person deliberations and reveries, without the expected italics to offset the latter from the former. The flow between these passages gives the story an occasional trancelike quality. Also interesting is that Prevot takes intelligent countermeasures. For example, in order to neutralize the blackmail threat, he immediately confesses his past to everyone in his inner circle, most importantly his wife. That's real-world smart, but isn't what most authors would choose. Most would use secrecy as a wedge between Prevot and his loved ones, giving even more initiative to the men who threaten to expose the truth. Carse goes a different way.

The core of the threat remains even after Prevot brings his inner circle up to speed. Either he does what le Bouc says, or le Bouc informs French authorities that a wanted fugitive—who, by the way, killed a guard during his escape—is alive and well in New York City. If Prevot is caught he'll lose his wife, his lucrative career, and anything resembling a future. That's as far as we'll go in describing the book, except to say that it's a good, gritty ride. Carse will be another one we watch for during our digging for dusty old paperbacks.
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 4 2022
RODE CROSS COUNTRY
A long day's journey into sleaze.


After reading Stan Shafer's Heat, which we tried only because it had Kitty Swan on the front, and Rand McTiernan's Doctor's Dirty Tricks, which we tried only because it had Christina Lindberg on the front, we had one of our recurring cycles of interest in ’60s and ’70s sleaze novels and decided to download a few. First up is 1971's Hard Rider by Conrad Grimes, which we chose because it was published by top sleaze imprint Midwood. The book is about pals Annie and Claudia, who buy a van, paint it psychedelically, and set out from Kentucky to see the world. Or at least the United States. Or at least the groovy parts. They head east to New York City, then west to San Francisco, and manage to have all the expected cultural-sexual adventures of the era. They unknowingly star in clandestinely filmed pornography, sojourn in an all women's commune called the Sisterhood that's devoted to eradicating men, and enjoy sweet lesbian love with each other. Annie eventually finds her place as a West Coast political radical, and Claudia finds home and hearth in the heartland. The book is nothing special, on any level, even though it's incredibly raunchy. But even raunch demands skill. Grimes could use more.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 30 2022
THE ROAD WORRIER
Tom Neal takes an alternate route directly to trouble.

Years ago we shared a poster for the low budget Tom Neal/Ann Savage film noir Detour, which premiered today in 1945. That promo is a photo-illustration and one of our favorite film noir posters. Above is an alternate poster for the movie, and it's also nice, but not in the same class as the previous piece. We touched on the movie only briefly back then, making a few comments from our memories of seeing it years earlier, but we gave it a close watch yesterday for the first time in a long while.

Tom Neal stars as a nightclub musician who hitchhikes from New York City to Los Angeles to reunite with his girlfriend, who'd gone there earlier to try her luck in show business. He takes a ride from a “Miama” bookie, ends up accidentally killing him, and flees with the car. The next day and a ways down the road he picks up another hitchhiker—Ann Savage—who happened to have accepted a ride from the bookie earlier. Neal has picked up the only person in the world who can turn his bad luck into a one-way trip to the gas chamber. She figures out right away that the bookie must be dead, and uses her knowledge to cruel advantage:

“Just remember who's boss around here. If you shut up and don't give me any arguments, you'll have nothing to worry about. But if you act wise, well, mister, you'll pop into jail so fast it'll give you the bends. [snip] As crooked as you look, I'd hate to see a fella as young as you wind up sniffin' that perfume that Arizona hands out free to murderers.”

You get plenty of film noir attributes here: tough dialogue, voiceover, flashback, nightmare, silhouette, rear projection, rain, fog, bad luck, terrible decisions, lonely highway, and a dangerous femme fatale. Thinking beyond the confines of the screenplay, there's an interesting discussion to be had about why Savage is so mean. There's a suggestion that men have made her that way, and an equal amount of suggestion that she's bad by nature. In either case, she's one of the worst passengers any snakebitten cinematic sap ever picked up on the road. She makes Detour about as good as cheapie film noir gets.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 28 2022
FIXED RIGHT UP
For every job there's a perfect tool.


In Ed Lacy's 1961 boxing drama The Big Fix, the fix is defnitely in, and in the worst way possible. Tommy Cork, a thirty-something middleweight boxer who in his prime battled Sugar Ray Robinson, becomes the pet project of a dilletante boxing manager who promises that with the best training, diet, and promotion Cork can reach the top again. Sounds good, but Tommy has unwittingly become the focus of a deadly scam, a plan to find some desperate boxer with a reputation for ugly losses, make a show of training him for high profile bouts, all the while taking out a life insurance policy on him, then having a hammerfisted accomplice kill him in the ring. Since the murder will happen before a crowd, there will be no suspicion of foul play, particularly for a pug known for fighting stubbornly and hitting the canvas hard.

But nothing is straightforward in Lacy's hands. Tommy's wife May, hopeful for a better life, gets into trouble with violent numbers runners, an aspiring writer sees the couple as the perfect pathetic characters to be the focus of a novel, an ex-boxer cop starts to get wise to the murder scheme, and other twists come from nowhere to infinitely complicate the tale. Despite the subplots, as readers you know the only fitting climax is one that takes place in the ring, and Lacy pushes the story inexorably toward that showdown, hapless Tommy facing off against a man who plans to kill him with a relentless assault, or if possible a single blow. If he's going to have help, he'll need to provide it himself. As usual, Lacy tells a good story. He's reliably full of excellent ideas. That also goes for Ernest Chiriacka, who painted the eye-catching cover.
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Intl. Notebook Nov 20 2022
24 HOURS NON-STOP
In show business the camera never sleeps.


Night and Day, for which you see the cover of an issue—its very first issue, actually—that was published this month in 1948, billed itself as America's Picture Magazine of Entertainment. It was launched in New York City by Alho Publishing, and as you'll see it came out of the gate swinging for the fences with its visual content, from its bisected cover featuring burlesque dancer Lili St. Cyr and actress Ramsey Ames, to its tongue-in-cheek feature on the twenty-seven types of kisses, to its approving look at George White's Scandals revue at Hollywood's Florentine Gardens. Interesting side note on Scandals—Wikipedia says it ended in 1939. Well, obviously not quite. Elsewhere Night and Day touches on college hazing, professional football, and the Greenwich Village art scene. In total, it's a gold mine for vintage photos.

Our favorite offering in the magazine is its quiz on Hollywood stars and their stand-ins. You just have to take a good look at twenty performers, and try to determine which twenty random people are their stand-ins. To score well on such a quiz you'd have to be either the biggest Hollywood head in history or someone who has the opposite of face blindness, whatever that would be. Face unforgettability, maybe. Even though we don't expect many people to try the quiz, we worked hard to put it into internet-usable form. In the magazine the photos were five-across on the page, which made them too small for the column width of our website. So we rearranged them to be two-across, and thus enlarged, they're clear, though you have to do a lot of scrolling. Nevertheless, it's there if you want, along with fifty other panels to eat your time with marvelous efficiency. Please enjoy.
 
The Hollywood movie star stand-in quiz begins below. First you get twenty famous actors and actresses:
 
And below are their twenty stand-ins. If you get more than half of these right you're a human face recognition algorithm. Quit your day job immediately and report to the FBI. 
 
Below are the answers. 
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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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Hollywoodland Nov 15 2022
CANDY GIRL
Fresh from the factory.


The 1964-1965 New York World's Fair brought eighty nations, almost fifty corporations, and a hundred restaurants together to occupy one hundred and forty pavilions built across more than six hundred acres in the borough of Queens. To say that sounds fun is an understatement. We'd love to have been there, especially to see the New York City of that era, but nobody has invented a time machine yet. If we could have gone to the Fair, though, we'd have made sure to run across U.S. actress, model, and singer Joi Lansing, above, who made a publicity appearance as the Queen of Candy outside the Chunky Candy Pavilion.

By the fall of 1964, which is when she posed for the photo, she was a longtime celebrity who had never quite made it big. That's easy to guess, because a big star wouldn't have been slogging through New York's autumn rain trying drum up publicity for herself and a candy brand. Lansing had started in movies in 1947 when she was eighteen, and bounced between cinema and television, with many stops in the pages of tabloids. She never quite became a movie star, but she did forge a major television presence, and was eventually honored for her contributions to that medium by receiving a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

We find her interesting because she had an unconventional sort of beauty, and she seems to pop up all the time in the materials we accumulate. Sadly, she died of cancer in 1972 when she was only forty-three. We have a fair amount of material on her in the website, including some interesting bikini shots here made when she was thirty-seven but looking twenty-five, an interesting paperback cover she appeared on here, a movie poster for one of her starring roles here, and a brilliant promo image showing her at her very best here.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 22 2022
TAKE YOUR PICK-UP
Hey, handsome! Ever get tired of all the uncertainty about how a date's going to end?


We finally got hold of one of our favorite George Gross covers. He put together this masterpiece for Harmon Bellamy's Pick-Up, published by Quarter Books in 1949, and everything works here—the colors, the framing, the pose, and the cool urban mood. Some of these digests have photo-illustrations inside, but not this one. It does have an ad on the inside front cover, which is below. We've seen this book go for more than two hundred dollars, but ours cost twenty. That makes for a fine day around the palatial Pulp Intl. metroplex.

Amusingly, the cover has nothing to do with the narrative, nor does the title. What happens is a seventeen-year-old girl named Lois Deane runs away to New York City, is immediately hit by a car, and wakes up in the hospital. The guy who hit her discerns her meager circumstances and gets her a job working for and living with his family. Lois has lied to her hosts about who she is, and her deception eventually comes to light. There are no seedy or criminal aspects at all here—Bellamy has written a straightforward romantic drama. For its type, it's fine, though nothing special.
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The Naked City Oct 20 2022
YOU FIRST, I'LL FOLLOW
Everyone said they always did everything together.


More random midcentury aftermath. This photo shows a kneeling priest about to do his thing over the bodies of Thomas J. Hogan and Fred Romer, who together were a murder-suicide. Hogan shot Romer before turning the gun on himself. There's no information about the exact circumstances behind the event. Cops being cops, they probably ruled out the idea of this scene being any sort of willing pact. Romantics being romantics, we at least wonder about it. But alas, we'll never know. Usually these vintage crime photos come from Los Angeles, but lately we've been sharing examples from New York City. This is another one, and it happened today in 1961.

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The Naked City Sep 22 2022
JUST A LITTLE MURDER
It's not a party until someone gets their brains blown out.


The above photo shows the murder scene of a mid-level gangster named Joseph “Little Joe” La Cava, and occurred in New York City on Mulberry Street at the Feast of San Gennaro today in 1939. We'll go out on a limb and say the festive atmosphere took a fatal hit too. Luckily, the celebration usually went for a week, so we suppose it was salvaged. La Cava was gunned down along with Rocco “Chickee” Fagio, who you see below. These images were made by Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee, and are especially well known because the ever clever lensman angled himself to get a photo of Fagio ironically sprawled beneath a scungilli restaurant sign that says O Sole Mio!—which means “my sun,” after the famous Neapolitan song. He used the same trick when shooting other murders, because hey, if it works, just roll with it. Also interesting, cops being cops, the flatfoot closest to La Cava looks incongruously jocular as he chats with a higher-up. If this wasn't the most unforgettable Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy's history it had to be close.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 08
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
December 07
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
December 06
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
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