Vintage Pulp Dec 16 2023
THE DEAD ZONE
When people say the town is dying they mean it literally.


Oliver Brabbins teamed with Graphic Books to provide beautiful cover art once again, this time for The Corpse Next Door by John Farris. Before we get into the fiction let's take a few moments to appreciate how good this art is. Brabbins has created multiple levels of perception in this piece. The cop outside on the street at a call box sees the woman in the foreground, and via her direct gaze, she sees you. Whatever nefarious deed she's up to, you're in it as well. Brabbins nailed the close-up perspective of the blinds, where the angle becomes edge-on in the middle of the scene, allowing the cop to be visible. Assorted impressionistic street details form the background, and daubs of gold at the woman's ears and neck complete this top tier effort. With art like this, the book better be good.

This was the debut novel from Farris and came in 1956. In the story, Bill Randall, cop in the town of Cheyney, suspects murder and a frame-up in what had been officially closed as a jailhouse suicide. His belief that the official determination is wrong pits him against his own department, specifically his chief Sam Gulliver, who's stubborn, angry, physically imposing, and dangerous. As Randall digs, the murder seems connected to past crimes and the future political career of local chosen boy Nathan Fisher, who has a raft of problems that threaten to derail his lofty ambitions.

The narrative is gritty and the action is a cut above, particularly in a scene during a shootout where a character shoves a refrigerator down a flight of stairs at two gunmen. On the minus side there's an unlikely plot device in which a woman who's shot in the woods removes her bra before dying in order to impart to the police that they should seek a clue at a pawn shop called Brassier's. We let that bit pass and were rewarded with a stimulating climax, so on the whole the novel was a plus. Farris would go on to success in horror fiction, including with his 1976 novel The Fury, made into a 1978 film starring Kirk Douglas. The talent is clear in this first book. We'll keep a watch for more of him on the auction sites, and certainly for more of Brabbins.

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Vintage Pulp May 19 2023
BAG OF TRICKS
You're always digging in that purse of yours. Until the day I die I'll never understand what women keep in those things.

We were just talking about the classic detective novel set-up in which a woman walks into the dick's office, and here's another example—This Kill Is Mine from Graphic Books in 1956—using that time honored technique. It was originally published as No Slightest Whisper in 1955. Before we get into the book, though, let's note the awesome illustration from Oliver Brabbins, an artist we don't see as much as we'd like. He covers it all here—femme fatale, gun, noir blinds, etc. We especially like how he gets all Manet with the bottle and glasses. It's lovely work. Let's also note the cool interior graphic by an unknown designer (see below) featuring a beautiful stylized silhouette. We liked the book before we read a word.

Those words were written by Dean Evans, and as we said he goes classic with his opening when a woman walks through Reno detective Arnold Weir's office door. Evans tweaks the formula a bit by having the woman be a millionaire's secretary and having the actual millionaire call first and announce that his secretary is on the way, but basically it's the old standard: door opens and trouble commences. Weir is soon embroiled in murder, blackmail, cop trouble, false identity, missing jewels, and the romantic attentions of the secretary. The narrative is filled with hard-boiled lines such as:

He needs protecting like the Painted Desert needs a second coat.

Little grafting souls. Little, filthy, cheap, unimaginative, grafting souls.


I felt as sour as a quince in a bucket of lemons.


Hard-boiled dialogue is a double edged sword. Generally, all but the best authors come up with clunkers, such as Evans' insistence on saying this or that person “curled his lips” at someone else. Once, okay. Twice, maybe. Instance six or seven was a reminder that a standard “smile” or “sneer” will get the job done. Curled his lips sounds like something from a horror novel. Then there was this dud: Her skin was soft and clean looking, like the skin of a fifteen-year-old waking after a night's sleep. Hmph. But generally Evans does well with the repartee. You have to give him credit for that much.


Weir the detective wanders around on a standard clue hunt before finally uncovering the solution—which is related to revenge and secrets that go back twenty years—and finally settling matters in a wild shootout. Overall the book isn't bad, but there are an awful lot of not-bads in genre fiction. Evans knows the formula for writing a mystery, but doesn't make the ingredients come together into something memorable aside from his many clever turns of phrase. We gather he was mainly a sci-fi and fantasy writer, and This Kill Is Mine was his only detective novel. If he'd kept with it he might have done well, but this effort doesn't quite get there.

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Vintage Pulp May 26 2017
SHE CHOOSES HE LOSES
I'd shoot you in the head or chest, but you're already brainless and heartless. So I think I'll make you dickless too.

It isn't just us, right? The perspective of Olivier Brabbins' art for Stuart Brock's, aka Louis Trimble's Killer's Choice makes it seem as though the woman is aiming dangerously low. At best, her male target will soon be missing his appendix; at worst, he can kiss the royal scepter goodbye. What did he do to deserve this? Well, the novel is a basic parlor murder mystery about the patriarch of a dysfunctional family who believes one of his progeny is trying to kill him. He has a pile of money, but is very stingy with it, giving nearly everyone a motive for murder. A killing eventually occurs, a body disappears, subterfuges take place, and the police are of course not to be involved. Luckily there's a detective on the premises. Everyone in the family thinks he's a secretary, but only because the patriarch hired him to play this role while trying to figure out who's planning to off daddy. Now with an actual murder on the premises, the detective has an even more urgent mystery to solve. And hopefully he can do it without being shot in the gonads. 1956 on this one, from Graphic Publishing Co.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 10 2015
GONE GIRL
Beauty and the beasts.


Wade Miller was a shared pseudonym of Robert Wade and William Miller, and in Kiss Her Goodbye they tell the tale of a pair of siblings—a steady, responsible brother named Ed and his childlike but beautiful sister Emily. By childlike, we mean she’s fully grown but was stricken in her youth by some kind of brain ailment, maybe encephalitis, that stunted her mental development. She violently explodes when men make sexual advances toward her, something that happens constantly because, well, mainly because men are scum, but also because bombshell Emily is friendly toward strangers. You can imagine where this all leads. We’ve shared quite a few fronts from Corgi Books this year and this one from British artist Oliver Brabbins is especially nice with its color blocking and sprawled figure. Truly excellent work, and the book is good too. We have another piece from Brabbins here, and we’ll definitely have more later.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 3 2015
CHOKE AND DAGGER
Please don’t! *gasp* I’ll tip more! I’ll rate you a 10 on the hotel evaluation form! *wheeze* Really! Let me get a pen!

Above, an unusually violent but very effective cover from Oliver Brabbins for Manning O’Brine’s Dagger Before Me, Corgi Books. If you look out the window you see that the novel is set somewhere in the East. At a glance we would have guessed Istanbul, but it turns out to be Cairo and Damascus, with spies, agents, murder, and mayhem, 1958. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 16
1961—Rudolph Nureyev Defects from Soviet Union
Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defects at Le Bourget airport in Paris. The western press reported that it was his love for Chilean heiress Clara Saint that triggered the event, but in reality Nuryev had been touring Europe with the Kirov Ballet and defected in order to avoid punishment for his continual refusal to abide by rules imposed upon the tour by Moscow.
June 15
1978—Hussein Marries Halaby
King Hussein of Jordan, who had claimed direct lineage from the Prophet Muhammad and the most ancient tribe in the Arab world, marries American Lisa Halaby, who renounces her American citizenship, converts to Islam, and takes the name Queen Noor. Noor soon becomes one of the most glamorous and recognized royals in the world.
June 14
1995—Roger Zelazny Dies
American fantasy and science fiction writer Roger Zelazny dies at age fifty-eight of kidney failure related to colo-rectal cancer. Zelazny won the Nebula award three times, and the Hugo award six times, for novels such as ...And Call Me Conrad and Lord of Light, but was best known for his fantasy serial The Chronicles of Amber.
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