All you guys down here on the waterfront reek of fish. But that's okay. I used to live by the industrial pig farm, and the men there... pee yew!
Didn't we just feature a cover for Waterfront Girl last month? Nope. That was Waterfront Blonde. Totally different book. Similar themes, though. We wouldn't go so far as to call books about untamable waterfront girls a sub-genre of mid-century fiction, but more than a few tales of that type hit newsstands during the 1950s. This one came from Amos Hatter, aka James W. Lampp, and tells the story of, well, an untamable waterfront girl on the mighty Mississippi. It's from Original Novels, was published in 1952, and the cover is uncredited.
Okay, he's taken the bait. We'll let him get close, then you distract him by puking on his coat, and I'll take him down.
City Streets was written by Gene Harvey, aka Jack Hanley, who we last saw authoring 1942's Leg Artist. Harvey was a literary vet who authored such memorable lite-sleaze epics as She Couldn't Be Good, A Girl Called Joy, and Stag Stripper. City Streets is from 1954 and apparently his various publishers liked it so much they issued it four times—Venus Books put it out in 1950 as Cutie, Exotic Novels released it as Passion's Slave the same year in an illustrated format, Original Novels published it as what you see above, and finally Star Novels published it, also as City Streets, in 1955. These companies were closely related, but that's still a lot of mileage from one book. It explores the trials and tribulations of beautiful young Dru, “a bad girl of the slums,” who's gotten her education from the school of hard knocks—i.e. from Chicago's south side. The cover art on this is by Rafael DeSoto, who cleverly hid his signature in the gutter. It's a really beautiful effort from him, certainly one of his best. We've featured him often, so just click his keywords below if you want to see more.
I believe in you, and I'm not alone. On the radio they said you could win if the champ slips in your blood and knocks himself out falling.
Mort Kunstler mainly painted for men's adventure magazines, but he did the occasional paperback cover and you see his work above on Kate Nickerson's 1953 boxing drama Ringside Jezebel. The title tells you everything you need to know. A femme fatale gangster's moll orbiting the professional boxing scene insinuates her way into the lives of promoters and fighters, bringing ruin to them all. But inevitably she meets a contender and plays the same game with him only to realize—after trapping him into throwing his biggest fight—that maybe she actually likes him. Having him in the first place was never an issue. It's winning him back that looks to be the problem. Classic boxing potboiler from Nickerson, née Lulla Adler, author of other memorable efforts such as Street of the Blues, Love Takes the Count, and Passion Is a Woman.
He totally ignores us for her. She can't drive a tractor or slaughter a hog, so what the hell is the attraction?
The hicks keep on coming. Above is another entry in the always fertile farmer sleaze genre, Shanty Road, by Whit Harrison, aka Harry Whittington. A hot hayseed named Amy inspires jealousy and desire among the locals, and things get interesting when a handsome young city doctor comes along and likes what he sees. In order to win Amy he'll have to beat back rivals and earn trust. You may remember Whittington also wrote the rural novels Shack Road and Backwoods Shack, and he authored others we haven't discussed. By now you've probably realized he was the king of this genre, and in fact he gave the niche its name—“backwoods novels.” This one doesn't have a backwoods price, though. Vendors are asking $175 and up for it. 1954 copyright.
You've changed me, baby. My evil days are done. From here on out I'm going to be forever unpleasant.
Forever Evil is an exceedingly scarce digest style paperback written by Harry Whittington for Original Novels. When we say scarce, we mean triple-digit scarce—like $175 per copy scarce. The story concerns a New York party girl (with the excellent name Billie Parker) who ends up in a hotel room with a corpse and has to flee the police and, possibly, the perpetrators. How far does she run? Well, the cover tells the story. But even in paradise she can't help hooking up with the lowest characters around, and in any case, in mid-century fiction it's impossible to escape one's troubles. The cover art for this is uncredited, but it's amazing. The copyright is 1952.
He doesn't know what he's looking for in a woman. He just knows he'll find it eventually.
If you're thinking of writing a book but fear you're too late to start, take note: Florence Stonebraker published her first novel at age forty-one and went on to write more than eighty books. In 1952 alone she published eleven novels. True, her stuff was not literary fiction, but dollars are green no matter your audience, right? What's beyond doubt is that she is a well-regarded genre author and her books are collectible today. Love-Hungry Doctor came in 1953 and is exactly what it seems in the cover art by Lou Marchetti—an exploration of a shy doctor's romantic troubles, which are enlivened by the arrival of a new woman in his life. We've been doing a lot on Stonebraker lately, but it's because her books had the very best cover art of the era. Check what we mean with three more examples here, here, and here.
Why on Earth are you bringing up that till-death-us-do-part stuff now? Neither is us is going to die for a long time.
Above, great cover art for Robert O. Saber's Murder Honeymoon, a digest style paperback from the Australian imprint Phantom Books, 1953. The art originally fronted Saber's 1952 Original Novels thriller City of Sin, which you see at right, and was painted by the always amazing George Gross. Saber was aka Milton K. Ozaki, and we've featured him quite a bit because he seems to have always managed to have his books illustrated by the best. Though the art on these two books was basically the same, the novels were different. This is the first time we've come across identical art for separate novels by the same author.
Forget my wife—I think I need help regaining feeling in my lower half.
Nursing isn’t easy—especially in mid-century fiction, where in addition to dealing with medical issues you have to dodge the roaming hands of doctors and patients alike. Visiting Nurse, written by Norman Bligh, aka William Neubauer, deals with an angel of mercy sent into the slums who finds herself giving the fellas some unconventional treatments. Why? Because “she has all the weaknesses and yearnings of women, the need to be loved, the aching desires, the mad impulses” and because “she tries and tries again, yet cannot help making mistakes, cannot help the fact that she is a woman.” At this point, we'd note that the weaknesses and yearnings of men have reduced entire countries to parking lots, but that would be a digression. 1953 copyright, with cover art by Ray Pease.
Oh, Mom! Hi! I was just getting help with my biology homework. Did you know both men and women have a coccyx?
Above, uncredited cover art for William Arnold’s Sheila’s Daughter, 1952, for Original Novels. Arnold wrote several of these sleaze romps as Arnold and H. M. Appel, including Harlem Woman, Brutal Kisses, Illicit Desires, et al. All are highly collectible today.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1905—Las Vegas Is Founded
Las Vegas, Nevada is founded when 110 acres of barren desert land in what had once been part of Mexico are auctioned off to various buyers. The area sold is located in what later would become the downtown section of the city. From these humble beginnings Vegas becomes the most populous city in Nevada, an internationally renowned resort for gambling, shopping, fine dining and sporting events, as well as a symbol of American excess. Today Las Vegas remains one of the fastest growing municipalities in the United States.
1928—Mickey Mouse Premieres
The animated character Mickey Mouse, along with the female mouse Minnie, premiere in the cartoon Plane Crazy, a short co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. This first cartoon was poorly received, however Mickey would eventually go on to become a smash success, as well as the most recognized symbol of the Disney empire.
1939—Five-Year Old Girl Gives Birth
In Peru, five-year old Lina Medina becomes the world's youngest confirmed mother at the age of five when she gives birth to a boy via a caesarean section necessitated by her small pelvis. Six weeks earlier, Medina had been brought to the hospital because her parents were concerned about her increasing abdominal size. Doctors originally thought she had a tumor, but soon determined she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. Her son is born underweight but healthy, however the identity of the father and the circumstances of Medina's impregnation never become public.
1987—Rita Hayworth Dies
American film actress and dancer Margarita Carmen Cansino, aka Rita Hayworth, who became her era's greatest sex symbol and appeared in sixty-one films, including the iconic Gilda
, dies of Alzheimer's disease in her Manhattan apartment. Naturally shy, Hayworth was the antithesis of the characters she played. She married five times, but none lasted. In the end, she lived alone, cared for by her daughter who lived next door.
1960—Gary Cooper Dies
American film actor Gary Cooper, who harnessed an understated, often stoic style in numerous adventure films and westerns, including Sergeant York, For Whom the Bell Tolls, High Noon, and Alias Jesse James, dies of prostate, intestinal, lung and bone cancer. For his contributions to American cinema Cooper received a plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is considered one of top movie stars of all time.
1981—The Pope Is Shot
In Rome, Italy, in St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II is shot four times by would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. The Pope is rushed to the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic to undergo emergency surgery and survives. Agca serves nineteen years in an Italian prison, after which he is deported to his homeland of Turkey, and serves another sentence for the 1979 murder of journalist Abdi Ipekçi. Agca is eventually paroled on January 18, 2010.
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