All's affair in love and show business.
First matter—we met a couple of nice women at the gintoneria in one of our local plazas last night and said we'd mention them today as a way of proving that we were telling the truth about being the makers of this website. So hello, friends, and sorry about all the nudity you'll find here. Hah—well, not really. Anyway, last year we read Amos Hatter's (James W. Lampp's) unusual 1952 titillation novel Island Girl, and since we're repeat offenders when it comes to authors who intrigue us, we picked up another Hatter—1951's Backstage Affair. It's about a dancer and singer named Mitzi West who's trying earn her first big show business break, but is stuck in St. Louis finding it exceedingly difficult not to become a prostitute to support herself. By now you know the formula with these tales, so we don't need to explain the plot in more detail. It isn't as good as Island Girl, but it's enjoyable enough, and it came with Rudy Nappi cover art—signed by both him and a former owner of the book named Lahoma Hustich. Love your name, Lahoma.
Geez, all I said was the bouillabaisse was a little bland and the guy went frickin' nuts. What is it with the French?
We had a friend who habitually added salt to every meal ever put in front of him. He was American, obviously. When we went to France together, our first dinner out he asked a waiter for a salt shaker (you won't find them on the tables). He hadn't even tasted the dish yet. Salt was a reflex with him. He got the dirtiest look ever shot at a paying customer and probably came a hair away from the treatment you see on the cover of Albert L. Quandt's Crime Boss, published by Original Novels in 1952. But there's no angry chef in the book. It's a mob tale, the story of one Vic Santo, who rises to be king of the rackets. The art is uncredited, and by the way, that thing that looks like a band of scotch tape on the book's spine is actually in the art. It's a textured column in the restaurant.
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 unattributed. You see the original art below, with a close-up showing the detailed work. The artist really deserves recognition for this effort, but no such luck. Sign your art, everyone. Don't be like this person.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1957—Sputnik Circles Earth
The Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik I, which becomes the first artificial object to orbit the Earth. It orbits for two months and provides valuable information about the density of the upper atmosphere. It also panics the United States into a space race that eventually culminates in the U.S. moon landing.
1970—Janis Joplin Overdoses
American blues singer Janis Joplin is found dead on the floor of her motel room in Los Angeles. The cause of death is determined to be an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
The newspaper Pravda is founded by Leon Trotsky, Adolph Joffe, Matvey Skobelev and other Russian exiles living in Vienna. The name means "truth" and the paper serves as an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991.
1957—Ferlinghetti Wins Obscenity Case
An obscenity trial brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the counterculture City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, reaches its conclusion when Judge Clayton Horn rules that Allen Ginsberg's poetry collection Howl is not obscene.
After a long trial watched by millions of people worldwide, former football star O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson subsequently loses a civil suit and is ordered to pay millions in damages.
1919—Wilson Suffers Stroke
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. He is confined to bed for weeks, but eventually resumes his duties, though his participation is little more than perfunctory. Wilson remains disabled throughout the remainder of his term in office, and the rest of his life.
1968—Massacre in Mexico
Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics
in Mexico City, a peaceful student demonstration ends in the Tlatelolco Massacre. 200 to 300 students are gunned down, and to this day there is no consensus about how or why the shooting began.
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