Vintage Pulp Jan 29 2023
WELL ROUNDED
What! A big bubble? Well, yours looks like five pounds of potatoes in a ten pound sack!

It seems like Florida novels are a distinct genre of popular fiction, and most of the books, regardless of the year of their setting, lament how the state is being drawn and quartered in pursuit of easy money. But those complaints are usually just a superficial method of establishing the lead characters' local cred. Theodore Pratt, in his novel The Big Bubble, takes readers deep inside early 1920s south Florida real estate speculation in the person of a builder named Adam Paine (based on real life architect Addison Mizner), who wants to bring the aesthetic of old world Spain to Palm Beach—against the wishes of longtime residents.

Paine builds numerous properties, but his big baby is the Flamingo Club, a massive hotel complex done in Spanish and Moorish style. He even takes a trip to Spain to buy beautiful artifacts for his masterpiece. This was the most interesting part for us, riding along as he wandered Andalusia (where we live), buying treasures for his ostentatious palace. He buys paintings, tapestries, sculptures, an ornate fireplace, an entire staircase, basically anything that isn't nailed down, even stripping monasteries of their revered artifacts. His wife Eve is horrified, but Paine tells her he's doing the monks a favor because they'd otherwise go broke.


You may not know this, but Spain is pretty bad at preserving its ancient architecture. That's another reason The Big Bubble resonated for us—because Spain is very Floridian in that it's being buried under an avalanche of cheap, ugly developments. We love south Florida's Spanish revival feel. What's metastasized in Spain is a glass and concrete aesthetic that offers no beauty and weathers like it's made of styrofoam. The properties are basically glass box tax dodges. The point is, reading The Big Bubble felt familiar in terms of its critique of real estate booms, but simultaneously we saw Paine as a visionary. He made us wish Spanish builders had a tenth of his good taste.


Since the book is set during the 1920s (and its title is so descriptive) you know Florida's property bubble will burst. Paine already has problems to deal with before the crash. Pratt resolves everything in interesting fashion. He was a major novelist who wrote more than thirty books, with five adapted to film, so we went into The Big Bubble expecting good work, and that's what we got. And apparently it's part of a Palm Beach trilogy (though he set fourteen novels in Florida total). We'll keep an eye out for those other two Palm Beach books (The Flame Tree and The Barefoot Mailman). In the meantime, we recommend The Big Bubble. Originally published in 1951, this Popular Library edition is from 1952 with uncredited art.
 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 24 2022
DON'T GO IN THE WATER
But I don't want to swim with you. Walking with you was already enough of an ordeal.


The front of Robert Wilder's Walk with Evil calls it the author's most exciting suspense novel. We wouldn't know, because we've read only this one, but it's good. The dispersed narrative follows a reporter who vacations in the environs of Palm Beach and stumbles upon one of the most famous missing persons in recent history—a federal judge who vanished without a trace years ago. Meanwhile, a recently paroled crime kingpin is cruising the Florida coast in a yacht. The missing-now-found judge and the kingpin are connected. The former once presided over the trial that sent the latter to prison.

Wilder's tale skips around between the kingpin and his henchmen, the judge and his daughter, the reporter, and an insurance investigator also poking around. We soon learn that the kingpin is searching for a million robbery dollars that are hidden somewhere along the coast, and that the judge may hold the key. The plot threads which inexorably twist into a knot of tension and danger are very competently managed by Wilder. The only weakness—as usual with these vintage thrillers—is the love story, which once again is perfunctory, with the woman given no concrete reason to fall for the hero other than that he's there.

But it's a minor issue. The story works, and the characters are interesting and diverse. We'll never know if Walk with Evil is really Wilder's most exciting novel unless we try a couple more, so maybe we'll do that, assuming we can find some with reasonable price tags. The cover art on this was painted by Barye Phillips—yes, again. The man was simply among the most ubiquitous illustrators of his era. The copyright is listed online as 1958, however ours says clear as day on the inside that the original publication year was 1957, with this Crest edition arriving in 1960.

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The Naked City Nov 8 2008
FLIPPING OUT
He had a foolproof plan to flip a warehouse and make a bundle—the only problem was the tenant who lived there.

The wheels of justice move slowly but they still have a way catching up with you. Millionaire Palm Beach real estate developer Thanos Papalexis found that out when he was accused of a murder that occurred more than eight years ago. Feds arrested Papalexis in broad daylight at a swanky West Palm Beach eatery, and now the British national is being extradited to the U.K. to face charges that he snuffed 55 year old Charalambos Christodoulides.

According to extradition papers, Christodoulides was a resident in a warehouse Papalexis planned to renovate and then flip for big money. But Papalexis couldn’t move forward with his plan as long as Christodoulides remained in residence. And Christodoulides refused to vacate. Allegedly Papalexis was losing $120,000 a week in interest on a bridging loan he’d taken out to finance the deal, so he compounded that serious error with another by hiring thugs Robert Baxhija and Ylli Xhelo to help kill Christodoulides and vanish the body.

Unfortunately for Papalexis, his hired henchmen weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and the victim’s corpse was found a mere week after the killing. He had been beaten, strangled, dumped in a mechanics’ pit at a car repair shop, and doused in lighter fluid in an attempt to thwart police dogs. The extradition papers claim Papalexis is circumstantially connected to the murder via telephone records, legal documents, and physically connected via forensic evidence—including DNA at the crime scene.

The implication is clear—authorities will try to prove Papalexis personally administered a grisly goodbye beating to Christodoulides before the troublesome tenant was slain and secreted. The violence of the event was surprising even to cops—blood spray reached the ceiling of the room where the victim was worked over.

The charges came as a surprise in swanky Palm Beach, where Papalexis spent years clawing his way up the social ladder and had become a major player, even hosting a January political fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in a 5,700 square foot mansion he rented in nearby Manalapan. But high times rubbing shoulders with the political elite are just a memory for Papalexis now—he’ll be held without bail until trial.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 12
1978—Son of Sam Goes to Prison
David Berkowitz, the New York City serial killer known as Son of Sam, is sentenced to 365 years in prison for six killings. Berkowitz had acquired his nickname from letters addressed to the NYPD and columnist Jimmy Breslin. He is eventually caught when a chain of events beginning with a parking ticket leads to his car being searched and police discovering ammunition and maps of crime scenes.
June 11
1963—Buddhist Monk Immolates Himself
In South Vietnam, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself to death by dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. He does it to protest the persecution of Buddhists by Ngô Đình Diệm administration, choosing a busy Saigon intersection for his protest. An image of the monk being consumed by flames as he sits crosslegged on the pavement, shot by Malcolm Browne, wins a Pulitzer Prize and becomes one of the most shocking and recognizable photos ever published.
June 10
1935—AA Founded
In New York City, Dr. Robert Smith and William Griffith Wilson, who were both recovering alcoholics, establish the organization Alcoholics Anonymous, which pioneers a 12-step rehabilitation program that is so helpful and popular it eventually spreads to every corner of the globe.
1973—John Paul Getty III Is Kidnapped
John Paul Getty III, grandson of billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, is kidnapped in Rome, Italy. The elder Getty ignores a ransom demand for $17 million, thinking it is a joke. When John Paul's ear later arrives in the mail along with a note promising further mutilation, he negotiates the ransom down to $2.9 million, which he pays only on the condition that John Paul repay him at four percent interest. Getty's kidnappers are never caught.
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