Since you're supposed to be so good at reading signs, what am I asking for right now?
Val Seran's 1967 novel Grand Slam Girl took us by surprise by being a sleaze novel. The rear cover text suggested a crime thriller set in the world of baseball, and it's that, but it's also an erotic novel littered with a dozen or so semi-explicit lovemaking scenes. Such scenes are fun when they're well written. Here they aren't, and an additional problem is that there are almost as many rapes as sex scenes, as a quartet of organized crime thugs use sexual assault as their go-to weapon. The thriller aspect of the story deals with a minor league pitcher named Jack Sweet who gets involved with the fiancée of his murdered brother. Did she kill him? We didn't care, and we weren't intrigued by the book's heroin smuggling subplot either. Somehow Seran, aka Curt Allen, managed to publish at least ten books. Based on this effort we find that surprising.
Edit: We've just learned that the cover, uncredited by Bee-Line Books, is repurposed Paul Rader art from the 1962 Midwood Books sleazer The Sex Game, written by Mike Skinner.
When you think about the enormity of the sky and the vastness of nature doesn't it make taking off your blouse seem insignificant?
Above, a cover for Chris Harrison's sleaze novel Sex Ranch, published by Midwood Books in 1968, the last year the company was active. The art is unsigned but it's the work of the masterful Paul Rader, who we just saw yesterday. But we brought him back because he's one of our favorites. Hell, he's a favorite of anyone who follows vintage paperback art. Not only is he a top notch illustrator, but his work has given us many opportunities for enjoyable riffing. You can find some amusing efforts here, here, here, and here.
Whatever floats your corpse.
Art by Paul Rader fronts this copy of Samuel A. Krasney's A Mania for Blondes, a police proceedural dealing with two women drowned in Philadelphia's Delaware River, and the investigation to bring a killer to justice. The protagonist here is vice detective Ben Krahmer, who learns that both victims appeared in nudie reels. The clues lead down the rabbit hole of illicit porn and toward a mysterious suspect witnesses think looks like Zorro—but who Krahmer soon realizes may be a member of Pennsylvania's traditionally garbed Dutch community. Procedurals sometimes—as is the case here—fail to provide deep characterizations, but the mechanics of the investigation are interesting. Krasney constantly refers to his protagonist as “the Morals man”—capital M—which we found weird, but we thought this outing was solid overall and we liked the Zorro imagery. Even so, we probably won't go looking for more from Krasney unless we run across him cheap. There are, after all, so many paperbacks, and so little time.
Well fine. If you really want to know, in my experience, you're very much on the smaller side.
Above: the 1965 sleaze novel Ask Me No Questions by Carter McCord, with cover art by Paul Rader. Be careful what you ask. If you aren't—just look at the poor guy in the background—you could end up like him.
There are a lot of members, but they all come away satisfied.
Arthur Adlon's Key Club Girl is pretty limp for a sleaze novel. If we planned to resell it we'd be depressing its value by saying that, but we can't lie—it has no spark. It's about a virginal woman named Lena who's unable to consummate relationships with a series of men, including her husband. She solves the problem with the help of an eager man named Lee and the behind the scenes action at the Golden Key Club. She doesn't end up with Lee, though. Her husband Quentin, who was so disappointed when he learned on the wedding night that Lena abhored sex, and has since divorced her, ends up with her after all. We won't bother with more of a plot summary. Life's short, we have these sleaze novels coming in all the time, and most of them are better than Key Club Girl. The art on this, however, is sublime. It's what enticed us to buy it. Paul Rader painted it, and if you look closely you'll see a topless reflection in the vanity mirror, and in the background, way back, a man straddling a chair. Nice work.
Knight falls in the City of Light.
We weren't impressed with Adam Knight's Sugar Shannon, but excellent Paul Rader cover art earned him another chance with Girl Running, published in 1956 by Signet. It has the built in advantage of being set in Paris, but in the end we have to conclude that Knight just isn't a good writer. Here's a sample, and note that when he says “stay alive” he's talking about staying awake:
I beat it back to the hotel, fighting hard to stay alive for a little while longer. I lost the fight. A shower only rocked me for a brief pause. Then the important muscles gave way and fatigue took me to bed for a cat nap. I told myself that I could sleep two hours. I phoned the desk to jerk me awake at about noon. Then Morpheus grabbed me.
Knight's main character goes to sleep three times in that paragraph—or twice, if we want to be generous. Also, the idea of a “cat nap” is incongrous with total fatigue. A cat nap is light sleep. Even sleeping for only two hours, he'd be dead to the world. The snippet is a microcosm of the book—messy, disarranged, and lacking flow and rhythm. So when it comes to Knight we'll call it a day. He's just not our thing.
*sigh* I'm still confused how I was charged for not having something.
They say possession is nine tenths of the law, but that last tenth can get mighty interesting if the thing you don't possess when the cops come along is, for example, identification, or clothing, or, apparently morals. Paul Hunter's 1961 novel Morals Charge deals with an eighteen-year old named Nancy who is lusted after by her mother's boyfriend, falls into the clutches of a big city racketeer, is jailed on a morals charge and abused by cops intent on using her to snare bigger prey. Paul Rader handles the cover work here, and it's a typically excellent effort. Mid-century paperback art would be far less entertaining without him, and though everything he does is great, if you want to see some of our favorites, check here, here, here, and here. We also have a mini-collection here.
Update: checking on this one in 2022, we see it on sale for $629. That's just...hilarious.
She's not the sharpest ho in the toolshed.
Lana, by Joan Ellis, is sleaze fiction about a fifteen-year-old girl with poor critical reasoning skills. Which is to say she's D-U-M. Basically, she falls for an older guy who pimps her out. Her rationalizations around this are hilarious. Prostitutes often form co-dependent bonds with their pimps, so we hear, but Ellis didn't handle that aspect with sufficient skill, instead making poor Lana flat-out superficial. But hey—it's a sleaze novel. You don't go into it expecting Les Miserables. This is copyright 1960 with Paul Rader cover art (of a figure that looks a lot like Elsa Martinelli). By the way, if for some reason you don't know the term “ho,” look here.
We'll play the corporate merger game later. Just this once I actually need you to type something.
Above you see a cover for Sin Now, Pay Later, which was written by Allan Horn, the keen literary mind behind such books as Molester's Trap and Whore from Maupin Street. And you wonder why all these guys wrote under pseudonyms. Sin Now, Pay Later is 1967 with cover art by Paul Rader.
You'll need to use some deodorant before I do anything like that again.
1964's The Mark of a Man tells the story of a mill worker in a dead end town who has simple desires, but whose girlfriend wants him to show more ambition. You know that's a recipe for trouble. Collier's prose is better than normal for Midwood, according to one review we read, but we're more interested, as usual, in artist Paul Rader, who was showcased on scores of Midwood covers and is great here as well. We've featured him often, but if you're unfamiliar with his work we suggest you behold his genius here, here, here, and here. You'll be glad you did.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1966—LSD Declared Illegal in U.S.
LSD, which was originally synthesized by a Swiss doctor and was later secretly used by the CIA on military personnel, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and members of the general public in a project code named MKULTRA, is designated a controlled substance in the United States.
1945—Hollywood Black Friday
A six month strike by Hollywood set decorators becomes a riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios when strikers and replacement workers clash. The event helps bring about the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which, among other things, prohibits unions from contributing to political campaigns and requires union leaders to affirm they are not supporters of the Communist Party.
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.
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