I agree we should put off getting married. For one thing, we'd both have to get divorces first.
We've said it before—you never what you're going to get when you buy vintage paperback digests. The cover art, as in the case of James Clayford's 1949 novel Marriage Can Wait, often has nothing to do with the content. This looks straightforward but it's one of the stranger tales you'll come across. It was written by Peggy Gaddis under her Clayford pseudonym, and it's about a hard partying yacht trip from New York City to Jacksonville, peopled by six jet-set types and one everyman named Tony Ware. As the only unwealthy person aboard aside from the crew, he takes it badly when the yacht's owner Elaine Ellison jilts him one night. She'd invited him to her cabin for nocturnal fun, but he arrived to find another man there. In embarrassment and disgust he jumps overboard and swims ashore. He thinks he's swimming to the Florida mainland. He actually ends up on an island nudist colony. He's horrified, but since supply boats come only once a month the only way he can eat is to doff his garments and join the colony. And it's there that he finds true love in the form of Eve Darby.
Tony's yachting pals, who are habitually hungover each day, assumed he'd abandoned them in port one morning and they'd simply slept through it. Nobody is concerned except Elaine, who realizes she behaved terribly toward him. Weeks later they sail to the nudist island thanks to a bizarre subplot that has them half-jokingly searching for Blackbeard's buried treasure. They don't know the place is inhabited, but they soon find out, and can only stay if they agree to become nudists, which Elaine and her five idle rich friends do in order to secretly search for the treasure. They of course find the long lost Tony, and Elaine is ashamed at how she treated him, then smitten as she realizes she loves this newly bronzed hunk. The only way to try and win him over is to stay at the colony—plus the treasure might be there too—so she settles in for an extended nude sojourn. We'll stop the synopsis there except to say that you have to give Gaddis major points for creativity. The cover art, by the way, is uncredited.
They can have her body but her heart's off limits.
Digest sleaze novels are reflective of their time like all media tend to be. They often focus on “career women,” as they were called back then, female characters intent upon pursuing materialistic goals in the realm of white collar work. There are two types—those who intend to become successes in their fields, but at possible risk of their womanly souls, and those who intend to marry men who are already successes, but at possible risk of their virtue and reputation. These dilemmas come across as quaint nowadays, but back then ambitious white collar women were a subject of discussion and consternation. Their migration into the world of wage earning was a sign for many that America was going to hell in handbasket. At least that's what our reading shows. We weren't there.
In Peggy Gaddis's 1950 drama Illicit Pleasure the main character Linda Blaine becomes a secretary to a powerful executive. She's expected to type and file, but her most important job is to make the boss look good by being eye candy. When another top exec wants her for bed candy, Linda decides to sort through her options, and pretty soon she's cheating on her boyfriend, is involved with a married man, and all the rest. This is according to formula—the heroines of these novels generally have sex with three different men, though one of those encounters might be through emotional coercion or trickery. In this case, Linda hooks up with someone in pitch darkness, and doesn't realize until the lights go on that it wasn't the man she wanted, but rather the man she hates and who's trying to destroy her. Gaddis always wraps these messes up tidily, and does so here too. She's a solid genre writer, if melodramatic, and her romps are interesting windows into 1950s sexual mores.
The cover of this was painted by the always adept Rudy Nappi, and we think we've gotten hold of one of his best efforts. In addition, the book is in pristine condition. For that reason, we could scan only two of the interior photos, because to get the third would have meant breaking the binding. We do that with our old magazines when needed but Nappi is a special case, and we didn't want to damage this. Not that we plan to sell it. Print it and frame it? Maybe. So below you get two interior photos, the rear cover, and a nice upload of the original art. The title page of the book says Nappi painted it especially for Illicit Pleasure. Well, maybe, but Linda Blaine at no point haunts the waterfront like this somewhat prostie-looking figure, and she's a brunette, not a blonde. But never let the actual story get in the way of a good sales pitch. Women on docks was yet another extremely popular motif in vintage paperback art. See what we mean here, here, here, and here.
Seriously, though, haven't you ever wondered why I don't replace you with someone who has actual secretarial skills?
First of all, 1953's Love-Hungry Boss is not the same book as 1954's Love-Crazy Millionaire. The confusion could be excused—the titles are close, both came from Croyden Books, and the art on both covers is by Bernard Safran. But Love-Crazy Millionaire was written by Gordon Semple, while Love-Hungry Boss is from the mind and typewriter of Peggy Gaddis. It's about a young hottie named Leona Hale who takes a job at an Atlanta film distribution company and sets her sights on the principle owner Gordon. What she doesn't know is that Gordon, though handsome, charming, and generous, is also a serial womanizer. When Leona meets his wife and three children she breaks off the affair only to find herself smitten with a senior partner. She moves on to greener mattresses, but Gordon won't let her go, so what results is a classic love triangle with the usual trappings—lies, betrayals, misunderstandings, and plenty of the old horizontal slip 'n' slide. These books were racy for their time, but these days the sex is about junior high level, in terms of explicitness. However, the stories can still be involving if competently written, and Gaddis is a decent stylist who makes Love-Hungry Boss an entertaining and speedy read. We have a few more of her books, so we'll revisit her in a little bit.
I never have sex on the first date. It's almost midnight. At 12:01 we'll say we're on our second date.
Above: James Clayford's Tonight for Sure, 1951 from Exotic Novels, with yet another amazing cover by George Gross, plus the original art. Clayford was a pseudonym used by Peggy Dern, better known as Peggy Gaddis. We've discussed a couple of her books, and have still others to read that we'll break down later.
Entry by special invitation only.
Above, a really nice cover for Beach Party by Peggy Gaddis, aka Joan Sherman, Joan Tucker, Pearl Gaddis, Peggy Dern, et al. This was published in 1950 by Venus Books, and the art is uncredited.
All these books are on our bucket list.
When you look at paperback covers every day it's interesting the common elements you notice. Of late, we've noticed buckets. They pop up on backwoods and rural sleaze novels, usually in amusing fashion, often in the possession of hardworking women going about difficult chores while nearby men don't do dick. We'll just tell you—that's not the way it works around our place.
Citywide virus lockdown continues, with exceptions made for essential workers.
Who constitutes an essential worker is really a matter of opinion, isn't it? In pulp terms, a city without vice can't claim to be a functioning city at all. And since they say prostitution is the oldest profession, it follows it would be the last to shut down. Brothels in various cities are now requiring customers to wear masks when having sex, and the international gimp crowd is like: “Right? You see? It's hella fun. You should try it with leather.” We wonder what happens when the brothels run out of masks (The international gloryhole crowd is like, “You can't guess? Really?”). You won't find any such dickulous variations in Women of the Evening, written by Peggy Gaddis and published by Belmont Books in 1962. In fact, you won't find much sex at all, if our previous Gaddis experiences are an indication. We just finished a Gaddis a few days ago—Once a Sinner, which she wrote as Gail Jordan—and it was more like a romance novel. Well, we'll keep looking. She wrote not only as Gaddis and Jordan, but as Peggy Dern, Sylvia Erskine, Roberta Courtland, Perry Lindsay, et al. One of those alter egos has to be the dirty version of Peggy. We'll find her. She can't hide. Not from us. See more from her extensive bibliography here, here, here, and here.
Gee, I wonder what it would be like if I were in a novel with a good plot and interesting supporting characters?
About fifty percent of the time we choose books by the cover art, and about twenty-five percent of the time the author draws us. The other twenty-five percent? Those are books that are bundled in lots. We end up with them because we have no choice if want the other books in the group. Gail Jordan's, aka Peggy Gaddis's Once a Sinner is one of those. The cover art is blah, and we don't seek out Jordan especially. But we dutifully read it. It's a melodrama about a war veteran who gets married overseas in England, much to the chagrin of his longtime sweetheart waiting back home. When the vet shows up with his new bride Heather, the other woman, Drusilla, sets about trying to ruin the marriage by any means necessary. Dru is stubborn, spoiled, arrogant, and sneaky, yet we liked her more than any of the other characters. That's probably not what Jordan intended, and is definitely a symptom of a book not executed to the highest level. But for all that, it isn't bad. Maybe we'll try another effort from her down the line. Then again, maybe not.
It looks amazing, baby. Er... aaaand should look even better on my lovely wife. Thanks for letting me test it on your neck.
Sometimes when you're caught you're caught. You can try and brazen the moment out, but it usually does no good, at least in mid-century fiction. From there it's just a short distance to mayhem, murder, trials, prison, and all the other fun stuff that makes genre fiction worth reading. From James M. Cain's iconic The Postman Always Rings Twice to J.X. Williams' ridiculous The Sin Scene, infidelity is one of the most reliable and common plot devices. What isn't common is cover art that depicts the precise moment of being caught. Of all the cover collections we've put together, this was the hardest one for which to find examples, simply because there are no easy search parameters. We managed a grand total of sixteen (yes, there's a third person on the cover of Ed Schiddel's The Break-Up—note the hand pushing open the door). The artists here are L.B. Cole, Harry Schaare, Tom Miller, Bernard Safran, and others. And we have thre more excellent examples of this theme we posted a while back. Check here, here, and here.
It wasn't until I met you that I realized what marriage really meant. I'll demand a divorce from my wife tomorrow.
Tropical night, sea shore, full moon, convertible roadster, and sneaky adultery. This is a pretty nice cover for Perry Lindsay's, aka Peggy Gaddis's digest paperback Shameless Woman, which was published in 1948 for Knickerbocker Books' sub-set Regular Books. It originally appeared as Sin Cinderella, which is maybe a better title. It's about a divorcée who wants to get back at the millionaire husband who cast her aside, so she recruits an unsuspecting sixteen-year-old, teaches her how to be alluring, and sends her to ruin the ex. Of course, with a ’48 copyright date you know this doesn't get too crazy, but that didn't stop us from buying five other digests from the same period. We'll give them careful reads and report back in more detail a bit later. The art on this, by the way, is uncredited.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1995—Mickey Mantle Dies
New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle dies of complications from cancer, after receiving a liver transplant. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also an alcoholic and played drunk, hungover, and unprepared. He once said about himself, "Sometimes I think if I had the same body and the same natural ability and someone else's brain, who knows how good a player I might have been."
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
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