There's no plumbing in this old shack, so I'm also an unwashed woman. Hope that isn't going to be an issue.
Above: another sleaze digest cover—Unleashed Woman, originally Dark Passion, by Gail Jordan, aka Peggy Gaddis, for Uni Books, 1950. Uni was only intermittently diligent about crediting artists, so this one goes in the unknown bin.
What do you mean you're not in the mood?
It's time for another look at George Gross, one of the true giants of mid-century paperback and magazine illustration. On this cover for 1945's As Good As Married you see that the artist who was a master of ornate clothing and highly sculptural hair was also capable of dialing it back a bit. The author here, Perry Lindsay, was Peggy Gaddis writing under a pseudonym. We recently bought a book she wrote as Lindsay that we'll get to in a bit. She's usually an entertaining author, so we're looking forward to that.
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, Tony 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 Croydon 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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
1934—Arrest Made in Lindbergh Baby Case
Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator. The infant child had been abducted from the Lindbergh home in March 1932, and found decomposed two months later in the woods nearby. He had suffered a fatal skull fracture. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and finally executed by electric chair in April 1936. He proclaimed his innocence to the end
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