I have something very serious to ask you. I'm ready. And our relationship is ready. Darling... will you lend me your car?
Above: Robert McGinnis cover art for Eugene Mirabelli's 1959 novel The Burning Air, with this Eagle Books edition coming in 1960. It's basically a drama about a young couple with some tricky relationship issues to work out. Like how he's going to get home when she leaves him there.
No, my husband doesn't mind that I have sex with other men. Though he probably would if he knew.
Ben Kerr, who we first knew as Mike Moran, then William Ard, might make the trusted author category. His 1957 novel Club 17 is a nice little yarn. It deals with a down-on-her-luck actress finally driven to prostitution, but her first customer is a vice cop out to bust the crime ring she works for, which operates out of an unassuming Manhattan watering hole called Club 17. She can't go through with the deed, which transforms the cop's appraisal of her from hooker to sweetheart, and romance is born.
We know what you're thinking, but the same old motif of love at first sight works because Kerr writes fast and with style. He had to write fast—he churned out three books a year, but his work didn't suffer for it. Some writers just have that gift. He pulls together a cohort of major characters—the cop, the call girl, the groomer, the pimp, a political climber, his two-timing wife, and a private investigator—and effortlessly sets the narrative spinning within only twenty pages.
Turning to the cover, which is amazing, it's unattributed, but we think it's by Ray Johnson. He was working with Popular Library from at least 1955 onward, as we've shown you here and here. The rear cover below reinforces our conviction on this. Look below and note the hair, the shape of the face, and that certain lift of the eyebrows, then check the links. He's the prime suspect. If so, excellent work, from a top rank illustrator.
You know, instead of sitting around watching the clock we can try being naked in the day. Just once. Could be fun.
Puerto Rican illustrator Rafael DeSoto's cover work is always recognizable, not only because he often painted rosy-cheeked women on glowing backgrounds, but because his characters often had knowing or sly looks on their faces. On this piece for Jon Cleary's 1955 war drama Naked in the Night, you see the standing woman and sitting man sending sneaky nonverbal signals to each other and get the feeling that, come naked time, the brooding brunette won't get to join in the fun. That's classic DeSoto. He was a singular artist. See a few more secretly amused expressions here, here, and here.
But it's just a bunch of white splatters. Is this all you managed to paint the two weeks I posed nude for you?
Our subhead is crude, but where else do you go with a cover like this? Cue the Pulp Intl. girlfriends: “White splatters? Not that far.” Maybe not, but hell, making up this stuff isn't easy. Speaking of which, Harry Davis's 1957 novel Portrait of Rene is about an artist named Lex Chaney who's not having an easy time. But his luck appears to change when he sells a portrait—the titular portrait of Rene—and the rich buyer, whose name is Ilse, hires him to administer art therapy to her invalid brother Paul. She lets Lex move into a property she owns where other friends and acquaintances of hers hang about as well. Lex finds himself in an environment of permissive behavior, and also of foreboding secrets having to do with inheritance, family history, and murder. Add in a layer infatuation and marital jealousy and you have yourself a recipe for trouble. We gravitated toward this particular book because we put together a collection of models and artists a while back and this fit right in. At least, we thought so, but the woman on the cover isn't a model—nude or otherwise—but the buyer Ilse. Close enough for us, though. See that collection here.
Of course you're a man. What's surprising is you're the man in the park who bums smokes and plays pocket pool whenever I walk past.
Satan takes many forms, as vintage literature makes clear—he's alternately a lesbian, a director, a guy named Stan, a goat-legged fellow, and even a presidential candidate. So, as this uncredited cover for Edward Hale Bierstadt's 1954 novel Satan Was a Man suggests, why not just a guy in the park? Even in such a mundane setting Satan could enjoy many small deceits and torments, like maybe ensuring that all the public restrooms are closed, or overfeeding pigeons so they'll crap on people. After all, posing as an investment banker or internet billionaire must get boring from time to time.
Well, girls, Mai Tai number six did Becky in. Told you she didn't have what it takes to join a sorority.
James Hadley Chase's 1939 debut novel was titled No Orchids for Miss Blandish. He later wrote a sequel with orchid in the title. And here in 1949's You're Lonely When You're Dead—for which you see a 1951 Popular Library edition with Willard Downes cover art—the action is centered around fictional Orchid City. So we guess he liked orchids. No drunk sorority girls in this one. The main character, Vic Malloy, who would star in other Orchid City capers, runs a fixer agency for rich folks, and is called in by a husband to look into the background of the woman he married after a whirlwind romance. Shady history turns up and bodies fall, starting with one of Malloy's operatives. Lonely when you're dead? Not in this book. The dead are a crowd, as characters go bye-bye in quick succession. Revenge, theft, blackmail, action, murder, and effective comic relief combine to make this a nice read. It's not quite Miss Blandish. But then how could it be?
One esoteric murder method begets another. Possibly.
Concepts for thrillers can be hard to come by, so sometimes authors borrow from one another. Not long ago we read John D. MacDonald's The Drowner and shared the cover from the Gold Medal edition. Here you see British author John Creasey's, aka Gordon Ashe's, Death from Below. If you quickly click this link you'll notice the two books have identical art, thematically—a woman being pulled down into the water by an unidentified killer.
We figured Creasy borrowed from MacDonald, but interestingly, both books were originally published in 1963. Assuming months were spent actually writing them, it seems as if both authors simply had the same idea (we don't know if there was an earlier thriller with the same concept, but we wouldn't be surprised). The main difference between the tales is that MacDonald's killer drowns one person, where Creasy's goes full serial and drowns dozens, including children. His story also takes place in France, rather than the U.S., and has a deep—if unlikely—political element.
We know this scenario didn't happen, but we like to imagine both MacDonald and Creasy/Ashe walking into bookstores on opposite sides of the Atlantic sometime soon after both paperback editions had been released, seeing each other's on a shelf, and being mightily perturbed. At that point we like to imagine Creasy, in time-honored British fashion, saying, “MacDonald! That cheeky bugger!” MacDonald on the other hand, being American, probably went, “Creasy! That sneaky motherfucker!” Advantage: yanks.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I remind you that guilty verdicts are for the poor and powerless—and my client is neither.
Surely it's a bad sign that we can kid about the two-tiered justice system of the U.S. and none of you thought, even for a second, “Hey, that's not true!” But alas, we aren't here to deal with systemic injustice. P.I. is the name, and vintage goodies is our game. Alan Hynd's Defenders of the Damned has evocative and effective cover art, with its stern judge, beseeching attorney, and disinterested defendant, but it's uncredited, amazingly. The book consists of short biographies of three famous lawyers—Earl Rogers, Clarence Darrow, and William Joseph Fallon—focusing on the pulp style twists and turns of some of their most interesting cases, with all three attorneys portrayed as the type who weren't above a little trickery and rule bending. Hynd was the author of other non-fiction books, wrote for crime magazines like True Police Cases, and also had a nice run as a crime and mystery novelist with titles like Passport to Treason and Betrayal from the East. Defenders of the Damned was originally published in 1952, and the above Popular Library paperback edition came in 1962.
They also do crap in the garden, do shed on my dresses, and do tongue-lash their own buttholes then lick my face. What was I thinking?
Some folks are dog people, while others are not. We love dogs. But we'd never own one, for some of the reasons noted above. Add to those dubious qualities the fact that they do find corpses. At least in this case. Written by the duo of Richard Wilson Webb and Hugh Callingham Wheeler under the pseudonym Jonathan Stagge, The Dogs Do Bark is an English style mystery set in the U.S., and deals with events set into motion when a decapitated and disarmed body is discovered down a hole by a bunch of one percenters and their hounds out hunting foxes. This found trunk is later identified by a man whose daughter is missing, and the mystery that follows is as gruesome as its intro. It was immediately obvious that the father—an overbearingly pious type who spews Bible verses and declares that his Jezebel of a daughter has come to her inevitable end—might be wrong in his identification, and that's a narrative problem, but whatever, even if the central conundrum wasn't interesting, the story's gory aspects were (add to the list of doggie behaviors that they do eat severed arms). We gather that Stagge's tales were often shocking, so for that reason alone they may be worth another glance. We're always interested in a bit of gore. Originally published in 1936 as Murder Gone to Earth, this Popular Library edition appeared in 1951.
That totally slipped out. I don't know what happened. I meant to say I hate you. Dammit! It happened again.
The cover of Darling, I Hate You by T.S. Matthews tells you it was originally titled To the Gallows I Must Go. We consider that too much information, but yeah, this book is about a man whose latest sexual partner wants him to kill her husband. Matthews didn't write many novels, but he built a significant career as an editor, working at The New Republic and Time before jettisoning the U.S. to live in England, where he wrote books and moonlighted as a reviewer for New York Times. However, the above debuted in 1931. He wouldn't publish a second book for more than twenty-five years. This Popular Library edition from 1953 has pretty nice art, but sadly it's uncredited.
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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