Vintage Pulp May 7 2024
A HOT FLASH
I have a great idea. Since we met by chance on the same discount package tour, let's invite our travel agents to the wedding.

Above: an uncredited cover for Dale Wilmer's 1954 novel Jungle Heat. As we mentioned last year, this was the original edition of the 1960 book of the same title, which was credited to Wade Miller, who was really a shared pseudonym for Bob Wade and Bill Miller. Got all that? You can learn a bit more about the book here

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Vintage Pulp May 1 2024
THE PUSHERMAN
I got shit here that'll blow your minds. Dented saucepans, frayed towels, old keys. I'm talking grade-a junk.


Robert W. Taylor's 1954 novel The Junk Pusher is one of numerous mid-century drug scare books. Many of them deal in an unintentionally hilarious way with marijuana. This one, though, is about heroin, and we think Taylor is on safe ground here in saying it can be very dangerous. The cover art is by Frank Cozzarelli, who we've seen around these parts before. Check here

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Vintage Pulp Dec 5 2023
WHAT'S IN A NUMBER?
If you're in the fashion business—everything.


Ed Spingarn's NYC garment district tale Perfect 36 was first published in 1957 by Pyramid Books with cover art by Robert Maguire. In 1960 Pyramid re-issued the novel in the form above, giving Lou Marchetti a shot at the cover, and of course he did a nice job. This yarn (see what we did there?) was entertaining and different. Our detailed thoughts are here

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Vintage Pulp Oct 13 2023
COLOR HER JEALOUS
That bimbo has no idea she can't get hair dye here. When her roots grow out we'll see if men still think she's so amazing.


We have other Wade Miller books to read, but we picked up this copy of 1960's Jungle Heat and moved it to the head of the line because the story is set in Malaya (now Malaysia), and the last book we read that the authors (Bob Wade and Bill Miller writing together under a pseudonym) set in an exotic country was phenomenal. Jungle Heat was originally published in 1954 under the name Dale Wilmer, with this reattributed Pyramid edition coming a bit later, and it finds Miller taking on the unexpected challenge of writing in first person from a woman's point-of-view. The lead character is Hollywood b-actress Roxy Powell, who is sent to Malaya with a small crew to shoot background footage for an upcoming jungle adventure. Never mind that a communist revolution is brewing. What Hollywood wants, Hollywood gets.

Plantation boss Llewelyn Kirk, under whose roof Roxy and the crew are residing, is one of those characters who's colonial through-and-through but thinks that because he's been in Malaya for twenty years he isn't an invader and knows what's best for locals. Since the authors agree with this paternalistic sentiment, the narrative is steered—to an almost ludicrous extent—toward Kirk being correct. We won't get into any of it except to say that, generally, anti-communist fiction from the mid-century era was unavoidably propagandist. In this case the authors are basically correct in their regional political analysis, but gloss over important details and whiff on overarching points. For example, there's an interesting scene where a Malayan tells Kirk that he'd heard blacks in America are unjustly killed by whites. Kirk assures him it isn't true. We almost did a spit-take on that one.

Roxy first hates, then by a circuitous path, comes to adore Kirk. She's initially driven by her need for “respect,” which here doesn't mean respect as normally understood, but is instead code for sexual desirability. Because Kirk ignores her, she hates him. Therefore she embarks on a campaign to discover his humanity—i.e. his sexual attraction to her. Even if you didn't know the author, that's when you might suspect a guy—or two—was in the driver seat. Okay, so if the politics take liberties and the justification for romance is male fantasy in disguise, is the book any good? Well, sure. There's a nice jungle setting, a fun Hollywood sidebar, a backdrop of war in which enemies circle ever closer, a traitor hiding in the fold, and love blossoming amid chaos. With all that going for it, the book has to be good. But that said, Wade/Miller definitely wrote better.
 
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Vintage Pulp Jul 3 2023
LOSING FACE
A single hard look is worth a thousand threats.

Peter Held is another new author for us. He's a pseudonym used by sci-fi author Jack Vance. Take My Face was first published in 1957, with this Pyramid paperback coming in 1958 fronted by John Floherty, Jr. art featuring a clever upper body variation on the classic alpha pose. The book is about a teenaged boy whose face is burned and permanently scarred in a scooter accident. When he's later humiliated by four girls during a sorority initiation (one of whom had caused the original accident), he snaps and ends up in a reform school. The girls forget him and go on with their lives. Years later when the quartet start being murdered, there are no suspects—until someone remembers that long ago incident of youthful callousness toward the burned boy. But is he now grown up and committing the murders, or is something else going on? We thought Take My Face had a good premise, but it reads a bit dispassionately, which led to diminished involvement for us. We won't go running back to Held, but we won't run away either, should we encounter him again.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 28 2022
FIXED RIGHT UP
For every job there's a perfect tool.


In Ed Lacy's 1961 boxing drama The Big Fix, the fix is defnitely in, and in the worst way possible. Tommy Cork, a thirty-something middleweight boxer who in his prime battled Sugar Ray Robinson, becomes the pet project of a dilletante boxing manager who promises that with the best training, diet, and promotion Cork can reach the top again. Sounds good, but Tommy has unwittingly become the focus of a deadly scam, a plan to find some desperate boxer with a reputation for ugly losses, make a show of training him for high profile bouts, all the while taking out a life insurance policy on him, then having a hammerfisted accomplice kill him in the ring. Since the murder will happen before a crowd, there will be no suspicion of foul play, particularly for a pug known for fighting stubbornly and hitting the canvas hard.

But nothing is straightforward in Lacy's hands. Tommy's wife May, hopeful for a better life, gets into trouble with violent numbers runners, an aspiring writer sees the couple as the perfect pathetic characters to be the focus of a novel, an ex-boxer cop starts to get wise to the murder scheme, and other twists come from nowhere to infinitely complicate the tale. Despite the subplots, as readers you know the only fitting climax is one that takes place in the ring, and Lacy pushes the story inexorably toward that showdown, hapless Tommy facing off against a man who plans to kill him with a relentless assault, or if possible a single blow. If he's going to have help, he'll need to provide it himself. As usual, Lacy tells a good story. He's reliably full of excellent ideas. That also goes for Ernest Chiriacka, who painted the eye-catching cover.
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Vintage Pulp Feb 9 2022
MEALS TO DIE FOR
The only way to survive is by rationing. I've come up with a plan. First we'll eat him, then I'll eat you.


Well, our three castaways—Harold Dixon, Gene Aldrich, and Tony Pastula—are still floating on the high seas, and the situation has gone from bad to worse. They'll get out of this dilemma yet, though. Only a minor spoiler there, since The Raft—which details thirty-four days spent stranded at sea by three downed flyers—is a World War II biography, not a novel, and the tale is well known. But if you're unfamiliar with it, what you get is hot days, cold nights, constant soakings, several capsizings, a loss of gear, food, and hope, and an extraordinary—by which mean stranger than fiction—ending. This particular copy looks like it spent thirty-four days at sea too, but it's the best we could find. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 20 2021
36 DIRTY TRICKS
Ed Spingarn takes readers on a bumpy ride down mammary lane.


Robert Maguire painted the cover for Ed Spingarn's 1957 novel Perfect 36, and came up with something beautiful and colorful that drew our eye. The tagline—A revealing and riotous story of the bosom business—did the rest of the sales job. The book tells the story of nineteen-year-old Rosalie Gershon, who's determined to make something of herself professionally, and, thanks to her outstanding figure, stumbles into the ladies undergarment business. Seems she's a perfect model for the newly created Brooklyn Bridge Bra, designed along architectural principles. Rosalie wants to succeed, but she's also a virgin with insistent hormones, and the high rolling fast talkers of the NYC fashion business are lining up to take her on her first mattress ride.

In other words, what you have here is a virtue-in-danger novel, but one that's better than most. Will Rosalie give in, and if so to whom? The poor but sincere co-worker? The business mogul's slick son? The rich man who offers her mink coats? Everybody wants her and they'll play dirty to get her. Only in fiction is it so difficult being gorgeous. As the plot develops, Rosalie's virginity—actually her possible lack of it—becomes worth potentially $100,000. It's an unlikely twist, and Rosalie's an unlikely character, but Spingarn manages to make her sympathetic, and he does it by using high quality literary skills and (we suspect) inside knowledge of the fashion industry. We'd read him again, for sure, but unfortunately Perfect 36 seems to be the only novel he ever wrote.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 5 2021
HANDLE WITH CARE
Okay... love you too... too tight... need to breathe now...


This is a classic cover from highly respected paperback artist Ernest Chiriacka, aka Darcy, one of his very best. He specialized in couples. Embracing couples, smooching couples, angry couples, pensive couples, but in most cases his work has the same sort of feel you see above. We've put together a collection to show you in a bit. In the meantime, let this excellent example whet your appetite, and remember—if you love somebody set them free.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 13 2021
ONE STEP AT A TIME
We've been seeing each other for a while now. I've decided you can start coming up the front stairs.


Above, a Jim Bentley cover for L.K. Scott's Backstairs, 1953 for Pyramid Books. Bentley also worked for various men's adventure magazines, including Stag, for which he illustrated the James Jones story “The Knife” in December 1957. Jones, you may remember, wrote From Here to Eternity. We'll see if we can dig up more from Bentley later. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
July 13
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
Richard Speck breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
July 12
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
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