You'll get nowhere fast with this book.
Popular Library made a habit of retitling novels if they thought the original was too esoteric. Many companies did it, but Popular Library had some notorious instances, including changing Ian Fleming's Casino Royale to You Asked for It. Speed Lamkin's The Easter Egg Hunt appeared in 1954 to reviews that ranged from cool to tepid, which was probably all the excuse Popular Library needed to rebrand and pulpify it for paperback release. Thus a year later Fast and Loose hit bookstores in a blaze of golden color from the exemplary brush of cover artist Rafael DeSoto, who was one of the top paperback illustrators going. This effort is typically flawless, and features the trademark textural background that makes his work so identifiable, such as here and here.
We gave Fast and Loose a read. You notice the cover quotes some reviewer or other saying the book is James M. Cainish. Lamkin is like Cain the way papier mache is like origami. They're both things you do with paper, but that's about it. Lamkin is more from the Capote or Fitzgerald schools of authoring. His book is also very similar to Ramona Stewart's forgotten novel The Surprise Party Complex, though Stewart's book came later. But both deal with the events of a summer in Hollywood. Where Stewart focuses on a trio of aimless teens, Lamkin writes about adults who, though they're producers, actors, and writers, are equally aimless, partying the days and nights away.
The main character Charley Thayer works for Life magazine, though never has work to do. He observes the celestial bodies in the orbit of wealthy Clarence Culvers, who has the best party house in Beverly Hills and is determined to make his young, volatile wife a star. The people in this crowd are shallow, selfish, and bigoted, and since Lamkin spent time in L.A. we can assume he's relating what he observed, or at least thought he observed. Frankly, these folks are all so tedious that when the expected tragedy finally occurs it's a relief to have one less horrible person in the world, even a fictional one. Speed needed a limit—to about two-thirds the number of pages. Then Fast and Loose might have worked.
We both said many things last night. By light of day and from a perspective of total sobriety let's admit none of them were true.
The couple on this cover for Gertrude Walker's So Deadly Fair look less than thrilled to be together, but that happens, right? It was painted by Rafael DeSoto, and the book tells the story of a femme fatale who frames a guy for murder—her own. That sounds like we just spoiled the plot but the bulk of the narrative actually deals with what happens when the protagonist is paroled ten years later and has not, shall we say, reached a state of closure about how things went down. Revenge is a dish best served cold, especially when the recipient is your ex. Originally published as a hardback in 1948, this Popular Library edition appeared in 1952.
*sob* I thought it stood for horse. Oh, it does? Well, that was the worst ride ever.
This is another one we ran past the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, and guess what? They had no idea horse is a word for heroin. One of them said, “I thought it was called smack.” Well, yeah, that too, but smack doesn't start with “h,” and wouldn't have helped us come up with a header for this cover. Anyway H is for Heroin involves a girl in mythical Coast City, California who starts with the dreaded gateway drug—i.e. marijuana—and slides down the slippery slope until she's riding the white horse, is married to an addict, and crosses the line into dealing. H is for Heroin is both drug-scare and juvenile delinquent fiction, narrated by Amy herself, who digs deep and manages to achieve redemption—lest readers get too bummed out by the story and need to get high to wash away the sadness. The real high with this comes from Rafael DeSoto's iconic cover art, painted for Popular Library, 1954.
Okay, he's taken the bait. We'll let him get close, then you distract him by puking on his coat, and I'll take him down.
City Streets was written by Gene Harvey, aka Jack Hanley, who we last saw authoring 1942's Leg Artist. Harvey was a literary vet who authored such memorable lite-sleaze epics as She Couldn't Be Good, A Girl Called Joy, and Stag Stripper. City Streets is from 1954 and apparently his various publishers liked it so much they issued it four times—Venus Books put it out in 1950 as Cutie, Exotic Novels released it as Passion's Slave the same year in an illustrated format, Original Novels published it as what you see above, and finally Star Novels published it, also as City Streets, in 1955. These companies were closely related, but that's still a lot of mileage from one book. It explores the trials and tribulations of beautiful young Dru, “a bad girl of the slums,” who's gotten her education from the school of hard knocks—i.e. from Chicago's south side. The cover art on this is by Rafael DeSoto, who cleverly hid his signature in the gutter. It's a really beautiful effort from him, certainly one of his best. We've featured him often, so just click his keywords below if you want to see more.
You win! *choke* *gurgle* I'll have mine medium well! Side of hash browns!
The title of Eat Dog or Die! refers not to the literal consumption of dogs, but to the will to fight and survive. The book is basically a revenge thriller along the lines of Hang 'Em High. The hero is strung up by baddies arrayed against him in a land squabble, but when he's cut down by rescuers, he quickly goes about ventilating everybody that crossed him. The author, C. William Harrison, aka Chester William Harrison was mainly a western author, but wrote a few youth books, and two technical manuals, as well as the environmentalist book Conservation: The Challenge of Reclaiming Our Plundered Land, which is funny, because that's exactly what the hero of Eat Dog or Die! aims to do. The violent cover art is by Rafael DeSoto, for Lion Books, 1952.
It's not even 4 a.m. Damn. I really need to work on that whole waiting thing.
Rafael DeSoto painted this cover for the 1951 Dell paperback edition of Martha Albrand's 1950 novel Wait for the Dawn. This is one of the author's many romance thrillers, and what you get is a woman living in France who meets the perfect man, only to find out that he's a murderous goon. Pretty much every woman will have experienced that at some point. But this guy isn't all bad—he's rich, and as we know that buys a lot of second chances. Albrand was born in Germany as Heidi Loewengard, and wrote as Albrand, Katrin Holland, and Christine Lambert. In all she churned out around forty novels and was respected enough that an award was named after her, the Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, which was active from 1989 to 2006, then discontinued. You can see a couple more cool DeSoto covers here and here.
So, you're saying it's death, death, and... what was the last one again?
3 Doors to Death is a collection of Nero Wolfe mystery novellas by Rex Stout, published by the Viking Press in 1950, with this Dell paperback appearing in 1952. The stories are “Man Alive,” “Omit Flowers,” and “Door to Death,” and as the cover states, these all star Stout's famed detective Nero Wolfe, who was created back in 1935, and since has been adapted to stage, film, radio, and television. His assistant Archie Goodwin is on hand to assist in each of the tales. The art on this paperback was painted by Rafael DeSoto, who we've featured before, like here and here. And we should mention we found this cover at Noah Stewart's book blog. We recommend a visit there for more interesting covers.
You know what? I know we’re supposed to be disaffected and rebellious and all that, but I’m actually quite satisfied at this moment.
Two hard-luck juvenile delinquents find each other and fall in love in the slums of New York City, but can they keep it together when their surroundings threaten to destroy them? That's the basic idea of Yield to the Night. Author Jack Karney specialized in this, writing about East Side gangs in many novels, including Work of Darkness, Cry Brother Cry, Cop, and Tough Town. 1960 copyright on the above, with Rafael DeSoto cover art.
Wow, these are great. I can't believe I was ever worried about getting “the” and “twins” tattooed on my boobs.
When we started thinking about this post we went straight to candies for tattoo ideas. Apparently there's a candy called Nik-L-Nips that you have to suck the juice out of, but we thought that was too obscure, and of course Milk Duds was an obvious option, but it sounds a bit insulting, so in the end “the twins” seemed like a classic. The Pulp Intl. girlfriends agreed. Brian Agar's Have Love, Will Share is a bit of a classic too, or at least it uses a classic sleaze set-up—the marriage counselor whose patient is a nymphomaniac and soon sets her eyes on the doctor. Agar was a pen name used by author W.T. Ballard, an original contributor to Black Mask who wrote many novels under many names, including Jack Slade, Clay Turner, et al. This effort is from 1961 and it has Rafael DeSoto cover art.
Vintage paperback violence gets up close and personal.
We have another collection today as we prepare to jet away on vacation with the girls. Since the place we’re going is known for rowdy British tourists (what place isn’t known for that?), we thought we’d feature some of the numerous paperback covers featuring fights. You’ll notice, as with our last collection, the preponderance of French books. Parisian publishers loved this theme. The difference, as opposed to American publishers, is that you almost never saw women actually being hit on French covers (we’d almost go so far as to say it never happened, but we’ve obviously not seen every French paperback ever printed). The French preferred man-on-man violence, and when women were involved, they were either acquitting themselves nicely, or often winning via the use of sharp or blunt instruments.
Violence against women is and has always been a serious problem in the real world, but we’re just looking at products of the imagination here, which themselves represent products of the imagination known as fiction. Content-wise, mid-century authors generally frowned upon violence toward women even if they wrote it into their novels. Conversely, the cover art, stripped of literary context, seemed to glorify it. Since cover art is designed to entice readers, there’s a valid discussion here about why anti-woman violence was deemed attractive on mid-century paperback fronts, and whether its disappearance indicates an understanding of its wrongness, or merely a cynical realization that it can no longer be shown without consequences. We have another fighting cover here, and you may also want to check out our western brawls here.
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