Vintage Pulp Sep 15 2023
FINDERS KEEPERS
I know we're basically strangers, baby, but it's you and me till death do us part.


Here's a quick quiz for you. Is the following passage from a crime novel or a romance? There was one truth between us, one truth that would never be untrue. Whatever this animal thing inside me was, there was something inside her that was a mate for it. I felt that nothing could ever change that. It had to be brought alive again. It had to live and burn its own fire and be electric with its own voltage.

Those lines are from Richard Himmel's 1950 thriller I'll Find You, aka It's Murder, Maguire, first in a series of books starring mobbed up Chicago lawyer Johnny Maguire. The passage illustrates something we've noted before—that crime novels and romance novels sometimes intersect. Fictional tough guys occasionally fall head over heels in love, and when they do, the prose describing that love—in some author's hands—can be as overwrought as what you'd find in any romance novel.

In this story, Maguire, who must be one of the dumbest smart characters in crime fiction, falls for a deceased friend's wife who later fakes her own suicide. While the police believe she's dead, he never buys it, and risks his career and safety to locate her. He finds her living under a new identity and refuses to let her get away from him again—which is exactly as stalkerish as it sounds, considering he barely knew her before she vanished. She eventually submits to his overbearing attentions, but sadly, malign actors may ruin their love story.

It's surprising to us that there was a sequel, but Himmel's crime-romance must have struck a nerve with the reading public. It didn't strike one with us, but we didn't dislike it. We felt that it was eye-rollingly saccharine, and we found Himmel's dialogue a bit stilted. On the plus side, Maguire is funny at times, and his friend-with-benefits relationship with a supporting character named Tina has the potential to be engaging, assuming she hangs around. We'll see what develops in book two.
 
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Vintage Pulp Oct 24 2021
SETTING THE RECORDS STRAIGHT
Dance? This jukebox plays only the collected speeches of Harry S. Truman and if you don't like it there's the damn door.


We had a few different ways we could have gone with the music in this jukebox. Austro-Hungarian military marches. Hawaiian ukulele classics. Bavarian beerhall oompah. Even the soothing sounds of cicadas and crickets. We had options. But as far as the actual book goes, James Ross's They Don't Dance Much deals with misadventures in and around a North Carolina roadhouse. You know the drill: guy takes a job but the job almost takes him. Basically, a destitute Depression-era farmer scores employment at a just-opened roadhouse, but when the owner becomes financially overextended, he conceives of desperate measures to obtain cash—namely robbing a friend rumored to have $20,000 buried on his land.

Burying money might not make sense to some. Stop us if you know this, but back during the Depression if a bank went under the customers generally lost their deposits. Those who went broke were often ridiculed for not being savvy enough concerning the bank's fiscal health. Today we call that victim blaming. It was only when the U.S. government took the evil socialistic step of guaranteeing deposits that people's life savings became safe. Thank you, Mr. Roosevelt. But the point is, burying a fortune on one's own land is not an outlandish plot device. And considering how modern banks have devolved into robbery franchises, we're almost ready to consider it ourselves. Please don't e-mail asking for our address.

Anyway, stealing the money turns out to be doable, though not pleasant, for our farmer-bandit, but everything after that is—shockingly—a country fried clusterfuck. This is our first James Ross book and we were pretty satisfied. It feels like something that could have inspired Blood Simple. As a novel set in the south it has the usual pitfalls for those who don't want to be subjected to something like one hundred racial slurs, however there's no doubt the language is accurate for the place and time. We heard people speaking like that when we were last in North Carolina, and that was not terribly long ago. In any case, you've been warned. And lastly, the cover art is by Stanley Meltzoff, who we've featured only once before, here.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 14 2015
SHOE TO KILL
I hear the falcon is nice and all, but darlin’, these ankle strap pumps of yours are to die for.

Of the many covers for Dashiell Hammett’s classic The Maltese Falcon, this version painted by Stanley Meltzoff is one of our favorites. It’s from 1945 and is a dust sleeve for a paperback, a rarity that explains why it goes for $100 and up, generally. We’ve even seen it listed for $250. Beneath the Meltzoff sleeve is a cover by Leo Manso, the famed collagist and abstract artist, which he first painted for the 1944 paperback edition. You can see an example of that here. The Meltzoff sleeve was supposedly controversial at the time due to the Brigid O’Shaughnessy character removing her bra. We didn’t notice that at first, to tell you the truth—our eyes moved right to that triangle of darkness where we see Sam Spade’s hands as he assesses a pair of red pumps. Lovingly, we think. Almost like he wants to keep them. Or are we reading too much into this one? 

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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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