Vintage Pulp Dec 24 2015
BAREFOOT AMBITION
I can’t wait until I can afford a good pair of high heels—then when I walk all over these chumps it’ll actually hurt them.


Above is the cover for the 1952 Lion Library paperback edition of Ward Greene’s Cora Potts, which was originally published in 1929 as Cora Potts: A Pilgrim’s Progress. An illiterate country girl robs her father’s store, runs away barefooted to the big city, eventually commits murder, and ends up a respectable, nouveau riche society wife. Greene was saying that the U.S. was a country that rewarded greed and ruthlessness, while respect for the rules was peddled to the lower classes to keep them in line. Some critics found this formulation unpalatable, and many thought the part where Potts burns through $100,000 in one year was just impossible. As that’s only about $1.3 million in today’s money we find their protests bizarre, but in any case Greene had based his character on an actual femme fatale with the amazing name of Kitty Queen.

Catherine Queen, as she had been born, indeed progressed from barefoot Georgia bumpkin to bejeweled society dame. She became public knowledge briefly in 1929 when her dupe of a husband, a prominent banker, was nabbed for embezzlement and the facts of his lavish expenditures on Queen came out at trial. How much had he spent on her in a year? $147,000. And like Cora Potts’ hapless first husband, Queen’s husband still loved her, wrote heartrending letters from prison, and sent her the few meager dollars he still collected via various means. And yet Queen never visited him once, same as Potts never visits her imprisoned spouse. The Manhattan critics who doubted the novel's verisimilitude knew nothing about Kitty Queen, but Greene had lived and worked in Atlanta and down there her story had been big news.
 
The cover at top is by Mal Singer, and the art from Lion’s 1955 re-issue at right was painted by Robert Maguire. Greene’s book is surprisingly obscure today, but its general message that in a corrupt society vice is virtue resonates more than ever. His genius was also in having a female character behave in a way typically ascribed to successful men, and having her go unpunished for breaking both the rule of law and of gender. Greene touched on similar themes more than once, but also wrote upbeat material. One of those pieces was a short story called, “Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog,” which appeared in Cosmopolitan and became a primary inspiration for one of the most beloved screen romances of all time—the animated feature Lady and the Tramp.
 
And just to dig as deeply into this subject as we can, there is some confusion online about when Greene wrote that dog story. Nearly every website says 1943, but then again nearly every website copies from other websites. A couple of sources say the story is from 1924, while a French page says 1937. We don’t know when he wrote it, but we’re inclined to believe the 1924 date. Greene was already in his mid-thirties by then, and had been writing for Cosmo since at least 1923, publishing a piece on F. Scott Fitzgerald that year. We think Walt Disney probably read the Happy Dan story in 1943 in an old Cosmo, and at that point contacted the now respected literary figure Greene about buying the property and adapting it. But we don’t know for sure. Someone in the real world of actual libraries with actual paper info will have to sort this one out.

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Politique Diabolique Apr 3 2009
BLAGOJEVICH UPDATE 3:
More dispatches from the Blagosphere.


Yesterday we were reminded that our favorite pulp politician is still around when Rod Blagojevich was indicted on a raft of federal charges, including assorted racketeering and wire fraud counts, each carrying a potential twenty-year prison sentence. Blago, who couldn’t look more untrustworthy if he wore fingerless gloves and a hoodie, once again maintained he had done nothing wrong, this time at an impromptu press conference at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Backed by his family, along with close friends Goofy, Pluto, and Duchess of the Aristocats*, Blago riffed about his innocence, but was interrupted when Goofy tapped him on the shoulder and quietly explained the concept behind a conspiracy indictment. Blago’s eyes widened as he took in Goofy’s words, and then he exclaimed, “You mean when you’re a state employee it’s illegal to even talk about breaking the law?”

The silence was deafening. Goofy and the other mascots had to be embarrassed for their friend—though it must be said their smiles never faltered. After an awkward pause Blago shrugged and said to the assembled press, “Oh, I didn’t understand how the law worked. Wow, sorry fellas. Now that Goof here has explained it, I see what all the fuss has been about. I guess, what can I say, I’m guilty.** You can plainly hear me on the FBI recordings doing this conspiracy whatever thing, so, shit, sorry to have wasted your time with all these ridiculous denials. I just didn’t get it.” He then added, “But I’ve learned my lesson. No more influence peddling for me, no sir. That’s all over with—I give my word.”

Blago then became uncharacteristically philosophical, musing about the possibility of cryogenic freezing. He suggested his head could be put on ice like Walt Disney’s until the time was right for a political comeback. “Is there someone here in the park I can talk to about that?” he asked. He next surprised everyone by apologizing to Jack Franks, who he had profanely blasted two months ago. As the press conference ended, Blago, apparently thinking his microphone was off, turned to Pluto and said, “By the way, I heard about how they downgraded you from a planet to an asteroid. Tough break buddy. But I got some friends who might be able to help out with that if the incentive is right, know what I’m saying?”

*images used transformatively for the purpose of parody, etc.
**innocent until proven guilty, not a real admission, strictly parody, and so forth.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 14
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
August 13
1995—Mickey Mantle Dies
New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle dies of complications from cancer, after receiving a liver transplant. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also an alcoholic and played drunk, hungover, and unprepared. He once said about himself, "Sometimes I think if I had the same body and the same natural ability and someone else's brain, who knows how good a player I might have been."
August 12
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
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