You know, you spend a lot of time looking in the mirror considering I'm dating you for your money.
Above: an uncredited cover of a femme fatale and her preening man painted for Norman Bligh's 1950 novel Waterfront Hotel, about a woman named Brenda Seton who lives in a Maine cannery town and whose only ambition is to marry rich and move from the Flats to the Hill. Or perhaps not even marry. The owner of the cannery wants her for a mistress and is willing to pay in cash, house, and stock. Brenda might just accept the offer if she can't have her true love, local banker Bob Blaine, but because she's grasping, manipulative, and fake you know her plan will go pear-shaped. Just as crime doesn't usually pay in 1950s novels, neither does sex. It often—as in this case—leads to retribution from male characters via predictable means.
But there's one aspect of the book that isn't predictable—it has a couple of bizarre fights. Brenda's main rival Rhoda, who can throw knives with deadly effect, attacks Brenda, strips her naked, and makes her walk home through a driving rainstorm. Brenda gets her revenge during a fight in the cannery in which she disarms Rhoda, pins her prone, and slices her from neck to ass with her own knife. Cannery women—they'll cut a bitch. Is the book good? No. We think only a man would write a woman character who's forgiving about being raped, which happens to poor Brenda. Also, we never understood why her preferred epithet, uttered at least twenty times, was: Let him die! But we'll say this—Bligh conceived something a bit unusual here.
Just look at all of you—up and about and alert. You've really regained the will to live since I started.
Not only do the patients in the male ward look better lately—if they keep making this kind of progress they'll soon brawl over the nurse and be pronounced 100% normal. Physically, anyway. Obviously, you have superior cover work here, and that's because it was painted by Rudolph Belarski, one of the can't-miss illustrators of the mid-century era. He painted this one for Venus Books and Mitchell Coleman, aka William Neubauer, and the copyright is 1954. We have Belarski scattered throughout the website, particularly in men's magazines and cover collections, but to see a few interesting individual entries, you can go here, here, here, and here. Also, note that the patient in the foreground is holding a paperback. It's Sylvia Erskine's 1954 novel Nurses' Quarters, for which Belarski also painted the cover. How meta of him. Is that meta? Let's just call it self-referential.
Why do you always have to squeeze so hard? Once in a while we could just cuddle, you know.
We just shared a paperback from Gordon Semple, aka William Neubauer, last week, but why not keep things Semple? Above you see Crusher's Girl, 1953, from Intimate Novels, with uncredited cover art. The girl referenced has the great name Lily Hood, which tells you right away she's the archetypal antiheroine of limited means, great determination, and flexible ethics trying to hustle her way out of the slums. We can't tell you more because we haven't read it. That's what happens when you expend almost all your available energy pulling off a massive move. On the plus side, our new city is pretty nice so far, and offers plenty of outdoor reading spaces. We'll have detailed write-ups on our book postings soon.
I dyed my hair red months ago, but the old nickname stuck. Folks around these parts ain't fond of change.
The above cover for Gordon Semple's 1953 novel Waterfront Blonde features Warren King art, possibly repurposed from the front he painted for Forbidden Fruit, below (and previously seen in this post). We say possibly only because we don't know which cover came first. Maybe Forbidden Fruit was repurposed from Waterfront Blonde. Both books are copyrighted 1953. In our non-professional opinions, we think Waterfront Blonde was second. There are several reasons why, any of which could be picked apart by someone with the opposite view. For example, if Waterfront Blonde came first, why not make the female figure's hair blonde? On the other hand, if it came second, that means King changed the hair color of the male figure, but didn't bother doing the same with the woman. Either way it's odd, but the main thing to note here is how the art has been recycled, which occurred often during the mid-century heyday of paperback fiction. We'll surely have more examples down the line.
What can I say? My parents taught me to always demand more.
Above, classic sleaze from Gordon Semple, Man-Crazy Hussy, aka Blonde Temptress, 1954, from Croydon Books. Often these novels seriously examined ’50s stereotypes, particularly those concerning what was appropriate sexual behavior for women, but the authors had little control when their serious stories were given crazy titles and wrapped in titillating covers. We can't tell you whether this novel is an attempt at real literature or if it's pure sleaze, because we aren't going to pay thirty bucks for it. We never go above ten dollars per—including shipping. But we're tempted. The art here is by Bernard Safran. See another example of his work here.
*sob* It gets so confusing when the sinful stuff is the most fun.
We love this melodramatic cover for Gordon Semple's Sinner. This was painted by Rudy Nappi, who most aficionados consider one of the best paperback illustrators of the mid-century period. He certainly had one of the longest careers. There are numerous works of his we don't have on this site, but the ones we've uploaded that we like best are here and here.
Moving on to Gordon Semple, he was in reality William Neubauer, and wrote such sleaze novels as Love Crazy Millionaire, Blonde Temptress, and Man-Crazy Hussy. Sinner was originally titled Life of Passion, and was first published back in 1949. The above edition is from Croydon Books and hit newsstands in 1953. You can read the rear cover teaser below.
Admit it—when I walked over and said I was going to sue your pants off you were really worried.
Above, a cover for Norman Bligh's novel Bad Sue, 1950, from Quarter Books. We've always thought this was an unusually pretty cover, but the artist is unknown.
My pa shouldn't be back for hours. But just in case he does show up, do you prefer burial or cremation?
A double shot of rural sleaze today, Norman Bligh's Once There Was a Virgin, 1950 from Exotic Novels, and Gail Jordan's The Affairs of a Country Girl, 1952 from Cameo Books. George Gross provided the art for these covers, which are cropped differently, but between the two you see pretty much the entirety of the original piece. We think this is one of his better efforts. We're putting together a small collection of paperback covers set in barns and haylofts, so consider this a preview, along with the covers here, here, and here.
Can I interest you in a quick hay ride?
Above, another installment of art from the great George Gross, with cover work for Norman Bligh's Play-Girl, 1950, from Venus Books. See more here and here.
Forget my wife—I think I need help regaining sensation in my lower half.
Nursing isn’t easy—especially in mid-century fiction, where in addition to dealing with medical issues you have to dodge the roaming hands of doctors and patients alike. Visiting Nurse, written by Norman Bligh, aka William Neubauer, deals with an angel of mercy sent into the slums who finds herself giving the fellas some unconventional treatments. Why? Because “she has all the weaknesses and yearnings of women, the need to be loved, the aching desires, the mad impulses” and because “she tries and tries again, yet cannot help making mistakes, cannot help the fact that she is a woman.” At this point, we'd note that the weaknesses and yearnings of men have reduced entire countries to parking lots, but that would be a digression. 1953 copyright, with cover art by Ray Pease.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
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