Vintage Pulp Sep 29 2023
UNCIVILIZED BEHAVIOR
He kills completely without reservation.


Noel Clad was a promising writer who died in a plane crash when he was thirty-seven. His novel The Savage shows some of that promise. It's about a professional killer named John Tree who's been summoned from his Wyoming ranch by the Chicago syndicate to go to New York City and dispose of an S. Harris. Like many fictional killers Tree has a code: he doesn't kill women. When he arrives in New York he learns that S. Harris is Susan Harris, which dismays him. Then the person who's bought the contract and is calling the shots tells Tree to rape Susan before killing her. Next he finds out she's a single mother with a mute five year-old son. None of it sits well with Tree, but it doesn't cause him to flip sides. He just wants out. He asks to be replaced on the job and be done with the situation. Out of sight, out of mind. His employers agree and send two replacement hired guns to do the job. Tree meets with them and realizes they have no ethics—they will rape their target, and they'll murder her son too.

There are hundreds if not thousands of regular mob hitmen in literature and cinema, so why not do something different? It shouldn't be a controversial idea, but sadly, so many these days consider it to be an assault on territory they own somehow. But diversification isn't a new thing. Clever writers have been doing it all along. Clad does it in The Savage. The killer for hire, the anti-hero John Tree, is full name John Running Tree, member of the Shoshone tribe, Native American by both blood and culture. That simple change takes the book in a different direction than other hitman tales. Here we have a killer who hates to think about his impoverished youth on a reservation, who glorifies Native American tests of manhood, and who sees a stripper wearing a tribal headdress as a prop and is angered. You get interesting passages like this:

Being here made him think of religion and how little he knew and the things that had passed for it when he was little: the spirits and the half-reverent amulets and charms. He remembered as he had not for years the lupine tea they drank for Manhood, remembered the girls on the Station eating mushrooms to see if my true love lies, and his own watching of wood smoke that twisted north when the hunting would be good. Even Tall Kite had no longer really believed in the thousand tribal spirits of the upland and the plain, the grass, the insects, the deer and the hawk. And God, in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was no more than the price of chocolate milk. But in this hall, he had a pleasant feeling, relaxed, as though he was on a mountain all by himself.

1958 this was written, with loads of identity angst, as if it were published yesterday. John Running Tree moves like a folkloric wraith through New York City and tries to prevent Susan's defilement and death. The transgressiveness of the rape angle surprised us, as did the plot point that Tree kills by wire garrotte (not rope, as shown on the cover), but those added to the stakes of a harrowing and austere tale. Are there negatives? A few. Clad loses his tight control over the narrative from the moment Susan realizes—as she must—that Tree isn't just a nice guy hanging about for fun. Clad later forces the usage of Shoshone pictograms into a scene where the child mutely communicates an important clue. It might have worked under the right conditions, but in this case defied credulity. Other authorial errors accrue. Even so, good book. We'd read Clad again.
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Vintage Pulp Mar 1 2023
GOODNIGHT COWBOY
Mwah! I love you left hook. You get it done every time.


1954's The Man from Laramie by T.T. Flynn is fronted by Stanley Borack art featuring a standing figure nursing sore knuckles, but we prefer to think of him as gratefully kissing his fist. You get a couple of archetypal western elements in this novel, most importantly the mysterious stranger from out of town, and the powerful rancher with no scruples. If the title sounds familiar, it's probably because the book was made into a hit 1955 movie with James Stewart. We may have a look at that later.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 8 2023
FULL HOUSE, EMPTY BED
There are different ways to win and lose, cowpoke. You'll find that out if you keep me waiting one more hand.


The temptation to buy Archie Joselyn's 1951 Star Books western Wyoming Outlaw was strong, but we have so many books piled up it's stupid. Plus, the Pulp Intl. girlfriends say—well, actually just PI-1 says this—we have too many books and too many plants. First of all, there's no such thing as too many books. Second, is it our fault that plants grow like viruses in this climate? No. But they win this round. We do have a lot of new books because our Stateside visitors over the last several months were each laden with a set we arranged to be mailed to their homes, which they then muled across the pond for us. Big thanks to them for reducing our mailing expenditures considerably. True friends, they are, and those tend to be thin on the ground as time goes by. You'll see those books begin popping up soon.

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Hollywoodland Jun 12 2018
HE CAME, HE SAWED, HE CONQUERED
And if you're not careful he's likely to Walker all over you.


National Enquirer hits pause on its usual cheesecake, and on this cover from today in 1960 opts for some hairy hunkery in the form of U.S. actor Clint Walker. Walker was one of the early cowboy stars on television, headlining the hit series Cheyenne—named not for the city in Wyoming but for the character Cheyenne Bodie. There was a double entendre there, because the character was raised by Cheyenne Indians. In any case Walker manages to strike a nice penile pose with a lumberjack's crosscut saw. But as studly as he may appear, within the ranks of phallic cowboys he doesn't even come close to first place

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Vintage Pulp Dec 3 2009
LEAN ON ME
It’s a wall world after all.

Above are three covers by realist illustrator James Bama, featuring figures leaning against walls. Bama also loves the crossed leg pose you see on two of these pieces and used it on his famous cover for Midnight Cowboy. Bama was born and raised in Manhattan, and you can see his keen eye for urban detail in these pieces, but interestingly, he moved to Wyoming and became a leading painter of western-themed art. In fact, he was inducted into the Illustrator’s Hall of Fame because of his western art. But we prefer the citified Bama. The realism and immediacy of his early paintings is unmatchable. These are three of the best examples.     

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 30
1914—Aquitania Sets Sail
The Cunard liner RMS Aquitania, at 45,647 tons, sets sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City. At the time she is the largest ocean liner on the seas. During a thirty-six year career the ship serves as both a passenger liner and military ship in both World Wars before being retired and scrapped in 1950.
May 29
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
May 28
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
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