Vintage Pulp Apr 7 2020
MIDDLE AGED DELINQUENT
Dude, your mom is, like, totally babesville.


We mentioned last week that Bettie Page often starred on book covers, and here she is again on Alan Bennett's Savage Delinquents, published in 1959 by Bedside Books. This one is juviesploitation, and it deals with a disaffected seventeen-year-old girl named Lissa who falls in with a gang and soon learns it's like, nowhere, man. Page was thirty-six the year this was published, with the photo dating from a bit earlier, but still it speaks to her popularity that her image could sell this book when she was old enough to be the main character's mom. See more Page paperback art here.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 2 2020
TEASY DOES IT
Anything that other Betty does can do I can do better.


Bettie Page wasn't the only mid-century celebrity who made uncredited appearances on book covers. This front for Allan Horn's The Teaser features Betty Brosmer, she of the extreme hourglass figure with its famed eighteen inch waist. This cover appeared at the height of her modeling career, and since Novel Books wasn't a major imprint, we wonder if they paid for her image. We doubt it. The narrative here deals with a young woman who marries a seventy-year-old millionaire, and this is not the first time Horn explored this idea. He used it as the premise for 1966's, The Beast in the Bedroom. He's suspected of being a pseudonym. If so he wrote for several companies—Midwood, Vega/Tropic, Private Editions, and Playtime. That's getting around. We'll keep on the alert for more info on Mr. Horn. Maybe we'll even read one of his books. We saw Whore from Maupin Street cheap, and who can resist a title like that?

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Vintage Pulp Mar 30 2020
A SHADOW OF DOUBT
I knew you were really a guy all along, darling. There were clues—your walk, your love of violent sports, the bulge in your shorts...


We praise paperback art generally. We see merit in most efforts. But it raises the question: What is an unsuccessful piece of art? Well, we think this 1952 Pocket Books cover for Edgar Mittelholzer's 1951 novel Shadows Move Among Them is a major oops from illustrator Tom Dunn. He was better on other covers, but the guy Dunn wrong here. While it would be absolutely awesome if this book were about a love affair with a transvestite, it's actually a whites-in-the-tropics novel, with the overheated land this time being British Guiana.

Mittleholzer was born and raised there, so he was writing what he knew. Plotwise, you have an isolated colony of people, which in an eerie precursor to Jim Jones and Jonestown, is led by a charismatic minister. This person, Reverend Harmston, calls his enclave Berkelhoost, and its inhabitants are there to escape civilization for a more liberated way of living. Into this setting comes the main character Gregory Hawke, who's the reverend's nephew and is sorely in need of a life reset. He's described as a shadow of his former self, and others in the colony are suggested to be mere shadows also.

Mittelholzer is considered one of the most important novelists to originate from the Caribbean (for those inclined to lump a region so geographically and culturally diverse into its own genre). Mittleholzer was a serious, ambitious writer, and he was prolific too, cranking out twenty-six books. While his family was white, some genetic quirk left him “swarthy,” as he described himself, and it was a disappointment to his father. This burden of ethnic inadequacy informed his fiction, and gave his whites-in-the-tropics stories more than the usual emotional heft.

Mittelholzer never made a fortune writing, but he's had a small revival the last twenty years, and many of his books are available. Since he was born in 1905 he never got to experience this increased interest. In fact, he died earlier than he should have, via suicide at age sixty. Apparently, this act was partly caused by his inability to make more than a subsistence living at his chosen profession. It's a fate that's befallen everyone from Sylvia Plath to John Kennedy Toole, so he's in esteemed company. We haven't read Shadows Move Among Them but we may fit it into our reading list, because as foreigners living abroad we identify with these kinds of books. If we do we'll report back.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 28 2020
SOCIAL DISTANCING
I'm pretty sure she doesn't even like me. I think the lockdown is making her do this out of sheer boredom.


Above, The Girl Takers by Don Holliday, for Greenleaf Classics' Midnight Reader line, published in 1961. Holliday is, as you probably know by now, a house pseudonym used by many. This time it's being inhabited by Arthur Plotnik, who wrote nine other Greenleaf novels. This one deals with a man who descends into increasing depths of so-called depravity in order to experience bigger and bigger thrills. The cover art is by Harold W. McCauley. We'll have more from Greenleaf soon.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 26 2020
LA DONNA DENBERG
Caroselli chooses wisely for Italian book cover.


Inspiration is everything. Always draw from the best. Italian artist Benedetto Caroselli used a photo of svelte Austrian model Susan Denberg, aka Dietlinde Zechner, for this cover of Sonnie Hale's La donna bianca. That would translate as “the white woman,” but we think of her as the right woman. So did Playboy magazine, which made her its August 1968 Playmate of the Month. We doubt Denberg ever knew she was on this paperback, but we imagine she'd have been pleased with the result. It appeared in 1967 from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali as part of their I Romanzi Diabolici series. See plenty more from Caroselli, including other pieces he painted for this particular book series, by clicking his keywords just below.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 24 2020
EVENING SHIFT
Citywide virus lockdown continues, with exceptions made for essential workers.


Who constitutes an essential worker is really a matter of opinion, isn't it? In pulp terms, a city without vice can't claim to be a functioning city at all. And since they say prostitution is the oldest profession, it follows it would be the last to shut down. Brothels in various cities are now requiring customers to wear masks when having sex, and the international gimp crowd is like: “Right? You see? It's hella fun. You should try it with leather.” We wonder what happens when the brothels run out of masks (The international gloryhole crowd is like, “You can't guess? Really?”). You won't find any such dickulous variations in Women of the Evening, written by Peggy Gaddis and published by Belmont Books in 1962. In fact, you won't find much sex at all, if our previous Gaddis experiences are an indication. We just finished a Gaddis a few days ago—Once a Sinner, which she wrote as Gail Jordan—and it was more like a romance novel. Well, we'll keep looking. She wrote not only as Gaddis and Jordan, but as Peggy Dern, Sylvia Erskine, Roberta Courtland, Perry Lindsay, et al. One of those alter egos has to be the dirty version of Peggy. We'll find her. She can't hide. Not from us. See more from her extensive bibliography here, here, here, and here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 23 2020
DYING TO SEE HER
Wow, he sees me naked and drops dead. I guess all those guys were right—I do have a killer body.


Above you see a Victor Kalin cover for Girl Meets Body, written by Jack Iams for Dell Publications, and published in 1947. In the story a woman having a nude walkabout on a secluded New Jersey beach encounters a corpse. The discovery unleashes problems with police, mobsters, tabloids, and particularly her husband, who she married in England during World War II, before being kept away from him by the conflict for two years. The husband soon suspects this wife he barely knows and has spent only a few weeks with total has a secret connection to the murdered man.
 
It sounds sinister, but Iams is not trying to be too serious with this book. Major characters are named Whittlebait, Barrelforth, and Squareless, if that gives you an indication of the feel. The writing style is a bit Thin Man, with numerous quips and asides, and the spouses, named Sybil and Tim, cast as dueling lovebirds. Throughout the arguments there's never a doubt they'll work it out. They also work out the mystery, unconvincingly, but overall, we have to say the book was enjoyable. We were betting Sybil and Tim would be recurring characters, but it doesn't seem like that happened. Girl Meets Body is the first and last of them.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 22 2020
SINS OF OMISSION
Gee, I wonder what it would be like if I were in a novel with a good plot and interesting supporting characters?


About fifty percent of the time we choose books by the cover art, and about twenty-five percent of the time the author draws us. The other twenty-five percent? Those are books that are bundled in lots. We end up with them because we have no choice if want the other books in the group. Gail Jordan's, aka Peggy Gaddis's Once a Sinner is one of those. The cover art is blah, and we don't seek out Jordan especially. But we dutifully read it. It's a melodrama about a war veteran who gets married overseas in England, much to the chagrin of his longtime sweetheart waiting back home. When the vet shows up with his new bride Heather, the other woman, Drusilla, sets about trying to ruin the marriage by any means necessary. Dru is stubborn, spoiled, arrogant, and sneaky, yet we liked her more than any of the other characters. That's probably not what Jordan intended, and is definitely a symptom of a book not executed to the highest level. But for all that, it isn't bad. Maybe we'll try another effort from her down the line. Then again, maybe not.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 20 2020
THE VAMPIRE HUNTER
Hmph. She didn't crumble to dust. Guess you weren't a vampire after all. Sorry, honey.


You may remember we started on a set of Richard Matheson books several months ago, long before we were thinking about COVID-19, and I Am Legend was always third on the list. There are so many books and stories about humanity being wiped out by flus and viruses. We thought this was one of them. We don't know why, but that was our assumption. The book, though, is actually about vampires. The novel first appeared in 1954, and the Corgi Books edition you see here was published in 1960. The story follows the day-to-day—and night-to-night—existence of man named Robert Neville who lives in a Los Angeles house, from which he kills vampires and forages for food by sunlight, but to which he must retreat every sunset lest he be consumed by rampaging bloodsuckers. He might be the last man on Earth, but how can he know? He's basically tethered to his house as far as a tank of gas can carry him—half to go someplace, half to get back. In that radius he's seen nothing but desolation and vampires.

Most of the narrative deals with him trying to decipher vampire biology as a way to cure or kill them. Everything is covered, from why they hate crosses to why wooden stakes kill them, and the idea of a virus is actually touched upon as a cause of their condition, which is perhaps where we got our mistaken ideas about the book. The science is interesting, but the point is terror and isolation, as the main character's survival is complicated by his occasional bouts of carelessness and despair. Setting aside the usual 1950s social attitudes that don't strike harmonious chords today, the book is effective, and, in parts, legitimately scary. The concept resulted in four film adaptations—1964's The Last Man on Earth, 1971's The Omega Man, and 2007's I Am Legend and I Am Omega. When a book is that kind of cinematic gold mine, you expect it to be good, and it is. We'd even call it a horror monument.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 17 2020
SHARPER IMAGE
The author's lack focus will quickly become clear.


We read Paul Gregory's 1961 sleazer Naked Lens and it was, well, quite disappointing. The cover talks about a character named Alice posing for “those pictures you hear about,” but the book isn't actually about her. It's about a photographer named Mike who wants to transition from news to high art and decides to use any means needed to get there. He takes nude photos of Alice when she's drunk, which for Beacon Books is enough to imply that the story is about her, when in reality she occupies maybe one twentieth of the narrative.

The book is poorly written from start to finish, but the worst part is how Gregory writes dialogue in which characters constantly use each other's names:

“But why, Mike?”

“I don't know why.”

“Well, I want to know, Mike.”

“There's no reason.”

“There's always a reason, Mike, even if you don't realize.”

There's always a reason books are bad, too, even if the author doesn't realize. Laughable dialogue, weak characters, a thin plot, and the empty promise of erotica but no sexual thrills at all. You can skip this one.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 08
1953—Jomo Kenyatta Convicted
In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta is sentenced to seven years in prison by the nation's British rulers for being a member of the Mau Mau Society, an anti-colonial movement. Kenyatta would a decade later become independent Kenya's first prime minister, and still later its first president.
1974—Hank Aaron Becomes Home Run King
Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's 39-year-old record. The record-breaking homer is hit off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and with that swing Aaron puts an exclamation mark on a twenty-four year journey that had begun with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, and would end with his selection to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.
April 07
1922—Teapot Dome Scandal Begins
In the U.S., Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leases the Teapot Dome petroleum reserves in Wyoming to an oil company. When Fall's standard of living suddenly improves, it becomes clear he has accepted bribes in exchange for the lease. The subsequent investigation leads to his imprisonment, making him the first member of a presidential cabinet to serve jail time.
April 06
1930—Gandhi Leads Satyagraha March
In India, Mahatma Gandhi raises a lump of mud and salt and declares, "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire." His words, which were a protest against the British salt tax, mark the beginning of the Satyagraha March, which in turn triggers the wider Civil Disobedience Movement that ultimately culminates in Indian independence.
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