Vintage Pulp Oct 22 2021
MIDNIGHT SPECIALIST
They say you can't buy love, but you just have to know where to shop.


Above: a striking if weathered cover for Gilbert Miller's novelization of the 1957 movie The Flesh Is Weak, which is about how a ring of sex traffickers trick naive women into street prostitution. It stars Milly Vitale, and the painting here by John Richards is a very good likeness of her, despite its cartoonish style. We also like the fur. She must have borrowed it from her pimp. To see our other material on this film just click its keywords below and scroll. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 15 2021
FIGHT OR FLIGHT
Drug enforcement agents and heroin dealers settle their issues Outback.


We just shared a 1950 issue of Adam last week, but since it was too fragile for us to scan it all here's a second one, more completely documented. This hit Aussie newsstands this month in 1975 and you see the bright colors and dynamic art that was its trademark in those years. The cover illustrates Alex Tait's tale, “The Raw Deal,” which has to do with two undercover agents setting up a sale of pure heroin in order to take down a drug ring. The two agents, male and female, are posing as a couple, and as happens in fiction, the posing turns into reality. Interestingly, they have little choice because the villains have installed a two-way mirror in the agents' quarters and are keeping watch. So it's either get busy or blow their cover. The helicopter on the cover is the cavalry coming to the rescue right when it looks like the two agents will be executed. Adam's illustrations, at least from the early 1960s onward, were never generic. They were always tailor-made for a story in the magazine. Since most of the writers were relatively inexperienced, we can only imagine how thrilling it must have been for them to see their work represented this way. We have twenty-eight scans below for your enjoyment.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 14 2021
WILD CHILD
*sigh* Sure, wild body. Always wild. Dance, dance, dance. You know how this body feels right now? Hung over.


This cover for the 1953 novel Wild Body introduced a new artist to us—Howard Purcell, who produced an illustration better than Manning Clay's novel deserves. Wild Body is the story of a woman named Valerie Browning who's too attractive. That's Clay's formulation, not ours. Valerie's dilemma is summed up by this line about a hundred pages in: The cruelty of nature had endowed her with an exotic body but had forgotten to provide a heart and a soul. So she's kind of like the Tin Man, but stacked. She has starry ambitions, but can only manage to reach the burlesque circuit. As a dancer she quickly becomes jaded and depressed, and in addition to problems with men has a roommate named Lucyanne who gets one gander of Val's goods and decides same-sex action is where it's at. That could make for a good tale, but with low levels of action, eroticism, and drama, Wild Body lacks body and isn't all that wild. We'll keep our eyes open from more art from Purcell, though. This subtly phallic cover is excellent.
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Vintage Pulp Oct 13 2021
NEAR MRS.
It's a tough job but somebody's got to do her.


Wright Williams' 1948 novel Hired Husband came in a group of pulp novels we bought, and clearly isn't a crime or adventure novel, but a sleazy romance. And what vintage sleazy romances typically do is get the female protagonist laid, but not entirely due to her own efforts. In this case Laurette and John want to have a child, but can't get married because John's wife is wasting away comatose in a hospital, could continue doing so indefinitely, and divorcing a sick spouse who can't speak for herself isn't legal. So John is stuck. But he and Laurette feel they have no time to waste in pursuit of happiness and family, so they hire Latham to marry Laurette, so that John can impregnate her and the child will be so-called legitimate. After John's wife finishes withering to oblivion, Laurette will divorce her platonic hubby Latham, marry the widowed John after a respectable interval, and presto, instant family. What could possibly go wrong? Hah hah, plenty. Hired Husband is preposterous, and only marginally well written, but it kept us engaged. Also engaging is the cover art by Bill Wenzel, a guy we've featured before. See more here.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 11 2021
TOURIST TRAP
Shit, that waiter is fast! The meal sucked and his service was worse, but maybe we should have tipped him anyway.


This cover for the 1965 Ace Edition of Martha Albrand's 1959 novel A Day in Monte Carlo caught our eye for a couple of reasons. One is the nice art by an unknown, but the other is because we're almost finished with David Dodge's 1952 travel book The Poor Man's Guide to Europe, and it encompasses the south of France. Why read a 70 year-old travel book? We knew it would be like a priceless time capsule—and it is. We'll get to it a bit later, but suffice to say it made us see this cover as two vacationers stiffing a waiter who's now chasing them with a scimitar. As you'd expect, however, this is actually an espionage novel, and a well reviewed one.

But sadly, A Day in Monte Carlo, which you might categorize as romantic suspense, is silly. Its main flaw is that the central relationship between American spycatcher Mark and French dancer Fleur is built on the gimmick of love at first sight. They meet, fall in love within minutes, and agree to marry before half a day has passed. After that point one of the main sources of plot tension becomes: how can Mark carry on a love affair and still chase the great and mysterious Timgad, mastermind behind the Algerian rebel movement, who flits from the Sahel to the Riviera with the ease of a migratory hawk? Well, there's an answer to that, though not a good one.

Albrand was something of an expert at this type of fiction, having published other novels in the same vein, but reputations can deceive. A great writer, perhaps, could pull all this off, but Albrand, whose go-to lines are things like, “Oh, Mark, I was so afraid. Is it really worth it to love this much?” is not a great writer. At least not in this book. We've actually seen her compared to the aforementioned David Dodge, who in addition to travel books wrote fiction classics like To Catch a Thief. But while Dodge wrote with wit, panache, and a touch of romance, he also wrote with gravity and grit. A Day in Monte Carlo needs a dose of the latter two qualities. Onward and upward. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 10 2021
SAILOR TAKE WARNING
Abandon all boats ye who enter here.


This issue of Adam magazine published this month in 1950 was in delicate condition, so we were able to scan only a small selection of pages. The cover illustrates the story, “Swamp Bait,” by Leslie T. White, which deals with a sailor who manages to get his schooner trapped in a South Carolina swamp and is offered help by a ragtag stranger who turns out to be an escaped murderer planning to steal the boat and sail it to Brazil. Swamps have hungry gators, venomous snakes, toxic plants, and deep quicksand, but it's the humans you really need to be careful of. That's true anywhere, though, we guess. The protagonist has about twelve hours to think of a solution or he's fish food.

This is a very early Adam—in fact it may the earliest one we've bought. Hang on a sec. Yep, it's the earliest one, and because of the time period its focus is almost solely on fact and fiction. The cartoons and models had yet to dominate. There are exactly two photos of women, and four cartoons. However, the stories are of consistently better quality than during later decades. We'd love to pretend this magazine has value, but we doubt we could sell it in the condition it's in. Still, it's a nice addition to the collection, which is well beyond a hundred issues now. That means we'll share more Adam soon.
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Vintage Pulp Oct 7 2021
NIGHT VISIONS
A nocturnal perpetrator is revealed thanks to key evidence.


Above you see a beautiful paperback cover, both front and back, for Gerald Kersh's classic drama Night and the City, basis for the famed 1950 film noir. We have a copy of the book, so we may get back to it later. We're sharing the cover because it was painted by Sandro Symeoni. Back when we first stumbled upon this genius more than a decade ago there was little online about him. Now he has a Twitter page, a dedicated website currently in mid-build, plus a recent Facebook group. All of this means his profile is growing, which in turn means more attributed pieces appearing.

But attribution can be tricky. Symeoni was a chameleonic artist, with a style that evolved so much that even with the presence of his signature removing all doubt as to the provenance of the work, it's still hard to imagination that he painted with such range. And of course, some of his pieces don't have signatures, often because it was covered or cropped, and in those cases a little detective work is needed. The above cover is a good example. It's not signed, and has not been attributed to Symeoni anywhere, but it's him.

Note the background perspective on the left side, the chain of streetlights that draws the eye beyond the female figure. For a while this was Symeoni's thing, and it appeared in much of his work. For example, check this section at right (or above if you're using a mobile device) of his cover for the Peter Cheyney novel He Walked in Her Sleep (full cover here).
 
And directly below that example you see another, more subtle version of it in a crop we've made of his poster for La strada della vergogna (full poster here). Again you see a pretty chain of light receding from the viewer, plus a few impressionistic dots of nocturnal illumination. We have a few more examples below, but what you've already seen is probably convincing enough. These are all unmistakably by the same hand.

Simultaneously, Symeoni used another stylistic trademark on the Kersh cover—flourescent yellow. You see that in the first two posters of this group. Sorry to ask you click over there, but if we added those examples here the post would become a real mess. In any case, you see what we mean about the light. With both the perspective and dayglow yellow characteristics noted, plus the general similarity of style, there's little doubt this is Symeoni's work. The final piece of evidence is simply that he's known to have produced pieces for Ace Books between 1958 and 1960, if not even a year or two later. This is an Ace cover, thus the case becomes open and shut. Well, maybe it wouldn't hold up in court, but it's good enough for here. Verdict reached: Symeoni.

Below we've uploaded a few movie posters, confirmed as Symeoni's, in which he uses the perspective technique noted above. They'll help to reinforce our conclusion. Again, stylistically he was wide ranging. In addition to what you see here he painted portraits, delved deeply into color blocking, painted with abstract and blank backgrounds, drew in ink, painted humorous pieces, and created scores of unique fonts. But of all his styles we like these nighttime masterpieces best. More from this virtuoso later.
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Vintage Pulp Oct 5 2021
LONG LEAVE THE KING
Hi, Jane. I hear Tarzan's away for the week. You know, some of us guys living in this jungle have a little class.


Remember that time Tarzan went all the way to the city to buy bug repellant? Jane was alone, and they'd been having some troubles, and she needed a shoulder to cry on, and Chad, who lives a couple of trees over, happened to be around, and, well, something happened. It lasted like a week. Chad was such an entitled ass it made Jane realize how good she actually had it with the King of the Jungle. And him? What he doesn't know can't hurt him.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 3 2021
U.S. OF ESSAYS
Excuse me madam, would you like to hear an American's opinions about everything?


John Steinbeck's Un americano en Nueva York y en Paris was published in 1957 by Ediciones Mariel, which was based in Buenos Aires. First published in 1956 in France as Un Américain à New York et à Paris, this is a collection of articles that Steinbeck wrote for Le Figaro when he was living in Paris. Because they originally appeared in French for a French publication many went unpublished in English for decades. In fact we can't be sure all the essays are available in English even today, though one would like to assume so. In any case, that's why this book caught our eye—because it surprised us that the entire collection of essays was available in Argentina, but not the U.S., almost immediately after they appeared in France.

Steinbeck was a serious writer, and thus was considered a serious persona, but the Le Figaro essays gave him a chance to show readers his wit and humor. Some of his observations read so contemporarily they could be from a year ago, particularly his musings over a restaurant owner who received a Michelin star, then spent every waking moment plotting, hoping, suffering to get another. He hopes to have his chance when the Michelin critic schedules another visit. The fact that the chef's official taster is Steinbeck's cat Apollo just adds more absurdity to the tale, as the genius who wrote Of Mice and Men veers into the silliness of cats and menus.

The parts of Un americano en Nueva York y en Paris not about France consist of articles concerning New York, culture, and politics. One of those latter entries, from 1954, is about Joseph McCarthy, who was in full witch hunt mode at the time. Much of the literati were loudly opposed to the proto-fascist senator, but Steinbeck took a different tack, writing that democracies occasionally need a challenge from demagogues in order to evolve, because such dark episodes remind people what democratic ideals really are—i.e. everyone gets to participate, not just self-appointed gatekeepers and purity-testers afraid of change or losing power. The tent of democracy always gets bigger, not smaller. It can't do the latter and qualify as a democracy.

The cover art on this was painted by J.C. Cotignola, whose work appeared on various Argentine and Brazilian publications, but who isn't well known today. Bang up job though. To us the title of the collection somewhat echoes George Orwell's acclaimed Down and Out in Paris and London, another book about knocking around in a couple of big cities. The difference is Orwell was so poor he almost starved to death—he literally ate moldy bread out of garbage cans to survive. Steinbeck was the toast of Paris when he was there. Given a choice, we'd skip the mold and go straight to the toast. Preferably with a layer of rillette de porc on top. Even Apollo the cat would approve of that.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 2 2021
A BIT OF POUPEE
It's nothing a good stain remover won't fix.


Above: a cover for Poupée de chair, 1963, by Hans J. Nordling, from Éditions Baudelaire—not to be confused with the publisher currently partnered with Hatchette. In French “poupée” means doll, and “chair” means flesh, so there's your title in English—"flesh doll." The book deals with a woman trapped in an unconsummated marriage, whose rival for her husband's affections is her own mother. How very French. We like the art on this, which we're going to say with a high degree of confidence was painted by James Hodges. It was cropped from a larger piece, we suspect, because his femme fatale is reaching for a gun you can barely see at lower right. See more from Hodges here, here, and here

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
October 20
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
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