Vintage Pulp Jan 26 2020
ENNUI, MYSELF, AND I
Loyal wife learns that there's nothing like a really good sidepiece.


This cover for Dominique Napier's 1961 novel House Party, a striking piece of art, was painted by Edward Moritz. We think the woman depicted looks a little like Diana Dors. The main character Betsy is actually a brunette, but this may be one of those paintings that was made independently of the book. Said book is a pretty well written sexual awakening tale about a woman whose husband doesn't ring her bell, and who blames herself. But during a weekend mansion party on the tony Connecticut seashore a longtime crush makes her ladyparts tingle, and she realizes she's not as cold as she thought. She has misgivings about cheating, of course, but for various reasons the idea of getting a piece of side action starts to sound good. Napier's aspirations are F. Scott Fiztgerald-ish, but the literary heft is lacking. If the erotic amperage had been doubled or tripled we think it would have been a much better book, but still, it was reasonably fun.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 25 2020
REASON TO PANIC
You try staying calm when there's a killer on the loose.


After several years writing up movies being screened at San Francisco's annual Noir City Film Festival we decided not to do it this year. But we're going to make one exception. The 1946 French drama Panique, for which you see a beautiful promo poster above, is showing at the fest tonight, and since we were able to obtain a copy, we had a look. It isn't a film noir. It's a drama starring Viviane Romance, Max Dalban, and Michel Simon, and it deals with a woman named Alice, her lover Capoulade, and her neighbor Hire, who has a crush on her. The set-up suggests love triangle, but Hire has more than just a romantic interest in Alice. He also believes her boyfriend might be responsible for an unsolved murder. The issue he'll confront is just how strong Alice's loyalties to her boyfriend are.

Every year the Noir City Film Festival draws entries from outside the film noir realm. Panique was probably chosen because its subtext deals with bigotry, an evil that is on the upswing across the globe. The character Hire is Jewish, which leads to serious trouble for him as the film progresses. The powerful screenplay was derived from George Simenon's 1933 novel Les Fiançailles de M. Hire (also the source material for the 1989 film Monsieur Hire), and of course in 1933 in Europe, the flames of anti-semitism were being fanned by demagogic leaders into what would soon be the conflagration of genocide. We can't tell you more about the plot of Panique without giving everything away, but we recommend it. Foreign film buffs will certainly enjoy it.

Something else we recommend is our write-up on Viviane Romance from ten years ago. Many European film performers and artists whose careers spanned World War II either fled the continent, ran afoul of the Nazis, or worked out an accommodation that allowed them to continue in their professions. Romance falls into the third category. The French population was somewhat understanding about stars who decided to keep working even after the Nazis took over the French film industry. They were understanding up to a point, that is. If you're interested in learning more just click this link.
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Vintage Pulp Jan 22 2020
SKIN AND BONES
I really like her, but if she lost eighty, maybe ninety pounds, she'd be perfect.


Above is another fun cover from French illustrator Jacques Leclerc, who also signed his art as Jihel, and here works his magic on Roland Patrick's The Lost Nights. We've featured this artist several times. See more here, here, and here

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Vintage Pulp Jan 21 2020
JUST CAN'T TAKE A CHOKE
Famed author Ian Fleming arrested after strangulation rampage at his publishing company.


We talked about how Ian Fleming feuded with his publisher Perma Books over name changes to his James Bond novels. This is another one of the offending paperbacks, 1957's Too Hot To Handle. Not only had this book already been successfully published as Moonraker by the British hardback imprint Jonathan Cape, but the Lou Marchetti cover art Perma used doesn't fit the Bond brand at all. Signet Books did infinitely better when it got the rights in 1960. As far as Fleming trying to strangle everyone at Perma, we can't confirm that as fact. But we bet he thought about it. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 19 2020
JUST SAY WIJN
Anytime is the right time for great cover art.


Above, a cover for K. Beerman's Baarnse Moord (Murder in Baarn), painted by Dutch artist Martin Oortwijn. We said we'd get back to Oortwijn and here we are, three years later. He remains, in our eyes at least, a unique talent. We were reminded of him because he illustrated the cover of a Christine Keeler biography, and Keeler is back in the spotlight thanks to the new BBC series The Trial of Christine Keeler, which we've been watching. So far so good on that, and we'll try to dig up more from Oortwijn.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 17 2020
CAPITOL PUNISHMENT
Remember when politicians were motivated not by money and power, but by a desire to help people? Neither do we.

Below, a small collection of vintage paperbacks all featuring images of the U.S. Capitol. They're reminders that the building has always been a place of intrigue and treachery. Which is exactly why it's perfect for our website.
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Vintage Pulp Jan 16 2020
ZEST INTENTIONS
It was a different flavor of men's magazine.


Zest magazine, with its bold graphics and cover portraits, looks like a classic mid-century tabloid, but its banner tells you it's really a men's magazine. It lives up to its billing in this issue from January 1956—issue number one, actually—with short stories from Michael Avallone and H.P. Lovecraft, real life adventure tales, scare stories (“Is Your Daughter a Sex-Film Star?), glamour photography, and humor.
 
The Lovecraft tale, “Rats in the Walls,” is called “the greatest horror story ever written.” We wouldn't go that far, but it's freaktacular, like everything Lovecraft wrote. It had originally been published in Weird Tales in 1924, and we imagine that its bizarro mutant/cannibalism themes were pretty shocking back then. The Avallone story, “The Glass Eye,” is novella length. He had already published three novels and was building a reputation as a reliable author of thrillers, which makes his inclusion a nice coup for a new magazine.
 
The photography in Zest is just as impressive as the fiction. Readers get to see rare shots of major celebs such as Sophia Loren, Sabrina, and Delores del Rio. All in all Zest was a high budget effort, but it lasted only two issues. Why did it fold? No idea on that. Competition in the market was plenty stiff at the time. On the other hand, maybe two issues are all that were planned. We're thrilled to show you one of them, comprising thirty-plus scans below for your Thursday enjoyment.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 15 2020
NO KITTEN AROUND
Nations to betray, people to murder. *yawn* Let me nap for about twelve hours before I spring into action.


We move from yesterday's canines to today's felines. Pure pinup style art by Willard Downes adorns this Gold Medal paperback of John Flagg's, aka John Gearon's, novel The Persian Cat. Looking at this, we were pretty sure Downes painted it long before Gold Medal came knocking at his studio door, simply because this piece, while wonderful, is also generic enough to front probably a quarter of mid-century thrillers. A read through the tale seems to confirm our suspicion. The main character is ex-OSS agent Gil Denby, who money lures back into the spy game for a high stakes mission in Teheran, where he's supposed to bring to justice a femme fatale who was a Vichy traitor during World War II. The femme does plenty, but she never quite gets around to lounging abed in her undies.

This was published in 1950, a crucial period in Iranian history. Though the narrative doesn't reveal an exact time frame, it's a given that the tale and publication date are closely aligned. That means the story takes place when Iran was ruled by Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, aka the Shah, with some power also apportioned to a series of prime ministers. In fact, there were seventeen prime ministers from 1940 to 1950, which hints at the political volatility of the country. Iranians would eventually elect the reformist Mohammed Mossadegh as PM in 1951, and the U.S. and Britain would promptly overthrow him in 1953, leading to the Shah gaining unchallenged power.

You will learn none of this reading The Persian Cat. It isn't even there as deep background. Also missing is any affinity for language, culture, geography, architecture, or life in the streets. Nor does Flagg mention that the predominant language in Iran is Farsi, not Arabic, and he only hints that the predominant ethnic group is Persian, not Arab. In short, the book lacks a sense of place. When reading about the exotic and distant city of Teheran, this is a letdown. Flagg traveled the Middle East but could have written this novel without ever leaving the U.S. We can't say why the Iranian flavor is so weak, but lack of interest and/or lack of willingness to have learned usable details of the country are leading possibilities. See: David Dodge for how to write exotic locales successfully.

That said, The Persian Cat is a reasonably fun, well-written adventure. Yes, we know that assessment seems contradictory. We'd have liked a more atmospheric and informative tale, but Flagg has talent. His hero Denby deals with betrayal, murder, hairsbreadth escapes, and serious doubts about whether he wants to send that languorously stretching femme fatale to her death. The book's biggest flaw—besides the usual behavior toward women that might easily earn Denby a restraining order or prison time today—is a climax built on revelatory dialogue, pages of it, that will leave you screaming in your head, “Enough talk! Just shoot the fucker!” Still, Flagg overcomes these issues to craft nine tenths of a good book. We'll probably try him again down the line.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 12 2020
BAD MOON ON THE RISE
You'd be vicious too if you ate only once a month.


When we last saw Bertrand the Werewolf—on a very nice 1951 cover of Guy Endore's The Werewolf of Paris—he had been unleashed by the full moon and was dining out in decidedly un-French style. On this 1962 Ace Books edition he's finished his meal and is pondering possible desserts. He looks considerably more menacing here than on that previous cover thanks to the skill of the artist, who is, incredibly, uncredited. For that Ace receives a serious demerit, because this is special work and it should have been attributed. Bad publishers! We'll dig around and see if someone has an idea who painted it. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 11 2020
HIGH ANXIETY
When an unknown neighbor commits murder peace of mind is the next casualty.


It's always nice to come across a book with a fresh approach. This book for example, The Woman on the Roof by Helen Nielsen, deals with a disturbed woman who has the key clues to a murder mystery due to being able to see directly into a neighbor's apartment. But she's considered a kook by family, friends, and the police, who've interacted with her before on the occasion of her being committed to a mental institution. Upon her release she wanted nothing more than peace and tranquility, but now she's a murder witness. Socially awkward, afraid of people, obsessive compulsive, and psychically tethered to the garage-top apartment that is her sole safe zone, this killing thing really turns her life upside down.

There's a great sequence where the character gets lost on the streets of L.A., and seeing the city from her point of view, experiencing all its nocturnal strangeness and indecipherable cacophony and perceived danger through her eyes, is tremendously affecting. We can't remember feeling that level of sympathy for a character in a jam in a long time. Not sure many male authors could have pulled it off quite as deftly. Nielsen's good ideas, written well with a unique angle on murder—figuratively and literally—made for a very worthwhile read. It was originally published in 1954, and the Dell paperback you see above appeared in 1956 with excellent cover art by William George. 

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
January 27
1967—Apollo Fire Kills Three Astronauts
Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee are killed in a fire during a test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Although the ignition source of the fire is never conclusively identified, the astronauts' deaths are attributed to a wide range of design hazards in the early Apollo command module, including the use of a high-pressure 100 percent-oxygen atmosphere for the test, wiring and plumbing flaws, flammable materials in the cockpit, an inward-opening hatch, and the flight suits worn by the astronauts.
January 26
1924—St. Petersburg is renamed Leningrad
St. Peterburg, the Russian city founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and which was capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years, is renamed Leningrad three days after the death of Vladimir Lenin. The city had already been renamed Petrograd in 1914. It was finally given back its original name St. Petersburg in 1991.
1966—Beaumont Children Disappear
In Australia, siblings Jane Nartare Beaumont, Arnna Kathleen Beaumont, and Grant Ellis Beaumont, aged 9, 7, and 4, disappear from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, and are never seen again. Witnesses claim to have spotted them in the company of a tall, blonde man, but over the years, after interviewing many potential suspects, police are unable generate enough solid leads to result in an arrest. The disappearances remain Australia's most infamous cold case.
January 25
1949—First Emmy Awards Are Presented
At the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles, California, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents the first Emmy Awards. The name Emmy was chosen as a feminization of "immy", a nickname used for the image orthicon tubes that were common in early television cameras.
1971—Manson Family Found Guilty
Charles Manson and three female members of his "family" are found guilty of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, which Manson orchestrated in hopes of bringing about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise between blacks and whites.
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