Vintage Pulp Jan 29 2023
WELL ROUNDED
What! A big bubble? Well, yours looks like five pounds of potatoes in a ten pound sack!

It seems like Florida novels are a distinct genre of popular fiction, and most of the books, regardless of the year of their setting, lament how the state is being drawn and quartered in pursuit of easy money. But those complaints are usually just a superficial method of establishing the lead characters' local cred. Theodore Pratt, in his novel The Big Bubble, takes readers deep inside early 1920s south Florida real estate speculation in the person of a builder named Adam Paine (based on real life architect Addison Mizner), who wants to bring the aesthetic of old world Spain to Palm Beach—against the wishes of longtime residents.

Paine builds numerous properties, but his big baby is the Flamingo Club, a massive hotel complex done in Spanish and Moorish style. He even takes a trip to Spain to buy beautiful artifacts for his masterpiece. This was the most interesting part for us, riding along as he wandered Andalusia (where we live), buying treasures for his ostentatious palace. He buys paintings, tapestries, sculptures, an ornate fireplace, an entire staircase, basically anything that isn't nailed down, even stripping monasteries of their revered artifacts. His wife Eve is horrified, but Paine tells her he's doing the monks a favor because they'd otherwise go broke.


You may not know this, but Spain is pretty bad at preserving its ancient architecture. That's another reason The Big Bubble resonated for us—because Spain is very Floridian in that it's being buried under an avalanche of cheap, ugly developments. We love south Florida's Spanish revival feel. What's metastasized in Spain is a glass and concrete aesthetic that offers no beauty and weathers like it's made of balsa wood. The properties are basically glass box tax dodges. The point is, reading The Big Bubble felt familiar in terms of its critique of real estate booms, but simultaneously we saw Paine as a visionary. He made us wish Spanish builders had a tenth of his good taste.


Since the book is set during the 1920s (and its title is so descriptive) you know Florida's property bubble will burst. Paine already has problems to deal with before the crash. Pratt resolves everything in interesting fashion. He was a major novelist who wrote more than thirty books, with five adapted to film, so we went into The Big Bubble expecting good work, and that's what we got. And apparently it's part of a Palm Beach trilogy (though he set fourteen novels in Florida total). We'll keep an eye out for those other two Palm Beach books (The Flame Tree and The Barefoot Mailman). In the meantime, we recommend The Big Bubble. Originally published in 1951, this Popular Library edition is from 1952 with uncredited art.
 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2023
HOLLYWOOD ENDINGS
Some actresses consider it a role to die for—literally.


This is a beautiful Robert Maguire cover, somewhat different from his normal style, that he painted for Patrick Quentin's 1957 mystery Suspicious Circumstances. Quentin was a pseudonym used by various authors, but in this case Hugh Wheeler was behind the façade. The cover blurb describes murder breaking down the Hollywood star system, and that's basically what you get, as the book centers around nineteen-year-old Nick Rood, nervous son of globally adored actress Anny Rood, and follows his suspicions that his mother has killed in order to steal a plum movie role. The book is written in amusing and affected fashion, and is filled with characters speaking in ways no humans do, or likely ever did:

“It's positively Greek. Sophocles would purr. Aeschylus would run not walk to the nearest papyrus or whatever he wrote on.”

How very arch. Thanks to various crises, third party manipulations, and suspicious deaths, the coveted film role repeatedly falls into and out of Anny Rood's lap, while fragile Nick flips and flops from suspecting his mother of murder to not. Meanwhile a newcomer to the entourage, a young secretary named Delight Schmidt, turns Nick's head with her beauty and sweetness, but may be just ambitious enough to have a hand in everything that's occurring. Mid-century authors seem addicted to portraying Hollywood in comical or farcical fashion, but we can't argue with the results here. Suspicious Circumstances is well written, generally interesting, and occasionally funny as hell.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 25 2023
REVENGE IN THE FIRST DEGREE
No man who dumps her ever lives to regret it.

One day there will be no more Charles Williams for us to read, and that'll be sad, but his books, like good wine, are something you have to treat yourself to regularly even as the stock dwindles. His 1958 novel All the Way, which is the source material for the 1960 movie The 3rd Voice, is typically solid Williams work.

It has a fascinating plot at its center. A vengeful woman enlists a fugitive to help her steal her former lover's identity, then impersonate him for weeks afterward so nobody will suspect when he disappears that she's actually killed him. The reason people are supposed to assume a disappearance instead of murder has to do with paranoid schizophrenia in the ex-lover's family, and the fact that the fugitive impersonating him has been faking its rapid onset, publicly and loudly.

With the ground laid in this way, a disappearance will be the logical conclusion, and since the man is rich, the fact that a hundred seventy grand is missing from his bank accounts merely indicates he's never coming back—not that an imposter has withdrawn the cash. The scheme is convoluted, but the genius femmes who come up with them are a staple of pulp literature. Williams gets the job done again, as does Ernest Chiriacka, who painted the cover art. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 23 2023
DESTINY CALLS
Why yes, thank you, ma'am. I'd very much enjoy a dance with you. Do you suppose the band could play a waltz?

We've seen a lot of whites-in-the-tropics covers, but this 1958 Popular Library paperback effort for Peter Bourne's 1947 Haitian drama Drums of Destiny gets across the essential dilemma better than most. Such books always suggest there's something deadening and restrictive about modern civilization, but always come to the eventual conclusion that if life at home sucks, total freedom overseas sucks worse. We've read no books in the sub-genre where the main character stays in tropical lands happy, but surely they exist. They must. We'll dig around. One of those would be an interesting read. As for the tropical culture clash books we've already read, if you're interested we can point to several (but by no means all): here, here, herehere, here, here, and here.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 21 2023
MIDWAY TO TROUBLE
You say I'm beautiful now. But when you find out I have an unabsorbed twin attached to my abdomen you'll change your tune just like every man.


Yup, it's Amos Hatter again. He makes yet another appearance here, this time with his 1952 carny novel Girl of the Midway. This was a natural: we love carny novels, and Hatter specializes in sleazy quasi-romances, which we also like. In this one a naive young woman named Margy Brophy, who works for her father's merry-go-round concession at an amusement park called Dreamland, gets involved with a man named Bill Tanner who plans to bring a big stage show onto the premises. The carnies fear the show will put some of their concessions out of business, so Margy's affair is an uncomfortable case of consorting with the enemy. However, Tanner has no intention of stealing customers. He tries but can't convince the carnies that, given time, his show will actually increase the patronage at their concessions. The battle lines harden, then the most recalcitrant of the carnies is murdered.

The homicide aspect of the book isn't much of a mystery. You merely have to look past the obvious red herring and choose the next most unpleasant carnival denizen, which you'll do automatically. But Hatter isn't a mystery writer anyway. His jam is sexual titillation, and though he does that reasonably well here, at this point we have to accept that he'll probably never again approach the heights of his Hawaii-based novel Island Girl. Of course, in general, you're not looking for nail-biting thrills, deep insight, or remarkable literary style with these types of books. They're meant to give you a semi-boner or three. There are no boners, semi or otherwise, caused by Girl of the Midway. But there's a good amount of carnival atmosphere, and that was enough for us to enjoy the book. Even so, we can't recommend it. We do, however, recommend that you appreciate the cover art by Rudy Nappi. It's perfection. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 19 2023
A TOUCH OF PINK
It's said to be the color of love, but it works fine for raw lust too.

It's been a couple of years, but today we're returning to Éditions R.R., one of the French publishers that took great care with its cover art. This one for 1953's Et treize fois impure by René Roques is amazing. The title of the book means, “and thirteen times impure,” which tells you it's an erotic novel, assuming the art didn't already do that. Said art is uncredited. Click the keywords to below to see several more beautiful R.R. covers. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 17 2023
BAD AS IN GOOD
Fontaine returns for another deadly installment of the hunger dames.


It's official. William Ard, in all his incarnations, is a trusted author. In 1960's When She Was Bad, the follow-up to 1959's As Bad As I Am, Danny Fontaine is now a fledgeling detective on his first case. Many mid-century detectives are ladykillers, but Fontaine is on a level that silences rooms when he enters. He's what women these days might amusingly call a “dilf”—a detective I'd like to fuck. His job is to locate a missing minor royal, a thrillseeker who's caused a ruckus from Grand Bahama to New York City but now may be in trouble way over her head. Fontaine mixes with women ranging from a marquess related by marriage to the Queen of England to a trio of top rank call girls, and they all fall hard for him. His efforts to earn his wings as a private operator under these circumstances are often funny and always exciting. Simply put, Ard's got skills. The cover art on this Dell edition is by Robert McGinnis, and he's got skills too.
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Vintage Pulp Jan 15 2023
RESCUE AT SEA
Don't worry! I'm going to get the three of you out of there!


Our girlfriends—affectionately PI-1 and PI-2—rolled their eyes at this one, and why wouldn't they? We did too, but we work with what we're given, and we certainly couldn't ignore the fact that this January 1969 Adam magazine features a cover of a woman whose gravity defying breasts are directly in the center of the art. Men's magazines, those concoctions of macho fantasy set to print, are inherently sexist, but we are mere documentarians of mid-century art, literature, and film—and crime, and weirdness, and sex—in the various forms they take. This one is a particularly eye-catching example.

While literary magazines published prestige fiction, men's mags like Adam carried on the pulp tradition, giving authors without highbrow leanings opportunities to expose their work to wide audiences. Without the efforts of such publications, modern literature might look very different. Stephen King, for example, published many of his early stories in Gallery, a middle-tier smut monthly nobody would have mistaken for Playboy. Speaking of which, Playboy published early works from Ian Fleming, Ursula K. Le Guin, and even serialized the entirety of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 in 1954, a year after its initial publication landed with a thud.

As far as we know Adam didn't produce any major writers except James Lee, aka Jim Aitchison, whose Mr. Midnight books were recently made into a series now streaming on Netflix. But failing to graduate lots of future bestselling authors doesn't change what Adam was—a publication that aimed for mass male appeal by merging all the elements of what was once known as pulp. Those elements included mystery, crime, war, exotic adventure, risqué humor, and a dose of relatively tame sexual content. We have all that and more below in thirty-plus scans, and something like seventy-eight issues of Adam embedded in our website.
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Vintage Pulp Jan 14 2023
DEATH WISH
And please do so filled with crushing regret and in prolonged pain. Now get lost.


Above: an uncredited cover for Jo Pagano's 1958 novel Die Screaming featuring art of a femme fatale giving the male figure the exact look your wife or girlfriend gives you when she's absolutely over your shit. This first appeared in 1947 as The Condemned, which was adapted into a 1950 movie called The Sound of Fury, and in turn re-released as Try and Get Me!, before reverting back to literary form and becoming what you see above. We like Die Screaming best as a title, but Try and Get Me! is actually more descriptive, as the book deals with an everyman who at his lowest point finds himself in thrall to a vicious criminal, leading to a murder, a manhunt, and the inexorable enactment of justice. We may check out the movie later. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 11 2023
VELVET TEEN
Hi. Becky said it would be okay if I slept over. She didn't specify in whose bedroom.


Above: the immediately identifiable work of the great Paul Rader fronting Russell Trainer's His Daughter's Friend. This is about a widower who gets into deep, deep trouble with a predatory teen. It came in 1964, after another book along the same lines, Wade Miller's famed Kitten with a Whip. Neither were among the first novels of their type. We'd guess the basic idea of adult-and-teen disaster goes back to the beginning of commercial publishing. The few we've read—aside from Lolita—feature girls above the age of consent back in 1964, and we bet that's the case here too. Those who don't read vintage books might suspect that such behavior is condoned, but it isn't—the entire point of these tales is that the men throw away or almost throw away everything, including their jobs, families, and freedom. We won't know exactly what His Daughter's Friend is about until we buy it, which we'll do, but not at two-hundred-plus dollars. That's the ask at the moment, and it's way too high. But someone will put it online at a reasonable price eventually. They almost always do.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
January 29
1916—Paris Is Bombed by German Zeppelins
During World War I, German zeppelins conduct a bombing raid on Paris. Such raids were rare, because the ships had to fly hundreds of miles over French territory to reach their target, making them vulnerable to attack. Reaching London, conversely, was much easier, because the approach was over German territory and water. The results of these raids were generally not good, but the use of zeppelins as bombers would continue until the end of the war.
January 28
1964—Soviets Shoot Down U.S. Plane
A U.S. Air Force training jet is shot down by Soviet fighters after straying into East German airspace. All 3 crew men are killed. U.S forces then clandestinely enter East Germany in an attempt to reach the crash but are thwarted by Soviet forces. In the end, the U.S. approaches the Soviets through diplomatic channels and on January 31 the wreckage of the aircraft is loaded onto trucks with the assistance of Soviet troops, and returned to West Germany.
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.
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