The greatest trick he ever pulled was convincing the world he was national defense.
Are we still here? We haven't been reduced to incandescent plasma yet? We're continually amazed by that fact. But let's never be complacent. The danger is ever-present. As we've mentioned before, nuclear weapons are part of the unseen—or sometimes seen—backdrop to a fair amount of mid-century crime literature and at least one celebrated film noir, which is why we periodically focus on them. Above is one of the most manifestly revealing nuclear test photos ever made. It was produced today in 1952 during a blast code-named Fox, and captures the essence of what atomic weapons really are—a demonic force unleashed that can't be shoved back into its pit.
Not only was she explosively sexy, but her voice could blow you away.
We love this nuclear themed 45 sleeve for an Abbe Lane four song disc, which we guess is titled simply Abbe Lane. It came from RCA Española and was released in Spain in 1958 with the offerings: “Que será será,” “¡Ay! Que Me Vuelvo Loca,” “Banana Boat (Day-O),” and “Very Satisfied.” All four songs are easy to sample online, so give them a whirl if you wish.
The rear sleeve text is fun. It says: Abbe Lane is without a doubt one of the most popular and applauded voices of the current musical moment. All her performances are hits and the songs she sings come to us covered in a rhythm and color that make them even more seductive.
Without a doubt, the secret of her success lies in herself, in her warm voice, in her exquisite way of conveying the message of her music to the listener, in her magnetic figure and great physical attractiveness.
In this recording, Abbe Lane sings in English and Spanish, interprets two calypsos, a fashionable rhythm that has come to dispute the primacy enjoyed by the much-discussed “rock and roll,” and two melodies that will be popular through the warm voice of the artist pampered by the public and critics worldwide: Abbe Lane.
The promotional staff at RCA Española might have loved Lane, but they couldn't spell. They open the third paragraph by calling her “Abre,” instead of Abbe. That amused us. We also like how, according to the front office brains, calypso was supplanting rock and roll. Really? Well, it turned out to be a marathon, not a sprint. We have a bonus shot of Lane below, for your viewing pleasure.
For there were no more worlds to conquer.
Above: a crowd of spectators standing under the entrance sign of the Last Frontier Village on the Las Vegas strip watch the flash from a nuclear blast emanating from the Nevada desert. In the immediate background are Old West-style buildings that housed shops, restaurants, and the Golden Slipper Casino. The sign is a nice juxtaposition by lensman Volkmar Wentzel, placing his shot at the nexus of visual metaphor and social commentary.
The bomb, named Annie, was detonated at Yucca Flat at the Nevada Test Site as part of the test series Operation Upshot-Knothole. It was one of the most photographed of nuclear tests, which is why we've already touched on it here and here, and in fact, because the event was even documented on kinescope, it's one of the few recordings ever made of the sound of a nuclear explosion. Below you see what Annie looked like for people closer to ground zero. It happened early this morning in 1953.
The decline and incineration of Western civilization.
These covers for Pat Frank's acclaimed post apocalypse drama Alas, Babylon can be considered additions to our collection of nuclear explosion book covers. In the story, a missile from a fighter jet causes an explosion in Syria that the Soviets mistake for a full scale NATO nuclear strike. They retaliate with a full strike, the U.S. retaliates with a full strike, and that's all she wrote. Actually, not really. That's the first act. Frank wrote plenty more, none of it fun. The novel first appeared in 1959, with these not-quite-identical Bantam editions coming later. We may have missed them in our initial searches for nuke covers because they're pretty subtle, combing the idea of a red sun with an atomic blast, but we're sure these are supposed to be explosions—or at least evoke them. There's also a very cool Spanish cover we posted way back in 2009. No explosion on that one, but it's exceedingly interesting.
Color, form, and function in the nuclear age.
This photo looks like a shot of the northern lights, but it's actually an image of the Starfish Prime nuclear test, which was conducted today in 1962 as part of the test series codenamed Operation Dominic. The photo was shot from a high flying airplane, which just goes to show that at a sufficient distance anything can look beautiful. You can just see the wing of the aircraft at the lower right of the shot. This test was unique in U.S. history up to that point because the warhead was mounted on the nose of a Thor rocket launched from Johnston Atoll, and the subsequent suborbital nuclear blast occurred two-hundred fifty miles above the Pacific Ocean. People from Hawaii to New Zealand saw the sky turn red. The electromagnetic pulse from the blast knocked out electrical service, telephones, streetlights, set off burglar alarms as far as a thousand miles away, and damaged satellites.
The test alarmed many, and had been protested in advance in various cities around the world, yet those protests achieved nothing. As the decades have worn on treaties have been signed and broken, hopes for abandoning these weapons raised and dashed, even as they've been steadily upgraded. Today there are nukes that make Starfish Prime look like a bottle rocket, including hypersonic missiles developed by both the U.S. and Russia that fly at up to 15,000 mph, which is too fast to be shot down or even reliably detected due to the incredible speed creating a plasma cloud that baffles radar. Of course everyone knows that there's no way to win a nuclear exchange, and the only outcome of even a half dozen nuclear blasts would be the destruction of civilization in its current form, yet the race to build planet killers goes on because of the immense profits involved. Humans are truly a mad species.
It isn't somewhere you want to spend a lot of time.
This photo shows a mushroom cloud in the process of rising to a height of 52,000 feet after a 100 kiloton yield nuclear bomb was dropped from a B-52 bomber near Christmas Island, a coral atoll south of Java, Indonesia, and now part of the Republic of Kiribati. The bomb was set off by the U.S. as part of Operation Dominic today in 1962. As we've mentioned before, the western powers are in the midst of another nuclear arms race, a fact that seems to get lost in a swirl of far less important news. Since mid-century crime fiction and films often touch upon the original nuclear arms race and its enveloping Cold War, we occasionally take a moment to look at these tests, and to remind people that nuclear weapons are pointless and stupid. Have a good day.
It's a tough job but some tabloid has to do it.
Above is the cover of a March 1953 issue of Sir! magazine, and in an example of the ephemeral nature of such items, shortly after we scanned this we spilled a glass of red wine on it. So behold! It's even more rare than it was when we bought it. Above the slash you see boxer Kid Gavilan, he of the famed bolo punch, and on the right is model Joanne Arnold, who we've featured before here, here, and here. She doesn't appear inside. But what you do get is a jaunt through such exotic locales as Melanesia, Tahiti, and Lisbon in search of knowledge and thrills.
We were drawn to the Lisbon story, which the magazine describes as a capital of sin. To us the word “sin” means late nights, good intoxicants, fun women, and excellent entertainment. To Sir! it means being cheated, robbed, framed, and arrested. To-may-to to-mah-to, we guess. We've spent some time in Lisbon and we love it. We don't know what it was like in 1953, but Europe was still coming out of World War II, which means many countries—even non-combatants like Portugal—were wracked by poverty. So we wouldn't be surprised if thieves were out in droves.
Elsewhere inside Sir! you get art from Jon Laurell and Joseph Szokoli, photos of model Jean Williams and Tahitian beauty queen Malie Haulani, a story on the danger of nuclear weapons, anthropological snobbery in exposés about New Caledonia and the Kogi people of Colombia, and fanciful theories about Russian scientists working to keep Josef Stalin alive for 150 years—which didn't work, because he died a mere five days after this issue of Sir! hit the newsstands. Clearly, the magazine is cursed. It certainly cursed our wine glass. We have thirty-five scans below for your enjoyment and other issues of Sir! here and here.
Private island available. Great views. No services, no electricity, no refunds.
Above, an alternate view of the Dominic Chama nuclear test conducted on Johnston Atoll, aka Kalama Atoll, today in 1962. You can see the other photo here. In 2005 the place was put up for auction by the U.S. government as a potential vacation getaway or possible eco-tourism hub. We're not sure how much eco there was, considering the place was not only nuked multiple times, but used for biological weapons testing and Agent Orange storage, but it didn't matter because there were no takers, and the offer was withdrawn. It might still be possible to buy it, though, if you have any connections in the U.S. State Department. We bet your resort would get glowing reviews.
In today's forecast there's a thirty percent chance of radioactive rain.
These two covers from Badger Books with art by Henry Fox and uncredited (probably Fox again) serve as an addendum to our collection of covers featuring nuclear explosions. Author Karl Zeigfreid is an interesting figure. He was really British stage, television, and radio actor Lionel Fanthorpe. As Zeigfreid and other personae he wrote more than one hundred paperbacks, and is still churning them out, with his most recent effort hitting shelves (or online sellers) last year. He published both of the above books in 1963, as well as several others that hit on themes of mass death and apocalyptic destruction and searing heat and melty skin and bloody vomiting and burned out eyeballs. Always keeping it light here at Pulp Intl. Still, it's useful to be reminded occasionally that the threat of nuclear conflict remains high, because humans are bad at sharing, particularly when it comes to planetary resources. Despite all the supposedly complex reasons for geopolitical conflict, the reality is the adults of our species are no better than children. Well, let's hope the melty eyes thing never happens. Then you wouldn't be able to see our website.
There's no shelter from a storm this bad.
Above is a photo of the underwater nuclear test codenamed Umbrella, which was part of the Hardtack series of tests conducted by the U.S. in the Pacific Proving Grounds—aka Marshall Islands—in the South Pacific. The test happened today in 1958.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.