Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paperback 144: The Girl from Las Vegas (J.M. Flynn) / To Have and to Kill (Robert Martin) (Ace Double F-111)

Paperback 144: Ace Double F-111 (PBO / 1st ptg, 1961)

Title: The Girl from Las Vegas / To Have and To Kill
Author: J.M. Flynn / Robert Martin
Cover artist: uncredited / uncredited

Yours for: $10

Best things about this cover:

  • Q: What's the one thing that could upstage a half-naked, armed redhead reclining on your hotel room bed?
  • A: Those pants
  • This cover makes me feel funny ... I like that she's, uh, packing heat, but does she have to hold it like that. It's making me worried/confused. I think she's ordering me to kneel, but ... I'm scared to ask why.
  • It's like Ann-Margaret killed "I Dream of Jeannie," stole her hair, and then ran off to Las Vegas to, I don't know ... let's say, join Clown College.

Best things about this cover:

  • "Aaargh, Krull angry. Who paint words on Krull's back? Krull make someone pay for cleaning bill..."
  • "Abridged" - HA ha. "Long story short, he married her, killed her, and then carried her half-shod corpse over the threshold. Cue the music, fade to black, roll credits."
  • I should be keeping track of all the low-rent outfits that provide blurbs for my books. The Charleston News & Courier!? When did anyone ever take reading advice from South Carolina? (No offense, guys ... Go Gamecocks!)
Page 123~

He had shaved and changed into a light blue short-sleeved shirt and gray cord slacks. His attire surprised me a little, perhaps because I had subconsciously expected him to wear a dark mourning suit and somber tie. He still looked tired; eyes sunken, dark half moons beneath them. I leaned back in the chair and said, "Hi."

-from To Have and To Kill


Friday, September 26, 2008

Paperback 143: Double, Double / Ellery Queen (Pocket Books 874)

Paperback 143: Pocket Books 874 (1st ptg, 1952)

Title: Double, Double
Author: Ellery Queen
Cover artist: Tom Dunn

Yours for: $10

Best things about this cover:

  • Betty's audition for Macbeth was cut violently short...
  • Betty's voracious appetite for men's hands knew no limits...
  • Extreme Chiropractics!
  • Honestly, this is one of the most vivid and memorable covers in my collection. I want to read the book just to figure out what he's doing to her (or vice versa)

Best things about this back cover:
  • Super pastel rectangles. Love them.
  • "Town Hermit" - is that an official position? It's capitalized!
  • There is a "little" too much use of "scare" quotes on this back "cover.
  • It seems a little odd that the selling point of this mystery is that it includes SEVEN murders (arbitrary?) and that there were NO CLUES - what the hell does "Double, Double" have to do with anything? This should have been called "Seven Murders, No Clues"

Page 123~

Now the last lingering bong was gone and Dakin was his proper hatchet self again, and Ellery said, "So," like little Hercule Poirot, and he went over and shut one of the windows, shivering.

This may be my favorite "Page 123" sentence ever, if only for "the last lingering bong."


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paperback 142: Liana / Martha Gellhorn (Popular Library 529)

Paperback 142: Popular Library 529 (1st ptg, 1953)

Title: Liana
Author: Martha Gellhorn
Cover aritst: That guy who did all the Popular Library covers (i.e. I don't know)

Yours for: NOT FOR SALE

Best things about this cover:

  • Note the censored (excised with scissors!) tagline - it should read: "Her Color Was No Barrier - To Men." I guess we're supposed to believe that that thing in red trunks is a man and not an oddly anthropomorphic lizard.
  • "Are you done with your one-armed water chin-ups yet? My neck is getting tired."
  • Martha Gellhorn was married to Ernest Hemingway. She was a writer and journalist of some note. I have no idea how she came to be responsible for whatever this book is.

Best things about this back cover:

  • OK, this is officially the gayest not-explicitly-gay paperback I have blogged about to date. It wants you to think it's all about her, but the pictures say otherwise. It's beefcake central up in here. All the boy/girl interaction here feels forced and sexless.
  • "Hey, Johnny Handsome, your broad, muscular back and impossibly toned ass are blocking my view of the lady!"
  • "Now I'm going to show you what women's breasts look like, Johnny." Johnny backs away in discomfort ... while still managing to give us yet another view of his rippling delts and obliques.
  • Her dress appears to zip down the front (!?) past her crotch (!!?)
  • "... a realistic analysis of a woman's degradation" - Nothing sells books like a realistic analysis of degradation, boy howdy. It should have its own section of the bookstore.
  • "Frankness!" - that means there's sex. Yee haw!
Page 123~

Liana sent the servants home early that night and they were glad to go. They would feel safer in their own flimsy homes with their own people.

Silly natives and their love of straw huts!


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Paperback 141: Ah King / W. Somerset Maugham (Berkley Books BG-149)

Paperback 141: Berkley Books BG-149 (1st ptg, 1958)

Title: Ah King and other famous stories of love and hate in the tropics (!)
Author: W. Somerset Maugham
Cover artist: Robert Maguire

Yours for: SOLD 9/18/10

Best things about this cover:

  • Sometimes, when I've been at the computer for too long, I sit like this. The topless native girls never seem to show up.
  • Could this dude be more oafish? He's literally belly-scratching.
  • I wish we had a better close-up on the women, as Bob Maguire does women, especially faces, better than anyone. The kneeling woman is especially sexy and not just because she's, you know, kneeling. God I wanna photoshop this guy out of the picture so bad.
  • You'd never know from this cover that Maugham is one of the most popular and esteemed writers in British history.

Best things about this back cover:

  • OK, for once, these blurbs all sound awesome. I may actually read stories from this book today. That's a first.
  • Is it just me, or does the type-setting look ever-so-slightly off? Like the black and blue inks were set separately, and aren't quite square to one another. It's making me a bit queasy.
  • If I read just one story in this collection, it will be "The Book-Bag"

Page 123~

"When you left them, after a couple of days at the bungalow, you felt that you'd absorbed some of their peace and their sober gaiety. It was as though your soul had been sluiced with cool clear water. You felt strangely purified."

-from, that's right, you guessed it, "The Book-Bag"; I'm dying to see how a book-bag figures into a story about incest on a rubber plantation. I'll let you know.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Paperback 140: Carnival of Death / Day Keene (MacFadden Books 50-239)

Paperback 140: MacFadden Books 50-239 (PBO, 1965)

Title: Carnival of Death
Author: Day Keene
Cover artist: photo

Yours for: $10

Best things about this cover:

  • "Shhhhh. Keep quiet, or it's curtains for you, pillow!"
  • Title sounds like it belongs to a "Kojak" episode.
  • My favorite Carnival of Death can be seen in "The Killing Joke"
  • Yet another girl who prefers to pet her gun rather than hold it properly. Where is her thumb? Her finger is behind the trigger!
  • This cover is like one of those perception-skewing pictures: depending on how you look at her, she is looking either at the pillow or toward the noise coming from the next room. If you stare at her long enough, you can actually make her eyes head in opposite directions.
  • This cover turns sleazy into SLEE-ZAY'. Something about the photo just looks low-rent and tawdry. The roughly-handled book doesn't help (or helps a lot, depending on your affection for SLEE-ZAY')

Best things about this back cover:

  • OK that balloon is flat-out awesome. I can't hate on that.
  • Anywhere a clown is throwing things at you ... that's somewhere you don't want to be. Trust me.
  • Sadly, "gay scene" meant something different in '65.

Page 123~

A moment later the light in the living room came on and, peering through one of the leaded glass panes in the front door, Daly could see a tall, attractive, bare-legged, black-haired girl wearing a baby doll nightdress trying to slip her arms into the sleeves of a matching negligee while she held a crying infant in one arm. It made a pleasant, homey picture.

O man, I was with you until the crying infant. Worst peeping tom letdown ever. The fact that the infant pleases this guy makes him far creepier than your average peeping tom, in my book. "That's it ... burp the baby ..."


Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Pop Sensation" recommended by "Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine" (Nov. 2008)

Just want to thank Bill Crider for recommending this blog in his "Blog Bytes" column in the most recent "Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine." You should pick this issue up, both because I'm in it, and because it features a super-fantastic cover by legendary pulp artist Norman Saunders (whose work occasionally shows up in my own collection). Fellow cover art blogger (and Friend of This Blog, and librarian) Maughta also gets a shout-out for her blog, "Judge a Book by its Cover."

The review also points out that I am (or claim to be) the "55th Greatest Crossword Puzzle Solver in the Universe" - two blogs with one stone! Thanks to fellow crossnerd Doug Peterson for alerting me to the "EQMM" write-up.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Paperback 139: Bodies Are Where You Find Them / Brett Halliday (Dell D327)

Paperback 139: Dell D327 (1st New Dell ptg, 1959)

Title: Bodies Are Where You Find Them
Author: Brett Halliday
Cover artist: Bob McGinnis

Yours for: $7

Best things about this cover:

  • Bob, Bob, Bob - why are you hiding her!!?
  • The title of this book is so true
  • If you Google ["is where you find it"], you'll be shocked at how many different things apply. Short list: Love, Home, Gold, Faith, Fun, Jazz, Art, etc.
  • It's actually a very smoky cover, for being awfully short on lady flesh. Dishevelment + those eyes = hot.
  • Love the double entendre on "bodies" here
  • That Mike Shayne mug is a kind of trademark that appears on nearly all the Dell pbs of Mike Shayne novels. It's a Bob Stanley design, I think

Best things about this back cover:

  • Honestly, I have no idea what I'm looking at. Is that the corner of a bedsheet?
  • "... lots of money, from way back." Like ... antebellum? Is his wealth all in ducats? Doubloons?
  • The only think I like more than an heiress is a "madcap heiress."
  • Whoa whoa whoa - that chick on the front cover is dead? If so, that's a cruel, cruel joke.

Page 123~

"Let's just pretend we're invisible," Shayne suggested.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Paperback 138: One-Way Ticket / Bert and Dolores Hitchens (Perma Books M-3100)

Paperback 138: Perma Book M-3100 (1st ptg, 1957)
Title: One-Way Ticket
Author: Bert and Dolores Hitchens
Cover artist: James Meese

Yours for: $7

Best things about this cover:
  • "Railroad detective" - my favorite kind!
  • The swirling green vortex of nausea and despair
  • The distractingly child-like drawing of the upper half of a candle
  • Cool stenciled font on the title
  • That furniture - the proportions seem off and there are legs that appear to come from / go to nowhere, but in general, it's cool; spare, stark, mid-century modern in the very best way
  • If only she hadn't cut her hair by herself in the dark with a bread knife, she would easily be one of the hottest women in my collection - understated yet stunning black dress (that's a dress, right, not a negligee?), fierce black slip-ons, and a perversely casual way with money. What's not to love?

Best things about this back cover:

  • I love when back covers function like movie teasers: " ... MURDER! Featuring ... Boots! David Bryant! Some other B movie character actors whose names you don't know. And starring Jerry Mathers, as The Beav"
  • Which of these names doesn't belong? A: "David Bryant" - what a dud. That last name really ruins the whole vibe of the back cover. Everyone else gets one colorful name, and he gets the full name of some guy from middle management.
  • Wait, Rock dies? Uh, SPOILER ALERT!
  • This all makes sense except for Boots. I mean, I could write the plot of this book, but I would have no idea what to do with Boots. David Bryant already has two women. Is Boots a cat?

Page 123~

This was a joke on Boots by Boots. They were all expected to enjoy it. They chuckled in chorus and Vic felt a fool.

I'm guessing it was a familiar feeling.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Paperback 137: Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home / James Tiptree, Jr. (Ace 80180)

Paperback 137: Ace 80180 (1st ptg, 1973)

Title: Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home
Author: James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)
Cover artist: [Chris Foss]

Yours for: $9

Best things about this cover:

  • Well, not a lot. An intergalactic schoolbus dangling an aircraft carrier dangling a Death Star over some exceedingly arid planet, in close proximity to a smoking obelisk. Seriously, what was the author hoping to convey (besides confusion)?
  • James Tiptree, Jr. is the pseudonym of Alice Sheldon, a luminary in the world of science fiction from the late 60s until her death in 1987. Her life story is fascinating. Bisexual. Onetime CIA agent. There's a recent-ish bio I've nearly picked up at the library several times now. I've read one novel by her and Loved it (Brightness Falls from the Air).

Page 123~

"Don't say it, baby." The golden body slid close. "Don't down the trip. We love you, No-Pain." They were all petting him now. "Happy, sing him! Touch, taste, feel. Joy!"

But there was no joy.


PS Starting on Sunday, and every Sunday thereafter, I will be semi-syndicated (in that my post here will also be "broadcast" over at "Judge a Book by its Cover")

PPS To hear a story inspired by this Page 123, go here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Paperback 136: Night of Masks / Andre Norton (Ace 57752)

Paperback 136: Ace 57752 (3rd ptg, 1973)

Title: Night of Masks
Author: Andre Norton
Cover artist: "JW"

Yours for: $7

Best things about this cover:

It looks a lot like this cover (Paperback 74):

Let's compare

  • In our book, the mask is basically the same as the face of the guy holding it, whereas in the earlier book, Wrinkles McGreenhand clearly needs his mask to pass for human.
  • Actually, the more that I look at it, our book appears to depict Arnold Horshack holding a Charles Grodin mask.
  • Our book has more soothing colors, though the soothing they induce is kinda offset by the scimitar-wielding dance troupe in the background.
  • The sky of our book appears to have been finger-painted.
  • Verdict: version 1 is way way better. Horrifying and mysterious, where our book just looks silly.
Page 123~

"So you just went out on the surface with the boy to hide out. What did you hope to gain?"

So that's why he needed a mask. Got it.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Paperback 135: Aphrodite / Pierre Louys (Avon 113)

Paperback 135: Avon 113 (1st ptg, 1946)

Title: Aphrodite: A Great Pagan Love Story
Author: Pierre Louys
Cover artist: uncredited

Yours for: $9

Best things about this cover:

  • Aphrodite is seen here doing an ancient version of the Men Without Hats classic "Safety Dance," only instead of forming an "S" with her arms, she is forming a psi ("Psafety Dance!")

  • If you put your thumb over this lady's head (which is to say, her ridiculous headdress), she is almost look-at-able.
  • Nice clip art in the background there, Picasso!
  • I kinda like how the border of this cover echoes the borders of her robe and negligee. That is about all I kinda like about this cover.
  • Pierre Louys was what passed for a soft porn writer in the 40s. Him and Zola.

Best things about this back cover:

  • A great example of an early paperback, from an age when publishers were still anxious about the social status of this fledgling product (mass market paperbacks having come into being only 7 years earlier). "GOOD" "GREAT" "SHAKESPEARE-HEAD" ... nothing at all about the content of the book itself; just a lot of weirdly over-reaching sales copy ("can easily be washed clean"???)
  • "Rough usage" - HA ha: "We know how you semi-literate peons love to rassle with your reading material"

Page 123~

Her long, thin build was disconcerting in a family where all the women were plump. She ripened like a badly grafted crossed fruit of foreign, obscure origin.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

INTERLUDE - the remainder of last year's University Book Sale Books

So it's nearly that time of year again - University Book Sale Time! Table upon table of cheap cheap books, mostly garbage, but occasionally Garbage of the Highest Order. I think the guy(s) who run the sale read this blog, and so might be especially vigilant about hoarding up all the good stuff for themselves, but I'll do my best to collect a bunch of fabulous/ridiculous books so that I can serve them up in big delicious lumps over the course of the rest of the year.

But first, I gotta clear the decks from last year. So today, I give you the dregs of last year's book hunt. The stuff that was bad enough for me to want it, but not bad enough to make the first four rounds of Book Sale write-ups that I did last year. How's that for a teaser!?

First off, "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh," a novelization of that ... famous? ... movie of the late '70s, written by the undoubtedly proud Richard Woodley:

That cartooning reeks of late 70s Mad Magazine. I wish I had an artist credit. The book/movie appears to be about a skinny man with gout hands who has taught his basketball to fetch fish. You may also be interested to know that
  • the official title of this book, according to the publication info page, is "The Fish that Saved Pittsburg" (no "h")
  • this movie featured Dr. J, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, someone calling himself "James Bond III," Jonathan Winters (!), the great character actor M. Emmett Walsh, and, perhaps most inexplicably, Stockard Channing.
  • this movie is "wacky" (but you knew that)
Next, we have ...

Edison Marshall was a workhorse. This is the third book by him that I've featured on this blog, and there are probably more to come. I love the idea that writers who were very popular at one time are now nearly completely unheard of. Big fan of evaporating pop culture. This cover - is that Michael from "L.A. Law"? He has this supercilious look on his face that just seems to be inviting rancor / violence. Seriously, don't you want to hit that guy? His presence has clearly sent a chill up the Mongol girl's spine - look how she clutches herself and huddles in terror.

Moving along...

Yes, that "Dayan." This is the eye-patched general's "21-year-old-daughter" (sic on that last dash!). This book is full of "candor" that shocked "Israel's older generation." That means that Yael liked to !@##, or, according to the back cover copy, "take love where she finds it."

Next there's ...

I'm laughing just looking at this book. It may be the most surreal-looking book that I own. I like to imagine that it's about the Academy Awards. Or two fish, both of whom are named "Oscar."

More animal-related hilarity...

  • "Paul Bunyan Swings His Axe" (original title: "Paul Bunyan Comes Out," "Paul Bunyan's First Pride Parade!," or "Paul Bunyan is FABULOUS!")
  • "Swings His Axe," indeed.
  • "Merlin Olsen is ... Paul Bunyan!"

And now, a few anomalies:

  • "Hmm, let's see, I'll just clear this brush here and OH MY GOD!"
  • "I told you, Betsy, ours is a love that cannot be."
Then there's this one, given to me by a friend of a friend...

About the cover: I think the subtitle ("Overkill") says it all. "We've created a bomb that disperses tanks!"

And lastly, a legitimately great book cover - first edition of Calder Willingham's "End As A Man"

This book is worth a couple hundred dollars in this condition. I believe I paid one. Dollar. The cover design on this thing, while simple, is bold and memorable. I wish contemporary books had this kind of design sense. This book jacket was designed by Stefan Salter, and he and his brother George were both fantastic mid-century book designers. This novel, Willingham's first, was exceedingly controversial in its day, as it dealt with "corruption and sadism in a southern military college" (read: "homosexual subtext"). Willingham went on to success as a screenwriter, with credits on "Paths of Glory," "Little Big Man," and "The Graduate."

More from my regular collection on Wednesday.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Paperback 134: Letter of Marque / Andrew Hepburn (Ace D-440)

Paperback 134: Ace D-440 (1st ptg, 1960)

Title: Letter of Marque
Author: Andrew Hepburn
Cover artist: uncredited

Yours for: $7

Best things about this cover:
  • "My these seas are certainly heaving ..."
  • Jebus, look how nicely she has gift-wrapped those things for us. They're Tremendous!
  • OMG is she dead? Her neck! Between the garrote and the cover crease, terrible things appear to be happening to her head. Look at her glassy eyes. Is she tied to the mast of the world's gayest ship? Is she an ethereal sea goddess emanating from the ships below? I think I'll just stare at her breasts some more and try not to think about it too much.
  • "Replete with action ..." - well, at least we know the guy at the Herald-Tribune did well on his SATs.

Best things about this back cover:
  • "Action and more action is Author Hepburn's motto ..." - o man that's sad. I don't know what's sadder - that he has a motto at all, or that it's so lame.
  • Is it wrong that I think his girlfriend's name looks vaguely like "Madeleine de Vagina?"
  • "Stockton is a swashbuckling hero who's not afraid to ... cut through red tape!?" OK, that was totally *not* in your motto, dude. Boooring. Hepburn needs to get some lessons from Rafael Sabatini, and "Capt. Stockton," if that is his real name, needs to call Errol Flynn for some pointers.

Page 123~
She was stiff and weatherly, and the broad track of her wake gave evidence of her effortless pace, as she rose over the small seas with no check to her speed.

I ... think that was the sex scene.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Paperback 133: The Doctor on Bean Street / Simon Kent (Dell D143)

Paperback 133: Dell D143 (1st ptg, 1954)
Title: The Doctor on Bean Street
Author: Simon Kent
Cover artist: Bill George (yay, an artist credit!)

Yours for: $9

Best things about this cover:
  • How many visual signifiers of "squalor" does one cover need? Sheesh. Look at that guy's shirt. The overflowing trash ... and did the Hulk have at the railing to those steps!? Bill George appears to have invented a new color: filth.
  • "He knew the hungry passions of the damned ... and he knew Ingrid Bergman, who liked to stand on his front stoop, exuding a radiant aura of limeness."
  • "We who wear the beret have a silent, secret language all our own..."

Best things about this back cover:
  • "Street Walker" - subtle!
  • "... about a cold ..." HA ha. Nice euphemism for gonorrhea / unwanted pregnancy
  • O My God why would anyone read this book? It appears to be about a doctor so jaded that his only remaining joy in life is imagining the ways in which his patients will, inevitably, commit suicide. This cover copy makes Camus seem sunny.

Page 123~

Slap on a heap of records, without discretion, hook them on the spindle, start the turntable off. Then the wizard begins.

Yeah, that's right: wizard. Bet you didn't see that coming.