Saturday, April 30, 2011

On Hiatus til Wednesday (+ "Donovan's Brain")

No new blog posts til Wednesday, May 4. I'm in (literally) sunny southern California, college-reunioning and friend-seeing and crossword-tournament-attending. Maybe I can wring a few trashy paperbacks out of this place. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I recommend this book, which I read on the plane. I don't know what kind of Arctic Tron-scape that's supposed to be in the background. The book takes place in regular old California, 1941.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Paperback 408: Men of Albemarle / Inglis Fletcher (Perma Books P189)

Paperback 408: Perma Books P189 (1st ptg, 1952)

Title: Men of Albemarle
Author: Inglis Fletcher
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $5


Best things about this cover:
  • Hard to riff on lynchings, but ... over an open flame? Really? What is it, a cannibal's barbecue?
  • "No, sweetheart! I know you're hungry, but they're not Done yet!"
  • His face is the most constipated face I've ever seen on a cover.
  • That braid is Epic.


Best things about this back cover:
  • "...she said huskily" — that rates a 7 on the Adverb Abuse scale
  • "God's death!" There's an exclamation you don't hear much these days. "God's death, your breasts are rising and falling swiftly under your thin shirt!"
  • I'm not really into "vigorous" novels. If it's not "frank," it's not for me.

Page 123~

He got up to pour himself another brandy and drank it quickly, not slowly as becomes a man settled in his ways. "God's death," he muttered, "does a man never cleanse himself of violence?

512-page book, and I hit "god's death" on the first swing! Prize please!

There's also this:

He thought of the encounter at the Red Lion and felt a little ashamed.

This will be funny to you only if you know that Red Lion is a chain of hotels.


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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paperback 407: Border Wolves / Archie Joscelyn (Star Books No. 9)

Paperback 407: Star Books No. 9 (PBO, 1950)

Title: Border Wolves
Author: Archie Joscelyn
Cover artist: George Gross

Yours for: $12


Best things about this cover:
  • Great girl art! Love the blouse and the skirt and I admire her firm and fearless (if unorthodox) gun-handling technique.
  • Captain Just-For-Men there, however, looks decidedly less confident. "Ehh, I don't like this shooting business! I'm just gonna dance myself off, stage left."
  • I'd love his neckerchief if it were on her.
  • Where are the wolves? I was promised wolves.
  • I defy you to find the adjective "gun-ruled" anywhere else. It's an adjectival exclusive!


Best things about this back cover:
  • Again, no Wolves. Giant psychedelic logo, but no Wolves, Border or otherwise.
  • We get it. This was a range. Move along.
  • VENGEANCE! (I'm a sucker for all things revenge/vengeance/avenging/retribution/vigilante/payback)

Page 123~ (book too short, so ... Page 23!)
Her face warmed transfiguringly, but Thane had little time to watch that.
A big improvement from the first draft of this sentence: "She had a face like a hotplate, but Thane only had eyes for Dun Wanderin'" (which, I swear, is the name of a character in this book)


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Friday, April 22, 2011

Paperback 406: Dark Power / Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (Black Cat No. 14)

Paperback 406: Black Cat No. 14 (1st ptg, 1945)

Title: Dark Power
Author: Elisabeth Sanxay Holding
Cover artist: "F.W." (any idea? anyone?)

Yours for: $22


Best things about this cover:
  • "I am the eye in the sky / Looking at you-u-u / I can read your mind..."
  • LOVE how the tree is reaching out to pick up the lady.
  • This reminds me of the opening of Henry James's "Turn of the Screw": "Oh boy, a new job, I can't wait! I hope the kids are interesting ... uh ... wait. This can't be right. Hello?"
  • It also reminds me a Very late-career Bette Davis movie called ... hang on ... aha, "Burnt Offerings!" Look, the movie poster even features the creepy old house with the single attic window lit up! Bette Davis! It's good/bad, for sure.
  • To be honest, I think the front cover of Dark Power is kind of beautiful. And that logo—so great they dedicated the whole back page to it.

["This is not the book you seek. Back away, slowly ..."]

Page 123~ (book only 120 pages long, so ... p. 23!)

Pale, unusually serious, she went down the stairs. And there in the lounge she saw a stranger, a tall, fair-haired young man, sitting stretched out in an armchair, and smoking a cigarette. When he caught sight of her, he rose.

Wow, that last sentence ... there's a lot in just those two final words. Sets the stage for one of his next lines: "I thought you were going to be repulsive [...] horn-rimmed spectacles — you know — one of these nice girls."


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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Paperback 405: This Way for Hell / Spike Morelli (Leisure Library 7)

Paperback 405: Leisure Library 7 (1st ptg, 1952)

Title: This Way for Hell
Author: Spike Morelli
Cover artist: Reginald Heade

Yours for: $30

Best things about this cover:


  • That woman died from a severe case of Volcano Nipple, and the jogging mermaid hitwoman couldn't care less.
  • "If I can't be Miss Sea Foam 1952, no one can! Taxi!"
  • "This way for hell, that way for linens, sundries, and men's wear."
  • Love her right earring, which is trying desperately to swim away from her face (I assume that's a fish, given the nautical hue of her gown and (prodigious) gloves).


Best things about this back cover:
  • Wow. Kids, see that second sentence? Don't write like that. Just make "completely merciless" into an adjectival phrase and put it before "syndicate."
  • "Even Venus de Milo"??? That armless statue? That's your paragon of shamelessness? Never thought of her as a slutty exhibitionist.
  • Seriously, this was written by an eighth-grader. You will go to a limit. You won't go beyond it. Come on!
  • Uh, it's This Way FOR Hell, not TO Hell. Stupid eighth-grader.

Page 123~

"You could still go for me if you wanted to let yourself go. You know you could."
"You're all mixed up inside, Julie. There could never be any room in my life for a dame like you."
"You make it hard, Shaun. I don't know what to do."
"When dames get tough they usually do silly things. Things they live to regret afterwards."

This dame doesn't "live to regret" her behavior so much as (on the very next page) fling herself through a window to her splattery death in the alley below. Sorry. I should have said "SPOILER ALERT!"

Also, pretty sure the eighth-grader who wrote the cover copy wrote the whole damn book as well. The entire dialogue between dick and dame is hilarious, wooden, C-grade patter.


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Paperback 404: On Her Majesty's Secret Service / Ian Fleming (Signet P2732)

Paperback 404: Signet P 2732 (15th ptg, ca. 1969)

Title: On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Author: Ian Fleming
Cover artist: photo cover

Yours for: $13


Best things about this cover:
  • Ladies Love Cool James
  • Ladies also Love Quartered Lazenby
  • These all seem like professional models, except for that one lady who is so rapt by Lazenby's prodigious hunk of man-scalp that she's raising her hand in astonishment while simultaneously setting out to scale his head.
  • The fact that Diana Rigg is *not* on the cover of this novel is a crime against humanity.


Best things about this back cover:
  • Aargh, stupid cheap books that can't be bothered to put different images on the back!
  • How much do I want to have some business cards made that read "Ernest Stavro Blofeld — Master Artist of Cruelty / Licensed & Bonded / Walk-ins Welcome! [picture of kittens]"
  • "...his horror-stained career" — oh, man, horror stains are the Hardest to get out. Trust me.

Page 123~

Bond pointed his skis down toward the tree-line, got down in his ugly crouch and shot, his skis screaming, into white space.

Wow. Nobody writes a sex scene quite like Fleming.


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Friday, April 15, 2011

Paperback 403: The Sex Cure / Elaine Dorian (Beacon B535F)

Paperback 403: Beacon B535F (PBO, 1962)

Title: The Sex Cure
Author: Elaine Dorian
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: SOLD!


Best things about this cover:
  • "We need the painting now." "But ... it's not finished yet. I've only just sketched the couch." "Fuck it. No time. Color the couch and the entire background with purple crayon. That'll have to do."
  • Dr. Justin Riley's OCD compelled him to check all his patients for Ring Around the Collar.
  • This embrace is so awkward that I'm forced to wonder if he is embracing a warm and willing patient or helping J.C. Penney relocate some of their mannequins.
  • "Darling ... your shirt tastes wonderful."
  • Love the stethoscope. Just in case you thought it was some random guy in a smoking jacket.
  • Really wish the first tagline had an ellipsis or colon, and then just two more words: "his dick!"


Best things about this back cover:
  • Man, that's more text than you'd think you'd need to sell this thing.
  • "Misty Powers," HA ha.
  • "You Will Be Shocked," "You May Be Angry"... They forgot "You May Be Strangely Aroused"
  • "You May Be Angry" ?? — "I can't believe this fictional character is doing bad things! How dare he!?"

Page 123~

"Nuts." The word exploded in his head and he gave up trying to sleep and reached for a cigarette.
OK, technically that's on page 122, but "'Nuts.' The word exploded in his head..." was too good for me to be a stickler. 122 ... close enough. I mean, I could also have gone with "Every woman I touch, he had said only scant hours ago, turns into a whore," and then asked "Wait ... how many hours?" But I stand by my choice.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Paperback 402: No Highway / Nevil Shute (Dell 516)

Paperback 402: Dell 516 (No ptg info, 1951)

Title: No Highway
Author: Nevil Shute
Cover artist: photo

Yours for: $10


Best things about this cover:
  • "And then you fold this last part like so, and, long story short, we're all going to die in a massive fireball."
  • Flying used to require fancy dress. Though I never knew those days, I kind of miss those days...
  • ...though I'd rather not think about how many animals had to die so that Ms. Dietrich could cross the Atlantic in style.
  • I like how literal the title is: "How are we getting from London to New York? Highway?" "No. No Highway. Airplane."


Best things about this back cover:
  • Mapback attack!
  • More Canadian geography than I have ever seen on a mapback. By a longshot.
  • Love the tweaked-globe layout of the map. And, of course, the majestic Gander Airport

Page 123~

"Oh. Are you aware, Dr. Scott, that B.O.A.C. have refused to carry this man in their aircraft, on the grounds that the mental instability from which he suffers makes him a danger to the safety of the other passengers? Are you aware of that?"

I colored hotly at his tone.

I really love that last sentence.


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Friday, April 8, 2011

Paperback 401: Louisville Saturday / Margaret Long (Bantam 931)

Paperback 401: Bantam 931 (1st ptg, 1951)

Title: Louisville Saturday
Author: Margaret Long
Cover artist: Robert Skemp

Yours for: not for sale


Best things about this cover:
  • "Louisville Saturday" being regional slang for a three-way. Not to be confused with a "Louisville Sunday," which is a decidedly sex- and alcohol-free evening of potroast and Lawrence Welk at your in-laws.
  • This is the first vintage paperback I ever bought. I walked into a used bookstore in Ann Arbor after having read Robert Polito's "Savage Art" (a bio of Jim Thompson) looking for books that looked like the Amazing paperback originals reproduced in the book. It was somehow a revelation to realize that although I couldn't afford Thompson paperbacks, I could afford thousands and thousands of other books that had what I'd admired in the Thompson books—lurid cover art and sensational cover copy. Addiction set in almost immediately.
  • Best thing about this cover—better than the young Robert Mitchum stopping dead in his tracks and double-taking on the we-might-be-hookers/friends/lesbians/sisters duo—is Mitchum's primly hatted lady companion, whose face is cut in half but who still has that unmistakable look of "well, I never" and "hussies!" written all over her (half) face.
  • ... In An Army Town?!!! Nooooooo! Not that! (seriously, wtf? Replace "Army" with "Zombie," and maybe the drama would seem called for)
  • "Frank!" I opened to a random page and was treated to an extended and oddly detailed description of breast-feeding. . . which is frank. Frankish, anyway.


Best things about this back cover:

  • "Sort of," HA ha. High praise! "In that she uses words and writes about human beings, she is Totally Hemingwayesque!"
  • Look at Sterling North, getting his early male feminist on!
  • If this book was ever "burned" (for any reason other than keeping warm in an emergency), I'll eat my hat.

Page 123~
She was now repelled and hotly attracted by memories of swimming parties [1] and the embarrassing, rough nakedness of gross, coarse bodies suddenly exposed in swimming suits. She wondered that the familiar faces were still the same, with the alarming bodies so bare [2], that these men she knew were so shameless and unaware of their disgusting and appealing ugliness. [3]
  1. "Memories of swimming parties"=not where I thought that sentence was going.
  2. An allusion, of course, to the phrase that was originally *supposed* to rhyme with "rockets' red glare."
  3. Wow ... she is, as they say in Louisville, messed up.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Paperback 400: Emotional Jungle / Ann Freeman (Fabian Z-143)

Paperback 400: Fabian Books Z-143 (PBO, 1961)

Title: Emotional Jungle
Author: Ann Freeman
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: not for sale


Best things about this cover:
  • That lamp shade is epic.
  • Who's up for some awkward, joyless, pasty sex? Anyone?
  • "So ... you like pink, I guess, huh?"
  • The first ever meeting of the Jaundiced Hair support group is about to begin.
  • I don't buy that he is "slipping into her room." He has the distinct look of someone backing slowly toward safety.


Best things about this back cover:
  • Love how Sanford Aday (publisher of Fabian Books) uses this quotation from Romans (on many of his books from this era) as a big middle finger to his censorious detractors. During this period he was adding anti-censorship material to the back matter of his books. This one has a one-page screed against censors and the several pages of Supreme Court and other legal decisions supporting the freedom of speech, and particularly the freedoms of book publishers and sellers. It's a fascinating (completely invisible, these days) intervention into the discussion of what counts as obscenity and what the government's role toward alleged obscenity ought to be.

Page 123~

"Gwen, I'm sorry abut the other day."
"Forget it. We all have days like that."

He added: "No, really. I had no right to tell you you had hair like an Oompa Loompa. That was totally uncalled for. I could have just kept backing silently out of the room..."


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Paperback 399: Sex Life of a Cop / Oscar Peck (Saber Books SA-11)

Paperback 399: Saber Books SA-11 (unknown ptg, 1967)

Title: Sex Life of a Cop
Author: Oscar Peck
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: Not For Sale (I'm hoping to write about this book / publisher some day...)


Best things about this cover:
  • Wow, that's some sex life. I'll just assume the cop is banging a hooker just off-screen, or in the very ample back seat.
  • This cover is uninteresting, but the book and its history are fascinating. Well, the book is trashy and poorly written (from what I've looked at), but that didn't matter to the State of Michigan when they tried and convicted its publisher, Sanford Aday, for trafficking in obscenity. 25 year sentence, $25K fine. No idea what happened after that, but I really want to find out ... Aday's late-'50s / early '60s sleaze publishing empire (run, improbably, out of Fresno, CA, my home town) is endlessly fascinating to me. The books are almost uniformly terrible, sometimes comically so, but they are also endearing in their constant, often painfully earnest attempts to broaden the scope of public sexual discourse. Lots of books about "deviant" sexuality, incl. transvestism, homosexuality, almost all of which combine titillation with sympathetic portrayal. Promoting understanding and tolerance for non-traditional sexuality through the dissemination of ... trashy fiction? Yes. Brilliant.

Back cover just has a logo, so, straight to p. 123

Page 123~

He drove down the alley to Third Street, then turned west toward Main and he had a satisfied feeling of being lucky to get to teach the attractive girl reporter the ropes of police work. And "the ropes" was exactly what he'd like to teach her.

Ha ha, "the ropes," get it? Because ... because ... uh oh. Get Out Of The Car, Lady! (I won't tell you what actually happens—it doesn't involve ropes, but I really Really wish I hadn't just read it. [Shudder])


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Friday, April 1, 2011

Paperback 398: Sinful Cities of the Western World / Hendrik De Leeuw (Pyramid 27)

Paperback 398: Pyramid Books 27 (1st ptg, 1951)

Title: Sinful Cities of the Western World
Author: Hendrik de Leeuw
Cover artist: Frederick Meyer

Yours for: $18


Best things about this cover:
  • Touchdown! The Giantesses win again! Suck it, Lilliputians!
  • Few people know that the Aurora Borealis is actually caused by a giant radioactive woman named Aurora. Here she is in the little Canadian fishing village where she grew up (before being bitten by that spider...).
  • I love how nonchalant the little people are: "Ugh, her again. What a drama queen."


Best things about this back cover:
  • Look at you, Hartford Courant, working the paradox angle. Look out, big city papers, there's a new kid on the blurb block, and he's hungry!
  • The U.N. had a committee on "White Slavery???"
  • Berlin, why must you be excessive in your sadism and homosexuality? Why can't you just be moderately sadistic and homosexual, like Luxembourg?
  • Memo to copywriter re: last line—"arouse" and "alert" are not synonyms. So unless you really mean to encourage people to engage in the "horrible barter of human flesh," maybe a rewrite's in order.

Page 123~

Even the breath of the woman in my arms, as we danced again, was honey flavored.

"Hey, buddy, why do you keep licking the air around my head? ... well, you sound like a dog, so cut it out or I ain't dancin' with you no more."


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