Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Paperback 1060: The Troubled Midnight / Rodney Garland (Lion Library LL 128)

Paperback 1060: Lion Library LL 128 (1st ptg, 1956)

Title: The Troubled Midnight
Author: Rodney Garland
Cover artist: Charles Copeland

Condition: 7/10
Value: ~$15

Best things about this cover:
  • Satan Had Yellow Eyebrows!
  • Love this dude's "sneering supercilious billionaire face." Too bad half of it got blown off somehow.
  • "Look at the little worms, fighting over nothing, doomed to fail ... pathetic. I regret that I have but one eye to glower at them with."
  • If there aren't airplanes involved, you cannot call it a "novel of flight." That's the rule.
  • For a grade A thriller, make sure you steep your novel in reality for at least three but no more than five minutes. Any longer and it loses that delicious cheesy taste.

Best things about this back cover:
  • The searing tale of a woman's forbidden love for her bedpost! "When her midnight became troubled, she turned to the one solid, upright thing in her life ..."
  • Wow, they really don't want you to know anything about the plot, do they?
  • Marseilles? Huh. Did not see that coming. With that build-up, I was thinking maybe "Rome" or "Moscow" or something, but no, Marseilles, sure, let's go with that.
Page 123~
The shop was full of people, some trying out fountain pens or buying postcards, others, like a girl I noticed with hairy legs like a deer, and obviously from the Midi, browsing.
Dude needs to go back to Comma School. Also, "like a deer?" Like a deer's legs ... are hairy? Like a deer browses? Like a browsing hairy deer from the Midi browses? I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to be picturing here. Some kind of sexy bibliophilic satyress?  Maybe just buy your mystery novel and go back to your garret, Pierre.


Thursday, July 28, 2022

Paperback 1059: It Was The Day Of The Robot / Frank Belknap Long (Belmont 90-277)

Paperback 1059: Belmont 90-277 (PBO, 1963)

Title: It Was The Day Of The Robot
Author: Frank Belknap Long
Cover artist: uncredited

Condition: 8/10 (unread; crease across top, slightest of warps)
Value: $10-15

Best things about this cover:
  • This looks less like a robot and more like some kind of novelty tent that the little men are having trouble setting up.
  • If this book were a song, the title would be "(It Was The) Day Of The Robot"
  • Writer, to publisher: "Well, here's my book. I call it: Day Of The Robot!" "Hmmm ... I mean, I *like* it, but I feel like it's missing something. Maybe we can spice it up a little. What if we called it: The Day Of The Robot!" "Well ... I guess a definite article does add spice, but ..." "No, no, wait! I've got it! It Was The Day Of The Robot!" "So like ... a full sentence?" "Yesssss!""I don't see how ... I mean, it's just more words, really, isn't it? It doesn't add-" "I think it really makes you feel, like, *there*, you know?" "I-" "Not just any day of the robot—THE day of the robot." "Again, I-" "Ooh, and does the robot vape? The robot should definitely be vaping. Very in, very now."
  • It Was The Day Of The Robot That Vaped While Little Army Men Shot Sad Lasers At It
  • Why does the robot have three legs? Oh god ... that is a leg, isn't it? ISN'T IT!?
  • They shot him right in his left nipple. Rude.
Best things about this back cover:
  • "MAN AGAINST MACHINE" ... that narrative used to hold such dramatic promise. The sad reality of Actual Future is that most MAN AGAINST MACHINE stuff is just me trying to get the ATM to work or struggling to get past those online dealies where I have to prove (to a robot!) that I am not ... a robot.
  • Computers used to be enormous, and life was better that way. It just was. Computers should be ominous and threatening and two stories high and six blocks wide and they should beep and hum and churn out a steady stream of information on ticker tape or paper cards that have to be filed in a giant vault somewhere.
  • He counted his strides? Such a weird detail. I mean, if it had been one or two long strides, I can see remembering, but six? 
Page 123~
Disillusion and rage had made them transfer their allegiance to me. I'd dragged a popular hero down from his pedestal and slugged him unconscious with the chain at his wrist. And I'd meshed his gears before he could score another victory in a contest of skill.
I like "meshed his gears" as a kind of all purpose phrase for beating someone up. So much nicer and colorful than "kicked his ass" or "fucked him up." In this case, I think the gears are probably literal, since it is, after all, The Day Of The Robot, but I think any time you soundly drub someone, physically or otherwise, you should try "meshed his gears" on for size. 


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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Paperback 1058: Berserker's Planet / Fred Saberhagen (DAW UY1167)

Paperback 1058: DAW UY1167 (PBO, 1975)

Title: Berserker's Planet
Author: Fred Saberhagen
Cover artist: Jack Gaughan

Condition: 8/10 (unread, some surface wear)
Estimated value: $10-15

Best things about this cover:
  • "That's not a toothpick! ... THIS is a toothpick!"
  • There was an early-80s arcade game called "Berserker." It was pretty cool. I don't remember these guys, though.
  • I like the big guy's aesthetic. Very Prince Valiant-meets-Grizzly Man. It's just ... he looks more like an action figure than a living humanoid creature. He has many points of articulation and is neither standing nor holding that sword in a way that one might call "naturalistic" or "plausible." 
  • Little buddy, on the other hand—very believable. Cowering nakedness, total unpreparedness, I can relate.
  • The pink palette here is amazing, as is the suggestion of a giant skull in the oddly machine-like background.
  • The actual title has an apostrophe in "Berserker's" but the cover does not. This bothers me about as much as you'd expect (a lot).
Best things about this back cover:
  • No one needs this much text, truly.
  • "NO QUARTER! NO QUARTER! NO COIN! ONLY DOLLAR! DOLLAR BILL! OR CREDIT CARD!"—someone behind me at the vending machine
  • This feels pretty prescient—the idea that your robots would learn and "develop"; sadly modern out-of-control robots didn't take over the planet with swords, they just figured out how to sell you things you don't need and show you "content" that makes you angry ... in order to sell you things you don't need. Give me the robots in pelts and disco boots, please!
  • "It's a Fred Saberhagen science thriller" doesn't quite have the standalone energy you'd expect a climactic back-cover paragraph to have.
  • Also LOL "Have you seen THE BOOK OF SABERHAGEN" what, is it missing?
Page 123~
As the two men wrestled, it was still Omir who smiled, and Thomas who looked desperate, but quickly it was demonstrated that Omir was not the stronger of the two, not with a spear stuck through him, anyway.
Yeah, impalement will really take it out of you, I find


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Paperback 1057: The Sword of Rhiannon / Leigh Brackett (Ace F-422)

Paperback 1057: Ace F-422 (1st thus, 1967)

TitleThe Sword of Rhiannon
Author: Leigh Brackett
Cover artist: John Schoenherr

Condition: 7/10
Estimated value: $8

Best things about this cover:
  • This was a very famous Martian deodorant ad campaign. "Shirtless marauding got you feeling ... not so fresh? Well now you can raise your triumphant, blood-soaked hand in confidence with new Martian Sure! Raise your hand if you're Sure!"
  • "Hey guys, guys, over here, I think I got her. She doesn't ring like a bell in the night but ... pretty sure she's Rhiannon. No, seriously guys, come over here! I'm using the new deodorant now, it's OK!"
  • Digging the pink hues with lime green font. Feel the late '60s...
  • What the hell is "Cosmic Peril"? "Cosmic Carol in a Lost World" would've been a way more interesting premise. "Who is Cosmic Carol!?" I'd be forced to wonder!
  • Bold move to fill so much of the foreground with just the back of some guy's head. Who is this eggheaded watcher? Wait ... am I the eggheaded watcher!? Existential, man...
Best things about this back cover:
  • Ugh, too much text, come on! If I wanted to read, I'd ... well ... buy a book, I guess
  • Mars MARS MARS!!!
  • Can't help singing "Matt Carse" to the tune of Gary Numan's "Cars": "Here with Matt Carse / I feel safest of all / He's a mythical god / And he's a got a big sword / Matt Carse"
  • Leigh Brackett was one of the founders of modern space opera. She wrote the first draft of the screenplay for "Empire Strikes Back" (just before her death). She also wrote the screenplay for "Rio Bravo"! And "The Long Goodbye"! And co-wrote the screenplay for "The Big Sleep"! With William Faulkner. What a career.
Page 123~ (this book's only 128 pages long!)

"The blessings of the gods attend you, stranger," Emer whispered and kissed him gently on the lips.
I like to imagine that Emer's last name is Gency and that she had a minor R&B hit in 1983 called "The Blessings of the Gods Attend You, Stranger." Also, that on the cover of her one major-label album ("S.O.S.!") she's wearing a get-up that can only be described as Disco Chainmail. 


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Thursday, July 14, 2022

Paperback 1056: In Case of Emergency / Georges Simenon (Dell D279)

Paperback 1056: Dell D279 (1st Dell, 1959)

TitleIn Case of Emergency
Author: Georges Simenon
Cover artist: photo

Condition: 7/10
Estimated value: $10-15

Best things about this cover:
  • If anything was gonna kickstart this blog again, it was gonna be a sudden jolt of "frank"ness (picked this up on Sunday at Autumn Leaves bookstore in Ithaca)
  • Is there another way to be "shocking" besides "frankly shocking"? Can you be "coyly shocking"?
  • I know there is the suggestion of titillation inside ("8 PAGES OF PHOTOGRAPHS") but you'd think they would've offered up a more (frankly) suggestive shot of Bardot for the cover. Yes, she appears to be naked and in bed, but it's really a rather dull still—as if she were merely eyeing the cover copy and thinking, "yeah, I guess that's OK."
  • I want to live in a world where promises of JEAN GABIN photos could move books

Best things about this back cover: 
  • "Thoughts of Jean Gabin invaded her mind like ... well, like this red arrow!"
  • Yes, "obsessed" with his mistress, we get it, you said that on the cover, come on, thesaurus!
  • Nevermind, I just finished reading that first paragraph, put the thesauraus down, I repeat, put the thesaurus down, step away from the adjectives, please
  • I know "little slut of the streets" is supposed to sound insulting but I think it's kind of cute ... also, maybe your "traitorous body" is your own problem, pal
  • "Degrading," "depravity," "destruction," "desires" ... how about "desist" or "depart the D section of your dictionary, dude"?
Page 123~

"You'll see! She's got a pretty little pussy, with real blonde hair."

OK so that "pussy" is not I repeat not a cat. Frankly, I'm shocked. No, I'm being *real* frank, not boy-who-cried-frank frank. This quotation seems ... well, as explicit as anything I've ever seen in a book from a mainstream 1950s paperback publisher. I guess the French get more leeway. You know how they are.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Paperback 1055: In Comes Death / Paul Whelton (Graphic 49)

Paperback 1055: Graphic 49 (1st ptg, 1952)

Title: In Comes Death
Author: Paul Whelton
Cover artist: Uncredited

Condition: 7/10
Estimated value: $15

Best things about this cover:
  • Death looks kinda down-at-the-heels. Reduced to doing cheap hits. Must need the money.
  • I'm obsessed with whatever she's wearing. Is that a ... housecoat? It looks too dressy for a nightgown, but too slovenly for outdoor wear. Lack of undergarments also suggests an indoors-only context, but ... yeah, what is this?
  • She is very pretty and beautifully painted and I hate when there are no artist credits!
  • Love the way she's wound the cord around her right hand. Nice touch. Fear hand (variation)!
  • This scene looks very (Very) familiar ... 
... which is weird, since the movie came out two years *after* this book
and now the back cover:

Best things about this back cover:
  • There is nothing intriguing, compelling, or even interesting about this description. Ooh, a "mysterious death." Aah, a "deadly game of wits." How ... specific and not-at-all boiler-plate.
  • I want it to be Lonely Frog Lane, named after an actual lonely frog who lived there all alone, froggily
  • This "describe the plot in complete but annoying vague sentences" really is bottom-of-the-barrel cover copy.
Page 123~
"Peace!" I intoned, making an exit.
Very slangy! Just like the kids intone it.


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Monday, August 5, 2019

Paperback 1054: The Raft / Robert Trumbull (Dell 26)

Paperback 1054: Dell 26 (1st ptg, 1944)

Title: The Raft
Author: Robert Trumbull
Cover artist: George Frederiksen
Back cover artist: Gerald Gregg

Condition: 6.5/10
Estimated value: $10

Best things about this cover:
  • Everything above the author's name seems very pleasant. Serene, even. Perhaps, as your eyes move down the page, you can even maintain the illusion that these fellows are just out for a weekend jaunt of fun & sun. But that "DELL WAR BOOK" (a kind of book I can't remember seeing before) drives the more dire context home pretty thoroughly.
  • I like early Dell covers, and early covers in general, which are far more tied to abstract expressionism than later, more naturalistic covers (which I also love, obviously)
  • I also like the early Dell EYEBALL IN THE KEYHOLE logo. "You don't read Dell Books, Dell Books read you!"
Best things about this back cover:
  • What is happening here? Why are they spaced so far apart? Why have their arms fused together? Does the dude in the middle need propping up? Is this some kind of Weekend at Bernie's situation?
  • The italicizing concept here is ill-conceived. I know alliteration has its charms, but choose parallel construction every time. 
  • War bond ads appeared inside early paperbacks with a great deal of regularity. On the outside of early paperbacks?? Far less so.
Page 123~
He seemed more interested in the boat than in his natural prey.


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