Monday, January 21, 2008

Paperback 68: High Pillow / Betty Short (Fabian Z-122)

Paperback 68: Fabian Z-122 (PBO, 1958)

Title: High Pillow
Author: Betty Short
Cover artist: Uncredited ["Chuck?"]

"Uh, hi, we're here to judge the Joan Crawford look-alike contest..."

Best things about this cover:
  • "High Pillow!" Like there's a caste system or pack hierarchy in a whore house, HA ha.
  • We are now getting into the creamy center of my collection: the sleazy publications of Sanford Aday's Fresno-based publishing empire: Fabian Books, Vega Books, and Saber Books. These books are so low-rent that I can't believe they really exist. They are produced on the cheapest of paper, with covers as frail as magazine pages. The cover paintings are uniformly hilarious - ditto the back and front cover copy. And the content is as wide-rangingly sexual as anything published in this time period. Aday is the first mass-market publisher I know of to go into the realm of transvestism, bisexuality, and other forms of, let's say "non-normative" sexuality, and to do so in an astonishingly sympathetic fashion. Aday was an outsider in his industry, and he specialized in books about outsiders - sexual outsiders in particular. He was at the forefront of the pro-gay movement in the 50's and 60's - a major figure (along with his partner Wallace de Ortega Maxey) in the Mattachine Society, and ultimately the object of an obscenity lawsuit that got him sent to federal prison. After the trial, his imprints went south very quickly, losing their overtly political edge (which included pleas to the reader, reprints of Supreme Court cases, etc. in the backs of his books) and degenerating into mere porn. I aspire to write a book about this guy - that's how interesting and important I think he is in the history of publishing and civil rights. But for now, I will just admire the beautiful badness of his publishing output.
  • This artist did a Lot of Sanford Aday-published books. I have another book with a visible signature, "Chuck," so that's what I'm going to call ... him?
  • I should add that the quality of these books - mostly horrible. I mean ... Horrible. Sometimes laugh-out-loud horrible. The back cover copy should give you some indication:

Best things about this back cover:

  • Mid-century modern abstract art meets middle-school-level prose.
  • I love how the underlines make absolutely no sense.
  • "Figuratively speaking" - HA ha. Good to know she wasn't chewing on an actual red light.
  • "She was firmly racket" is actually a very original, tantalizing sentence.



PJ Parrish said...

Hey Rex,
"High Pillow" is a pretty clever title as these things go, I think.

"High pillow" was pulp slang for big cheese, person in charge. But given the fact this story is set in a brothel, you gotta love the ah...use of irony.

G said...

Here there, buster. Just wanted to let you know I made a new header for my blog using images from Pop Sensation. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it mean something that the underlined parts spell out "red light racket"?

Michael5000 said...

"Fresno-based." Sweet.

Another sweet cover. I find myself very much hoping that you have "The Rambling Maids."

G's new blog header is firmly racket. You gotta check it out.