Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Paperback 89: Bloodline for Murder (Emmett McDowell) / In at the Kill (Emmett McDowell) (Ace Double D-445)

Paperback 89: Ace Double D-445 (PBO, 1960 / PBO, 1960)

Titles: Bloodline to Murder / In at the Kill
Authors: Emmett McDowell / Emmett McDowell [who!?]
Cover artists: uncredited / uncredited :(

Yours for: SOLD 5/22/08

Best thing about this cover:

  • I am in love with this woman. Absolutely, stone cold in love. Never mind that I can't see her face - I would run away with this woman. Anyone who can pull off the combination of that dress with those shoes, who has gams like that, wears thigh-highs, and packs heat. Oh ... yeah. I hope she plugs that trench-coated ghoul in the doorway and hits the road with me (note to wife: I'm mostly kidding)
  • This book has been man-handled, but the great thing about vintage paperbacks is that manhandling often adds to the coolness of their look. The diagonal creases on this cover somehow work seamlessly into the whole overall design, which is already pretty angular - directing attention to the west and south west of the cover, where the action is.
  • "An Axe For The Family Tree" - I have got to start collecting tag lines, writing them down, and ranking them according to all-time greatness. This one is good, not great - to be great, she would have to be hiding an axe in her hosiery.
  • I like that she is painted in a completely different, more detailed/naturalistic style than anything else on the cover. Dude in the background looks like he's in an early 80s, Tron-esque video game.
PAGE 123~
Helm put down his bottle of beer. He was no longer smiling and his face was a shade redder.
"Knox, how would you like to get thrown in jail?"
"I hope that's a rhetorical question," said Jonathan.
"Rhetorical, hell! This is murder..."

Best things about this back cover:

  • It's a front cover!
  • I believe that this woman is a. blind (where is she looking?), b. wearing a wig, c. about to break into song, and d. tied up in the most ornate and inefficient way I've ever seen.
  • I love our shooter - paranoid and shooting at imaginary enemies.
  • This cover looks like experimental theater. Really, really bad experimental theater. Possibly about lesbians (No? OK, you tell me what that giant pink/lavender "L" is doing there?).
  • I Love girly colors on my hard-boiled crime novels. God bless the boldness and unconventionality of mid-century cover art designers.
  • Her shoes match the giant "L" and font color
  • "Anyone for Murder?" - HA ha. How in the world does tennis terminology relate here? Furthermore, WTF is this?
PAGE 123~

Sorry, this book ends on page 108 (!?!?!). Well ... OK, here's PAGE 23~

"Could I see your credentials?"
"Of course," said Jonathan, and he took out his wallet and showed him a ten dollar bill.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Paperback 88: Suburbia Confidential / Emil Moreau (alias of Ed Wood, Jr) (Triumph - TNC 305)

Paperback 88: Triumph - TNC 305 (PBO, 1967) Title: Suburbia Confidential Author: Emil Moreau (alias of Ed Wood, Jr.) Cover artist: that is not art Yours for: $55 OMG, OMG, OMG - this book is not even in my official collection. Until a few hours ago, it was in a heap of books I got at the University book sale last fall, where something like $5 bought you an entire grocery bag full of books. I have blogged about the books I bought there before - books that slayed me for one reason or another, phenomenally ugly books, books with hilarious covers, etc. I never got around to blogging the last batch of books from that sale - I was saving this particular book for last for ... well, for many reasons. It is Great in many, many ways, but I had no, no, no idea, until an inexplicable whim led me to look it up online just today, that it was written by Ed Wood, Jr. Ed @#$#$#ing Wood. I do not own an Ed Wood book - or, I guess I should say, I didn't, or didn't know I did, until just now. Wood's writing career is nearly as legendary as his film career, and his books are Incredibly hard to come by (check out his bibliography). You may know (of) Ed Wood from his legendarily bad movie Plan 9 from Outer Space, or from the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp as Wood, and featuring Martin Landau, who won a Best Supporting Actor Award for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi. Great film. But back to my book. Woo hoo! This, this is why I collect this crap. For these spectacular "I got a what?!" moments. It's like striking oil or winning the lottery, only way less lucrative, but still immensely satisfying. I have a few more books (forthcoming in the blog, for sure) that I stumbled into for cheap, without knowing what I had on my hands. Dumb, great luck. OK, now the book itself. Best things about this cover:
  • Oh it's ugly. That color scheme. That chicken-scratched, mirthless sex scene, the inexplicable "U" ... All wonderfully nauseating.
  • You should know that this book is not what it appears to be. It's ... well, you have to read the back cover to even begin to get an inkling of how #@$@ing weird it is.
(sorry, the scan shaved the tops and bottoms off some letters - the words are perfectly legible on the book itself) Best things about this back cover:
  • I challenge you, right now, to find any book in the history of publishing that has ever promised you that it would make you "VOMIT." I believe this book to be unique in publishing history, in that respect if not others. Who ... what ... in what universe is inducing vomiting a selling point!? The vomit part made me and the friend I was with laugh so hard we cried. Literally, cried.
  • I love how the most boring phrase on the back is in huge purple letters, while the truly choice cover copy is buried in a nondescript font at the bottom.
  • There is a purple line across this back cover. Nobody knows why.
But just when you thought the book couldn't get better ... guess again. What really, truly puts this book over the top, even more than the unbelievable promise of vomit, is the fact that its cover has faint but unmistakable ... teeth marks. Front and back. I swear to god. Can you see them? Click on the image. On the front cover, right at the top, just right of the ascending "U" ... I am telling you, I'm not sure a paperback could get more tawdry than this one. It's quintessential paperback smut in every way. So amazing. I feel honored to be in this book's presence. And now, the moment you've been waiting for, the cherry on top. Oh man, I'm not sure how I'll ever top this. Just remember that both the people in the following dialogue are male: ~PAGE 123!~
... Tim stretched his arm up and when the thing came down, it landed in my lap. I had felt that same sensation before in the shower. Tim felt it with his big fist and grinned. "Looks like you've been behind the barn." [ed.: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?] "A few times. Is that bad?" "All of us do it sometimes! That's life. Nothing wrong in it; but there are better ways." "I know about girls." "Do you know about boys?"
If Samuel Beckett and Erskine Caldwell had a baby, and that baby did hallucinogens, it would write like this. And it goes on like this. On and on. And On. And it's shocking, not so much in sexuality, but in plain, sheer, unmitigated, unfathomable goofiness. If the book weren't in such great condition (VG - some creasing to covers and spine, mild scuffing - otherwise very square and tight), I would read it. I think. I'm not sure how much surreal pseudo-smut my brain can take. I've never pushed it that way. If I ever do merchandising for this site, the first item will be a t-shirt that says simply: "Looks like you've been behind the barn" -RP

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Paperback 87: The Last Voyage of the Lusitania / A.A. and Mary Hoehling (Popular Library G184X)

Paperback 87: Popular Library G184X (1st ptg, 1957)

Title: The Last Voyage of the Lusitania
Author: A.A. Hoehling and Mary Hoehling
Cover artist: uncredited

Yours for: $12

Best thing about this cover:

  • As with "I Am Fifteen and I Don't Want to Die," I am having trouble mocking tragedy here.
  • Titanic was basically a rip-off of this paperback cover.
  • I know everyone's screaming and flailing and drowning, but ... at least the lady in red looks like she's having a good time.
  • There's one guy in this picture I just don't get: the blue-suited sailor on the far left. First, his look is one of casual derision, like he finds the whole scene corny. Second, he appears to be working on a world record for longest fingernails - that, or he is idly scratching his face with breadsticks. Lastly, gravity says that he could not maintain the position he is in. And yet there he is. It's like he refuses to obey the new gravitational pull brought on by the ship's tilting, and is showing off by clutching the wrong side of the pillar for support.

Best things about this back cover:

  • Oh boy, an orgy ... of frailty? What would that even look like? Who's writing these reviews? Isn't the SF Examiner supposed to be a real paper?
  • In case you were wondering what happened to that ship on the front cover ... yeah, it sank. But it's OK, because Lois and Frank survived to repopulate the earth.
  • This book is unread, and except for the slightest browning near the spine and faint scuffing on the back cover, it's in perfect condition.
And ... your PAGE 123:

On the other side of the bridge, which was almost completely awash, Turner glanced at his watch. It was 2:28 P.M, exactly eighteen minutes after the Lusitania had been hit. He thought himself to be the last man on the ship - though he was not - and realized that in a few more seconds he would no longer have a command.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Paperback 86: Finger Man / Raymond Chandler (Avon 219)

Paperback 86: Avon 219 (1st ptg*, 1950)

*Originally published as Avon Mystery Monthly 43, 1946

Title: Finger Man
Author: Raymond Chandler
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $50

Best things about this cover:

  • The lady is hot and all, but it's Joey Green Visor who really sells this cover. He's either trying to commiserate with Captain Handsome about how stunning the lady is, or else he is starstruck because he thinks Captain Handsome is Clark Gable.
  • This woman is in Desperate need of a new hairdo. Her hair has all the textural allure of sculpted rubber. Plus, that left nipple ... it's like I'm staring down the barrel of a gun.
  • "Oh, excuse me, I seem to have dropped my bulging wallet ..."
  • I see the "roulette wheel," but ... where's the "redhead?"
  • In case you didn't know, Raymond Chandler rules. Best Crime Fiction Writer Ever.

Best things about this back cover:

  • The fact that all the adjectives in the line "Fast Action, Hard Women, and Ruthless Crime" are interchangeable.
  • Shakespeare Head!
  • "Blood-and-sex" is a category of writer?
  • Please notice all the hyphens. I'm telling you, it's a rule: Toughness is proportional to hyphen density.

I have this theory that if you take the best line out of any crime novel of your choosing, and then take the best line on a random page of any Chandler novel, the Chandler line will win hands down. I will now test this theory on ... Page 123!

"Shut up, snow-bird!" Mallory snapped. "Nobody's getting anybody. This is just a talk between friends. Get up on your feet and stop throwin' curves!"

"Mallory" was the name of Chandler's detective in the early days, before he settled into my personal hero, Philip Marlowe.


PS thanks to Todd Robbins at The Modern Con Man for naming this site his "Site of the Week." His book is beautiful and you should buy it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Paperback 85: Torch for a Dark Journey / Lionel Shapiro (Bantam 932)

Paperback 85: Bantam 932 (1st ptg, 1951)
Title: Torch for a Dark Journey
Author: Lionel Shapiro
Cover artist: uncredited

Yours for: $10

Best things about this cover:
  • "Oh Steve, it's that horrible man again, and he's blocking our path over the bridge ... now I'll never make it back to the Nursing School dormitories before curfew!"
  • I swear that I am picking these books one after the other off the shelves where they are (very randomly) placed, so I have no idea how I managed to get three paperbacks in a row featuring this cover art paradigm (man shielding woman in foreground-left from suspicious smoking man in background-right - see Paperbacks 83 and 84)
  • Again, I assert that it is physically impossible for either of them actually to see the smoking man above and behind them.
  • I love how our two lovebirds both have Action Hands - he's unscrewing an imaginary mayonnaise jar while she is signaling to the pitcher to throw the sinker.
  • I hate Bantam for their repeated failure to credit cover artists. I need to know Who Painted That Tie?
  • With the exception of some minor scuffing on the front, this book is in Perfect (unread) condition.

Best things about this back cover:

  • Well, as you can see, not much. It's all words. I have to ask, however: What kind of editor at the NYT let all that horrible passive voice construction into the review? "... can be savored ... is achieved ... can only be described ..." Ugh, I spend the better part of my paper-grading time trying to beat this crap out of students.

Now here it is, your PAGE 123:

"Why do you tell me this, Moussia?"
"Why?" She looked up at him. Her lovely face was soft and helpless, and her eyes were deep and brown and so luminous that he felt he could see into the depths of her mind.
"Why, Philip? Because we are alone, my father and I, and I am a woman, and we have only one friend. What else can I say, Philip?"
"You shouldn't have told me."


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Paperback 84: Nobody Lives Forever / W.R. Burnett (Bantam 888)

Paperback 84: Bantam 888 (1st ptg, 1951)

Title: Nobody Lives Forever
Author: W.R. Burnett
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $12

Best things about this cover:

  • It's simply a retooling of the last cover: smoking man in background leering at paranoid guy in foreground, who is in some kind of odd physical relationship to dame, also in foreground.
  • "Jimmy Cagney ... and Lauren Bacall in ... Nobody Lives Forever!" (actual movie starred John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald)
  • This is one of the most quintessentially noir covers I own: fedoras, dark alleys, shadows, seediness, pretty dames, smoking ... exposed brick! It's all great.
  • W.R. Burnett is probably best known for writing Little Caesar, which was made into a classic movie starring Edward G. Robinson in one of his most famous gangster roles.

Best things about this back cover:
  • Nothing says tough-guy prose quite like: Hyphens!
  1. "hard-bitten"
  2. "smooth-talking"
  3. "good-looking"
  4. "big-time"
  5. "hard-hitting"
  6. "half-world" (a phrase normally reserved for the world of gays and lesbians - although in that context the phrase is more often "shadow world" or "twilight world")

I'm proud to introduce a new feature to the blog: Page 123. It's based on a meme I just learned about at The Rap Sheet (a crime fiction blog that gave this site a very nice write-up yesterday, btw). You're supposed to take the book that's closest to you, open it to page 123, post sentences 6, 7, and 8, and then tag five other bloggers. Well, I didn't get tagged, so it doesn't apply to me. BUT, I figure I can give you at least a taste of what's actually in these books by quoting from them arbitrarily - specifically, from page 123. So I intend to Page 123 (it's a verb now) all subsequent paperbacks. I'm just going to pick my favorite sentence or bit of dialogue from the page.

So I leave you with today's PAGE 123 - from Nobody Lives Forever, by W.R. Burnett:

It seemed strange to him that quiet, retiring Mrs. Halvorsen would suddenly elope to Mexico with a man she hardly knew - like a susceptible and romantic boarding-school girl.

I encourage you to use this and subsequent random quotations to start your own short stories. Or turn them into the subject of art or poetry of any kind.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Paperback 83: Trouble Follows Me / Kenneth Millar (Lion Books 47)

Paperback 83: Lion Books 47 (1st ptg, 1950)

Title: Trouble Follows Me
Author: Kenneth Millar (aka Ross Macdonald)
Cover artist: unknown

Yours for: $14

Best things about this cover:

  • "Gimme a 'D'! Gimme an 'E'! Gimme an 'A'! Oh hell, just give me a kiss, big boy!"
  • "I demand to know how why you aren't wearing an American flag on this lapel, you bastard!"
  • "Honey, you know I love caressing your elbows, but people are starting to stare ..."
  • I admire this man's ability to check out the smoking man behind him despite the fact that the laws of nature forbid it - how is he able to see through his own left shoulder? Maybe he's checking him out in a mirror just off-screen...
  • If you changed the text on the cover, you could easily turn this picture into a cover for a Kinsey-era "My secret gay life" and / or "Do I like boys or girls?" novel (an actual subgenre of which I own a few examples). The smoking man could be stalking our hero, but he could just as easily be checking out his ass.

Best things about this back cover:

  • "Death tracked him." So the smoking man is ... Death. That's deep. Allegorical.
  • "Moslem attitude of prayer" ???
  • Sam Drake - sounds nothing like Sam Spade. How dare you suggest it's a pathetic rip-off.
  • Kenneth Millar became one of the best-selling and best-reviewed crime fiction writers of the 20th century under the name Ross Macdonald. He is, more than anyone, responsible for the general shape, tenor, feel, idiom, etc. of the modern detective novel. This is not, IMOO, a good thing. Watered down, moralistic P.I.-ness ... hero is flawed but ultimately unequivocally Good. Give me Chandler's Philip Marlowe Any Day of the Week.
  • This particular book is sun-faded like crazy, and has clearly been read multiple times (once by me). It's encased in a plastic slip cover (the way I found it). Still, it's tight and complete and a great, great reading copy.
  • It's #47! (Meaningless to you unless you graduated from the same college as I did)


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paperback 82: Zane Grey's Western Magazine, March 1951

Paperback 82: Zane Grey's Western Magazine, March 1951

Featured story: "The Fight for Bunchgrass Basin"
Author: L. P. Holmes
Cover artist: Mayo Olmstead

Priced at: $6

Best things about this cover:

  • "Henry is sporting the sexy open-shirt-and-baggy-pants look that's so popular among this year's A-list homesteaders..."
  • Henry appears to be duck hunting. Either that, or there are Injuns riding magic carpets in the sky.
  • Meanwhile, Henry's partner Cleve has managed to pull off the nearly impossible feat of being shot in the back by an arrow while his back is completely shielded by the covered wagon. Nice going, Cleve.
  • Cleve, you can let go of the gun now.
  • This picture has a smooth creaminess to it that I like, but what's with the blood placement? It makes no sense, and is completely unconvincing.

How to Buy My Books

E-mail me at and let me know what books you want. Once I confirm your order, you can pay via the PayPal button in the sidebar, or (preferably) via check sent to:

Rex Parker
c/o Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St.
Binghamton, NY 13905

All prices include shipping anywhere in the continental U.S.


PS You are free to haggle about the prices. It might get you somewhere, who knows?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Paperback 81: Arizona Ames / Zane Grey (Pocket Books 80451)

Paperback 81: Pocket Books 80451 (6th ptg, 1973)

Title: Arizona Ames
Author: Zane Grey
Cover artist: Robert Schulz


Best things about this cover / back cover:

  • His hand!
  • His gun has its own gun.
  • I would never have touched this book if it weren't a. a wraparound cover that was b. painted by the magnificent Robert Schulz. This is far more photo-realistic than his earlier work (most of the stuff I have by him dates from the 50s). He captures movement better than almost any other paperback artist (Mitchell Hooks can, at times, give him a run for his money).
  • I like that this scene actually seems to depict the definitive moment in Arizona Ames's life: "... the time he'd shot three gunslingers while lying wounded on a saloon floor."
  • I want to know his "secret hurt." Really, I do. I'm sorely tempted to read this book.


PS you may have noticed the "Donation" button in the sidebar. While I definitely encourage the giving of money to me (lord knows how hard I work), I think an even better way to support this site is to Buy My Books. That's right, though I'm not going to force the issue very hard (my books are like ... children to me; not necessarily my children, but children nonetheless), I would like to announce that every book on this site can be had. I will list a thoroughly researched and non-negotiable price (that includes shipping). If you want any book you see here, email me first and let me know (

I sold my first book to a T.V. writer a couple days ago; when she wrote and asked if she could buy it, I suddenly realized that once I've blogged about these books, there's no reason they shouldn't go to a new home.

That is all.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Paperback 80: Kiss and Kill / Ellery Queen (Dell 4567)

Paperback 80: Dell 4567 (PBO, 1969)

Title: Kiss and Kill
Author: Ellery Queen
Cover artist: Robert McGinnis

YOURS FOR: SOLD! (mid-August, 2008)

Best things about this cover:

  • "That's right, Skipper. You got me. I killed Mary Ann. I wanted all you luscious men for myself. Is that so wrong?"
  • She has peach talons.
  • McGinnis women are often quite sexy, but this one - yikes. Icy, bored, mannish, and clownishly bewigged.
  • The saddest thing about this cover is that McGinnis's particular specialty was the, er, lower half of women; alas, that part remains hidden here behind some kind of bedsheet drapery.

Best things about this back cover:

  • Ugh, same picture. Come on! Although here, she appears to be saying "... you talkin' to me?"
  • "Barney Burgess" - that's up there in the "Hilarious Detective Names" pantheon.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Paperback 79: Stranger in Town / Howard Hunt

Paperback 79: Signet 729 (2nd ptg, 1949)

Title: Stranger in Town
Author: Howard Hunt
Cover artist: not credited (looks like "T.V." - an actual cover artist's name)


Best things about this cover:
  • This picture should be titled: "Yep, I'm Gay." That, or "Get Your Giant Hand Off My Shoulder and Tie My Tie Already!"
  • I think that I think this guy is gay because he looks just like the first guy Cher (Alicia Silverstone) has a crush on in "Clueless" - who turns out to be gay.
  • If the name Howard Hunt sounds familiar, it should: he was one of Nixon's "plumbers," and (along with G. Gordon Liddy) organized the first Watergate burglary. In his earlier, pre-criminal life, he wrote popular fiction.

Best things about this back cover:

  • Apparently, Howard Hunt also played the dad on "Frasier." Versatile!