Thursday, June 28, 2012

Paperback 544: Nightfall / David Goodis (Lion Books 131)

Paperback 544: Lion Books 131 (1st thus, 1956)

Title: Nightfall
Author: David Goodis
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $50

Best things about this cover:
  • There are really too many things going on on this cover for it to make any kind of visual sense. It's like I"m watching a stage play about some woman who was hurt in a tragic accident and is now, through the love of one strong man, learning to walk ... but then the soul of the dead body represented by the chalk outline on the ground is so disgusted by the false pathos of the scene that he rises up in horror and flees ... and immediately has a heart attack. Nightfall!
  • David Goodis was good at writing. His books are pretty collectible, and this one, despite some bumps and bruises, is clearly unread. Gorgeous. One of my earliest two-figure (i.e. it cost me more than $10) purchases, and probably the first that made me realize "holy shit, you are really collecting these things now."
  • I do love the unusual, if creepy, color of this cover, and the bright, nutso font on the title.
  • Movie tie-in! Collectible subgenre! Hey, is the ghost of the corpse ... is that ... fear hand?! Behind the "A" and the "L"!? Judges say .... ding ding ding!


Best things about this back cover:
  • Bancroft! So early ...
  • Aldo Ray sounds like a prog rock band.
  • "Taut" ... "swift" ... "searing" ... nope, sorry, no "frank." 

Page 123~

The type he was dealing with was the most dangerous and clever of them all. On the surface a soft-voiced innocence, an unembroidered sincerity. Beneath the surface a chess player who could do amazing things without board and chessman.

"What are you doing?" "Playing chess in my mind." "Amazing."


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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Paperback 543: The Shame Sell / Alan Marshall (Ember Library 394)

Paperback 543: Ember Library 394 (PBO, 1967)

Title: The Shame Sell
Author: Alan Marshall (sometime pseudonym of Donald Westlake)
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $30

Best things about this cover:
  • "Gee, putting together this new life-model kit is a blast!"
  • "So, you're telling me the cup goes ... like this ... and it keeps those things on the front of your chest from bouncing so much? Wow."
  • Seriously, he's putting that bra *on* to that girl, and he's even doing *that* wrong.
  • "I call this painting 'Drunk Girl Airs Out Her Pits.'"
  • Actually, I would call this painting "How To Ruin a Perfectly Good Picture of a Naked Woman." 1. Add creepy man-child. 2. have her do something inexplicable with her arms while making stupid drunk-face. 3. Replace pubic area with scary, uniformly black patch. Boner averted!


Best things about this back cover:
  • "Who could believe the truth?" I'm guessing Not Me.
  • Ah, the ad game. Oh, so the guy on the cover must be Dan Drooper from AMC's "Sad Men." 
  • I hope the butterfly net is nonmetaphorical.

Page 123~

Jon sat back, rested his elbows on the arms of the swivel chair, tapped his fingers together, and eyed the ceiling. "C. F., the way I see it, it's time for you to escalate against Oona. The situation is peaking out, and so a certain accclimatizing seems to be in order."

Even the guy in the book replied, "A certain what?" Now if you'll pardon me, I have to go escalate against Oona ... *if* you know what I mean (do you? 'cause I don't)


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Friday, June 22, 2012

Paperback 542: A Many-Splendored Thing / Han Suyin (Signet D1183)

Paperback 542: Signet D1183 (2nd ptg, 1955)

Title: A Many-Splendored Thing
Author: Han Suyin
Cover artist: Stanley Zuckerberg

Yours for: $8

Best things about this cover:
  • "Frankness"! It's a worldwide phenomenon!
  • Jerry begged Suyin for a rematch: "Best two out of three! Come on, please! Oh man, the guys in my arm-wrestling club are never going to let me live this down..."
  • Can you splendor (?) other things besides love? Sorrow? Boredom? Pork?
  • I am having trouble thinking of clever things to say because I can't get the first verse of this song out of my head:

And the back cover ...

Best things about this back cover: 
  •  "Flemish"! Well there's a word you don't see much any more. The Flemish are the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of northern Belgium. They had some success with painting and money-lending back the day (the day being "the Middle Ages and Renaissance") 
  • Ah, the good old days, when interracial love was a matter that required delicacy, understanding, and, above all ... Frankness. 
  • It's telling that the lady on the cover is way more hyper-Orientalized than the photo of the actual woman here. The Asian signifiers / stereotypes on the cover must run to over half a dozen. If there's one things paperback buyers like more than frankness, it's Exotic Frankness. 

 Page 123~ 
Up these steps came the people I had always known. Not small Cantonese with light bones and clean faces, but squat, ugly people with flattened faces and heavy peasant legs, the varicose veins standing out in twisted knots like a brood of snakes. Men and women, dirty and poor. Nearly every one had a physical defect of some kind or other: harelip, a finger missing, deformed chests; and on all those naked coolie shoulders one could see the large round lumps raised by the pressure of the bamboo pole. 

 "Take me back to the small Cantonese with light bones and clean faces this instant!" I snapped at my rickshaw driver. 


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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Paperback 541: The Case of the Careless Kitten / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 724)

Paperback 541: Pocket Books 724 (1st ptg, 1950)

Title: The Case of the Careless Kitten
Author: Erle Stanley Gardner
Cover artist: "Front cover photograph by Paulus Lesser"

Yours for: SOLD! (6/20/12)

Best things about this cover:
  • "Hey, what's up? My name's Gary. I'm here to read for the role of 'Careless Kitten.' So ... do I stand here, or ... what? Oh, too close? Sorry."
  • Perry Mason solves 'The Case of the World's Least Meme-able Cat'
  • Seriously, this cover makes me laugh more than most covers I own. What the hell is happening? I love this cat. He's like the vintage paperback Anti-Cover. "No semi-naked ladies to see here, fella. MOVE along ..."
  • This was one of maybe 30 *more* ESG / AA Fair books I got from a generous reader. That makes 60-70 total. I'm gonna start reading the Perry Mason stuff in order ... if I like it, I'll keep going (at his worst, Gardner is competent, so I think I'm going to like it).

Best things about this back cover:

  • When Helen Kendal lost the second "L" in her last name, she knew just where to turn.
  • That's a human "corpse," I assume. Because one murdered kitten may be my limit.
  • When I want to add spice to my hot dish, I collect a scalp. Of course.

Page 123~

Della Street went on rapidly. "It's that way when someone near to you passes away. It's a shock. Your brother must have been smart, Mr. Lunk."

"Despite what his name suggests," she added.


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Monday, June 18, 2012

Paperback 540: Meet Morocco Jones / Jack Baynes (Crest 1957)

Paperback 540: Crest 195 (PBO, 1957)

Title: Meet Morocco Jones (in the Case of the Syndicate Hoods)
Author: Jack Baynes
Cover artist: maaaaaybe Barye Phillips (uncredited)

Yours for: $15

Best things about this cover:
  • Who's the private dick who takes advice from the half-naked lady on his shoulder? "Morocco Jones!" Ya damn right.
  • "Morocco, I'm hungry" "Shut up, Shoulder Girl. Can't you see I'm stalking syndicate hoods?"
  • There is so much Fail happening here. Title fail (the putative title is actually just a lead-in/tagline, whereas the actual title is represented as a weak little subtitle). Art fail (where's the rest of my painting, Captain Stingy McWatercolor?!). Hyperbole fail ("The best book that's ever been written or will ever be written!").


Best things about this back cover:
  • "Helluva" is simply a great "word."
  • Morocco Jones "takes his place among the heroes of tough-guy fiction." Notice they don't say which place. Kind of backing off from that front-cover braggadocio, aren't you, copywriters?
  • Is there such a thing as "the edge of lightning?" If so, can it be said to be "sharp?" If the answer to either of these is 'no,' can Morocco Jones' mind be said to really 'exist' at all? (philosophers will come to know this as the "Morocco Jones Dilemma")
  • "And whose morals ... well, he liked to masturbate in public so ... yeah, the less said the better."

Page 123~
"Who are they, Carson?" Thurm asked gently.
"Skull Kronsky, Duke White, and Solly Cogen."
"Bad, bad boys," Thurm said softly. As bad as some of the Syndicate killers. Lije is not going to like this, Carson."
Jack Baynes, fresh off a correspondence course in "Naming Your Fictional Characters," goes berserk. P.S. I call dibs on the pseudonym 'Skull Kronsky.'


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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Paperback 539: The Ship With Two Captains / Terence Robertson (Berkley Medallion G402)

Paperback 539: Berkley Medallion G402 (1st ptg, 1960)

Title: The Ship With Two Captains
Author: Terence Robertson
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $8

Best things about this cover:
  • This cover fairly shouts the "wah WAH" sound effect.
  • There was a time when whatever is happening here would've been manifestly funny, I'm sure, but those hats and those flags don't scream "wacky difference" to me so much as "partners in conquering the world." Cover should've been a study in contrasts, but instead it's Bing Crosby and William Holden waving dainty flags.
  • I do like the eye in the periscope, though. I imagine that it is the Devil, who has taken over the submarine and is now going to take Bing and Bill on a hellish journey.


Best things about this back cover:
  • I'm sorry. This cover (that is, the first sentence) made me fall asleep and am now too groggy to say anything, witty or otherwise.
  • "Army Times" giving a thumbs-up to this book is like "Dog Fancy" giving a thumbs-up to "Benji."

Page 123~

The shells were falling around her now, some salvos just over, the next short and the rest straddling her.

This is way more pornographic than I imagined.


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Friday, June 15, 2012

Paperback 538: Nightmare Alley / William Lindsay Gresham (Signet 1326)

Paperback 538: Signet 1326 (4th ptg, 1956)

Title: Nightmare Alley
Author: William Lindsay Gresham
Cover artist: James Avati

Yours for: $21

Best things about this cover:

  • A noir classic. Early editions (Signets, like this one) are pretty rare. New York Review of Books reissued this book a couple years ago.
  • "Nightmare Alley, or The Carny's Ennui"
  • "I'm so ashamed that Eddie Munster has to see me in this get-up."
  • Not just "frank"—"Brutally Frank!" This book is so frank, it hurts my eyeballs.
  • No lie, I love her outfit. Pants could be a little lower-waisted, but the bra is a total win.


Best things about this back cover:

Ooh, the rarely seen "Double Frank" paperback. Nice. Whoa, triple ... though that SF Chronicle quote is really just a callback of the front cover copy.

William Lindsay Gresham is not happy with how this photo session is going.

Page 123~

Under that brilliant stare she began to simper and found it difficult to control her hands.

This explains why she's looking away from him and anchoring her hands on the edge of the, let's say, dunk tank.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Paperback 537: Fools Die on Friday / A. A. Fair (Dell 542)

Paperback 537: Dell 542 (1st ptg, 1951)

Title: Fools Die on Friday
Author: A.A. Fair (aka Erle Stanley Gardner)
Cover artist: Robert Stanley

Yours for: not for sale (donation to the collection), but FYI, it's prolly worth about $30

Best things about this cover:
  • Reader K. Harvey was helping clean out the house of a friend's aunt and she came across a treasure trove of old paperbacks. She offered to send them to me. I accepted. So a couple days ago I got a box crammed full of Fair/Gardner books (as well as some Leslie Charteris / "Saint" stuff), all of which are in good-to-great condition. There must be 35-40 books in all. A generous donation, from which we will all benefit—I'll try to post all the covers here, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time (to highlight certain stylistic trends) over the course of the summer, while still moving steadily through my collection (don't want to overdose on Gardner). 
  • I lead with this cover because it is legendary. Future editions of this book will button her shirt and hide her panties, making her look far more elegant, far less slatternly. I.e. yawn. Behold:
  • "... just enough to cover yourself ..." Well, I guess she's ready then.
  • I love old half-face there on the left. In particular, his tie. And his eyes. He's doing that "I can magically see behind me" thing that people on paperback covers and in soap operas sometimes do. He looks like every man Robert Stanley ever drew, i.e. like Mike Shayne.
  • If it weren't for the boobs, I'd have to say "cross-dresser."


Best things about this back cover:
  • Mapback!
  • "Real clues" — none of the fake stuff for us, thanks.
  • BALLWIN looks allllll kinds of wrong.
  • Love the building cutaway—like a giant just tore the top half of the apartment off.

Page 123~

She pushed back her stenographic chair, walked over to a shelf, whipped out a map, and placed it on the counter.

I am slightly in love with the phrase "stenographic chair," which I did not realize until just now was a thing.


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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Paperback 536: The Last Cop Out / Mickey Spillane (Signet Y5626)

Paperback 536: Signet Y5626 (1st ptg, 1973)

Title: The Last Cop Out
Author: Mickey Spillane
Cover artist: photo

Yours for: $10

Best things about this cover:
  • The logical end point of the lurid cover arms race: magnificent, unadorned, naked ass.
  • I have never hated text more than I do at this moment.
  • I seem to remember hearing that the model was Spillane's wife. Likely the same woman who did "The Erection Set" cover.


Best things about this back cover:
  • Ugh. Next!
  • "Super virile" and you named him "Gillian?" Would've been more "virile" if you'd named him "Gilligan."
  • Knowing Spillane, "orgy of blistering destruction" may not be a metaphor.
  • "Volcanic explosion," on the other hand—probably a metaphor.

Page 123~

"I was there when Lederer was blowing his top. I could hear him right across the hall. City Hall must have leaned on him because he's gotten all leaves canceled, got the detectives working overtime and eating the ass out of Bill Long because Burke's disappeared someplace and nobody can find him."

It's writing like that that makes me happy the 50s were a more censorious decade—"eating the ass out of" would never have passed muster in the Mike Hammer era, and I'm OK with that.


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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Paperback 535: Things With Claws / Edited by White and Hallie Burnett (Ballantine 466K)

Paperback 535: Ballantine 466K (PBO, 1961)

Title: Things With Claws
Editors: Whit & Hallie Burnett
Cover artist: Richard Powers

Yours for: $11

Best things about this cover:
  • I like titles that could also be answers in the final round of "$100,000 Pyramid": "Cats ... bears ... uh ... handless supervillains..."
  • I am guessing that this artist is Richard Powers, only 'cause it seems so aggressively Powersy. It's like Miro and the guy who did the "Fear & Loathing" drawings had a baby in outer space. LOVE all the variations on claws in this painting.
  • They really had to break "creatures" there? Right there? Couldn't, I don't know, reformat ever-so-slightly? Kind of kills the impact.

Best things about this back cover:
  • Oh, the "famous" Stuart CLOETE, the "legendary" ORESTE F. Pucciani. Trust me, if these folks were truly famous, they'd be in every crossword I ever made for the rest of my life.
  • "... and females." Hence the pink.
  • See what harm / good covers can do!? "The Doll Maker" looks like the stupidest book ever, while "Zacherley's Vulture Stew" looks like the cover model for God's Own Catalogue of Awesome.

Page 123~

from "Return of the Griffins" by A. E. Sandeling

"You've been away several years," said Gunar, covering his bare feet again with shoes and socks. "What did you do in the time?"

"Took ourselves to the mountains of India," replied the griffin. "Sat in the sun, on the threshold of our calves, or caught the Arimaspi, one-eyed men who seek gold in the mountains, ate them in a shrugging fashion, already gorged with our prowess. I might ask the same question of you. What didn't you do? By Apollo! Procreated not individuals but nations. Took the lid off a water kettle, and what steams out but ships and cities. Times have changed."

So eating the Arimaspi is like eating at Chili's—"Meh. [shrug] It'll do."


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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Paperback 534: Lords of Atlantis / Wallace West (Airmont SF3)

Paperback 534: Airmont SF3 (1st ptg, 1963)

Title: Lords of Atlantis
Author: Wallace West
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $10

Best things about this cover:
  • To judge by this cover, Lords of Atlantis were a short-lived New Wave band who died of ennui.
  • "The camera's over here guys ... guys? ... aw fuck it, just take the shot."
  • You can tell the dude with the '60s iPod / '80s cell phone attached to the back of his space helmet wrote all their music and is just biding his time until he can go solo / write the score for "Inception 5: The Receptioning."


Best things about this back cover:
  • More like "Snores of Atlantis"—this story would be a lot more interesting if Jeannie were in that bottle.

Page 123~
"There's a screen in the Bab El engine room," she exclaimed as she manipulated the visor dials. "I must try to tell Refo that I do forgive him. I'll never sleep again if I don't."
"They say this cat Refo is a bad mother... / SHUT YOUR MOUTH! / I'm talkin' 'bout Refo! / NO SERIOUSLY SHUT YOUR MOUTH THAT GUY'S AN IDIOT!"


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