Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Paperback 678: Four From Planet 5 / Murray Leinster (Gold Medal s937)

Paperback 678: Gold Medal s937 (PBO, 1959)

Title: Four From Planet 5
Author: Murray Leinster
Cover artist: [Paul] Lehr

Yours for: $10


Best things about this cover:
  • Yes, if I were in Antarctica, these kids would indeed freak me the fuck out. I would make that exact trepidatious gesture with my left hand ("Fear Hand!"). But wait ... he has a camera on a tripod. Maybe they're a singing group and he's their manager and they're terribly lost and he's decided to use this free time to take some promotional photographs. Yes, that makes sense.
  • I really, really wish I could see the guy's face. Seems crucial. I need to know how I'm supposed to feel about this Aryan Children's Brigade. My default position is "terrified." 
  • The cover copy does imply that "unknown terror" is a given, and we're just waiting around to figure out what kind. 


Best things about this back cover:
  • "Utterly invincible telepaths will broadcast your shabby sins to the world! Gird yourselves!"
  • I assume this ends with the kids forming a band and singing their way into civilization's heart. Or with the revelation that one of the kids is really Jesus. 

Page 123~

"The kid got past three electric fences, and we don't know how. He must know plenty about electricity."

Brilliant. I'm now rooting for the kid.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Paperback 677: Scottsboro Boy / Haywood Patterson and Earl Conrad (Bantam 920)

Paperback 677: Bantam 920 (1st ptg, 1951)

Title: Scottsboro Boy
Author: Haywood Patterson and Earl Conrad
Cover artist: Joseph Hirsch

Yours for: $9


Best things about this cover:
  • Tagline should probably be a bit more specific: "The Shocking Truth about Black Men in Prison on Charges of Raping White Girls in Ultra-Racist Alabama"
  • In case you didn't know, this case is super-famous in the history of Civil Rights.
  • I love how this is just a straight-up portrait, and all the drama is in the background details—white lawman with a club; "Alabama" and "South(ern?)" partially blocked by man's head; fittingly Black & White rail crossing guard sticking straight up; etc.
  • I like his suspenders.


Best things about this back cover:
  • I am unsure how I feel about the characterization "Jungle Conditions"—sounds sympathetic, but "jungle" is one of those words that hovers disparagingly around black people. All the time. I've been deep into 1923 newspapers this month, and I'm more familiar than I'd like to be with the vast and colorful language of racism.
  • Interesting to have an Alabama paper blurb this book.
  • Like the shadowed font on "Scottsboro Boy" here.
Page 123~
Merle had a funny sense of justice. He didn't want to see anybody injure anybody else. He'd kill the guy that injured the other one.
From now on, violence in the name of non-violence will be called "Merle Justice."


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Paperback 676: Rope / Alfred Hitchcock [No Author Credit] [Don Ward] (Dell 262)

Paperback 676: Dell 262 (1st ptg, 1948)

Title: Rope
Author: Uncredited [Don Ward] ("from the famous play by Patrick Hamilton")
Cover artist: Gerald Gregg

Yours for: $25


Best things about this cover:
  • Hello, handsome.
  • Fantastic early movie tie-in. Weird that there is No Writing Credit, anywhere. I do not think that Alfred Hitchcock "wrote" this, in any meaningful sense of that word. I thought "novelizations" got credit. But maybe not in this era (?).
  • Gerald Gregg's cityscape is an understated but gorgeous detail.


Best things about this back cover:
  • Hell yeah, mapback! 3D mapback!
  • I've seen more interesting mapbacks, but I do like how much detail you can see in this house. The arc of the coffee table, the tile pattern in the bathroom. 
  • That keyhole eyeball really is one of the great icons in paperback history. Up there with the damned kangaroo.

Page 123~

Something seemed to be slowly tearing in Phillip's mind, destroying the fabric of his slim residue of control.

Wow. "The fabric of his slim residue of control" has all the elegance of a rusted-out Ford Fiesta.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Paperback 675: The Lodger / Mrs. Belloc Lowndes (Pocket Books 43)

Paperback 675: Pocket Books 43 (8th ptg, 1944)

Title: The Lodger
Author: Mrs. Belloc Lowndes
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: $10


Best things about this cover:
  • Love! Wall-to-wall painting, fantastic composition, creepy miasmic haze, exciting font! Creepy over-the-shoulder look, purposeful walk, murder-hand! It's all here in a bright, simple package.
  • Love the quaint "Mrs." Look, a lady writer!
  • I read this book (this very book) many years ago and enjoyed it. Remarkably modern-feeling, especially for a book that turns 100 this year.


Best things about this back cover:
  • See. "Why?" rather than "Who?" None of this whodunnit crap for Mrs. Belloc. This puts the book more in the tradition of noir, and a lot of good contemporary crime fiction, which explores the qualities of criminality and darkness rather than merely offering a puzzle to solve.

Page 123~

"Hark to her now!" Bunting looked at his Ellen with amusement. "Contrary isn't the word for her! But there, I've noticed the last few days that she seemed to be taking that monster's part. That's what comes of being a born total abstainer."

Ellen: Hard on Liquor, Soft on Crime, Wrong for England.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Paperback 674: The Red House Mystery / A. A. Milne (Dell D321)

Paperback 674: Dell D321 (1st ptg, 1959)

Title: The Red House Mystery (The Dell Great Mystery Library Number 25)
Author: A. A. Milne
Cover artist: William Teason

Yours for: $6


Best things about this cover:

  • Bored? High? Dead? High? Mannequin?
  • Yes, that A. A. Milne.
  • You might remember this as one of the mystery novels that Chandler absolutely decimates in "The Simple Art of Murder"


Best things about this back cover:

  • Mmm. Key porn.
  • The nightmarish carpet pattern continues.
  • "The Dell Great Mystery Library" was decidedly conservative, their covers respectable and dull.

Page 123~
In the time at his disposal, he could have done no more than put it away in a drawer, where it would be much more open to discovery by Antony than if he had kept it in his pocket.
The "it," of course, is a tube of KY—the slipperiest McGuffin.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Paperback 673: A Taste For Blood / John B. West (Signet S1800)

Paperback 673: Signet S1800 (1st ptg, 1960)

Title: A Taste for Blood
Author: John B. West
Cover artist: Barye Phillips

Yours for: $6


Best things about this cover:
  • Jeez, that's a Lot of blood. Hard to admire the naked lady with slasher movie-level gore on the wall.
  • "Rocky Steele" is a name that one might call "over-compensating." It's a hair's breadth away from "Cock McJohnson."
  • I have this theory that the P.I. novel essentially died in 1954 with "The Long Goodbye"; it devolves into self-parody after that (though there had been elements of self-parody almost immediately after the P.I. novel became a thing). This book is a minor but perfect example of what I'm talking about. Toughness, hardness—it's a formula, a pose. I know there are many fine practitioners of the P.I. novel who have written since and write now, but it usually feels like the author is wearing old clothes—might make 'em look good, but they're still a costume. A form of nostalgia. Signifiers standing in for substance. [I hope it's clear that I'm speaking narrowly of the traditional P.I. novel here—the crime fiction genre more broadly is clearly thriving—though Sturgeon's Law, as always, applies]  


Best things about this back cover:
  • Wait, my accountant wrote a crime novel?
  • Ha ha, he's a physician! So let me start over: "Wait, my doctor wrote a crime novel!?"
  • These fake little back-cover bios, where authors are made to seem like men's magazine adventure heroes, always slay me. 

Page 123~

He thanked the operator and laid the phone down like it was a hand grenade and then turned back to me.

I'm no munitions expert, but is that what one does with a hand grenade? I'm having a hard time not picturing Rocky Steele just hurling the phone across the room then hitting the ground and covering his head.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Paperback 672: The Jugger / Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) (Pocket Books 50149)

Paperback 672: Pocket Books 50149 (PBO, 1965)

Title: The Jugger
Author: Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)
Cover artist: Harry Bennett

Yours for: Not For Sale (part of the "Parker PBO" collection)


Best things about this cover:
  • A bizarre constellation of color. Bit too much white space, but I kind of enjoy almost abstract feel to this one. Say what you will about Harry Bennet—he had a Style.
  • Dude in foreground is ominous. Nice isolation of the billy club. Guy reminds me of any number of corrupt Jim Thompson sheriffs (a redundant phrase, I realize).
  • This is another of my Powell's purchases. Paid too much for this one. Don't care. Must. Have. All. Parkers.


Best things about this back cover:
  • It think my main objection to this era of Pocket Books is the ghastly base color of the spine (and, here, back cover). Pure puke.
  • That "art" is useless.
  • "Tiftus" is a fantastic name.
  • "...the eyes of a pickpocket and the mouth of a whore." Dang. Vivid.

Page 123~ (actually p. 23, as p. 123 disappears between chapters)

Damn Tiftus! He kept talking all the time, talking as though he knew exactly what he was talking about, but he never said anything. Jabber jabber jabber, and nothing coming out.

Stark does great third-person subjective. Man, I gotta get back into this series. I took a break to read Gaiman and Questlove, and Aslan's Jesus bio comes out Tuesday ... stop writing for a second, people! I need to catch up.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Paperback 671: Mistress of Falconhurst / Lance Horner (Fawcett Gold Medal X3315)

Paperback 671: Fawcett Gold Medal X3315 (PBO, 1973)

Title: Mistress of Falconhurst
Author: Lance Horner
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: Not for Sale (gift to the collection from Laurie Gagne)


Best things about this cover:
  • You had me at Mandingo-font.
  • Antebellum Lambada!
  • His left hand is terrifying.


Best things about this back cover:
  • "Did we mention MANDINGO? MANDINGO!"
  • What kind of hell-on-earth do you have to create in order to become "the South's most notorious slave plantation"? Don't answer.
  • "Sometimes it was hard to tell who was master and who was slave." — when I'm trying to tell master from slave, I use this simple heuristic: the slave is the black one.
  • For some reason the phrase "... as only Lance Horner can tell it" is making me LOL.

Page 123~

He put his left arm around Djoubo's naked waist and drew him close, hefting his huge genitals in his right hand.

This is — swear to god — the least offensive thing on this page. What the hell, 1970s readers?


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Friday, July 12, 2013

Paperback 670: Sangaree / Frank G. Slaughter (Popular Library G100)

Paperback 670: Popular Library G100 (1st ptg, 1952)

Title: Sangaree
Author: Frank G. Slaughter
Cover artist: Uncredited

Yours for: Not for Sale (gift to the collection from Laurie Gagne)


Best things about this cover:
  • Before the gas engine, water-skiing was a tedious sport, full of failure and shirtlessness.
  • I've seen this artist's work before. I feel like there are at least a small handful of covers from this period that feature variations on this exact scene—nude female swimmer, boobs buoyant but modest, being looked down upon by startled/probably aroused man. Don't recall ever seeing this hand gesture before, though. "Yo, Sangaree! Little help?"
  • Perspective here seems off. She'd have to be 6-10 feet back in the water, but that rope looks about 18 inches long.
  • "Sangaree! Sangarah! Sangaree! Sangara-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha..."


Best things about this back cover:
  • Me? How far will *I* go? I'll need some context. Also possibly some liquor.
  • Translation–"taunted him with her nakedness" = "was naked"; "taking" = "raping" (see picture).
  • Opening intro / teaser page: "I'LL HAVE YOU NOW!" ... "Toby Kent, starved these long months for even the sight of a woman, undid the straining bodice of the wench's gown. Beneath it, as he had guessed, was nothing but the magnificently-breasted body of the girl who called herself Dolly Lake." I was going to use "buoyantly-boobed" earlier, but "magnificently-breasted" is so much classier.

Page 123~

"The next ball," said Gabriel casually, "will be just two inches lower. Will you back up now or take it up your snout?"

The greatness of this line really depends upon the kind of "ball" you're imagining.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Paperback 669: Mambo to Love + I See Red / Dale Clark + Sterling Noel (Ace Double D-109)

Paperback 669: Ace Double D-109 (PBO / PBO)

Title: Mambo to Murder / I See Red
Author: Dale Clark / Sterling Noel
Cover artist: Uncredited / Uncredited

Yours for: Not For Sale (donation to the collection from Laurie Gagne)


Best things about this cover:
  • "Dammit, Lily, you said we were gonna Tango to Terror! I can't mambo—you know that! I haven't got the hips for it! Dammit, Lily!"
  • I love old-timey tough guys with their high-waisted pants and short loose ties and rolled cuffs and adamant stances and aggressive cigarette-gripping. This guy looks sooo much like a noir actor I can't place ... I mean, I can see him, but can't remember name or even movie. Usually a detective, I think.
  • Lily is reaching into her clutch because she is definitely going to shoot tough guy and then go drink at BAR across the street.
  • This is a great painting, actually. Lots of great details, including her hair, expression, chest ... everything about her, really. Also the full ashtray on the sill. Nice.
  • I believe the original, unstickered tagline read "She taught him the steps to a danse macabre!"


Best things about this other cover:
  • Miranda wanted her boudoir photo shoot to be "terrorist-themed" for some reason.
  • What's the opposite of "Fear Hand"? (*That's* the opposite of "Fear Hand").
  • Most of the things I want to say involve profane word play linking the title "I See Red" and the word "snatched," but I'm too modest so I'll just make the banal observation that "I See Red" is an anagram of "Desiree."
  • Also, I keep reading "snatched bigot." And, occasionally, "snatched bigfoot."

Page 123~ (of Mambo to Murder)

"Nobody asks me any questions," I grinned, "without buying the answers."


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Paperback 668: Fiona / Catherine Gaskin (Fontana 2958)

Paperback 668: Fontana 2958 (1st ptg, 1972)

Title: Fiona
Author: Catherine Gaskin
Cover artist: Uncredited [Renato Fratini]

Yours for: Not For Sale (gift to the collection from Laurie Gagne)


Best things about this cover:
  • The drugs they gave her for her root canal were really, really good.
  • Are you there God, it's me, sexy drugged-out plantation lady.
  • If you can figure out what the hell is happening in the background with the people and the running and what not, you have better eyes and interpretive skills than I do.


Best things about this back cover:
  • This novel should've been called "Dangerous Currents." That, or "Plantation Fantasies To Masturbate By."
  • It's pretty impressive how this description manages to make "emancipation" seem like a species of orgasm.
  • Woman's Journal—the journal read by just one woman.

Page 123~

"Before he was ill—before Maria and that rotten weed she gave him to smoke—that, and the rum—he was a clever manager."

Plantation romances are not really my cup of tea, but I am suddenly interested in Maria and her rotten weed.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Friday, July 5, 2013

Paperback 667: The Handle / Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) (Pocket Books 50220)

Paperback 667: Pocket Books 50220 (PBO, 1966)

Title: The Handle
Author: Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)
Cover artist: Harry Bennett

Yours for: Not For Sale [part of my "Parker PBO" collection]


Best things about this cover:
  • The best thing about any Stark cover is the fact that "Stark" is on the cover.
  • What a weird picture. It's like these people are standing on the deck of a listing boat, and there is a slight anomaly or disturbance off the port bough.
  • Never been a big fan of Harry Bennett's work—bit too sloppy and unsexy for me. But James Garner's lookin' pretty good here, and she has a certain elegant something, and Flat Top Thompson over there has a nifty weaselyness about him. It's a motley assortment of folk, but interestingly rendered.
  • I picked up this book and one other Stark PBO during my recent west coast excursion (the reason for this blog's two-week hiatus). I paid too much, but my steely collector's resolve melts in the presence of Stark. Stark is my kryptonite. I got these at Powell's Books in Portland, which is also my kryptonite. Just a magnificent bookstore. Kind of overwhelming, actually. If I were to leave there without a book, it would feel like a kind of failure. I've decided I need to own first editions of all the Parker novels. I currently own ... four, I think. Lots of work left to do (which is the whole Fun of collecting). 


Best things about this back cover:
  • Not much here. 
  • An odd and not-that-provocative raised quote. 
  • I have not yet read this one. I am currently reading my way through the whole set of Parkers, in order. Finished Man with the Getaway Face on vacation; now part-way into The Outfit. Westlake is one of those writers who never lets me down. Clean, direct, smart, funny prose and dialogue. Effortless. I'm so glad he was so prolific, because it means I still have years of Westlakian good times ahead of me.

Page 123~

He had brought the bourbon bottle along and used it sparingly to rinse out his mouth when it became too dry, but he soon saw he wouldn't be able to survive too long without water. 

This makes me sad for the bourbon.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]