Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Paperback Library #52-472 (1967)

Title : The Haunted Dancers
Editor : Charles Birkin
Cover art : Victor Kalin
   [N.Y. : Paperback Library #52-472. First Printing. "A Black Magic Book of Terror." Originally published as The Tandem Book of Ghost Stories, London, 1965. Includes contributions from Shamus Frazer, Flavia Richardson, Lady Eleanor Smith, and M.F.K. Fisher. Bizarre cover art by Victor Kalin despicts a death shroud figure embracing Kim Novak lookalike].

style ***
substance **
collectibility *

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gold Medal k1503, 1965

Title: The Company Girls
Author: Mona Williams
Cover art: Robert McGinnis[?] 

  [Fawcett Gold Medal K1503, 1965. First printing. "Their office hours were sizzling enough; what went on after hours could only be told in whispers." Front cover art depicts three nude women (partially obscured by strategically placed towels and puffs of steam) lazing in a sauna room. The cover has been attributed to Robert McGinnis and it's certainly his style but no actual credit is given in this printing. Love those 1960s hairdos!].

style **
substance *
collectibility *

“The Company Girls were supremely shrewd, supremely efficient and supremely female."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Pocket 896 (1952)

Title : Miami Murder Go-Round
Author :
Marston La France
Cover art: Morgan Kane  

style ***
substance **
collectibility **

"The complete book; not a word missing."

 In this 1952 reprint, Miami Murder Go-Round gets the full pulp treatment by the usually conservative Pocket Books. Murder Go-Round benefits in particular from the high intensity front cover art by Morgan Kane -- bright red colors frame a view from the top of a 3-D stairs, with bad guy at bottom, knife in hand. The Spillane-esque fun continues on the back cover with the blurb:

  “This private eye, Rick Larkan, is really tough and needs to be. He’s got a blonde in his apartment, a blonde with half a million bucks in cold cash belonging to someone else. The blonde’s girl friend has been tortured and murdered. His own buddy has been killed. His clients want him to turn up another murderer, and the police want his help in cracking a gang of smugglers. And all this in America’s most lush playground, Miami … a town where vicious people often play too rough at vice and smuggling, and swollen citizens come floating in from Biscayne Bay … dead and stinking.”

This is the only novel by the rather obscure author Marston La France (1927-1975). His mystery writer credentials are on the curious side: one source lists him as a farmer in New York in the 1950s, another says he wrote Miami Murder Go-Round to finance his college expenses. Fun to compare the cov
er art for the Pocket version with the original 1951 hardback printing by World. Both are strong covers but for me the Pocket's in-your-face immediacy carries the day. 

Apparently there was an Italian translation [Girandola a Miami, Verona: Editore Luciana Agnoli, 1954; tr. Luciana Agnoli Zucchini]. Would love to get hold of this one; love that title!

Site of the month 2

("images from the underbelly of the rare book world") is Heldfond Books’ satiric take on vintage pulp.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gold Medal 921 (1959)

Title : The Wife Next Door
Author : R. V. Cassill
Cover art : Uncredited

style **
substance **
collectibility **

 "They met like two comets in the night - the bored and restless man, the lush and willing woman!" - front cover. 

GM 921 has great racy front cover art featuring the title character in pink negilgee leaning against a chair. She's rendered in a Barye Phillips style, but, alas, no cover artist is credited.

Risqué details aside, for me what's most interesting about the cover design are those red, brick-like shapes sprinkled through the center of the front cover. What exactly are they? Bricks to suggest the houses of the adulterous individuals? (it's the wife next door, after all). Some sort of wacky, cubist/abstract desire motif? Or maybe a hieroglyphic code? (they vaguely suggest some kind of Mayan script). Whatever, it's all great fun in this mild example of vintage sleaze from a mainstream 1950s paperback publisher.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Site of the month

A tasty - if selective - vintage paperback sampler is posted by Annie at LifeLounge (Dec 23, 2007), Satan was a Lesbian. The unlikely inspiration is a restaurant, Thai to Go, located in Melbourne, AUS : 

  "There is an amazing Thai restaurant near me that I eat at regularly for two reasons. One: it has tasty food. Two: it has a collection of vintage smut paperback covers on the walls. So I have to credit Thai To Go for inspiring this collection of coverart I pulled together from all the corners of the WWW. It's gold guys, absolute gold. Prepare yourself for gems like, The Sexy Saucer People, Trailer Park Trash ('Their love was as mobile as their home and just as carefree'), Ball And Chain and Evil Friendship." 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blue Murder (Dennis Mcmillan, 1987)

Title : Blue Murder
Author : Robert Leslie Bellem
Cover art : Joe Servello
  [Miami : Dennis McMillan. First paperback edition, October 1987. Soft Cover. 158 p. Part of the Classic Hard-Boiled Detective Series. Introduction by Bill Pronzini. Originally published in 1938 by Phoenix Press].  

style ***
substance ***
collectibility **

Bellem was the author of over 3,000 pulp stories, many of them featuring the ribald, wacky adventures of "private skulk" Dan Turner. Blue Murder features terrific retro-style cover art by Joe Servello of tough guy with smoking gun and sweaty redhead in low cut gown. The portrait of the sultry femme fatale recalls Cloutier's oily cover art for Dan Brennan's The Velvet Rut, which similarly depicts a languorous brunette veritably dripping in sleaze.

Phoenix Press, 1938


Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dell 414 (1950)

Title : Cleopatra's Nights
Editor : Allan Barnard
Cover art : Ray Johnson
  [Dell Publishing Company Inc., New York, August 1950. First paperback edition. Dell # 414. “The Life and Loves of the Queen of Egypt.”]

style ***
substance **
collectibility **

This rare venture by Dell into historical fiction has the added crossover appeal by being a representative – at least marginally so – of that popular if not so easily definable genre of vintage sleaze. However, as was the case in so many paperbacks from the golden era, the racy promise of the book’s cover is never quite delivered in the contents.
Nonetheless, Dell 414 has much to recommend; the various chapters are well-written, even poetic, and Ray Johnson’s lush cover art balances just the right amounts of glamour and luridness, representing a nice departure from Dell’s earlier, non-realistic designs. Best of all, this was one of the last of the company’s famed mapbacks, and this map’s a doozy – the known world, ca. 30 B.C. (i.e. Middle East & the Mediterranean), “where the pagan Queen of Egypt lived and loved.” The usual suspects -- pyramids, sphinx, Paros lighthouse -- they’re all there.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Newsstand Library #U168-ASN (1961)

Title : You Can’t Escape Me
Author : John Tyler
Cover art : Robert Bonfils
  [Chicago : First printing, July 1961. 'Adult reading.' 'A Newsstand Library Magenta book.' - title page. 'She was the high priestess of evil -- rapacious and insatiable. Hell was her home, and Satan, her lover.' - cover. A lively entry from vintage sleaze publisher Newsstand Library. Cover art by Bonfils depits an upside down naked blonde captured in mid-air, presumably tossed out of highrise].

style **
substance *
collectibility **

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Quote of the month

“However, the covers were sometimes printed in advance, before there was a story. So what the editor did was show me the cover or a drawing - it was usually a picture of a half-naked woman and someone stripping the rest of her clothes off her. And on that basis I wrote dozens of stories.” 
  -- Bruno Fischer, quoted in : Lee Server, Danger Is My Business : an Illustrated History of the Fabulous Pulp Magazines, p. 114.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mexican vintage

Title : Mexicana : vintage Mexican graphics
Editor : Jim Heimann
Cover art : Torrero
   [Köln ; London ; New York : Taschen, 2002. "Icons" series].

style ***
substance ***
collectibility **

An irresistible, all-color collection of printed ephemera from the Golden Age of Mexican graphics [1], Mexicana is indeed a little off-topic, and not owned by me personally, but a fun discovery and worthy of inclusion for its high quality graphic art which connects it, however indirectly, to the vintage paperback movement.

The subject matter covered includes bottle and can labels, matchbook covers, cigarette packets, bullfighting and wrestling posters, travel brochures, menus, magazine covers, advertisements, and especially calendar paintings. A number of illustrations are the fetching if rather idealized portraits of Mexican women, and herein is the closest connection to the vintage paperback aesthetic of more or less the same era.

A substantial number of images derive from the travel industry, and they tend to present Mexico as a bucolic paradise of lush landscapes and Old World architecture, populated by vibrantly happy [if somewhat Anglicized] beauties dressed in Old Spain [or in some cases, mythic pre-Columbian] garb, and often accompanied by similarly traditionally dressed country squires. Fair enough – travel advertising today gives much the same message, albeit in less quaint visual language.

When a signature on the illustration is legible there's names like : Diego Rivera, Carlos Merida, Armando Drechsler, Antonio Gomez R., and Jesús Helguera – a goodly company indeed. A minor quibble is the paucity of descriptive detail for the individual items; in fact the only textual material in the entire volume is a one-page introductory summary [in English, German and French, but curiously not Spanish].

Covering much the same terrain is Mexican Calendar Girls, by Angela Villalba ; foreword by Carlos Monsiváis (San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 2006). The rather significant difference is that this work has all the exquisite textual and descriptive detail, bilingual no less, which Mexicana lacked. Nonetheless, Calendar Girls and Mexicana share many qualities. In particular, both books might be described as a pleasing combination of graphic design, mythology, kitsch, cultural history and cheesecake art [2]. Come to think of it, this is q pretty good description of the qualities of vintage paperback cover art, but again, it's the cheesecakey female depictions which are the most direct connection to classic era vintage pb art [3].

The Art Deco element present but not dominant in Calendar Girls and Mexicana comes front and center in Deco España : Graphc Design of the Twenties and Thirties, by Steven Heller and Louise Fili (San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1997). It’s a tasty, wide-ranging collection of Spanish graphic design styles as employed in fashion, book and magazine covers, travel, and of course Spanish Civil War posters. Like Mexican Calendar Girls the present volume has a sprightly text and good documentation of individual items, with the illustrations being of a more abstract and purely graphic nature, lacking the emotional charge of the two Mexico books. Deco España then has a more 20th century sensibility, if you will, as opposed to the folksiness of the two Mexican titles, the images of which conjure up a timeless, romanticized, and myth-invoking nostalgia.

[1] Why does it seem that the ‘golden age’ for almost anything is the 1930s and 1940s?

[2] As Carlos Monsiváis puts it so succinctly in his Introduction, “The calendar art mixed Hollywood fantasies and Mexican legends.”

[3] Indeed, Mexican calendar artists occupy an analogous place to that of American vintage paperback cover artists; so many of the calendar paintings today considered brilliant were created in the thousands by anonymous, underpaid artists who were little appreciated at the time. But the differences were fascinating as well; the women in the Mexican calendar art, however seductively depicted, nonetheless have a natural and wholesome quality that contrasts sharply with the vintage pb’s highly stylized, urban, decidedly femme fatale look.