Archive for the crime noir Category

Torrid Wenches – Arnold Marmor (Merit Books, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on January 24, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Another swift and nifty crime tale from Arnold Marmor with the typical Camerarts/Merit title and cover.

Karl is a real estate developer come into New York City over the death of his brother, a freelance investigative journalist. It was made to look like his brother committed suicide but Karl knew his brother well, and he was not the suicida; type.  Karl goes on his own investiagtion, racking up a list of possible suspects: the shady lawyer who stole ten grand from his brother’s estate; his brother’s floozy lover/call girl, Lola Knight; a magazine editor; a rich party throewe who makes his money from blackmail; and his brother’s jilted ex-girlfriend, Janice, a TV actress who soon becomes Karl’s lover…

Th wrap-up is a bit implausible, but reading Marmor’s prose is fun: fast and witty, a lot of snappy dialogue and wise-cracking a la Chandler or Robert Parker’s Spencer.

Abnormal Assault Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1962)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on January 20, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Another quirky fun Merit crime book from Goff. Charles Simmons is fresh out of journalism school and has joined the weekly paper, The Kirby Bugle, in small mid-western town Kirby, mainly to be near his girlfriend, Marcy, who is in the teacher’s school. This set-up seems to be a nod to Jim Thompson’s Savage Night, even with the buffoon local sheriff.

Simmons is replacing a reporter who was murdered, a crime that the paper’s editor, egomaniac Higgins, has been hounding the sheriff to solve.

Just as Simmons lands into town, crime erupts: the hit-and-run murder of the town drunk, who is the secret husband of the town floozy, Polly Cast, a strumpet that Simmons quickly cheats on Marcy with, and then is defiled and  murdered. Then there is a fire in the women’s dorms in the college, and then Simmons is knocked out and Marcy is brutally raped and disfigured: her nipples slashed off, her face beaten to a pulp…hence the title, Abnormal Assault.

For a while we think Simmons might be the culprit and has another personality, killing the other reporter to get the job, assaulting Marcy for his deep hatred of her; killing Polly for having seduced him. No, too easy…

The real killer rapist maiac is also too easy, and Goff drops plenty of clues and hints. It’s a toss from Citizen Kane, the newspaper publisher creating the news. Higgins wants to up the circulation of the Bugke, get national wire syndication, sensstional stories of blood, sexual crime sprees and madness…so why not…

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? – Horace McCoy (Harper & Sons, 1934; Signet Books, 1935)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on January 9, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I have only now discovered Hoarce McCoy, a best-selling noir novelist who wrote in a combination of Hemingway’s minimal style and Nathaniel West’s existential angst of Hollywood back in the 1930s-50s.

McCoy was a newspaper and radio man and small theater actor/playwright from Dallas who moved to Hollywood to act and wound up as a screenwriter — most notably an uncredited hand in the script for the first King Kong. While he worked with many fine directors and wrote in many fine genres, he never produced a memorable or classic film.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was his first novel and put him in the limelight — the French existentialists loved him like they did Jim Thompson and James Cain. This is a very short novel, 120 pages, maybe 25-30,000 words, narrated by Robert Syverten as a memory text as he is being sentenced by a judge to death row for murdering Goria Beatty, using a .22 to her head on the Santa Monica Pier.

He meets Gloria by the Paramount Studio lot at Melrose and Western, both looking for extra work and having no luck, as they are not registered with Central Casting. His goal is to be a great director; hers is to be a grand actress even though she does not have the Hollywood looks, and may be too old to start from square one.

Gloria is a bitter, pessimisstic narcissist, bipolar before there was a word, suicidal and angry: “As long as I am a failure I’m jealous of anyone who’s a success,” she tells Robert.  She thinks she can act better than most famous actresses. She comes from Texas, having run away from her abusive aunt and uncle, basically selling herself to men for food and a bed; after a failed suicide attempt, she took off for Hollywood.

Througout the story, she constantly talks about how she wants to die, how she hopes someone will kill her, how she hates life and hates everyone, etc.  She talks Robert into beng her partner in a dance marathon by the Santa Monica Pier — where many couples dance for hours, days, weeks, the winner getting $1500. It is the Depression, they cannot find work, the marathon offers meals for all and cots to sleep on during breaks.

The marathon is grueling, a rackett — it draws in an audience who want to see the couples suffer. It draws Hollywood in. It is like a reality game show before TV had them. So many desperate people enter, hoping for sponsors and money, or just to get free food and a place to crash. The whole situation is depressing and brings Gloria down more and more…there is the daily derby where the couples have to trot and run like horses around the dance hall and people make bets and cheer them on, and contestants fall down and pass ouyt from exhaustion. A doctor and nurses are always on hand. Some couples do tap dances and other enetertaining tricks and have coins tossed at them for tips. It all seems rather humiliating for these struggling wannabe actors and such…and apparently these sort of events were around back in the Depression, kind of like drawf-tossing today, or people doing humiliatting things on TV in shows such as Fear Factor.

Noir elements enter: loose women, crooked show runners, a contestant who is a prison escapee and wanted killer, a murder from an argument and a stray bullet killing an innocent bystander.

And then Gloria asks Robert to end her miserable life for her, to do her a favor…he sees her as a wounded horse, and there is only one way to put a wounded horse out of misery…

Apparently Charlie Chaplain had optioned this fine terse novel in 1950 for Marilyn Monroe to star in, but when J.Edgar Hoover had Chaplain’s re-entry visa from England revoked (Hoover fingered him as a Communist sympathizer and a danger to US culture and ideals), the project was shelved and was not made intil 1969 with Jane Fonda playing Gloria. McCoy had been dead for 14 years so never saw a notable film with his name on it — this one with Fonda and Bruce Dern garnered many Oscar nominations. I have not seen it yet…

I definitely have to read Horace McCoy’s other books…

The Genuine Wanton by Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on January 6, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is strange…apparently I read and wrote about this one almost two years ago in February, 2010. I do not recall either reading or blogging about it…and what I sid in that post I was going to say here. Is my memory going? Have I slipped into an alternate universe?

Very strange…I still like this Goff, though, plagazrized from Prather or not.

I Take What I Want by Hal Ellson (Midwood, 1958)

Posted in crime noir, Midwood Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on January 1, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

What Hal Ellson did best: juvenile criminal tales with a snappy style. Like many of his novels, this one is in first person and present tense, told by teenage Al, a hood, a punk, a crook, a gang member. Real life knocks on his door when he knocks up his girl and he needs to find the money to get it fixed. His girl wants him to go out and get a real job and stop being a gang bum.

There is plenty of violence and sex, murder and rape, bad cops and good girls gone bad in this one but it is not one of Ellson’s best, like Duke or Tomboy, probably why he sold it to new company, Midwood Books — the real early Midwoods of 1958 and 1959 were noy numbered and published in small digest size.

Why did every juvie gang book always have the same cover? — a frightened woman on the group looking up at some hood in leather jacket and holding a switch blade?

Carnal Rage by Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1962)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on December 26, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I have curiously intrigued by the books from Jerry M. Goff, Jr., since reading Thrill Crazy, Wanton Wench!, and others, and the scandal of the plagarism from Prather books. Carnal Rage has to be the best of them so far.

This short 30,000 word novel is narrated by an auto mechanic named Roscoe, a quite and quietly insane person who now and then gets an uncontrolable urge to rape and murder women.  His boss throws an engagement party for a fellow mechanic who is getting married to gorgeus Marcie who Roscoe thinks is too uppity with her good looks and strong perfume. After the party, he slips out of the apartment and spies on her, then follows her and rapes her in a park. It is a brutal and violent rape. Marcie is a virgin but she seems to turn passionate; she urges Roscoe to rape her hard and good, her face bloody…this is most likely Roscoe’s delusion. He leaves her near dead. Later, she is in the hosptal with broken bones and comatose.

He lives with Ann, a homely girl who is afraid she may lose him — she has followed him on three moves t different cites. In Cleveland and Pittsburgh, he raped and murdered, and afraid te cops might track him, he always moves and Ann follows. A mechanic can get work anywhere.

The cops question everyone who was at the party. Roscoe learns a stripper in a near by club has briefly seen him. Worried she might identify him, Roscoe tracks her down and rapes and kills her too.

His rambings are Thompson-esque, like The Killer Inside Me. Or maybe Gordon Lish’s Dear Mr. Capote. Roscoe does not believe there is anything wrong with him, and has no moral issues with his capitol crimes: he sees himself as a regular guy who has these crazy urges and needs now and then and he has to act on them as if it were natural.

Ann finds out the truth, but she stands by him. She offers herself::”If you need t rape someone, raoe me.” But he cannot. He loves her in his own weird way.

The wrap-up is hokey and illogical but this was still a guilty pleasure of a manic read.

Savage Night – Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1954)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on December 25, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The narrator of this fine noir novel is Carl Bigelow, once known as Little Bigger, a notorious hit man for the mob who is five feet tall and perpetually looks like a kid. He has been hiding out in Arizona, running a gas station, having got a new set of teeth, contact lenses, and a new life…but he is suffering from a lung ailment that has him coughting up blood from time to time.

“The Man” has found him…The Man is a mysterious syndicate guy who one day is in the papers for indictments, beats them, and a month later he is seen in society pages yukking it up with the judges and politicians who were trying to convict him of this or that. We realize it is all for show, and it is all about money.

There is a fellow who is abut to tur state’s evidence because he cannot deal with jail, and Carl Littke Bigger has been found and hired t take the guy out. Carl cannot say no to the job, or The Man will just have him killed, just as The Man orders Carl to kill a mutual acquanitance to prove he still has a killer inside him.

The plot for murder is an intricate one: Carl moves to the snall town where the target lives, enrolls in the local teacher’s college as a cover, and rents a room in the house of te very target…there he seduces and plays emotional games with the target’s lonely ex-singer/stripper wife, and the crippled maid, Ruthie, who also goes to the college.

Ruthie needs crutches because ne of her legs, at the knee, did not fully form, and there at the knee isna tiny foot wth tiny toes. Carl witnesses this tiny foot when he ravishes Ruthie in his bedroom in one of the most perverse sex scenes to come out of noir fiction yet.

I could see Mickey Rooney in this part, c. 1960 or so…a small tough guy. How does this five foot fellow charm the ladies? They crave attention and he gives it to them — he is s charmer, and flatters them, and gets them to love him…the idea, he tells The Man, is to get the wife to actually help him murder the target, and he will patsy her and make it look like she did it alone.

Instead, he frames Ruthie, and then runs away with her…he runs because he knows The Man will take him out after he does the job, to insure no loose ends.

The local good ol’ boy sheriff suspects him, checks him out…and in a bold and swifty move, Carl frames himself by sending an anonymous note stating who he really is, the notorious Little Bigger, but shen it all comes up to look like b.s., it helps him in his plan.

But Carl is insane…he is dying from his ailment, he knows he will never get out of the grip of the mob, and he slowly goes nuts…he may even have fallen for Ruthie, the cripple girl he has knocked up and framed for murder.

The last 10 pages are bizarre…we are not sure what is reality and what are hallucinations…did he kill Ruthie and the baby in her or has she murdered him? Did she ever exist? Has this whole novel been the wild paranoid fantasies of a dying man?

An amazing read…evidence of Thompson’s brilliance as the, yes, Fyodor D. of crime spree. Existential, literate, and American all the way.

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