Archive for Alan Marshall

Man Hungry by Alan Marshall aka Donald E. Westlake (Midwood #20, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, Paul Rader, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on August 22, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Donald Westlake wrote the first ten Alan Marshalls for Midwood (and one Sheldon Lord and a couple Lord/Marshalls); this is the first one that Paul Rader did a cover for.

Man Hungry is an unfortunate trite title for what happens to be a rather excellent, quasi-literary novel.  It opens with 23-year-old Daniel Blake finishing his first novel, frantic behind the typewriter, and now that he is done, his girlfriend  realizes he no longer needs her, she acted as muse and he’s done with her like he’s done with the novel.

Five years later, Blake has yet to publish a second novel to follow-up his successful first.  He’s written four, but his agent and publisher have all turned them away, and have dropped him. Broke, he takes a teaching job at a small college in upper New York state. He immediately gets involved with Ann, a fellow teacher in physical education for girls…they live near each other in faculty housing. At first she is afraid to be intimate with Blake, she just wants to be friends, but she finally gives in and seems glad she did. Blake has no idea why she fears sex so much.

Next we meet 18-year-old Janice, highly intelligent, once a geeky awkward girl until around age 16 her body changed and she became a beauty to behold.  She has tried boys her age, older men, men from all strata, and she’s easily bored with them all.  She has an unknown need to be filled.  She is currently trying a lesbian affair with a woman who makes money by having her taxi cab driving uncle being her men for sex-for-money. When she hears about this new young professor who is a published novelist, she enrolls in his creative writing course and decided he could be the man who will fit her need: not too young, not too old, handsome, accomplished. Little does she know about his failures.  But Ann is in the way, and she seduces Blake, and Blake finds she is a lot like the girlfriend he had while writing his first novel, and Janice could be the muse he needs. But Janice gets bored once she has conquered him, and he has sacrificed his relationship with Ann and possibly his job, but at least he has fuel for that second novel…

A remarkably good read from a young Westlake.

All My Lovers – Alan Marshall/Donald E. Westlake (Midwood #15, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Most Donald E. Westlake fans believe his first novel was The Mercenaries in 1960, when in fact his true first published novel was Midwood #15, All My Lovers, as Alan Marshall, in 1959.

This Midwood concerns the tawdry lives of Manhattan’s uppercrust and the art scene. Martin is a 35-year-old successful stockbroker whose only intimacies is paid sex from his many immigrant maids, cleaning and servicing in his Park Avenue digs.  His wife, Eloise, has her lovers, and calls herself Lou outside their home — she pays for a Greenwich Village pad to house her lovers, who all have to be artists.

The current lover if Jeffrey, 23, whose been a professional gigolo since he was 18 and discovered that lonely widows, divorcees, and married women were willing to support him in exchange of sex.  On the gigolo grape vine, he heard about Lou and that she only wanted artistic lovers, so he pretends to be a would-be writer working on his first novel.  Living in the Village pad and getting money, clothes, and food from Lou, he sits behind a typewriter now and then, acting like he’s hard at work on this grand novel.

The marriage between Martin and Lou is for show; they seem to still love each other, or are pathetically co-dependent, and while he allows her lovers, he’s not very happy about it.  We later learn that they have never slept together once, so it’s a wonder why they are together.  It’s not just the money and status for Lou, because she does at times seem to be genuinely concerned for Martin; she’s just not interested in him sexually.

The reason why Lou demands her lovers to be artists is an attempt to replace the absence of a painter she was madly in love with, a man called “Bastard.”  He left for Europe and asked her to come, but she couldn’t leave Martin.

Martin hires call girls to beat and whip and be mean to, as surrogates for Lou, to express his anger and pain, just as he likes his maids to be submissive to his wants.  He’s a manipulative man; he sets up a weekend jaunt to “the Wood,” up in the Catskills, with Lou and her lover, Jeff, and a  mutual friend, Paula.  There, Martin tries to make Paula, she denies him, and she makes the move on Lou, confessing she’s admired Lou all through high school and college, and that she’s a lesbian.  She tries to convince Lou that men cannot love women the right way, only women can satisfy women.  Lou doesn’t go for it.

Jeff and Martin get in a physical fight and all fall apart but this is what Martin wanted — to get Lou to drop Jeff and to have Paula make the moves on his wife.

Then Bastard shows up, back from Europe, thwarting Martin’s plans.  While Martin takes it in stride about Lou’s various lovers, Bastard is a threat, because he knows Lou still loves him.

It’s a complicated story of a lot of hurt and lost people, people who don’t understand their own drives, needs, and emotions; people who last out at one another when hurt.  They are miserable and unhappy Manhattanites.

For a first novel, it’s not bad. It’s slow at times, then builds up tension, then gets slow again, but the writing is pretty good, and shows how the early Westlake was honing the craft of narrative.

It’s  a rare and pricey book — in fact, since Westlake’s passing in Dec. 2008, many of his early pen name works have shot up in price.  I’ve seen All My Lovers run between $50-70.

A Girl Called Honey – Sheldon Lord & Alan Marshall/aka Lawrence Block & Donald Westlake (Midwood #41, 1960)

Posted in Lawrence Block, Midwood Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

We know that Donald Westlake sometimes contributed to an Andrew Shaw novel or three, and that the Sheldon Lord moniker was shared.  Here, we have Block and Westlake having their pen names collaborate — adding in a cute dedication:

this is for

DON WESTLAKE AND LARRY BLOCK

who introduced us

This is like K.M. O’Donnell once claiming that his pen name was Barry N. Malzberg!

Another little tidbit — a character in the story signs into a hotel under an alias: Andrew Shaw. “Call me Andy,” he says.

There aren’t any of the other clues such as references to Clifton College of The Sound of Distant Drums. It does start off in Ohio, where the fictional Clifton College, and major events happen in Albany, NY, where Block hails from.

This is an early work for both these writerly friends and co-workers in the Scott Meredith Agency fee department,and it shows. But it’s not a bad novel; it’s slow to start, but you get sucked in by the characters, and things get gradually bleak and the damn thing sticks in your head all night long…

Honour Mercy Bane–nickname “Honey”–is a small town girl from Kentucky who makes her way to Newport, Ohio, a town outside Cincinnati.

And Newport, fair city that it is, has everything that Cincinnati lacks. Cathouses by the dozens. Gambling dens by the score,  a pusher on every corner, and bootleg whiskey sold over the counter in every drugstore. (p. 10)

She was kicked out of her home by her religious parents, Abhraham and Prudence Bane, when they come one unexpected one day and ind her in the act of coitus with her lover, who happens to be one of her teachers at the high school.  “Go to Newport and be a bad girl,” they tell her, disowning her.

So she does.

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Adios, Scheherazade by Donald E. Westlake (Simon and Schuster, 1970)

Posted in Midwood Books, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Westlake - AdiosDonald Westlake, RIP, wrote this funny book around the same time that Hal Dresner wrote his funny book, The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books, both novels about the sleaze publishing racket, both published by Simon and Schuster.  Both wrote for Midwood and Nightstand as young writers needing money experience, both were contracted out by Scott Meredith, both went on to bigger and better careers, both got a funny book out of the experience.

The narrator of Adios is a writer, 25, with a wife and kid and dreams of graduate school someday, knocking out a book a month for a New Orleans paperback house as Dirk Smuff.  The pen name used to belong to his friend Rod, who now has a spy series with a better house at $3,000 advances, publishes articles in Playboy, and has a movie deal in Hollywood.  The smut publisher still thinks they are getting Dirk Smuff novels from him, not knowing he has “a ghost” as they call it.

adiosP

His cadre of writing friends all have ghosts, collecting part of the $1,200 per book minus the agent’s commisson; they all have better careers and magazine or mainstream book writers. All except the lonly narrator, who is having a hard time getting his monthly books in on time…first two days late, then three, then four, then nine…the agency tells him if he’s late one more time, they will replace him with an eager writer who can do the work.

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Candy by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block), Midwood #40 (1960)

Posted in crime noir, lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Lord - Candy

Early Lawrence Block is always a mixed bag of good and not-so-good, such as some of the very early Nightstands. Midwood published Block’s first book as a Sheldon Lord, Carla [Midwood #7, 1958]  (later reprinted as Puta), although his first sale was the Lesley Evans lesbian novel, Strange Are the Ways of Love, for Fawcett Crest, 1959.  Seems Midwood had less turnaround time from manuscript sale to publication.

Evans - Strang are the ways of love

Lord - CarlaBock excelled in the lesbian themed novels as Sheldon Lord, some Andrew Shaws, and as Jill Emerson, who went from sleaze paperbacks to several mainstream novels with Putnam in the 1970s.  Many critics were convinced that Jill Emerson was actually a woman, and has been included in some lesbian pulp fiction anthologies without a mention that Emerson is really a man.  Block was more convincing a female writer than Silverberg.

So Block continued to write more books for Midwood, most lesbian themed works, and one he collaborated with Donald Westlake, Of Shame and Joy.

Candy is considered a lesbian novel, or a novel with lesbian sex going on…an instance where the woman, Candy, leaves the narrator for what a wealthy Park Avenue lesbian has to offer a sexy girl from the backwoods of America.

Candy is also one of Block’s finest Sheldon Lord books and early works, better than April North, better than the Sheldon Lords that Hard Case published. His early Nightstands were about college kids and young sexuality, and then he started to move toward crime noir/erotica, like Shame Dame as John Dexter.

In one typical Block line, he has a character reading a book by Alan Marshall (Westlake), with one hand in his pocket…

Jeff Flanders is 34 and works at a finance company that gives personal loans with a high rate of interest.  They are basically legal loan sharks without the leg breakers.

One day a sexpot 19-year-old blonde from the sticks, now in the big city, wanders into the finance company looking to borrow $1000.  She has no job, is new in New York, and no credit or collateral, but she figures her looks and sexuality will get her the loan.  She suggests Jeff co-sign her loan and in exchange he can have sex with her….

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The Many Faces of John Dexter #2: Shame Dame Penned by Lawrence Block

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Dexter - Shame Dame

Published in 1963 as Midnight Reader #471, Shame Dame is the only John Dexter book that Lawrence Block has admitted to writing, although there are probably others since in the past he has denied writing any Dexter, and denied writing any Sheldon Lords when he wrote many. His general pen name at Nightstand was Andrew Shaw, with one or two Don Hollidays and J.X. Williams tossed in there, maybe a Alan Marshall collaboration, since Dnald Westlake collaborated on some Andrew Shaws.

A better title for this would have been Bad Wife, as there are two of them.  The novel opens with Frank Fisher, 20s, sitting in a bar on Hollywood Blvd. and celebrating a letter he just got from his agent, stating that a publisher wants to buy his first novel.

He had been working on the novel for several years, since getting out of the Marines, and then meeting Helen, a rich woman who has been his sugar momma.  He feels good that he will have an income now.

He meets a girl in the bar and almost has sex with her but backs out, pissing her off. He has to think of his wife.  But when he goes home to surprise her with the good news, he overhears her and another man talking — her lover, and they make fun of him, and she says she used him for sex but now he isn’t enough, and she ridicules his desire to be a novelist.

Frank sees red. He attacks the other man and beats the other man to such a pulp that it’s murder.  Frank takes off, on the run.

The next chapter opens a year or two later in Fort Lauderdale, FL (Gil Brewer and Harry Whittington country, I can’t help but think Block did this on purpose) with Hank making a meager living as a drifter and boat hand.  His novel was published but he has been unable to collect on the money or else the cops would find him.

A series of strange events happen…this is definitely Block’s style here, and by 1963 he had honed his crime fiction pacing well, publishing alternately between Cornith, Gold Medal, Beacon, and Midwood. There’s plenty of sex in this one, sometimes lacking in his Beacon sleaze books as Sheldon Lord.

Frank has a series of encounters with three women — 30 year old Norma, married to a rich older man (again that theme); her 19 year old stepdaughter, a rebellious wildcat; and a revivalist preacher who was a former stripper and still has a body.  He has sex with them all. he’s a stud.  Norma wants him to knock her up and she will pay him $5K, so she will have something to hold onto her husband’s money…the stepdaughter needs sex because her boyfriend won;t do it until they are married…and, drunk, he rapes the preacher but she gets into it, since she once liked rough sex in her sinner years,  and then she falls in love with Frank…

What Norma doesn’t know is that her rich husband will also pay Frank to knock his wife up, because she does not know he had a vasectomy and he will use it as  a surprise on her plan during the divorce…but seems Norma really wants Frank for something else…she has had a private eye do a background, she knows Frank is wanted to murder in Los Angeles, and she puts it this way: shoot her husband dead or she will turn him into the cops.

This is a fast paced and enjoyable read and with some toned down sex, this could have been a Gold Medal crime novel; perhaps Block gave it to Hamling to meet his contractual obligation.  There are some interesting sub-plots: Hank working on another novel, Hank getting caught up in a student street riot, the preacher woman’s sordid past and her own sins and crimes…

Frank is indeed a “fisher” in Florida, fishing for crime noir and trouble everywhere he turns.  Seems he can’t make a move without having strange things happen.

The ending was a little too moralistic and unrealistic for my tastes — Frank is a likable character and who could blame him for killing his wife’s lover on what was supposed to be the greatest day of any young writer, the sale of a first novel…I wanted to see Frank vanish with his love and the money and getting away from jail…

Two thumbs up as both a Dexter and Block book.

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