Archive for Art Plotnik

Passion Pirate – George Baker (Bedside Book #1228, 1962)

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 28, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

It seems Bedtime/Bedside Books had three owners in its short life from 1959-1963.  It was a pioneer in sleaze, and Robert Silverberg’s association with them as David Challon and Mark Ryan was impetus for William Hamling to start Nightstand Books, starting with Silverberg’s Don Elliott novel, Love Addict.

Owned by Valient Publications, when Hamling bought the company out in 1961, Bedstand was changed to Bedside and was owned by Pert Publications, one of Hamling’s many shell companies. Looking at Victor Berch’s Bedstand/Bedside Checklist in Books Are Everything#20, the Haling run started at #1201 with Silverberg’s Don Elliott Woman Chaser, and went to #1224, Lawrence Block’s Andrew Shaw Gutter Girl . All the bylines were Cornith regulars: Dean Hudson, Alan Marshall, Clyde Allison, Al James, etc.

From  #1225 to #1251, the books were issued by EKS Publishers (seems to be the same as LS Publishers, with Bellringer and Gaslight Books) and the bylines were different.  My theory has been that Hamling still owned the imprint but changed the shell company and pen names to keep the feds off his back for them.  This seemed apparent to me with #1225, Sin Professor by Frank Peters, that read a lot ike Hal Dresner’s writing and had a character named Poltnik in it, for Dresner’s buddy Art Plotnik.

The bylines for Bedside’s end run seemed to all be generic names like Peters, and David Andrews, David Spencer, Jack Lechien.  The only names that I have seen with other publishers is Monte Steele and William F. Frank.

I have purchased a number of these, looking for Cornith styles. When reading Passion Pirate, I at first thought this was an Lawrence Block — it opens, in tight Block-like prose, with two broke drifters seeking out women to use and live with, scouring Greenwich Village.  They are Sebastian Wolff and Earl Dreggs.  They seemed a lot like two similar Lotahrios in Block’s Sheldon Lord Pads Are for Passion.

Reading further, however, I realized this was not Block, and when I got to a scene where a character puts on a record by an Albany-based singer named Plotnik, I realized George Baker was the same as Frank Peters, and this wasn’t Hal Dresner but Art Plotnik.  Plotnik was indicating that he was the author by adding himself in, and making fun of himself, as a character mentions having seen Plotnik in person and was “kind of weird.”

Plotnik was handled by the Scott Meredith Agency, so Bedside was getting its books from the same wellspring as Midwood and Nightstand and who-knows-who-else.

Passion Pirate was surprisingly good, a terse tale with real-feeling characters. Sebastian is the ladies man, a sly devil who seems to be able to hypnotize any woman who crosses his path, causing them to become submissive and hand over their pads, money, and hearts.  His sidekick, Earl, is a lug who seems to only get the leftovers and broken hearts — you know, the fellow who takes advantage of women hurting and on the rebound.

At the top, Sebastian picks up Christine, a 22-year-old Village nowhere girl whose rich Boston daddy is supporting for her a year as she writes poetry and tries to make a name for herself.  Sebastian wiggles his way into her pad and her heart, promising her he knows a literary agent who can get her poems published.

The agent is Cynthia, a married older woman who had a one night stand with Sebastian two years ago and still yearns for him.  She agrees to handle the poems if he agrees to fuck her twice  a week.  She claims her husband or no man has been able to please her since her once time with him.

Many women  seem to be the same. Sebastian is not only a lover, but a fighter, defending the honor of women with his fists, “speaking like an actor,” moving like a panther through the Village streets and bars.  Despite living with Christine, Sebastian can pick up women within an hour, make them fall in love, and break their hearts.  One is Ginny, that Earl runs into — Ginny was Earl’s ex-girlfriend that Sebastian has seduced.  Ginny lets Earl move in with her but she really wants him to get Sebastian back.

A lot of libertine sex goes on, including one gang bang scene with Christine as she fucks five guys in a row to get back at Sebastian’s infidelity.  The scene is more sad than erotic.

The novel ends in that weird way some of early Block books do, but this isn’t Block. I am convinced it is Art Plotnik now.

The Girl Takers by Don Holliday (Art Plotnik), Midnight Reader #407, 1961

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on December 13, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

In his whimsy memoir/book of essays, Honk if You’re a WriterArt Plotnik devotes a chapter, “Sexual Solitude in a Fool’s Paradise,” to his time as a sleaze writer, which he took up after several years as a professional journalist.  Like many reporters, he secretly wished to become a novelist.  His old college buddy, Bill Coons, told him of a chance to “ghost” a Don Holliday book for Hal Drenser. learn the craft of sex books, make some needed money, and perhaps make it a gig: the composition of “potboilers.”

Posing as literature, potboilers skirted  the obscenity laws and could be sold on newstands and drugsore racks as well as shops specializing in “one-handed magazines.”  Titles often sold in the 100,000-copy range.

No one has to write potboilers; virtuous writers can always starve or sell Tupperware. But since the opportinity was there, many good fiction writers turned to potbpoilers to make ends meet. (p. 74)

Plotnik is one of the few writers of the 1960s sleazecore who didn’t try to hide the fact he was doing this for money.  He saw himself as a craftsman, a professional doing a job for a buck; feeling that the writing would hone skills for later, more serious commercial fiction, the way Donald Westlake, Evan Hunter, Larry Block and Bob Silverberg eventually did…and Dresner, too. He took a pragmatic view of work-for-hire:

As Plotnikov began his next book, he thrilled to the idea that eachpage completed was money earned — $4.28 to be exact — and that when he pumped out two pages of orgiastic cries in thirty minutes, he earned the then-dizzying of $17.12 an hour or $684.80 a week! (p. 77)

Not bad wages — in 1961 money, that was $170 and hour, and about $6,000 a week, the salary of a good lawyer.  That’s what TV writers get these days…but no most fiction writers, for sure.

The Girl Takers took “Plotnikov” two weeks to write; according to him, it was based on some real events in his life, “a cross-country fling taken six years earlier” (p. 75). This little book does have a weird “feel” of the autobiographical in it, although it is not written in the first person.

John is a big beefy ex-sailor driving from Montreal to New York, having left one of many girls there in Canada.  He’s a free-wheelin’, free-lovin’ guy out to explore all the women the world has the offer. But he’s heading to New York to see his ex-girlfriend, Sheila, that he still has a yen for — he broke up with her a year ago when she pressured him for marriage.

He sees a guy hitchhiking and picks him up. He’s William, also escaping a woman — a girl he was dating since he was 16, but who turns out to be frigid and less than loving.  William is still a virgin at age 21, so the women worldly John, age 25, talks William into traveling around with him, and he will teach William how to pick up and bed all the millions of girls out there in 1960s America.

In a weird way they are like the low-rent versions of Kerouac’s Dean Moriarity and Sal Paradise, driving fast across the country in search of experience and truth.  As On the Road was at its height of popularity among all young men at the time, it seems this was Plotnik’s intention.

The cover art is actually a scene from the book, for a change in sleaze.  John and William share a room and across the way, they often see a woman walking around in her underwear — and then one day she is naked and dancing in front of a mirror.  Turns out she’s a stripper, and William decides she must be the first woman, she must take his virginity.  Being a good friend, William sets this up, after paying her — she is a stripper and a working girl. “I need the dough.”

After a brief reunion with Sheila in New York — she still wants marriage — John and William set off to California, on the road, meeting a variety of women, yet still drawn to their pasts and wondering if they both chose the correct road to travel down.

A whimsy read, nothing heavy here. A 7.5.

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.

Continue reading

Sin Professor by Frank Peters (Bedside Books #1225)

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Sin Prof

Frank Peters is quite an obvious pen name.  As I was reading, the style seemed familar…then a character named Anton Plotnik showed up…but this was not Art Plotnik, it’s Hal Dresner (aka Don Holliday) — it has Dresner’s whacky, playful style throughout.

Makes sense since Nightstand and Hamling purchased Bedstand in 1961, and after book # 1201 (Don Elliott’s Woman Chaser) many Bedstands were penned by Nightstand writers.

The sin prof is Boris Marholt, libertine English teacher, philopsher, and roustabout who has devised the theory of The Whole Man: a man who does as he pleases, takes as he pleases (women, wine, song) without a care for society, decorum, or the law.

He’s been fired from his teaching post for growing his beard long and shaggy.  Seems the university has an anti-beatnik policy, and no men can wear long beards. A student, Anton Plotnik, had previously been expelled.

Boris refuses to shave his beard. He leaves, but before he goes, he whisks off with an 18-year old student, Lydia, who was tormenting him in class with her mini-skirts, flashing him in class.  She falls for him, but can’t go to New York City with him until the semester ends.

Boris heads to Manhattan to look up his ex-girlfriend, Lisa, whom he lived with before.  She’s not home so he breaks in and helps himself to her scotch.  When she comes home with a man, Boris frigtens the man off and Lisa finds this delightful. They rush to bed. She says he can move back in with her.

Boris wreaks havoc across the city, picking fights in bars, picking up women in the streets, sleeping with his friends’ wives, and getting his heart broken by a vixen named Rosemarie.

Then Lydia shows up…he is living with a woman, having several affairs, and now he has this lovelorn teenage hottie to contend with…

A crazy, short and fun novel about a man spiraling downward after losing his job and his way, living in denial and masking his fear in a nutty philosophy of life…when in the end, Boris is just a loser who needs a good woman to steet him right.

The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books by Hal Dresner

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Dresner - Man Who Wrote Dirty Books

Hal Dresner wrote this novel about a dirty book writer that got him out of the dirty book business. Simon and Schuster bought it, a Broadway produced optioned it, and he was hired by Jack Lemmon to be the actor’s main comedy writer.  Drenser moved to Hollywood and his pen name for Nightstand, Don Holliday, was taken over by others c. 1963 — Art Plotnik, William Coons, etc.

This is an epistle tome, a novel made up of correspondence by a reclsuive author in Virginia, Mason, who wrtites under the name Guy LaDouche, and his editor at Sceptre Books, a few friends, his lawyer, a man suing him and the man’s attorneys.

He is being sued for libel for his Sceptre Books title, The Flogged Flesh, by a retured Naval commander, Dibbs, on behalf of Dibbs wayward daughter, whom Mason apparently used in the book, with a tell-tale birthmark and family history.  Dibbs is also an eccentric Nazi hunter and believes Mason is also an ex-Nazi who stole an American’s identity and is posing as a porn author.  Dibbs manges to get the FBI involved.  We soon discover that Dibbs, through his letters, is an insane paranoid.

A lone FBI agent shows up at his cabin, 10 miles from civilization, in the snow, and Mason befriends him, while “under arrest and surveillance,” they get drunk in Jack Daniels with the local sheriff, and absurd conversations abound — all told in letters to Mason’s lawyer, a nam with a curious name: Michael Westlake.

I can’t held but think that Dresner was making fun of the absurdity of the FBI and Hoover’s surveillance and harassment of Nightstand Books and William Hamling.

This is a crazy fun book, sometimes it does’t make sense, and you wonder: what is the point of all this?  But that’s exactly what Dresner wants you to think.  It was the early 1960s, Kennedy had been killed, postmodernism had rushed in, and little made sense in a crazy nuclear war fearing nation.

In the end, Mason only finishes 22 pages of the novel his editor keeps asking for, and quits the biz.

Highly recommended.

The Black Box

Posted in Nightstand Books, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

At Ed Gorman’s blog, he writes (in 2007) about the “Black Box” days of Nightstand and Scott Meredith Agency:

The Black Boxes-Westlake, Block, Hunter etc.

The first time I became aware of Earl Kemp I wasWilliams - Bayou Sinnersfourteen or fifteen and a member of Amazing Stories’ Space Club as were Roger Ebert and several others who went on to become professional writers. Earl, on the other hand, needed no Space Club. He was a BNF (Big Name Fan) operating out of Chicago. He was likely in his early Twenties then and already publishing lots of cool fanzines. He became acquainted with William Hamling who’d been an Amazing editor in the Forties and was now, in the Fifties, the publisheof of Imagination and Imaginative Tales, two juvenile-oriented magzines much like Amazing (though they did carry two fine stories by Philip K. Dick as I recall and Milton Lesser/Stephen Marlowe also did good work for them). Hamling decided to try a Playboy-type magazine so he created Rogue. This featured the likes of Robert Bloch, Alfred Bester, Harlan Ellison, Frank Robinson (who was also an editor there) and many many others. I always prefered Rogue to Playboy because of its sf/suspense orientation. And Rogue led Hamling (if I recall rightly) into soft-core porn. Remember, this was the time when Lenny Bruce was put in prison for speaking the F word on a stage. Soft-core was shameful and even dangerous to publish. The biggest problem Hamling had with the runaway success of his soft-core line was getting manuscripts. So Earl turned to Scott Meredith, who said he could provide all the anuscripts Hamling needed–but all this had to be done very discreetly. By this time Earl was to be a major fiure in the whole operation. I trust Earl will correct any part of this I get wrong. Earl’s a fascinating guy and you should log on to http://www.efanzines.com/EK/eI13/index.htm#nobody for not only the whole article about such familiar names as Lawrence Block and Evan Hunter and Donald Westlake but Earl’s own take on the world of the publishing world people didn’t ant to talk about back then. Hell–they don’t nt to talk about it even today.

Here’s Earl:

Scott Meredith was terrified at the prospect of being identified as the
major supplier of pornography in the US in the 1950s so, when his
business began picking up because of popular demand, he devised a plan
to hide his involvement. He had Henry Morrison (aka Moskowitz), one of
his employees, set up a fake operation out of a Grand Central Station
post office box. Then he ordered a supply of plain black manuscript
boxes (Meredith’s were gray at the time) to use for mailing those porn
manuscripts to the various publishers who were using Meredith’s crew for
their sleazy products.–

(excerpt from long memoir of those days)

The Black Box crew who answered to Scott Meredith in those wonderfully sinful 1960 years was a motley crew at best. Some of them were occasional staffers of Scott Meredith Literary Agency, and others were writer new-hires, signed on with great expectations as Future Great Writers To Be.

Hal Dresner was one of the gang, and Donald “Ed” Westlake. David Case, Evan Hunter, John Jakes, Arthur Plotnik, and Milo Perichitch. Also Lawrence Block, Dave Foley, William Coons, and…. William Knoles, my personal favorite, was a latecomer to this group.

And they were right, they were certainly Future Great Writers To Be. Only if you could have looked on, watching them without their knowledge, you would have picked them as a bunch of high school jocks or college frat brothers, always joking, pulling gags on each other, trying to set each other up with sure things, the more unattractive the better. Stealing from each other in a good-natured way. Stealing pseudonyms, characters, plots, chunks of manuscripts…loose items. Like good buddies sharing a great big locker room together and drinking each other’s drinks and smoking each other’s cigarettes.

The early years crowd did quite a bit of socializing together, as well. They held regular meetings every Friday night allegedly to play poker, but in reality they just liked being around each other, joking about the agency, talking shop, and psyching themselves up to starting that big ominous thing lurking over them all known as Next Month’s Manuscript. It would take at least that much to keep Henry Morrison happy and to keep Scott Meredith at bay. [There were women writers as well, like Marion Zimmer Bradley, but most of them were kept rather well hidden. It was essentially a male thing to write those books, or so people assumed. In reality, the women wrote much better quality pornography than the men.]

The yokels at Midwood and Nightstand Books would just have to wait their turn, nothing could interrupt “The Happy Pornographers” at play. That was the group name they gave to themselves in those halcyon days.

In “The Men Who Wrote Dirty Books” in Books Are Everything, Lynn Munroe asked Hal Dresner, “Were some of your Don Holliday books written by committee? …Block says he collaborated with you and with Westlake. And didn’t you all meet for a weekly poker game?”

Dresner answered: Circle Of Sinners (Bedside Books 1220) “was an example of a collaboration that appeared under the Holliday name. Other collabs rotated among existing pen names. The weekly poker game produced one book written mostly in a ten-hour stretch: one writer at the machine while six others played cards. The purpose was to provide some funds for the widow of [Dave Foley who had recently died. Ed had a special interest in this project; Foley’s widow, Sandy, became the second Mrs. Westlake.]…. The final manuscript needed some reworking as speed was a higher priority than consistency. I recall that the lead character was, at various times, called by different names; his military history was, depending upon the writer, a stint in the Marines, Air Force and Navy; and during one 24-hour period there were two sunsets and three sunrises. Still the final product was salable and, legend has it, Scott Meredith even waived his commission. If true, that is the most remarkable aspect of all.”

Everyone who worked near Scott would second that in a heartbeat.

I have also been reading Arthur Plotnik’s Honk if You’re a Writer; one chapter titled “Sexual Solitude in a Fool’s Paradise” explains how he was Holliday - Girl Takerssubcontracted by Hal Dresner to write a Don Holiday novel, The Girl Takers.  Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake and others (but not Silverberg) would farm out work to friends to ghost write their pen names, which is often why the style and quality of certain pen names changes.  They had contracts for one book a month but could not do it, or were busy with other novels, so would pay ghost wroters $600-700, keeping the rest for themselves — still, even keeping $200 was like $2,000 back then, so not too bad for doing nothing but making your agent and publisher think you were hard at work writing sleaze.

Dresner - Man Who Wrote Dirty BooksMany of these writers often wrote about their sleaze days — Dresner’sThe Man Who Wrote Dirty Books, Linda DeBrueil’s The Girl Who Wrote Dirty Books – – as well as Westlake, Banis, etc etc.

Girl Who Writs Drty Books

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