Archive for Harry Shorten

Honey Child – Greg Hamilton – Midwood Books (1965)

Posted in Midwood Books, Paul Rader, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on November 29, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The yummy Paul Rader GGA and cover copy makes you think this is a Lolita type story, and Midwood certainly never shied away from the sexcapades of teen wantons…but Robin, the heroine, is a 19-year-old college student; she is hardly a nymphet although she acts like she is twelve when it comses to maturity and the games she plays.

Not all that impressive. I need to read more Greg Hamilton, one of the pen names used by Ron Singer, the brother of Sally Singer, aka March Hastings, lesbiana author gallant.  Apparantly, Midwood’s Harry Shorten had set up a small writing office in the Village that various people used as a manuscript grindhouse, so says Gil Fox in an interview with Lynn Munroe:

I also wrote some books for one of the Midwood writers, Ron Singer. They had an office set up at Christopher and Hudson in the Village, with typewriters, and you could go in there and write for money.

Ah, the good ol’ vintage days of analog pulp writing. A simpler time? What would they have done if they had iPads and laptops?

Ladder of Flesh – Sloane Britain (Midwood Books, 1962)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The enigmatic Elaine Williams aka Sloane Britain shows us the petty, micro-world of lesbians in the Broadway play world: manipulative, scheming, shallow, using sex to convince people with money and power to help with careers in writing and acting.

Britain/Williams addressed the issue in previous books Unnatural and These Curious Pleasures and Insatiable, that all the problems, joys, pleasure and insecurities in heterosexual relationships exist in lesbian relationships, despite some lesbian claims that only women can truly love another woman and men are bad.  The rich aging dyke in this novel says it best to Hallie, the playwright:

“You know I never wanted you in this . . . life. I feel now as I felt then, you don’t belong in it. You came to me with your tears and your sorrow and your hurt after David left you. You thought you could find solace in the arms of another woman. By hating one man you thought you hated them all. Hallie, women leave one another too . . . ” (pp. 104-5)

And Wanda knows this well, for the young women she takes under her wing, who pretend love, often leave her for the next best thing, when they’ve gotten what they want.  The current young sex kitten, Carol, has slept her way into a role in Hallie’s new play, Summer Ends Too Soon, making the New England rounds and heading toward Broadway.

Carol has gone from the money backer, Wanda, to the playwright, and who knows who next.  Hallie knows it, and is afraid of her feelings for Carol.  Hallie doesn’t let her lesbian desires known — for instance, her director, Elliott, is in love with her, and Hallie has kept him at bay by telling him their love is pure and sex would only ruin it.

Carol has also been sleeping with Ellis, the female lead, and a notorious theater-scene dyke. The issue: Carol looks good, but she can’t act as well as she thinks, and each time she is on the verge of being fired from the p play,  she sleeps with the right person to keep her in.

It’s obvious that something bad is going to happen with all of Carol’s bed-hopping.  It’s a world I know well — the sexual side of the theater scene, not Broadway, but it’s the same wherever you go, small towns or big cities, when you put a bunch of people in the arts together, and they like the same things, and get into bed now and then, affairs and trysts and hurt feelings are inevitable.

Harry Mandl is the producer, a former dress salesman who once married into a theater-family.  He doesn’t have a clue about what makes good or bad theater — he’s simply a salesman who put projects together with backers, who gets shows booked into theaters.  He’s a lot like TV producer Harry Broadman in These Curious Pleasures,  based on Harry Shorten, publisher of Midwood Books that Elaine Williams worked for.. Ellis bursts Harry’s bubble:

“Harry, don’t you realize if you divorce Ceicily now, you’re out of the family theatrical agency too? [...] Wake up! ou didn’t produce anything. You wouldn’t have attracted a single play or a single penny if it hadn’t been for the agency backing you up. You haven’t been a producer all these years . . . you’ve been a puppet.” (p. 117)

Could the same be said for Midwood’s Shorten, who never read a single manuscript he published, whose editors — like Williams — attracted writers and edited the books to make them the best they could be? Shorten was a publisher from the money he made from a successful panel cartoon, There Ought To Be a Law.  Eliis goes on:

“The only talent you have is that you let people with talent run you. If it hadn’t been for all the strings Ciecley and her family provided for you, you’d be back on Seventh Avenue peddling dresses.” (p. 117)

Nothing much happens in this book, it is more character-driven than plot, tending toward banter. Not Williams/Britain’s best.  I’d give it a B-minus for at least being entertaining and showing how shallow those in the stage arts can get.

The Curious Case of Sloane Britain

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Loren Beauchamp, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

When pop culture historians and critics write about the lesbian paperback pulp era in the 1950s-60s,  the same names are often use das examples: Vin Packer, Randy Salem, March Hastings, Valerie Taylor, Paula Christiansen, etc., with such classics in lesbian pulp Spring Fire, Three Women, Baby Face, Women’s Barracks,  and so on.  Seldom is the name Sloane Britain mentioned, the pen name of Midwood-Tower editor Elaine Williams, although as both a writer and editor, Williams/Britain etched her own legacy in the history of early commercial lesbian fiction.

Williams started with Midwood in 1959, when the company first formed, acquiring and editing novels by Lawrence Block (Shekdon Lord), Donald Westlake (Alan Marshall), Robert Silverberg (Loren Beauchamp), Orrie Hitt, and Mike Avallone, among others.  It’s not clear when she left Midwood, if she did, but she committed suicide in 1964. Seems her family did not approve of her gay lifestyle and had disowned her, a matter she hinted at in her fiction.  She was 33.

She published her first novel with Newsstand Library in 1959, a paperback house out of Chicago: First Person–Third Sex was a deeply personal account of a third grade teacher’s discovery of her “third sex” passion and desire of a “twilight woman.”  It was reprinted in 1962 by Dollar Double Books as Strumpets’ Jungle (see above pic) , back-to-back with Any Man’s Playmate by James L. Ruebel.

Also in 1959, she published with Beacon Books, The Needle, a story about a bi-sexual heroin addict prostitute.

Her next novels for Midwood were 1960’s Meet Marilyn and Insatiable, like The Needle, written commercially for the market; These Curious Pleasures (1961), however, has the same autobiographical, first-person narrative that her first novel does. In fact, the narrator’s name is “Sloane Britain,” perhaps Williams’ indication that this book is based on her own life, rather than the writer’s imagination. 1961 also saw That Other Hunger. Both books sported cover art by Paul Rader.

Other titles were Ladder of Flesh plus two posthumous short novels published as Midwood Doubles: Summer of Sin and Peep Booth.  Three titles, Ladder of Flesh, That Other Hunger, and Unnatural,  were reissued in the late 1960s with new titles: Taboo and Delicate Vice.

Both First Person–Third Sex and These Curious Pleasures break away from the genre norm of lesbian paperbacks in that they end on a gay-positive note, rather than having the protagonist meet with tragedy for her sins of the flesh or meet a male she falls head over heels with, marries, and lives forever after in heterosexual marital bliss.  Publishers such as Fawcett Gold Medal, Beacon, and Nightstand often required this so the Postal Inspector would not prosecute for mailing obscene material in the U.S. Mails — if the lesbian character meets a horrible end or goes insane over her unnatural lust, or repents from sin and finds true love in the arms of man, then the books were deemed to have social value as morality and cautionary tales; if the books ended on a positive note with women loving women, that, in the 1950s-60s, was considered perverted and sick.  Homosexuality was still considered a mental disease that could be cured with medicine, psychology, or religion…

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Hired Lover by Fred Martin (Orrie Hitt), Midwood #13

Posted in crime noir, Loren Beauchamp, Midwood Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

midwood - hired lover

Accoridng to Lynn Munroe’s richly informative article on Midwood’s beginnings:

Amazingly, just 5 men wrote almost all of the first 40 numbered Midwoods. This hard-working group (Beauchamp, Lord, Marshall, Orrie Hitt and Don Holliday) carried and established Midwood until [Harry] Shorten was able to build his own stable of regulars –- names like March Hastings, Dallas Mayo, Kimberly Kemp, Joan Ellis, Jason Hytes and Sloane Britain.

Beauchamp was, of course, Robert Silverberg, Lord was Lawrence Block, Marshall was Donad Westlake, Holliday was Hal Drenser, and Orrie Hitt was himself.

Hired Lover is Midwood 13, published in 1959, although there are some early un-numbered Midwoods. Fred Martin was a one shot name for Midwood (and seems to have written one for the short-lived Magnet Books), and the style is easily identifiable: this is an Orrie Hitt book.  You can’t mistake Hitt for anyone else: the set-up, the dialogue, pacing, wrap-up.  Silverberg also did an early one shot, Immoral Wife by Gordon Mitchell (Midwod #11), that I discussed in this blog a while ago.

The question is: why these one-shot names?  Was it Midwood’s idea, to look like they had more than the same writers, or Scott Meredith’s, since the mauscripts came from the agency blinded as to the true writer’s identity. After all, Silverberg did an early Midwood, #7, Love Nest by Loren Beauchamp (see my review), and Beauchamp was his continued name for a dozen more titles from 1960-1963.

Munroe also notes:

Although nobody at Midwood knew it then, most of the books were by the same writers turning out the Nightstands. For example, Loren Beauchamp (Robert Silverberg) would become Don Elliott a year later at Nightstand, Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block) would become Andrew Shaw. Some of the writers, like Alan Marshall and Clyde Allison and Al James, used the same name for both.

Midwood - Call Me MistressI have another early, un-numbered Midwood, Call Me Mistress by Tomlin Rede, and I wonder who wrote this one.  I haven’t read it yet but on quick glance, the style seems like early Westlake/Alan Marshall.

Call Me Mistress is a crime noir set in Hollywood and among syndicate crime lords, wuth a dash of lesbiana tossed in.  I will be getting to this book soon after I do my reading stint of campus sex books and lesbian titles.

Back to Hired Lover — yes, one of many Orrie Hitt’s novels but the name is not listed among Hitt’s pen names (Nicky Weaver, Kay Addams).  I Feldspar - Squeeze Playhave two Kozy Books by one “Walter Feldspar” (Loose Women and Squeeze Play) that look like they may be Hitts (there’s also a Beacon Hitt book called Loose Women) — Feldspar only penned two books, and for Kozy, and Hitt wrote many for Kozy as himself, Weaver, and Roger Normandie…like Lawrence Block and Robert Silverberg and others, there are pen names used that are not always associated with these writers, either overlooked by bibliographers or not admitted to by the writer (or remembered).

Hitt - Loose Women

Hired Lover is a first-person tough guy story — Mike has left Los Angeles after a bad incident and is in Chicago, where he has ties.  He’s working as a driving instructor when one day a gorgeous dame in her mid-20s, Kitty, is his student…she takes him to her mansion, gives him booze and fucks him.  She’s married to a rich old man — short fat,bald and ugly — whom she met when she was a nurse and he was in the hospital in diabetic shock.

As luck would have it, the rich man’s chaueffer just quit and he needs a new driver. Kitty suggests her hubby hire Mike — he can live in the apartment above the garage, where she can visit him for illict sin and lust.

While Kitty and hubby are away on a trip, Mike looks up an old business buddy who runs a stripper club.  One of the strippers has her sister, Ruth, with her — new in town, fresh from Ohio farmland, 18, a virgin, and ignorant of the big bad ol’ world of strippers, whores, booze and crime that her sister is involved with.  Mike manages to talk her out of going down that road — he’s no hero, since he also gets her drunk and takes her virginity, being 10 years older than the girl.

Right off, we know that Mike will end up with Ruth as his wife in the end.  This is typical of Hitt’s novels, mostly for Beacon — similar to the set-up of The Promoter, that I talked about last week.

(An aside: Beacon and Softcover seemed to require, as with lesbian novels, that the hero or heroine redeem and depent tgheir sinful ways by book’s end, married and in the arms of someone good, man or woman.  This does not seem to be the case with Hitt’s titles for Sabre and Novel Books — in fact, Novel gave Hitt carte blance to “take the gloves off” and write what he wanted, free of market and genre constraints.  I will be talking about a few of those in the near future.)

The set-up for Hired Lover isn’t new in sleazecore: the wife convinces the lover that they have to murder the old rich husband so they can be together and get rich.  That never works out, of course, and the wayward wife gets hers in the end — in this case, she has set up Mike in cahoots with the head butler/valet of the mansion. And the hero repents and finds love in the arms of a younger, less gutter-drivem woman, in this and other Hitts.  Mike, on the run from the set-up murder, is aided by young Ruth.  The cops wind up arresting the wife and the valet, but Mike is still guilty for the murder, and had helped plan it.  He married Ruth, but is dying from tetnus due to a untreated gun-shot wound.  The novel ends with Mike on his deathbed, confessing the murder to a Catholic priest, and holding his young wife’s hand, whom he has impregnanted so she will have something of his left.  It’s a sad ending, in a way.

Hired Lover is a great read, however, and if you dig Orrie Hitt, you will dig this — and it’s too bad that Hitt fans may miss this one,  so this blog/review will serve as a pointer for anyone doing research on Hitt.

Now that I am an Orrie Hitt fan  (where was he all my life?), and have bought several dozen books now, expect much discussion of his work here.

I have also found another promising sleazecore writer, Brain Black, who wrote a handful of Beacons, pen names for Western pukp writer Robert Trimnell. The books look good on first glance:

Black --Passionate Prof

Beacon - Unfaithfuil

Black 0 Jeanie

Instant Sex by Mel Johnson (Barry Malzberg), Midwood Books

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Midbook Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I just realized I have been neglecting Barry Malzberg’s sleaze novels as Mel Johnson, Gerrold Watkins, and himself, which half this blog (along with Robert Silverberg’s pen names) is supposed to focus on (and now I have added in March Hastings, Joan Ellis, and Andrew Shaw).

I have been trying to track down Malzberg’s Mel Johnson Midwoods for years with little success, and if I do find them, they are priced outrageously.  I have no idea why these Midwoods — even the doubles and triples Johnson is in — are scarce and priced so high, when other late 1960s Midwoods are not.

A kind Malzberg fan, Jim Mix, contacted me and said he had a couple extra beat up Johnsons and one Watkins and sent them to me, in the interest to advnace my overdue Mazberg monograph, Beyond Science Fiction (let’s say early 2010 from Borgo Press at this point).

One of them was Instant Sex, that has a nifty Paul Rader cover:

Instant Sex A

Not even Lynn Monroe had this one in his Rader catalog, and he lists it as wanted. When I sent him this scan from Jim, he was surprised he had never seen it — I mean, he’s one of the top authorities and collectors of vintage paperbacks in the country.  Before my telling him, he had no idea Malzberg had written as Mel Johnson, and the Johnsons were not in his catalogues.  This makes the Mel Johnson scarcity more mysterious…the Gerrold Wakins books are hard to find because Olympia only printed 1000-1500 copies and maybe sold half the run.  But Midwood printed in the 25-50,000 unit range…

Does this great cover art depict the storyline inside the pages?  Not really. But when do they ever?

In an email conversation aboutl, Barry Malzberg told me that the novel

was written with real ambition under the working title FIRE.  I was trying, in 9/68, to write the first Vietnam veteran‘s novel, to make a major statement.  I reread it just a few years ago, tried to anyway, thought it was all right.  Better than all right.  I don’t know what was crazier: a) writing a novel of that ambition for Midwood Books’ $900, b) thinking that I had a chance at some “literary” recognition.  Cough cough.  This way to the egress, ladies and germs.

Here is a true or at least represented-as-true story told me by my Midwood editor and good friend Robert Devaney: Malzberg-Barry_thumbthe novel was delivered, Harry Shorten paid for it, Devaney put it on top of the small pile of delivered manuscripts heading for copyediting.  Harry Shorten came into his office.  “I had a dream,” Harry said, “I had a dream last night.  Here is the dream: it is that I published a novel and it was called INSTANT SEX.  I awoke and thought ‘that is a really good idea, I want to call a novel INSTANT SEX.'”  He pointed to the pile of manuscripts.  “Take that one on the top,” he said.  “Call it INSTANT SEX.”

This goes along the lines of other Harry Shorten tales.  In an interview with Gil Fox (Paul Russo, Kimberly Kemp, Dallas Mayo), Gil Fox  says to Muroe:

Harry Shorten had no knowledge of books whatsoever. He had some money from his cartoons, wanted to start a business, used the money to start Midwood. I don’t think Harry ever read a book in his whole life. He did not recognize intelligent writing in books. He would slap a hot cover on anything. For some reason Harry loved me. He would hit me on the back and call me “his most prolific Mayo - When the Lights Are Lowauthor.” How Harry operated: one day we came back from lunch and Harry picks the title WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW out of the air and says “Your next book for Midwood will be WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW.” That was it, no meaning at all, no story. So, you know, I went home and wrote WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW.

In another interview, Joan Ellis says:

One time I walked into Harry’s office and he held up a painting of a blonde eating an ice cream cone and he said, “I now own this cover art. Write me a book to go with it.” So I did. (ed. note: the book is TALK OF THE TOWN, Midwood 32-396).

Would Fire have been a better title than Instant Sex?

Malzberg states he wrote this novel in Sept. 1968, and it’s pub. date is 1968 — Midwood must have had a quick turnaround from accpetance-copy-editing-production.

As for the story…

Instant Sex B

Coleman got into some trouble in Saigon — he was arrested for being with a Vietnamese prostitute and he assaulted a superor officer (tones of “Final War,” Malzberg’s novella written as K.M. O’Donnell).  After some time in the stockade, he returns Stateside despondent and impotent.  The letters from his fiancee were distant, and when he tries to re-connect with her, he knows the marriage is off.

He goes to New York in search of himself, hell, and meaning of his experiences in Vietnam. He wanders into the world of prostitutes, since it was a hooker who ruined his army career.

(I am left wondering if William T. Vollmann [whom I have published two books on, with the recent one out now] read this book, because there are some parts that remind me of Vollmann’s short novel, Whores for Gloria.)

Coleman meets the cliched “whore with a heart of gold” — Cynthia, a skinny girl in Harlem, that he picks up on the street.  He goes limp while they have sex.  She feels bad, like she has not satisfied a custimer, and offers to give him half his money back.

Coleman is an angry Nam Vet.  He goes into a bar and looks for a fight. He wants to go back to jail.  Cynthia has followed him.  When he gets into a brawl and the cops start to take him away, Cynthia comes to his rescue and says she’s his girlfriend and he’s a war hero, blah blah…she takes him back to her apartment and he sleeps in bed with her, and attemepts a half-ass (no pun?) act of anal sex with her.

He wakes up with Cynthia’s pimp, a man named Creature, in his face.  He leaves, although he feels he shouldn’t and Cynthia gives him some looks…he decides to go back, just as Creature is about to stab Cynthia (why do all the charcters have names that start with C?)…Coleman fights Creature and beats Creature up…feeling like the winner, like a man, he takes Cynthia on the floor and, yes, has instant sex. Violence becomes the pure for his impotency.

This book surprised me — it’s a good novel, but the style is different than most Malzberg’s: it’s not in present tense or first person, and Coleman is not as insane as many Malzberg protagonists tend to be.  This also has a “happy” ending.  As a “Vietnam novel,” it does comment on PTSD and what soliders coming back home from an unpopular war have to endure. The sex, as in many Malzbergian fictions, is not “hot” or enticing for the label “one-hand book” but realistic, horrifying, sad, nuerotic.

It’s an early Mazberg, a novel written before he was publishing under his own name, and before his stint at Olympia Press, and was just starting to write as “K.M. O’Donnell” in the science-fiction field.  It reminded me  somewhat of Larry Heinemann’s Paco’s Story.

As for the cover art — that isn’t Coleman and his  skinny teenage Harlen hooker…it could be Coleman pre-Vietnam, with the girl he was to marry…

Some day I will find and read all the Mel Johnsons…next is A Way With All Maidens, from Midwood’s short-lived Oracle Books imprint. Then The Box and The Sadist.  I really want to find Campus Doll and Nynpho Nurse.

Some Midwoods by Loren Beauchamp

Posted in Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Loren Beauchamp was Robert Silverberg’s female pen name at Midwood Books, writing at the same time as working for Nightstand, although neither publisher knew he was doing double-duty, as Silberbob was going through the Scott Meredith Agency with Midwood; his real identity was a secret (he also wrote as David Challon and Mark Ryan  for Bedstand/Bedtime Books, L.T. Woodward and Walter C. Brown for Monarch Books, Lancer Books, and Beacon; and at Nightstand did a few as house names John Dexter and J.X. Williams — a busy mofo!).

Many of these Midwood books were illustrated by Paul Rader, who died in obscurity but is now considered one of the masters of sleaze pop art Americana.

Beauchamp - Nurse
beauchamp - anoyher night another loveBeauchamp - Sin a la CarteBeauchamp - When She was BadBeauchamp - MegBeauchamp - Wife TradersLove nest

As David Challon –

Challon - Campus Lobve

Challon - Thirst For Love

From Lynn Munroe’s site:

Harry Shorten came from the Midwood section of Brooklyn NY. With his partner, artist Al Fagaly, Shorten made his fortune with a comic strip called THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW. Shorten thought up the ideas and Fagaly would do the drawings. Looking around for somewhere to invest all the money he was making from his cartoon, Shorten decided to become a paperback book publisher. He looked at the success of Beacon Books, a series of slick cheap throwaway melodramas and sexy romances with flashy girlie art covers marketed to men and published by Universal Distributing. Shorten figured he could do the same, and at 505 8th Avenue in Manhattan, in 1957, he started a paperback book line named for his old neighborhood. The first batch of Midwood Books were either THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW paperbacks or unnumbered experimental forays in the Beacon style. By Midwood 7 in 1958, the authors and artists we recognize as Midwood Books were in place. Midwood 7 is by Loren Beauchamp and has a cover by Rudy Nappi, Midwood 8 is by Sheldon Lord and has a cover by Paul Rader. Shorten was getting his early manuscripts from the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, where Meredith’s band of employees and clients were soon churning out a book a month for Nightstand Books, too. And he was getting his cover paintings from the Balcourt Art Service, the same agency that supplied many of the covers for Beacon.

Beauchamp - Sin on WheelsBeauchamp - Summer Sex Club

Beauchamp - Nurse Carolyn

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