Be sure to check out The Olympia Press books by Dr. Garth Mundinger-Klow, son of sexologists Guenter Klow and Gerda Mundinger.
I got this one because Feral House used the Robert Bonfils art for the cover of Sin-A-Rama, so I was curious about the book — as in, was the story as good as the “water baby” theme art (that Bonfils also uses for Don Elliott’s Lust Queen, soon on my reading list).
Boy was I pleasantly surprised. This is a great little novel, a lost gem in the blackhole of sleaze paperback publishing….take out sleaze, I would not call this novel “sleaze” per se…it is a hardboiled tale of a guy who has gotten himself into a few tangles in Los Angeles and is trying to wiggle out.
I have no idea who Robert Carney is — Sin-A-Rama calls him “Robert H. Carney” who used a pen name, Herbert Roberts, from what I can tell one novel, Mardi (on my list). The only other Robert H. Carney books I can find is a non-fiction title about the Atlanta Times. There is a Robert H. Carney in Atlanta on Facebook who seems the right age to have written this 1961 novel…maybe it is him and this is not a another pen name who Whomever.
Carney is influenced by Nathaniel West, but there’s also some James Cain and Jim Thompson tossed in there. The prose is lean, mean, and to the point.
Joey Allen is a used car salesman whose former partner destroyed their business by gambling, then killing himself. Joey wants to be rich. He is sleeping with three women and trying to keep them from each other — a former fiance he has dumped, a new fiance whose father owns used car lots all over California, and the bosses new, young, hot wife, who hates her fat rich husband and his spoiled daughter, and has a plan for getting Joey to committ murder, promising him the car business, money, and her sleek slender body.
Like any good hardboiled Los Angeles story, there’s plenty of drinking, sex, violence, colorful characters, Malibu, and Hollywood smog.
Finding these great lost novels is fun — it’s also depressing to think they are lost, and a book like this was not re-discovered by, say, Black Lizard, the way Harry Whittington’s noirs were.
Harry Whittington was a pulp writer who penned in many genres, but is best known for hardboiled crime and nurse romances (I will talk about his The Young Nurses at some point, as well as more of his Greenleafs). Lynn Munroe recently put together a catalogue and narraitive of his search for Whittington’s softcore:
In 1986, the prolific “king of the paperbacks” Harry Whittington (1915-1989) wrote an essay about his writing career entitled “I Remember It Well” for Black Lizard Books. Black Lizard used it as an introduction to the 1987-88 reprints of six classic hardboiled crime stories, originally published by Gold Medal and others. In that piece, Whittington revealed this:
“ I signed, in 1964, to do a 60,000-word novel a month for a publisher under his house names. I was paid $1000. On the first of each month. I wrote one of these novels a month for 39 months.”
These 39 unknown books became “the missing 39” for Whittington collectors.
These “missing” books were published under house names J.X. Williams and the ever-prolific John Dexter, and Curt Colman later on, ranging from crime, romance, office, and hardboiled themes. Lynn Munroe notes:
John Dexter and J.X. Williams are well-known house names used by many different authors, but Curt Colman is a more obscure name. No one I’ve talked to, including Colman’s editor Earl Kemp, knew who Curt Colman was. Only eleven of this publisher’s books are credited to Curt Colman, and seven of those were in the box in Whittington’s house. It was a safe bet to look at the remaining four Curt Colman titles, and all four of them proved to be written by Harry Whittington.
Kemp did not know who Colman was since the manuscripts were coming from the Scott Meredith Agency, true identitfies hidden. Plus it seems Whittington’s wife did not approve of these books by her prolific husband, and Whittington kept them secret until after his passing.
The first was Lust Farm, as J.X. Williams, with (again) a Robert Bonfils cover; it is another James Cain/Jim Thompson infuenced story set in the Detroit farmlands. Cora has escaped her brutal criminal thug boyfriend from Chicago, but he finds her in a small town working as a waitress. She “accidentally” kills him and goes on the run. In another town, as a waitress, dodging men, she meets a 50-year-old farmer, Aaron, and marries him. She’s 22. She figures she can lead a safe, quiet life as a farmer’s wife.
Here is Lynn Munroe’s review:
We tend to think of “backwoods” stories taking place in some hillbilly hollow or in the deep South, but LUST FARM takes place in Michigan. Not in any city, but out in a rural setting near a little town called Cold River, down the highway from Lansing. There is no such town in Michigan, but there is a real town on that highway called Coldwater, and LUST FARM is certainly set there. Small town waitress Cora Barnes has a secret. She has fled her previous life, killing the Jack Daniels-guzzling sadist Tony and stealing a package of his money. A kind farmer named Aaron Barr marries her and takes her out to the country to live on his farm. When his college-age foster son Caleb comes home from University up the highway at East Lansing, it’s lust at first sight for Cora and Caleb. Then someone disappears and the local sheriff comes out to the farm and starts asking questions. With names like Aaron and Caleb, LUST FARM reminds us of an Old Testament tale like EAST OF EDEN.
The three on the farm are reminiscent of the trio in Jim Thompson’s CROPPER’S CABIN. Even though it is set in Michigan, the farmers behave more like sharecroppers in Whittington’s DESIRE IN THE DUST than like Yankees. This is Whittington country, not Steinbeck’s or Thompson’s.
I will be reading more books by Whittington…
I plan to write a bit of a lengthy discussion of March Hastings as I read more of her books. My first was Duet by Laura Duchamp, that I have discussed here. Hastings and Duchamp were the pen names of a writer named Sally M. Singer, who was a bonafide lesbian writing about bi-sexuality and lesbians, rather than a man writing them. Under her own name and as Amelia Jamison, she seems to have written some gothics, romances, and others, seen here.
At Lynn Munroe’s site, he tried to reach her for an interview but seems she had disappeared in obscurity, not wishing to discuss her days as a softcore writer.
In lesbian pulp lore, her most famous novel is Three Women, which has been reprinted by both Niad Press and Cleis Press as lesbian classics. In 2000, the Quality Paperback Bookclub issued Three Women back-to-nack with another lesbian classic, Women’s Barracks.
For collectors, Hastings’ Her Private Hell is always priced around $100 of more, mainly for the Paul Rader cover, but Rader did many of her books, such as the first edition of The Drifter (above). The second edition has a photo-cover of a woman next to a piano player, with a jazzy slum feel — I prefer the Rader cover (beats me why Midwood would change a great cover to a not-so-great cover).
Glancing through the Hastings novels I have — Fear of Incest, A Rage Within, Obsession, Crack-Up, Barbie — and the Laura Duchamp books (I’m not sure if she had other pen names, probably, as she wrote for a number of companies), Sally Singer focused on the world of the wealthy and rich and their psyco-sexual probelms. The women are often married to men who are sadists, impotent, or just “wrong” — and they often find solace in the arms of another woman, an oft-use set-up for vintage lesbian stories.
Her writing is amazingly good, far too good for “sleaze.” I previously stated that Joan Ellis wrote elegant dirty books; March Hastings ups the ante, and is on par with Joyce Carol Oates’s 1960s work. Her prose is smooth, her dialogue top notch, her charcters and their situations believable, if we want to believe the angsts of the upper crust of society.
In The Drifter, a woman named Dina has made an error in marriage — her husband, Emil, is impotent, and only likes to watch her masturbate while he looks at a photo of his sister, whom Dina resembles. He is also mentally cruel. After a month of marriage, she leaves him and runs to Jeff, a rich ex-boyfriend on Long Island whom she has had an on-and-off relationship with for many years.
At Jeff’s house (or mansion, with servants), she meets Lauren, a lesbian, and has an encounter, and becomes confused, thinking she loves Lauren and has always been gay, while Jeff wants to marry her when her marriage is annulled and Emil is hunting her down, revenge on his agenda.
She hides in a sleazy Harlem boarding house (hence the cover) and drinks her pain away, where an old family friend, a “cousin,” rapes her, and she realzies he had been raping her alcoholic mother in the past. Dina doe snot come from money, she came from the slums, and only mingles wth the idle rich via Jeff.
She also gets raped by a bull-dyke lez.
For all her sexual sins, she feels she deserves this.
There is a happy ending, of course: as she has a talk with Lauren and realizes she is not a lesbian, really, and she makes plans to marry Jeff, after Jeff pays off Emil a million dollars to agree to an annullment.
Recommended for a good, language-rich read.
I look forward to reading and discussing other Hasings and Duchamp novels as I get to them…
This one is a little different from the other Silverberg Don Elliotts — more mature, dark, without the sappy romantic endings that he sometimes uses. Let’s say this books has one heck of a depressing ending, with three dead bodies.
It is NB #1547, the 46th book William Hamling published — Silverberg wrote the first one, Love Addict, that I have already discussed. This was perhaps at a dozen titles Silverberg had written — plus a John Dexter or two, and Sin Girls as Marlene Longman (a pen name later to be used by Marion Zimmer Bradley for The Twisted Ones).
Dan Holestein is in the “small home contracting business.” He’s worked hard and is successful, has his own company and employees, lives well. His wife, however, is frigid and cold, so he sometimes turns to other women, like “convention girls” when he goes out of town for conventions.
It seemed fitting to read Convention Girl while at the San Diego Internatinal ComicCon this weekend, since at the “Con” there are always calls girls working the hotels bars.
A convention girl, for 1960, is another form of call girl, hooker, whore. Young women go to hotel suite parties and entertain. They are called hostesses, and sometimes they hock product, or just stand around looking good. We’ve all seen them at conventions, film festivals, whatever — I have. Even at comic book conventions, where hookers have told me they make good money.
In Cincinatti, Holstein meets Judy. She’s 22, he’s 42. He falls in love and so does she, so she says. Here is where the book cover doesn’t get it right — Judy is jet black straught hair and a deep tan, whereas the female on the cover has red hair and pale skin. Go figure.
So Holstein convinces her to leave Cincinatti and move to New York City, where he will set her up in an apartment and give her money — a mistress/kept woman situation. She goes for it. He says he will divorce his wife and marry her.
He goes to her on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. he can never sepnd the night unless he tells his wife he had to go out of town. Judy is bored — he doesn’t know it at first, but she gets back into the convention girl biz to have something to do at night. She doesn’t need money, he gives her money. She needs “kicks.” But he is starting to have doubts, she being 2o years younger, and how he is getting to be an old man…
There is one sex scene that uses dialogue to describe a hand job/finger fuck moment betwenn the two. It reminded me if the sex-against-a-tree scene in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, told in dialogue with hints…I am certain that Silverberg was nodding his head to the Hemingway influence:
“There. That’s better, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Lots better.” [he said]
“Stay still. Don’t move.”
“Hold me here.”
“You like that, do you?”
“Very very much,” she said. “That’s right,” she said a moment later. “Slowly. Don’t rush it. Slow. Keep doing it that way. Yes, Dan. Yes, that’s it. Just like that.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Dan. Here. Hold me.”
“Lift up a little.”
For minute after dizzying minute, Holstein gripped her while she performed incredible acrobaics beneath him…
For oral sex, there’s “kiss me there” or “he kissed her loins gently.”
He knows his wife will not grant a divorce, or take half his wealth, so he plots to murder her. But after he kills her, making it look like suicide, he finds out that Judy has been whoring, and he loses his mind and…
Reed Nightstand reprinted the book in 1973 as The Man Collector. The girl on the cover looks more like Judy is described…
This novel has some historical significance in sleaze book publishing, for Nightstand/Greenleaf/Cornith/Blake Pharms, and even in science-fiction history. Love Addict is Robert Silverberg’s first book for Nightstand, and the first Nightstand, William Hamling’s foray into softcore novels — some will contend it was Harlan Ellison’s idea, although Ellison seems to have divorced himself from his contribution to sleaze publishing — not only did he seem to commission and edit this novel from Silverberg (paying him $600, with a $200 bonus when it went into a2nd printing), Ellison wrote the third Nightstand, Sex Gang, a collection of stories that is now a hard-to-find and much sought after collectior’s item, going for $500-800 on the market — hell, a month ago I was bidding on a very poor, falling apart copy on eBay, and someone else got it for $198.
Love Addict is also rare, at least the first printing, but I got my hands on a second priting (1959 edition, Reed Nightstand later re-issued it as a regular-sized mass market ppbk in 1973, see above) for $33.
Silverberg had a previous relationship with William Hamling — he had a $500/month contract to provide text for Hamling’s Imagination, a SF pulp…that went away when the SF market dried up in the mid-1950s. Harlan Ellison was an editor for Hamling’s Rogue Magazine, a men’s slick compeeting with Playboy. In “My Life as a Pornographer,” Silverberg explains it:
I was 24 years old when I stumbled, much to my surprise, into a career of writing sex novels. I was then, as I am now, primarily known as a science-fiction writer. But in l958, as a result of a behind-the-scenes convulsion in the magazine-distribution business, the whole science fiction publishing world went belly up. A dozen or so magazines for which I had been writing regularly ceased publication overnight; and as for the tiny market for s-f novels (two paperback houses and one hardcover) it suddenly became so tight that unless you were one of the first-magnitude stars like Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov you were out of luck.
I had been earning a very nice living writing s-f since my graduation from college a few years earlier. I had a posh five-room apartment on Manhattan’s exclusive West End Avenue ($l50 a month rent – a fortune then!), I had fallen into the habit of spending my summer vacations in places like London and Paris, I ate at the best restaurants, I was learning something about fine wines. And suddenly two thirds of the magazines I wrote for were out of business, with a slew of older and better-established writers competing for the few remaining slots.
Robert Silverberg and Harlan Ellison in 1960.
But I was fast on my feet, and I had some good friends. One of them was Harlan Ellison, a science-fiction writer of my own age, who – seeing the handwriting on the wall in the science fiction world – had left New York to accept a job in Chicago as editor of Rogue, an early men’s magazine that was trying with some success to compete with its cross-town neighbor, Playboy. (Penthousedidn’t yet exist, in those far-off days.) The publisher of Rogue was William L. Hamling, a clean-cut young Chicago suburbanite whose first great love, like Harlan’s and mine, had been science fiction. Bill Hamling had published an s-f magazine called Imagination, which bought one of my first stories in l954. From l956 on, he had paid me $500 a month to churn out epics of the spaceways for him on a contract basis. Now, though, Imagination was gone, and Hamling’s only remaining publishing endeavor was his bi-monthly girlie magazine.
Harlan, soon after going to work for him, convinced Bill that the future lay in paperback erotic novels. Hamling thought about it for about six minutes and agreed. And then Harlan called me.
“I have a deal for you, if you’re interested,” he said. “One sex novel a month, 50,000 words. $600 per book. We need the first one by the end of July.” It was then the beginning of July. I didn’t hesitate. $600 a month was big money in those days, especially when you were a young writer at your wits’ end because all your regular markets had crashed and burned. One book would pay four months rent. They were going to publish two paperbacks a month, and I was being offered a chance to write half the list myself. “You bet,” I said. By the end of July Harlan had Love Addict – a searing novel of hopeless hungers, demanding bodies, girls trapped in a torment of their own making, et cetera, et cetera. (I’m quoting from the jacket copy.)
Bill Hamling loved Love Addict. By return mail came my six hundred bucks and a request for more books. I turned in Gang Girl in September. I did The Love Goddess in October. Later that month I wrote Summertime Affair also. Two novels the same month? Why not? I was fast, I was hungry, I was good.
In October, also, the first two Nightstand Books went on sale – mine and something called Lust Club, by another young writer who also was making a quick adaptation to changes in his writing markets. His book, like mine, was really pretty tame stuff. What we were writing, basically, were straightforward novels of contemporary life, with very mild interludes of sexual activity every twenty or thirty pages. But the characters actually did go to bed with each other, and we did try to describe what they were doing and how they felt in as much detail as the government would allow.
Silverberg’s essay seems to indicate that Love Addict was his fisrt forway into softcore, but he had been publishing books with Bedside all through 1959 — seven as David Challon and five as Mark Ryan (as far as I can tell), most published in 1959. Love Addict was written in July 1959 and published in Ocober, so Silverberg was a busy guy, typing away. Also, Silverberg makes it look like he was approached to write, although Earl Kemp, in “Have Typewriter, Will Whore for Food,” it was Silverberg’s idea to have Ellison pitch a Bedstand-like series to Hamling:
In New York City, popular young science fiction writer Robert Silverberg discovered Bedside Books. At that point in time (1959), Silverberg had already acquired a serious case of Compulsive Writeritus and was looking for new markets to conquer. Bedside Books looked like a natural. In short order Silverberg was selling them manuscripts that appeared under the bylines of David Challon and MarkRyan. The new market direction could be the answer to many writers’ wildest dreams in the very near future.
Harlan Ellison, along with his wife Charlotte, was preparing to move to Evanston, Illinois, to work for William Hamling. Silverberg approached Ellison with the glorious possibilities for the future for energetic young writers and had him all primed and ready for William Hamling so Ellison could lay out the road map to Toontown in front of him.
Everyone thought Ellison was in Evanston to work on Rogue, Hamling’s Playboy-type men’s magazine. Even Harlan thought so at times, and talked about it incessantly, thereby furthering his modest reputation….
Hamling liked the idea of the proposed books and grasped the concept of the throwaway sleazy paperback firmly in his hands. After a bit of formulation, Hamling sent Ellison back to New York City to start the ever-loving money-making wheels in motion.
Harlan Ellison went straight to Robert Silverberg to report on his success with Hamling in the initial set-up phase of the operation. It was Silverberg, not Ellison, who took the proposal to Scott Meredith that eventually opened the doors to the fabled black box clandestine enterprise that virtually flooded the country with soft-core pornography.
I could even stretch the point just a little and say that it was Robert Silverberg that made me what I am today.
So, basically, Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg started the ball rolling of what is now canonical history in publishing, freedom of speech, obscenity and censorship lawsuits and criminal court cases, and now a niche collectors realm.
Earl Kemp continues:
Toss out the half dozen rather tame sex scenes, Love Addict is an urban novel about a serious drug addiction in the 1950s: heroin, also known as H, horse, junk. It is also a doomed love story.
Jim Holman is an engineer in the middle of a bad divorce. Pissed after leaving his wife’s lawyer’s office, Holman stops off at a Brooklyn jazz club to have a few drinks; there is is mesmerized the 22-year-old woman singing with the band, Helene Raymond. He talks to her, convinces her to let him drive her home…she keeps warning him that she will hurt him, she is no good. She tells him she’s a junkie, and shows him the needle marks on her thigh. She says she has been off junk for three months but knows she will relapse. He doesn’t care; he’s in love…
Problem: the band leader is an ex-boyfriend since she was 17. She has broken it off but he’s possessive and does not like her dating and sleeping with this older man (Holman is 29). Helene is manic and goes back on heroin, that her ex-boyfriend is happy to supply.
Holman tries to help her quit the habit…he takes her for a two week trip to the Adriondacks. He says he will marry her whne his divorce happens. She moves in with him at his upper west side apartment. But her ex-bf tracks her down and gets her hooked again. Holman murders the guy with his own saxophone.
It wasn’t just the sex and the cover that people bought this book: there was the dark forbiddne underside of jazz hopheads, reefer madness, and shooting junk with shared needles (this was pre-AIDS, of course).
The cover is misleading. First, Helene is a blonde and the girl on the cover had dark hair…two, she does not shoot junk in front of him and the man on the cover is not jazzy beatnik enough to be the band members.
It was good to sit down and read the novel that started Nightstand/Greenlead and set off a series of events that have shaped the freedoms of what wrters can write, publishers can print, and readers can read.
Suburban Sin Club by Silverberg pen name David Challon was published in 1959 by Bedside Books, and reprinted in truncated form as The Wife Traders in 1962 by Boudoir Books, as a Loren Beauchamp novel.
Suburban Sin Club is 192 pages and Wife Traders 160, in a smaller digest form and larger type, with about 15,000 words edited out. The edit seems to be have done for budget reasons, to get the book down to 160 pages.
The other Boudoirs I have seen are 144-160 pages, small trim in Nightstand-like digests. Boudoir was a short lived imprint (1962-64) from Imperial Publishing, in Los Angeles, from American Art Enterprises, a company that issued out thousands of books in the 60s under many imprints, most of them reprints from a decade earlier.
The edits in Wife Traders mostly removes 2-3 pages from the end of chapters in Suburban, and taking out a lot of banter that is really padding for Silverberg to meet his page quota.
Raplh and Betty Holland are in their early 30s and have moved to the Long Island suburbs to get out of Manhattan. Ralph works in publishing. They have two boys. They move into an apartment/condo complex, Court K. Seems Court K is a swingers haven, where each Saturday the denizens engage in the pick-a-key, get-that-wife game.
The two go for it. They seem to be a little too easy in trying out the swinger lifestyle…and then Betty gets pregnant, and the father could be any one of eight men she has been sleeping with.
A morality tales — as with 1950s wages of sin, it all culminates in murder, suicide, tragedy, morals charges, and scandal.
A fun read.
Welcome this Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks Blog. The purpose of this blog is to post some hot, cool paperback covers for the gaze of your eye sockets, and to review and discuss selected titles.
Most of the titles will be from Don Elliott, Lauren Beauchamp, David Challon, Mark Ryan (all pen names of Robert Silverberg), Gerrold Watkins and Mel Johnson (pen names of Barry N. Malzberg), as “notes” toward the two monographs I am writing, one on Malzberg and one on Silverberg and his pen names.
(But I will discuss others too as I go along — Joan Ellis, March Hastings, Andrew Shaw [aka Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake], Don Bellmore, etc etc.]
I wanted to write a short monograph or essay on the Don Elliott/Laoren Beauchamp books, as they were/are of high quality, compared to many books of the time or even erotica today. They also exhibit Silverberg’s early style. But I was uncertain where such an essay or book would find a home — best here on the net.
I have discussed Barry Malzber’s US-era Olympia Press titles under his name and Gerrold Watkins in a monograph, Barry N. Malzberg: Beyond Science Fiction, Toward Psychoanalysis (Borgo Press) due out late 2009, but I do not have 3 of the Watkins and none of the Johnson (Midwood Books) that are hard to find…as I do locate them, I will post a blog here.