Archive for November, 2009

Dolls & Dues by Orrie Hitt

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on November 24, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviewed here.

The Girl with the Long Green Heart by Lawrence Block (Gold Medal, 1965)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on November 23, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Block was, what, 25-26 years old when he wrote this one, having broken away from his Andrew Shaw persona at Nightstand but still doing books as Sheldon Lord for Beacon and Jill Emerson lesbiana novels for Midwood.

This is young Block truly at his A-game, an excellent con artist caper that looks like a sure thing from the get-go, until–naturally–things go awry, due to a dame, this girl with a long green heart who instigated the grift and has been playing the three men in it, all of whom she’s been sleeping with like some kind of Orrie Hitt whore.

And like Orrie Hitt’s Pushover, the con is a unique one, crossing the same territory as David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross: real estate scams, getting people to guy useless property; not in the Florida everglades, but in the Canadian tundra.

It’s too complicated for me to put down in comprensible words, but it’s a complicated con, started in Vegas when Doug, one of the con men, happens to meet Evie, the girl with the long green heart.

She loves money and wants to marry rich, which she thought would happen with the millionaire she works for and has been sleeping with for several years.  He said he’d marry her when his sick wife died; but after the wife died he didn’t marry her and now she wants revenge, by getting two confidence men to pull a land buy game on him, where she will get $17500 from the deal, enough money to move somewhere and mingle with the well-to-do and land a rich hisband.

Right off I hated this broad, and the type of woman she represents, because let me tell ya, these gold diggers are out there: women who come from the wrong side of the track of medicore middle class, and shift their way into a different class in order to marry rich, the man’s bankbook more important than who he is.

And I knew she would pull the twist, that she was up to something; maybe too obvious knowing Block’s work, and 60s crime noir.  The fun was in trying to figure out her angle and what she’d pull — the clues are all there, you realize this later: you go back and see them, but some were obvious too, like when she gets the narrator, Johnny, to touch a gun and put his prints on it.

Johnny admits at the beginning his one weakness, or vice, is women, women always get him in trouble and could ruin a con, and this is the case when Evie plays him.

My only issue with this novel is that it’s abaut 10K words too long (it closks in aboyt 70K) and gets repetitive in the middle, you want things to mobe faster, enough waiting for this con to come to closure.

You also wonder why such a elaborate and months-long con for $100,000, split 40/30/20.  That was abouyt a million in 1965 money, though, and people today murder for far much less.

Hard Case rerpinted this novel in 2005, with a far better cover than the other two editions, featuring a cool orginal Robert McGuire gal:

Horizontal Woman/The Social Worker by Barry Malzberg (Leisure Books, 1972; 197

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on November 22, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This dark and comic “sex” novel was published in 1972 by Leisure as Horizontal Woman and reissued in 1977 as The Social Worker, probably the more absurd of the two titles.

After grauating college and working on selling his writing, Barry N. Malzberg worked for about a year as a social worker in the New York City Welfare Department, covering Brooklyn.  Most likely he hated it, caught in the dull insanity of the government system.  He did get a few books and stories out of it, notably The Day of the Burning, a novel that seems to be about alien invasion and world destruction but is about the collapse of one man’s mind and perhaps the welfare system itself.

In Horizontal Woman/The Social Worker, we meet Elizabeth Moore, who decides to use her body to soothe and comfort her clients, as she goes from door to door, updating her caseload.  What?  you say: This is a porn novel?  Softcore?  Sex? Sleaze?

Yes and no. It’s a Barry Malzberg sex novel, which means the sex is not, well, erotic, but it is dirty and slimey.  This is not exactly a left-hander; it’s a combination of the absurd rompings of a female a la Terry Southern’s Candy and the existential angst of Kafka and Camus…

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Big Man by Con Sellers (Novel Books, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on November 21, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is my first Con Sellers book, although I have ordered several, and I’m not disappointed.  This is tough guy man’s fiction that Novel/Merit specialized in.

After a week of lesbian books, how about some two-fisted crime noirs?

I can see how Con Sellers turned to men’s adventure and military books in the 1980s-90s, as he’s a good fit, with the main character’s memories of the Korean War.

The protagonist — the Big Man — is Ben Dano, local union head for dock workers in Monterey, California, post-sardine era.  It’s Steinbeck land mixed with some Mickey Spillane and Orrie Hitt.  Ben is six-foot-four and 240 pounds of muscles, a guy who can easily take on many hoods at once, as he does in the opening chapter.

The union local Dano heads has not gone on the national strike that all the others have. They see no point and would lose wages, and know it’s a mob thing to muscle in.  Three goons come into Dano’s office to rough him up but he crushes hands and breaks ribs and knocks heads.

The union boss is mobbed up. His name is Mike Karl, and when local unions don’t follow orders from the national office, he uses muscle, bribes, assassins and lawyers to get his way.  Ben Dano is not in his gun sites, but every time he sends a goon, the goon comes back a mess.

So he starts to send more sadistic killers, like one who puts acid in Ben Dano’s shaving lotion.

Dano has a number of women in his life, good and bad — his 19-year-old secretary, Anna, wants him to fuck her badly but he turns her down, probably because she’s the daughter of an old friend; there;s Mai Wong, a Chinese stripper, friend of Dano’s ex-gurlfriend, also a stripper; there’s Dee, an heriness in a Farrari secretly working with the union boss to break Dano down.

There’s a lot of viewpoint shifts that are a little awkward, and this is the first Novel title I’ve seen that isn’t written from the first-person POV.

It’s all full of fun violence and sex and tough talk, real Manhunt-style fiction. No heavy ideas of literary ambitions, just entertainment.  I look forward to reading more Con Sellers.

Lesbiana: The Strangest Sin

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on November 21, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviewed here.

Recommended: Daring Karin by Kim Mitchell

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction with tags , , , , on November 20, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

In the vein of Sloane Britain, BDSM Books has published Daring Karin by Kim Mitchell, who says she was influenced by Britain’s work.  It’s a pretty wild lesbian D/s novel in ebook format.

See/order here.

Insatiable by Sloane Britain (Midwood #57, 1960)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The protagonist of this novel is Sandy Hastings — a little nod, it seems, to March Hastings, a lesbian author at Midwood that Elaine Williams edited.  It also deals with the dynamics of D/s relationships aong the wealthy and elite

But it starts out as the story of Sandy’s normal married life.  She’s been married for two years to Ray Singer (Ron Singer was Sally’s brother and also a Midwood author as Greg Hamilton, Jesse Harper, and others) and they have been good years.  Up till age 21, all her experiences wth men had been bad and she’d given up on finding a good fellow, until one day writer Ron Singer walked into the library she worked at for research.  He courted her and they married…

At 23, Sandy becomes a widow when, rushing to meet Ray at the train station, back from a trip, missing him, he is hut by a car of hoods running away from a police car.

Ray’s body flew gracefully through the air in one last momet of bird-like freedom […] Ray’s flight ended […] in a squishy thud to the pavement directly in front of Sandy.

She looked at him, or what was left of him, with as little comprehension as she had witnessed the whole scene. Finally, one thought struggled to consciousness.

How absurdy melodramatic, Sandy thought as she collapsed to the ground. (p.39)

Insatiable is an absurd novel that is pessimistic  (cynical?) with dark humor, almost like a Barry Malzberg volume.

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Unnatural by Sloane Britain (Midwood #47, 1960)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I wonder how a lesbian author felt having to, for marketing and legal reasons, have “Two women sharing a love that was unnatural” and “forbidden love in the twilight world of the third sex” on the cover of her novel, especially when she was also her own editor.

Unnatural is the story of Allison’s wandering maze through the lesbian world, and her love for Lydia, a woman who has made Allison her submissive in a D/s relationship.

Is this the same Allison in These Curious Pleasures?  Do the events in this novel take place before the other?  Britain doesn’t say, but it’s possible.  The Allison in Pleasures is hesitant to get into a serious gay relationship with another woman because of past bad experiences, and Unnatural is all about Allison’s bad sexual experiences.

The first is a rape by her boss at her first job in New York. She has come to the Big Apple with Big Dreams.  She does secretarial work and her boss had taken notice of her.  He calls her into his office, plies her with booze, and then makes his move on her…she is frozen, not knowing what to do.  She’s a virgin.  She lets him fuck her.  When he sees the blood on the couch, he freaks out, saying he would never have done it had he known.  Worried about repercussions, he gives her $100 and tells her to go home and look for another job…

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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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Meet Marilyn by Sloane Britain (Midwood #52)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on November 14, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Britain - Meet Marilyn 1960

Britain - Meet Marilyn 1963

I thought the 1960 first edition was a Paul Rader cover, but Al Wagner did that one, as well as the 1963 second edition.

Sloane Britian was Midwood editor Elaine Williams, whom I will discuss in the next post.

Meet Marilyn might be the weakest of the Britain Midwoods; it’s not a novel as much as it is a collection of stories, set around a party thrown for the residents of a posh Manhattan Park Avenue apartment building.  In each apartment, the people we meet have their colorful, sexually kinky pasts, hetero, bi, and lesbian.

The best chapter is #2, about Gabe and Myra, who meet in college and fall in love.  Problem: Myra comes from a rich Jewish family and Gabe comes from humble suburbia, with dreams if being a writer.  Myra believes Gabe will one day be a great writer and against her parents’ wishes, she marries him but she gets cut off from the family money.

They live in sqaulor as Gabe writes short stories, gathering rejection slips.  One day, Myra picks up a pulp detective novel and the two spend the evening readng absurd passages to one another, making fun of the genre, which is hardly literature in their eyes — the violence, the witty dialogue, the dolls and dames, etc.  They start making up their own passages and Gabe writes them down…he keeps writing…then he finishes it.  He thinks the detective novel is a lark but he sends it in to a paperback publisher.

Meanwhile, Myra gets pregnant.  Scared, she crawls back to her parents’ for help; they give her access to money and hekp her rent out a nice apartment on Park Avenue.

Gabe doesn’t want their help for having rejected him, and they still disappriove of him for being a gentile and not from money.  Then, to his surprise, his detective novel sells for a $1200 advance and the publisher wants another one, maybe more, a series if possible.  Gabe is now a published writer!

He moves into the Park Ave address with Myra, mainly because it’s a better home for their baby.  He works on his next detectibve tyarn, doing with the idea that one day he will take the time for a serious literary novel…the plight of many pulp writers.

The baby is born with defects — a cleft palate and a slow intelligence.  They are devestated but vow to love the mongloid child.  Gabe pours himself into a world of private eyes and dangerous dames…

A few years pass. Gabe is on his 27th detective novel and hating it; he can’t stand to sit down and write any more of the same thing, but he has contracts and needs money.  Magazines ask him for stories but they want the same crime and sex sleaze.  Britain/Williams is making a funny comment on what happens to many writeres she knew, from Midwood and elsewhere, who got trapped in the genre slump.

Other characters pop in chapters all culminating at the party, events surrounding the mysterious and sexy Marilyn, but all in all, this reds like Britain/Williams gathered a handful of unpublished siort stories she had lying around and added in connecting transitions.

A better book would have been an expanion of the Gabe and Myra story.