Archive for December, 2009

Pleasure Ground by Orrie Hitt

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on December 17, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviewed here.

A Way with All Maidens by Mel Johnson (Barry Malzberg), Oracle Books, 1969

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Fellow Malzberg fan Jim Mix sent me a copy of this lost Malzberg/Johnson classic, A Way with All Maidens, issued by the short-lived imprint, Oracle Books (looks like they only put out eight titles, two of them Malzbergs, the other being The Box).

Maidens is, like many Malzberg novels, a darkly humorous romp through insanity and sexuality, and a bit different than your usual Malzberg yarn.  It concerns an acting troupe in England preparing to put on a production of The Tempest, directed by someone name “S—-” who also seems to be the writer.  The play is in manuscript form, inked on good paper.  We don’t realize until 20-30 pages in that the action is supposed to be taking place in the 17th Century, and that “S—-” may very well be the Bard himself, ol’ Shakespeare, 47 years old.  Or is he? And is this really the past?  The language is 20th century colloquial, wth the exception of a few “trollops” and “slatterns” tossed into dialogue. But were words like “asshole” and “fuck” used back then?  Like the Malzbergian Gerrold Watkins’ Southern Comfort, set during the Civil War, neither the narrator nor the characters speak in historical idiom.  So we have to wonder about the validity, and keeping in mind that this is Malzberg, it’s possible the narrator is simply insane:

Pauda? Sorrento? Milan? Or Rome — I think it was Rome. Of course I am not sure of any of these; they may all be mental rather than physical places. (p. 13).

Characteristic of Malzberg’s sex books, this one opens with a sex scene, with an obsessive interest in nipples:

Her breast was enormous in my mouth, the nipples huge and pointed, my teeth chewed down on it, and it was as if, from this angle, I am totally surrounded by her flesh.  (p.5)

Of course, it has to open with a sex scene, for a book like this, for reader appeal, since the cover is plain orange without any art or photo models.  They did this to make production cheaper, not having to pay for art or photography — with a nod towards Olympia’s plain green, pink, and gray covers.  Midwood was doing the same at the time, the late 60s-70s.

Here is a scan of a British pirate edition. Haven’t seen it but heard it was basically a photo copy of the original slapped together in a taped spine.

The narrator is David, who has recently joined the acting troupe, taking on small roles and doing grunt work. He’s lied about his theater experience to get in — he has no experience at all.

Continue reading

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.

Love in the Arctic by Orrie Hitt

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction with tags on December 12, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviwed here.

The Sinners by Michael Hemmingson (Blue Moon, 2005)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction with tags on December 12, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Seems Google Books has some pages up here. Title is obviously vintage-inspired.

A Look Back @ Men’s Digest

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I have been, and will in the future, been reading books published in the 1960s by Camerarts, under their Novel and Merit imprints.  I was curious about their magazines Men’s Digest, Best for Men, and Rascal, so picked up a few copies on eBay.  One of them was Issue 54 from 1964…

It contains seven short stories (many only 2-3 full pages, or about 2K words, maybe excerpts from books), a couple columns and one feature article. One story is by Robert Bloch, “Red Moon Rising” and one is ny Con Sellers, “Passion Thief.”  (I am on the search for the two issues that interview Orrie Hitt.)  There are photo spreads of semi-nudes throughout, some models I recognize from Novel Books covers — artwork too (the art for the Con Sellers story is the same for a Herb Montgomery novel.)

It started out as The Men’s Digest, digest size, up to issue 40 or so, then went to full size as Men’s Digest.

The stories have the same feel as the books — first person tough guy, noir, sleaze, good entertainment with little artistic value.  That is, men’s fiction. The Con Sellers story in Issue 54 of Men’s Digest starts off:

She hated his guns. It was plain in the curl of her rich lips, the tautnessof her full body.

It didn’t bother Ken Corey; it never did. As long as he got what he wanted, the hell with how other people thought about it. And right now, he wanted this girl. (p. 7)

All three of the magazines are packed with fiction, a good market for writers at the time.  They just didn’t have publishers like this anymore.  Is that a good or bad thing?

Many of the sleaze book publishers also had periodicals — Nightstand/Cornith had Rogue and various nudie digests, Brandon House put out low grade smut rags…Playboy and Penthouse had ventured into books, films, and cable shows, but none of them lasted much (there is Playboy Radio on XM.) — they may have been too big to have a book arm work.

Ah, the vintage sleaze days…what does it mean to be nostalgic for stuff that was around before I was born?  Maybe because I wasn’t alive and growing up with this time, and the era, that I have an obsessive fascination for it all…the same some become meta-nostalgic, say, for the Roaring 20s, the Elizabethean era, the Civil War, orthe Age of Reason.

But I feel I know this stuff well…must have been from a previous life.

Recommended: Tortured Red Bottoms

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 11, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Olympia Press has released Dr. Garth Mundinger-Klow’s latest qualiatative research examination, Tortured Red Bottoms: Modern Day Spanking in Every Day Life.

Kindle here.

Only the Bed by Don Holliday (Hal Dresner), Midwood #19, 1959

Posted in crime noir, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

UPDATE NOTE (3/8/2011) After looking at one again, we don’t believe Hal Dresner wrote thus, it is not in his  style or that of other Holliday-penned books. This one actually reads more like early Block or a Block/Westlake collaboration. The narrator’s voice is a lot similar to the voice in Grifter’s Game.

The original Don Holliday was Hal Dresner, a Scott Meredith stable writer, who — along with fellow Meredith writers  Robert Silverberg, Donald Westlake, and Lawrence Block — provided manuscripts out of Meredith’s “black box” for Midwood, Beacon, and Nightstand, using various interchangeable pen names.

Later, as Dresner got busy with other work, he hired ghost writers to meet his monthly title deadline, such as Art Plotnik…and by the mid-60s, Holliday was a house pen name, turning to gay fiction written by Victor Banis.

(See here for a nifty review of Holliday/Dresner’s Sin Ring.)

Dresner excelled at absurd comedy, as seen in the classic The Man Who Wrote Dirty Books (see also Dresner’s Sin Professor as Frank Peters) and his employment by Jack Lemmon to write material and screenplaysOnly the Bed, and other early work, is serious, or not humorous like later Ninthstands; it’s a crime/sleaze novel with apparent influence from his buddies Block and Westlake (aka Sheldon Lord/Andrew Shaw and Alan Marshall) and their penchant for sleaze novels that were also crime books.

The narrator is Cliff Varner, the cabana manager at the Royal Hotel, a Miami, Florida vacation resort — a combination of Gil Brewer and Orrie Hitt territories  here.  Like Hitt’s hotel managers, Cliff tends to have sex with the guests, often as a gigolo, much like the characters in Loren Beauchamp’s Midwood title, Another Night, Another Love.

Cliff has a big problem, though: he owes his bookie $1600 for bad bets he made, he doesn’t have it, and his bookie is leaning because the local Miami syndiacte mob guys want their dough.  He knows if he doesn’t pay, something bad will happen to him, and a beefy hood who hangs out at Dino’s Pizza Parlor tells him so — Friday.

Cliff has a week.  So the book is all about Cliff’s frantic running around trying to drum up $1600–old loans he made, card game debts owned, fifty here, twenty there; he borrows from several loan companies, using the employment contract of a sous chef at the hotel. He even resorts to blackmailing rich teenage lesbians who came down without their parents knowing…he cheats at card games and sinks low enough to set up the forced sexual experience of a virgin girl staying at the hotel, all for the last $300 he needs.

The set up is a tried and true oldie: put a fellow in a corner with a great trouble and watch him try to squirm out of it.

Cliff’s not a good guy; he’s desperate and scared.  He could always skip town, but his bookie is a friend and he doesn’t want to put his bookie in a bad spot that might get him hurt.  $1600 is nothing to the mob, it’s the principle of the matter: if they let one person get away with not paying a debt, others will; if they make an example out of Cliff, people will know that the mob guys mean business.

Ad for all his sins, Cliff pays the price, espcially when his ex-lover, a nympho stripper named Doris, rolls back into town.

A swift, good read, on the verge of a Gold Medal, and may have been targeted for that market and sold by Meredith to Midwood when/if Gold Medal rejected it and  Midwood was looking for material in 1959, perhaps with some added sex scenes, like this clever, sunbtle-hinting description of cunnilingus:

…my lips left her breast and moved down onto her stomach. It was cold and smooth and still damp […] my tongue licked at the cool wet skin.

“Now!” she said. “Start now!”

There was a swelling pounding at my head and it built as I felt her body vibrating wildly, passionately under my mouth.

“Oh God!” she cried.

Then her hand fell open and I had the money.  (p. 83-84)

For all that licking, he gets a whopping $200.

An 8.5 and recommended read if you like these kind of suspense/crime stories.

The Many Faces of John Dexter #4: Sharing Sharon by Harry Whittington (Idle Hour Books #402, 1965)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A great sadistic-in-nature cover for this Harry Whittington-penned John Dexter,  one of the “The Missing 38” Whittngton penned for Cornith/Greenleaf from 1964-67.

Lynn Munore describes this one as

James M. Cain country: Sharon seduces her young lover Steve into murdering Pete, her older, well-to-do husband. Steve does not need much convincing. Cain told this same story in masterpieces like THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY. SHARING SHARON is not a masterpiece. Not knowing just how to classify this genre, bookstores usually group Cain with the murder mysteries. But there is no mystery who killed the husband. We are in on it from the start and ride it out right to the end of the line.

Steve is a punk, arrested for robbing Pete’s grocery store by a tough cop named Frank Lock. Pete is a kind-hearted guy, who arranges a job at his store for Steve on probation. That’s where Steve meets Sharon. Sharon is all screwed up because she was molested as a young girl by kindly old Uncle Wilbur…

Indeed, the incest history Sharon has are pretty explicit for a book of this era;  by 1965 things were less stringent. “Molest” isn’t the correct term — for all the innocence feigned, we gradually learn that Sharon is a calculating, manipulative dame fatale; she makes men feel as if they are controlling her, when in fact she’s the puppet-master, using her sexuality to hoodwink them…

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Woman Hunt by Orrie Hitt

Posted in Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on December 7, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviewed here.