Archive for January, 2010

Violent Desires – Fred Martin (Magnet Book #310, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on January 22, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

After discovering that Midwood’s Hired Lover by Fred Martin was actually an Orrie Hitt book, there was some speculation that the Fred Martin Magnet title, Violent Desires, was also Hitt, and this was a whole unknown Hitt pen name.  Magnet also published a book by a “Richard Challon” — was this connected to David Challon and Robert Silverberg?  Silverberg said no, the only Magnet he published was The Hot Beat as Stan Vincent — seems the publisher of Magnet Books picked his own pen names for purchased manuscripts as he chose “Charles Williams” for Fires of Youth.  This makes me wonder if the publisher was picking names that were close to 1959 titles seen on the stands — Hired Lover, any Charles Williams Gold Medal title, and David Challon’s Bedside titles…

Eagerly, I sought out a copy of Violent Desires and found one for $17 from Graham Holroyd, one of my favorite paperback booksellers (I make an order at least once a week) — seemed worth finding out on an unknown book; alas, I am sad to report that this Fred Martin is not rrie Hitt.

Violent Desires is a Manhunt-style crime novel, as is Silverberg’s Hot Beat, riddled with some unfortunate bad dialogue — too muc use of Brooklyn gangster cheesy dialect of the “youse” variety.

A former underground-type wanton dame, Victioria, calls on her old detective pal Benny to help her — she’s about to get married to a wealthy New York society fellow who has no idea of her sordid past; someone is blackmailing her: pay up or her husband-to-be will get some embarrassing photos o her having sex.  A vintage take on old nude photos popping up online or on cell phones, coming back to haunt youse…

I couldn’t get too far into this one as it gets confusing and the bad dialogue was driving me batty.  Great cover, though, and collectible for being published by the mysterious, short-lived Magnet Books.

Fires of Youth by Charles Wlliams (James Lincoln Collier), Magnet Books #309, 1960

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This has to be the most curious case of fine literature packaged as sleaze in all of vintage sleazecore history.  Back in August 09, I had talked about it some here.  The fuller story is on Lynn Monroe’s website, noting the basic narrative of this short novel’s life:

In 1962, the Hungarian-born, naturalized-British author Arthur Koestler announced the Koestler Prize, “to alleviate the desolation of culture” for inmates of Her Majesty’s prisons. Prizes of 400 pounds were to be awarded for art, music and literature. The British government endorsed the plan, and the panel for the literature prize included well-regarded British authors Henry Green, J.B. Priestley, V.S. Pritchett and Philip Toynbee. A manuscript called YOUNG AND SENSITIVE by a Dartmoor inmate named Don Robson was awarded the first prize. As Koestler’s publisher at Hutchinson & Co., Sir Robert Lusty was “glad to have the first opportunity of considering Mr. Robson’s prize-winning script. As soon as it arrived I read it personally and at once shared the enthusiasm expressed by the panel of judges. At this time I also met with Mr. Robson (who had completed his sentence) and was much impressed that a not altogether articulate young man should have been able to write so sincere and moving a story.”

Robson had plagarized, while in prison, an obscure American paperback from an obscure sleaze company magnet, Fires of Youth by Charles Williams, aka James Lincoln Collier, who was unable to sell the sex-filled manuscript anywhere else.

A year after Young and Sensitive was published, and Robson was hailed as a great new British talent in contemporary literature, a reader happened to pick the book up and found it curious that it was quite similar to the cheap American paperback he’d read…

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The Sucker by Orrie Hitt

Posted in Beacon Books, crime noir, noir fiction, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on January 20, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviewed here.

Sin on Wheels – Don Elliott/Robert Silverberg (Nightstand Books #1516, 1960)

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on January 19, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

In 1960, Robert Silverberg published two books titled Sin on Wheels — this one and one as Loren Beauchamp with Midwood.

The Midwood book has a classic Paul Rader cover and is a much sought-after collector’s item, the first edition often going for $70-100, the second in the $50-60 range.  This Nightstand  title also tends to have a high price on it (I got it for $7 on ebay, actually).

This Sin on Wheels is told by 24-year-old Fred Bryan who is working as a driving instructor and enjoying the attentions of the rich older women he teaches how to drive cars — somewhat the same set up at Orrie Hitt’s Hired Lover (as Fred Martin), but not exactly the same; in this one, the driving school is just a front for a gigolo service for society women.

Fred is recently discharged from the army, wondering what to do, when while in New York City he crosses paths with a guy he knew in his unit who is working at the driving school, making good money and having lots of sex.

The same day Fred gets the job, he meets a girl in a diner, Nina, and picks her up — or she picks him up, it’s never quite sure, and they go from a one-nighter to a relationship.

Fred has some sexist, 1950s double-standard ideas when it comes to women, or marriage:

I told myself not to be a damned fool. Nina was a great girl, a looker, vivacious, good in bed. She had been around.  For one thing, I wasn’t interested in settling down and getting married for a long, long time. And, for another, I didn’t want my wife to be some Greenwich Village artist who had probably been laid by half a dozen guys a week before we met […] I knew what kind of wife I would want when I was ready to get married. She would be about nineteen, maybe twenty, demure, a virgin. That was important. I wouldn’t touch her until our wedding night, and then I’d teach her about sex.

I guess I was being hypocritical. I mean, for a guy who had been laying girls since the age of sixteen to want a virgin for a wife. But that was how I sincerely felt.  I wanted to be the first and only man in the girl’s life […] A girl like Nina was swell to pal around with, but not so promising as material for  a wife. (p. 59-60)

This sort of attitude is not only so 1950s but present day in certain religious and puritanical thought.  Ideal, maybe, but the usual double-standard — a guy can learn about sex with harlots and tramps, but the wife has to be pure.  Incidentally., Silvererg wrote, as L.T. Woodward, M.D., a faux “study” called Virgin Wives, about what men go thorugh when marrying a woman who has xero sexual experience.

The novel is really about the two of them, Fred and Nina, and Fred’s sexual adventures on the side.  He doesn’t tell her about the rich older women, he doesn’t ind a need to — he has sex with them during the day, with Nina at night.  Nina days she wants a so-string-attached open relationship — they’re friends who have sex, nothing more.  She’s a painter, a wanna-be bohemian with liberal thoughts.  They even get an apartment together.

But soon she breaks down and tells Fred she’s pregnant, and not by him.  When she met him at the diner, she was already quite along, carrying the baby of a rich playboy who has dumped her. (In an unlikely coincidence, this playboy happens to be the brother-in-law of one of her rich older lady clients.)

Nina is ready to leave but he won’t let her, he has fallen in love with her.  He helps her get an illegal, expensive abortion, and vows to marry her and quit his gigolo job — he seems to have forsaken his initial ideal in a wife, and accept Nina’s past with his love for her.

There’s problems. though, like one of the husbands finds out, and one of his “pupils,” an Amazon-like 44-inch bust six foot heriess nympho becomes possessive and threatens to expose him as a male whore — or is that manwhore?

This is actually, in many ways, a dark novel, a novel about lonely people with basic needs, how money does not buy happiness for the rich, how people make terrible mistakes in the name of lust more than love, how people ind love in the most unusual circumstances…

An excellent one from Silverberg, an A grade for sure, and a good one to be reprinted some day.

The 1973 Reed Nightstand imprint was re-titled The Instructor with pretty much the same cover, except the woman is wearing hot tight pink pants rather than a tight skirt, and she has a halter on, rather than being topless. The car in the background has been updated from a 50s jalopy to a 70s Ford model.  The guy seems to be the same.

Rumble/Web of the City – Harlan Ellison (Pryamid Books, 1958)

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Rumble is Harlan Ellison‘s first novel. It wasn’t SF or sleaze, but a related genre: juvenile criminals and gangs.

Ellison has a great story about this book. First, he had actually joined a Brooklyn street gang to, like a reporter or ethnographer, write realistically about such lives.  His long essay, Memos from Purgatory, about it, was also an Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode, with a young Paul Newman playing Ellison, “Larry Bledsoe,” a writer from the Midwest who joins a gang to write a book.  Stories in Ellison’s collections The Juvies (later Children of the Streets) and Gentleman Junkie were derived from his experiences — and Rumble, too.

And there is also the collection Sex Gang, the third title from Nightstand, written as Paul Merchant; it is one o the most collectible and pricey vintage paperbacks around.

The manuscript title for Rumble was Web of the City. He sold it to Lion Books for $1000 before he was drafted into the army.  While in service, Ellison manages to convince the base camp newspaper to let him have a book review column.  One day he opens a box of review copies from Pyramid Books and finds a book called Rumble with his name on it!  He was floored.  Seems Lion Books went out of business and sold their inventory of bought manuscripts to Pyramid and he never knew, never saw galleys, never agreed to a title change.

There it was, his great American first novel., “that was to change the course o Western Civilization,” as Ellison has said, done as a cheap sleazy paperback  (would Lion have done any different?)

Rumble went through two editions and was later reprinted, by both Pyramid and Ace, as Web of the City.

Some have mistaken “Hal Ellson” to be one of Ellison’s 50s pen names, as Ellson wrote quite a bit about juvies, such as Tomboy, Duke, and I Take What I Want, among others, but Ellson was publishing, in 1951, when Ellison was still an unpublished teen.

Rumble is most certainly not Ellison’s best work, it’s a first novel by a young guy still honing his craft.  It is recommended, however, for a number of reasons, and as a literary artifact of an era.

High Priest of California – Charles Willeford (Beacon Book #130, 1953)

Posted in Beacon Books, crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The second half of this two-book edition, High Priest of California, now has me hooked on Willeford (note Beacon spelled his name “Williford” on the cover — how’s that for a writer’s first book?).  I discussed Wild Wives last month, it was all right but didn’t make me a fan yet.

The narrator of this fast-paced 30,000-word short novel is used car salesman Russell Haxby.  He has little-to-no morals and scruples, but he is capable of falling in love — or so he tells Alyce, a timid woman he meets at a dance hall one nigh.  As much as Alyce seems interested in romance, she freezes up whenever he kisses her, and doesn’t know much about sex or men or what to do in an intimate situation…

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Gaslight/Bell Ringer Books

Posted in crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on January 15, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

L.S. Publications was a short-lived operation that only lived in 1964 and put out a big handul of books under imprints Gaslight and Bell Ringer.  They used to same cover artist, who had a unique style that is now assocaited with Gaslight/Bell Ringer…

More on Harlequin’s Politically Correct Fixin’s of Vintage Sleaze

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on January 15, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A blog, Noirboiled, takes a close look at what Harlequin did in the name of “we don’t wanna offend you.”

Obviously, those Harlequin editors need to be bitch-slapped for their assumptions and audacity, and for destroying the original intent of vintage sleazenoir/crime/fiction.

Sins of the Flesh – Orrie Hitt

Posted in crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on January 14, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviewed here.

Kung Fu: The Way of the Tiger, the Sign of the Dragon – Howard Lee/Barry N. Malzberg (Warner Books, 1973)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on January 14, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Well, this is a vintage paperback…I am adding it because it has an interesting back story.  I was re-reading it today because it was penned by none other than Barry N. Malzberg, probably the most unlikely fit for a TV tie-in writer.

I’d once asked Malzberg about it.  He of course did it for a quick paycheck, like his adaptation of Phase IV, a strange little low budget SF movie that was more in tune with Malzberg’s style and concerns.  Seems Warner Books needed someone to write this in a week, which he did, and as part of the deal, Warner agreed to publish his 1974 collection, Out from Ganymede, which explains how that book of esoteric and experimental short stories was published by a commercial paperback house.

Malzberg has not found the irony golden that this Kung Fu title sold half a million copies and made the bestseller lists, outdoing any original book he penned, and he saw no royalties, it was  a work for hire, probably feeling the same dismay that Mike Avvalone and Harry Whittington experienced when they were paid $1500 for their Man from UNCLE tie ins which were bestsellers and sold well.

Speaking of which, Mike Avallone seemed to have penned the next two Howard Lee Kung Fu books.  In the arly 70s, Kung Fu was one of the biggest TV shows going — much to Bruce Lee’s dismay, who conceived the show and had it stolen from him.

So how is the book?  It’s okay.  Malzberg was obviously just translating a TV script to prose, but here and there a few Malzbergian sentences make their way in — the fact that Malzberg adapted this is worth the price of purchase alone; many writers have done tie-ins for a buck, and we did get one of his best collections of stories out of the deal.

Here’s the galleys of that book: