Archive for February, 2010

Harry Whittington’s “Cora is a Nympho…” (Novel Books, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on February 12, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Prolific authors often have a re-occurring character name, along with a theme — for Orrie Hitt, it’s “Lucy” and for Harry Whittington, it’s “Cora.” Many Coras and Noras appear in Whittington’s work, under his name and others.

Whittington published this one under his name, as Cora is a Nympho…, and looking at the back cover copy (above), one wonders if the mob-tied boys at Camerarts knew who Whittington was. “We now take pride in presenting a  young unpublished author — Harry Whittington.”

In 1963, Whittington was 48 years old, not exactly a “young” writer, and had dozens and dozens of books under his belt, a run in the 1950s as a top suspense crime writer with Gold Medal and Ace, work in Hollywood films, riding the constant whirlwind of paperback and genre trends.  He penned westerns, nurse romances, tie-ins and mysteries.  Either the Camerarts guys did not know who Whittington was, or decided to market him as a new writer to an audience who wasn’t aware of his work — in the newsstands sleaze market, Whittngton had only written a few books, for the short-lived Bedtime and for Beacon and Newstand Library under pen names.

The original title of this book was To Find Cora.  Both Fawcett Gold Medal and Newstand Library rejected it — a bad blow for such a professional writer.  So said writer sells it to a secondary market, Novel Books, a Chicag0-based publisher of girlie magazines and men’s fiction with some questionable business ties.  He rewrote the story for William Hamling as a 1966 Sundown Reader by J.X. Williams, Flesh Snare. In 2009, Stark House reprinted it as To Find Cora in a three-book omnibus.

The 40,000 word novel is narrated by Joe Byars, an everyday-man whose wife, Cora, has disappeared on him.  Did she leave with another man?  Possibly, because she was not faithful.  Did she leave because she was bored in the marriage?  Possibly.  Did she meet foul play? Who knows.

Continue reading

The Genuine Wanton – Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Apparently, this Goff book has “lifted” passages and plotlines from four Richard Prather novels: Kill the Clown, Shell Scott’s Seven Slaughters, Three’s a Shroud, and Dagger of Flesh

Since I have not read them, I can’t pinpoint what Goff used.  Seems he used a lot from Seven Slaughters for a number of books, since it’s a collection of stories.

The Genuine Wanton is told by Angus Cordi, a syndicate hitman. It’s pretty short, 128 pages of big type, so a 30,000-worder, episodic.  Cordi is hired by gang boss Mancini — he gets $300 a week retainer, always ready for a job, which he will get a $5K bonus, 10K if he’s loaned out to another syndicate family.

His first kill: the ex-mistress of Mancini, whom Cordi has been seeing.  Mancini wishes to test Cordi’s loyalty: will he murder th woman he has feelings for? She knew this would happen, and to help Cordi, she commits suicide in front of him.

Cordi develops an MO: get close to the wife or mistress of each target, romance the woman, and make it hurt the target twice, sometimes killing the woman as well.

Cordi is deeply cruel, strangely cold and hardboiled — much like an Ennis Willie killer perhaps…and how much like Shell Scott?

If I didn’t know what Goff was up to with stealing from Prather, I would say “wow!” to this cold, violent short novel; as is, original or whatnot, it’s still a cool book in the ultra-hardboiled fashion.

So who is the “genuine wanton” in the title, or is this another misleading Merit book?  It may be either Cathy or Susan, two young ladies he escorts to a reefer madness swinger party that later proves to be his downfall.  There’s enough sleaze to make this a sleaze book:

The brunette’s tongue lasted like bourbon and went like a piston in my mouth. I forgot about Cathy and Susan and the marijuana, and concentrated on the naked woman in my arms. (p. 111)

And enough killing to make it crime noir.

The Torrid Teens – Orrie Hitt (Beacon #294, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on February 10, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Orrie Hitt, like many pulp writers, dabbled in the popular juvenile delinquent novel.  For Hal Ellson, it was a speciality; for Harlan Ellison, it was a research subject to help sell some stories and books; for Robert Silverberg and Joan Ellis, it was just another theme for the many books.

Hitt, as Charles Verne, tackled this theme some with Mr. Hot Rod, and his novels Wayward Girl and The Tavern do as well. The Torrid Teens is a typical juvenile novel with rumbles, a murder, and “debs” — gang girls, which Hitt focuses on two: Ava Flynn, daughter of a police officer, comes from “the good side” of the tracks, but has chosen to run with the local gang; and Hope Gardner, who has taken a different approach as business woman in crime: with an inheritance, she has bought her way into the local vice trade, using the gangs to do her deeds and make her richer.

Toss in some lesbianism, alcoholism, violence…

This reads like something Beacon asked Hitt to write: “Give us a juvie gang book next, those are selling!”  and Hitt, never one to pass up a paycheck it seems, gave in.

And not for the better. This is a boring book — this is not the Orrie Hitt whose general work I love.  Sometimes it is good for a theme-obsessed writer to delve into other areas — juvie books was not one for Mr. Hitt.

The cover is typical of many of these books — the woman cowering with her back against the hall and a hood in jeacket with knife closing in on her…

Hotel Hustler by Jerry Lane/aka Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Playtime Books #670, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The first Jerry Goff book I read, a few months back, was Thrill Crazy, a Merit title, and here I thought: Wow, another cool find. Then I read Wanton Wench! which was better and Tropic of Carla which was an okay men’s adventure style yarn.

A reader of this blog mentioned that Goff had been sued by Richard Prather for plagarizing from a Shell Scott novel, and then bookseller and vintage paperback scholar Lynn Munroe told me the case just wasn’t one book, but a whole lot of them.  In fact, Munroe’s Fall 1997 auction catalogue was for Goff books that were hard to find because the U.S. Court ordered all offending copies destroyed.

Munroe was kind enough to send me a copy of that old catalgue for research’s sake, that gives the whole nitty-gritty.

Basically, it began with Hotel Hustler, the novel I will discuss in this blog entry. Someone told Richard Prather there were plagarized sections from three of Prather’s Shell Scotts: Find This Woman, Strip for Murder, and The Wailing Frail.

Prather read Hotel Hustler, got wide-eyed and angry, and called his lawyer.  Tracking down info wasn’t easy — Playtime Books was an imprint of Neva Books out of Las Vegas — but the address was a mail drop for an outfit actually in Florida (they had learned from the mistakes made by Nightstand and Faber about addresses and the feds); plus Jerry Lane was not a real person, but the pen name of Merit Books/Camerarts author Jerry M. Goff, Jr., a real name.  A ceased and desist letter was sent to Neva and ignored — the novel remained in print and two more Lane books were issued, also with plagarized sections.  Munroe writes:

Prather, who now lives in Arizona and is still writing, told me he never met Jerry Goff. When Prather’s lawyers tracked him down, he was in prison, a three-time convicted felon.  In his sworn deposition, Goff admitted to being such a huge “fan” of Prather’s books that yes, he would on occasion borrow ideas and dialog from Parther’s books. And then, to Prather’s lawyer’s shock and surprise, Goff proceeded to name for them some 30 books he had done so in, most of them published by a company neither Prather [n]or his lawyers had ever heard of, Merit Books of Chicago.  This led to a second, larger lawsuit in The US District Court for Northern Illinois in 1972 […] the Judge in the trial would later say that Prather v. Camerarts Publishing was the largest case of plagarism he had ever heard about. (Lynn Munroe Books List 37, p. 3)

In some cases, Goff only “borrowed” phrases and paragraphs, but, with many of Goff’s books in hand, many reprinted with new titles a year after first publication, as Camerarts was known to do,

Prather and his wife spent hours at home with a box of Goff’s paperbacks, reading them and highlighting familiar passages. To their amazement they found not just phrases but entire paragraphs, entire chapters, entire plotlines, lifted in whole from Prather’s books, with only the character’s names changed.  Prather found one Goff book about a lusty  French female spy named Julie Odlie.  Something about Julie was so familiar to him, but what was it?  Prather had never created such a character.  Finally, as he read on, it hit him — Julie was Shell Scott, and Goff had only changed the character’s sex. (ibid)

In the end, after appeals, both Neva and Camerarts had to pay damages — about $17, 500K for Neva and $40K for Merit Books (plagarism cases have set amounts these days, I think the ceiling s now $120K per cause of action).

I have no information on Goff, other than his demise in the late 1990s.  What was he in prison for?  Did Camerarts, with its mob connections, go after him to pay that $40K back?  Did they, like Neva, know he was lifting from Prather?  Did Goff publish other books later under a different name?

And does this mean the Goff books I liked were really Prather novels I liked?  According to Munroe’s catalogue, Thrill Crazy (reprinted as Lisa) stole from Strip for Murder, Way of a Wanton, and Three’s A ShroudWanton Wench! and Tropic of Carla are not listed — but if not taken from Prather, were they lifting from other books?  Did Goff do any original material at all; were the Prather liftings done when the well was dry?

And does this change my mind about Goff being a nice vintage find?  Well, he is still a find — but in a much different light.  When Munroe was auctioning some Goff/Lane books, they seemed to be rarities because the court ordered all remaining copies destroyed.  Now, however, you can find most of these books in the $5-20 price range, ad I have about 20 of them, which I will get to all eventually.

Hotel Hustler is a short novel, about 35,000 words, about a card shark on the run from both the mob and the feds.  He travels around the world, steals a new identity, then someone inherits an old hotel, the Dorado Oasis, from a long lost uncle on the small West Indies island, Callerie — a fictional place, it seems, where the natives speak Creole and were once ruled by Napoleon, just like Haiti.

He thinks this is the perfect place to hide from those who either want to murder him or put him in federal lock up for tax evasion — fix the hotel up, make it profitable, live his days out on the small island as a small businessman.

Not so easy.  A fellow named Ahogary (allegory?) has been using every means he can to push out and buy up all the small storefrnts, fishing boats, and eateries in center town, to build his own little business and crime empire.  Ahogary wants the hotel — which seems worthless since it seldom has guests — and the land it’s on.  The plot becomes a cat and mouse game between the narrator and Ahogary, who did not count on his competition having street smarts and knowing how to bluff and con.

Toss in some islander native sex and you got an “adult” novel.

While this one is not as good as, say, Wanton Wench!, the writing is smoother more confident — but is this Prather’s doing or Goff’s?  The novel reads like a cross-between wanting to imitate the atmosphere of Casablanca and the intrigue of Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.

I’d give it a C-plus overall, but a B-minus for being a part of vintage paperback history, the impetus for the court system’s biggest copyright infringement case at the time.

Also: Goff as criminal. A real hood, or crook, writing books about hoods and crooks, even if all the prose ain’t his — Goff was no pale weasel writer pretending at tough men’s fiction…in some way he was living it, even as he stole from Shell Scott.

Sin Sultan – Andrew Shole aka Lawrence Block (leisure Book #605, 1963)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, crime noir, Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on February 8, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

For a while in 1963, because of a legal case, William Hamling created a couple new imprints — Pillar and Leisure Books — and made slight alternations to the stable of names — Dan Eliot for Don Elliott, John Baxter for John Dexter, Alan Marsh for Allen Marshall, and Andrew Shole for Andrew Shaw.

A. Shole — funny.

This one is penned by Lawrence Block — his style at the time dominates, and it’s a crime novel about a bad cop and a good hooker.

The novel opens with a raid on a brothel, simply a political move for good press for the new district attorney in New York. For Detective Mannix of the vice squad, it’s a way to pick up bribe cash.  But the new D.A. and others in city hall are onto Mannix, wishing to clean up the police force, for Mannix is given the choice: resign quietly or be publicly humiliated and tossed into prison.

Mannix resigns.  But he has a new career in mind: as a pimp.  It’s all abt money for him, as a cop or not.  He even pimps out his estranged “wife” who is in a big hole with her bookie — she has little choice: she can work off her debt through Mannix as a hooker, or wind up six feet under from the bookie.  There’s one curious scene where she takes on three johns at the same time, and she discovers that she doesn’t mind this work after all.

This is a flawed novel, however; and I think Block didn’t write it alone — I detect some hints of Westlake or maybe Coons in there.  It starts off great, like a classic Block crime novel, then devolves into loosely-held-together scenes of the various women working for Mannix, flashbacks of their sexual history, and how they wound up in New York and eventually working the sex trade under the wingof a disgraced vice cop,.

A C-plus overall. Possibly written too quickly to meet a deadline.

Web of Murder – Harry Whittington (Gold Medal #740, 1958)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on February 5, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

One of Harry Whittington’s better known novels and Gold Medal titles (reprinted by Black Lizard in 1993), “web” is fitting in the title as attorney Charley Brower digs himself into one giant whole of a mess as he attempts to plot the perfect murder of his wife, Cora.

See, Charley is in love with his secretary, Laura.  He knew he should have fired the sexy, leggy and busty Laura before something bad happened, or good, and it does — he takes the girl to bed and the two fall in love but they cannot be together because of his wife.

He has been wanting a divorce from Cora for years but she won’t grant him one.  She doesn’t mind if he cheats on her, she won’t give him up.  She has plenty of money, inherited from a father who put Charley though law school, but she does not let him have any of it — he has to fend for himself by defending criminals.  And now he is about to become a criminal himself.

A murderer who, it seems, is up for consideration by the Governor of Florida to become a Circuit Court Judge.

The writing is extra-terse, noir-ish and hardboiled, and Whittington packs into one chapter three normal chapters of action and information. It moves with the same speed as You’ll Die Next! and notably different from his Cornith titles.

We just know a monkey wrench or two is going to be tossed into his well-plotted plan, this wouldn’t be a crime novel unless that were so.  The first thing we wonder is: does Laura really love him, or is she playing him and her own game?

Brower in many ways is a sociopath, the cool, calm way he devises his plan and then murders Cora — here he is, a lawyer, up for a judge’s appointment, a pillar of the community, when deep down he’s a stone-cold homicidal whack job.

But after he suffocates Cora dumps her body in Indiana, Laura’s beaten dead body shows up in Florida and the cops at first think she is Cora…

What a mess…

What a web!

Would it be a spoiler to state that he does pull off the perfect murder? That he gets off scrott-free from Cora’s homicide…but at what price?  The price he pays for “freedom” seems to him that the elctric chair would’ve been a better option.

A good introduction to Harry Whittington’s genius storytelling if you’ve never read him before…

The Black Lizard edition, along with others that publisher reprinted, includes an essay from Whittington, “I Remember It Well,” chronicling his career as a pulp meister hacker — from his early days with Gold Medal and that success, to Hollywood, to his fall writing a book a month for William Hamling for much needed cash.  His career was certainly quite up and down, and today he is hailed as the King of Paperbacks from 1950-1965.

Soon on this blog I will be reading more Whittington but focusing on his Cornith/Greenleaf sleaze novels as John Dexter, J.X. Williams and Curt Coleman, one from Novel Books, one from Bedtime, a couple from Beacon under pen names…

Money Bed – Clyde Allison/aka William Knoles (Nightstand Books #1602, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on February 4, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is the first William Knoles Clyde Allison book I’ve head, although I am convinced that the John Dexter Prig was Knoles, because the funny style is similar.

Funny yes — this is one witty, well-written combo sleaze and crime novel, sharing a similar theme with Don Holliday’s Only the Bed (that I now think was penned by Lawrence Block, not Hal Dresner) — a smart-mouthed operator has little time to drum up a big chunk of change to pay off the local syndicate bookie or wind up six feet under.

Mark Yeager sees himself as “an operator” rather than a con man:

I operate. I manuever. I pull deals. I get myself, never mind how, in the middle of two guys who are trying to do business together and I fixed things so they can do business — through me. (p. 11)

This is involves talking people into giving him money so he can place bets.  But Mark Yeager has lost big on two sure horses that didn’t come in so sure, and how he owes the local mob bookie $25,000.  He already owes the guy $20,000 from one bad bed, and another $5,000 for another bet.  The law of the land is: “Ten days, cash or coffin.”

He has to move fast, real fast.

The story opens with him in bed with young and plump Sharalee with an IQ of 75, who gives him $1,000 for a stock tip that he tells her he will turn into $10,000 in 24 hours.  He has $5,000 also, so now he just needs another $19,000 to stay alive.

He’s conned one girl out of a grand, so he decides to open his little black book and call on past lovers, girlfriends, and flings to see if he can’t drum up the rest.

And so he goes through his list of various past lovers — from the lady who runs a new age religion scam to a has-been former child star (somewhat like Shirley Temple) he manages to book into a risque Vegas act for a $3K finder’s fee.  He has sex with a number of women in a single day, all the while avoiding a “C.E. Granger” who is hunting him down.

C.E. turns out to be Circe, a Hawiaan con artist he once` had a love fling and con scheme going, selling plots of worthless atolls in Polynesia.  She has a deal for him — she’ll pay his gambling debt if he agrees to court and marry a drab librarian gal who has come into two million dollars but doesn’t know it yet.  What else can he do?

This novel — fast and funny — has several curious plot twits; it starts off as a guy on the run to get money, then turns into a con job that becomes a different kind of con job, and then a love story with a happy ending.

All in all a fine book to read, and a good example of the humorous sex books of William Knoles/Cylde Allison.