Archive for March, 2010

Kept – Sheldon Lord aka Donald E. Westlake (Midwood #35, 1960)

Posted in Lawrence Block, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on March 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

What a beautiful cover art by Paul Rader!  Worth the price of admission alone…

If this one wasn’t listed at various places as having been penned by Donald Westlake, I would have thought it was one of Block’s Lords.  I believe it is the only Sheldon Lord penned exclusively by Westlake.  The only reason I can think that it wasn’t published as an Alan Marshall is that Midwood #36 is Marshal’s Virgin Summer and either Midwood or the Meredith Agency didn’t want two Marshals out back to back (#34 before it is Orrie Hitt’s excellent The Cheaters, one if his best).

Mark Taggert is 28, a drifter with no roots, hitch-hiking his way back to New York, looking for work and a roof over his head.  He gets a ride from beautiful Elaine, a 25-year-old rich girl looking for something — excitement, love, commitment.

Within hours after taking Mark home and sleeping with him, she feels she has met her soul mate.  She wants Mark to live with her. Only, he is uncomfortable with her money, he doesn’t want to feel like a “kept man.” He wants to make his own way, but what skills does he have to get a good job?  Elaine tells him it’s all about appearance — she will dress him in the right clothes, tell him how to act, fake it that he has a master’s degree from “Clifton College” — a fictional school in Ohio that appears in many Sheldon Lord/Andrew Shaw books and is based on Antioch College.

The guy in the mirror didn’t look much like Mark Taggert at all.  The guy in the mirror was Joe Sophistication, a neat suave son of a bitch dressed like something out of Esquire, a fashion plat with his neck and face fashionably tanned… (p. 59)

(This is similar, too, to Lover, the Andrew Shaw novel where a street savvy kid reinvents himself in order to move about Manhattan’s upper crust society.)

He gets a management job with a textbook publisher where he excels and moves up.  Still, he is only making $150 a week, little compared to Elaine’s $8,000 monthly dividends from her invested money.  He feels he needs to be free from her so gets his own place and starts a romance with a girl at the publisher, Sara, and when he asks her to marry him, he is floored when she says no.

She says she loves him but she is not “in love” with him, and they have a long debate on the various natures of sexual, romantic, and committed love — much like the sections in A Strange Kind of Love.

Kept shares a lot in common with A Strange Kind of Love — both are well-written and deal with emotional vulnerability and the use of sex to mask true emotions.

Another one that should be reprinted.

A Strange Kind of Love – Sheldon Lord aka Lawrence Block (Midwood #9, 1959)

Posted in Lawrence Block, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on March 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This was a page-turner, one of Block’s best early work on par with The Sex Shuffle or Candy.  And maybe a tad autobiographical?

The narrator is Dan Larkin, a 39-year-old professional author who has returned to New York drunk, broken, and a has-been…he started off in the pulps, got an agent, wrote a bunch of books, made good money, had a three-room Greenwich Village pad, and sounds like an alter-ego for Block at the time:

I wrote everything. I wrote under a dozen different pen names, all in all, and I was writing for half-a-dozen paperback publishers.  I got an agent and he got me more work than I could handle […] I never wrote a thing that didn’t sell. It was just a simple formula–I saturated myself in the stuff until I was sick in the stomach… (p. 11)

Funny, Block was just starting his career in 1959…did he know how true this would become ten years later?

From there, Dan Larkin  got a job in Hollywood, making two grand a week..

And then I did a I very stupid thing. It was something I had never done before  and something I didn’t plan on doing, and something I sure as hell never should have done […] I fell in love. (p. 13)

He wasn’t the best screenwriter so he was bumped down to a grand a week and then he started drinking, and along the way the woman he falls in love with, Allison, takes him further down the rabbit hole.  Allison is beautiful and sensual, but becomes cold and rigid when it comes to affection and sex…

Continue reading

Mary Learns How by Anonymous (Pendulum Books, 1968)

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

Mary Learns How…Pendulum didn’t do the best books, and each novel seemed to have a bonus short story attached, maybe to get up page count…

We add this one in because the story of the publisher is a curious one …Pendulum was located in Atlanta, Georgia, and connected with the mob, producing porn reels and running adult movie theaters and whatnot.  Apparently the publisher/owner shot his CPA over a money disagreement sometime in the 1970s and went to prison for life…

For Your Reading Pleasure..

For centuries, the introduction of young, nubile girls into the mysteries of sex has held unparalleled interest for most men. Reflected in such major works as Lucian’s Dialogues and elsewhere, the literary expression of such interest has found its way into the literature of the Western world, though admittedly much of it on the level of sub rosa erotica.
The two selections included in this fine volume, Mary Learns How and Mandy’s Adventures, both deal with the defloration of a virgin and her subsequent acceptance, nay, eager participation in scenes of more and more outrageous sexuality. These books might well become of great interest to those among the professions who find in works of folk literature an expression of the secret longings, most savagely repressed desires. Only by bringing to light these previously suppressed works can we hope to reach a complete, thorough understanding of the strange, devious, but eternally fascinating workings of the human mind.
The story of Mary and of Mandy is not that of the girl next door.

Continue reading

Slaves to Sin – S.N. Burton (Gaslight Book #134, 1964)

Posted in Lawrence Block, Loren Beauchamp, Midwood Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on March 17, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Previously, I has noted that Robert Silverberg’s Campus Love Club and Lawrence Block’s College for Sinners were extremely similar. I debated on how this happened — did Block pilfer from Silverberg, was there a news story that the two writers based their books on, did the Scott Meredith Agency create the storyline and give it to them both?

Last summer a reader of this blog suggested I check out S.N. Burton and I did, and found Brutal Passions to be an excellent novel.  I picked up two more Burtons — Forced to Sin and Slaves to Sin — and noted on the title page of Forced, that the byline was Ken Kane.  L.S. Publications has several Kane titles under the Bellringer and Gaslight imprints so I picked some of those up.

Glancing through them all, it seemed like there were style differences.  Was Kane Burton?  Were both pen names for an unknown writer?

Today I sat down with Slaves to Sin and as I read the opening, I felt like I had seen it before:

It was a hot September afternoon just before my sophomore year at East Coast Junior College was about to open, and I was lying in the sack in my dormitory room, fourth floor of James Hall, overlooking the noise and clamor of Amsterdam Avenue.  The room was dusty and bare, like a shell waiting for its occupant to climb in. (p. 5)

When I got to the narrator’s name, Jeff Burnside, I thought, Wait a minute…

I picked up the second version of Silverberg’s book, Campus Sex Club by Loren Beauchamp (Midwood F206, 1962), and read the opening:

It was a hot September afternoon before my sophomore year at Metropolitan was about to open, and I was lying in the sack in my dormitory room, fourth floor of Hendricks Hall, overlooking the noise and clamor of Bryant Avenue.  The room was dusty and bare, like a shell waiting for its occupant to climb in.  (p. 5)

In the David Challon Bedside edition (1959), Campus Love Club, it is Columbia Univ. (Note: Silverberg told me he was never paid for this book, as well as a couple of others, so re-sold them to Midwood with various changes.)

Yes, Slaves to Sin is a rip-off, plagarized edition of Silverberg’s book.  Not exactly word-for-word — Burton changes little things here and there, adds in a sentence or two, leaves out some parts from Silverberg, but it is essentially the same damn book.  Burton keeps all the character names, however.

This makes me wonder if Brutal Passions is an original or a stolen wor, and any other Burton title.  I do know Gaslight did originals, such as Orrie Hitt’s Male Lover, which wasn’t that great a book for Hitt.

Yet another curious footnote in the publishing history of vintage sleaze.  The question now is: are there are other books that tell this same story of a campus sex club?

Blues for a Dead Lover – John Davidson aka Charles Nuetzel (Uptown Books, 1961)

Posted in noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on March 16, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I approached this one with high hopes after reading Nuetzel’s memoir, and was going “what the fuck” by page five.

Truly one of the worst vintage sleazy books I have come across — so badly written my molars hurt just typing.  Why all the exclamation marks on every page (!!!) — looks like a preteen wrote this prose.

I even tossed this one on the ground.

Uptown was another imprint for Los Angeles-based American Art/Imperial.

Pocketbook Writer: Confessions of a Commercial Hack (Borgo Press, 2008)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on March 13, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

With the 31st Annual Vintage Paperback Collectors Show and Sale next week in Los Angeles, this blog will look at works from guest writers attending or of special interest to collectors in the history of the sleazecore paperback.

Not sure when/who published Pocketbook Writer originally, but it is available as a trade paperback from Borgo Press, publisher of many of my reprints and a few originals.

Charles Nuetzel was deeply involved with the West Coast scene of pulp and smut publishing, as writer, editor, and publisher, pumping out works of science-fiction, crime noir, and sleazy but tame sex stuff.  This memoir is a fascinating examination of the hustle and bustle to make quick money from cheap literature.  And sure, somewhere in all that were some gems…

Nuetzel worked for Imperial/American Art, Brandon, Powell, Books of America, etc.  He escaped the law like many back then.

This book includes summaries and behind-the-scenes of many of Nuetzel’s obscure titles which will only be of interest to fans and collectors, yet has its place in the history of the paperback.

Girl of the Streets – Orrie Hitt (Midwood #12, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on March 12, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reviewed here.

Private Club – Orrie Hitt (Beacon Book #232, 1959)

Posted in Beacon Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on March 4, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A wife-swapping tale set in upper state NY Catskills around a private upper middle classer club and the lots of land people are building cabins on.

Alas, not Hitt at his best.  Very dry, slow, boring, I couldn’t get past page 40 — similar to Never Cheat Alone, which read the same.

On the Hitt Scale, a 3.