Archive for August, 2010

Game of Passion by Ennis Willie (Merit Books, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on August 31, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This one is probably the weakest of the four Sand Shocker’s we’ve read thus far, and wonder why it is included in the Sand’s Game omnibus, re-titled Too Late to Pray…perhaps for its connection to one of the short stories, “Flesh House.”

In Game of Passion/Too Late to Pray, Sand has been away for a while and seems the Syndicate has stopped sending killers. But he’s come back to his home city of Chicago to find out who killed a hooker he knew five years ago, working for Morpsie Steiner, a madam of a well-known brothel.  Sand has history with Morpsie and she may have appeared in other books.

The plot is basic: Sand runs around town, beating up and killing people as he looks for clues and evidence, learning about the dead hooker’s ties with wealthy and political men that indicates she knew too much…and seems every low life gangster boyfriend she’s had was given an anonymous and generous amount of cash to break up with her.  There are no plot twists as found in other Sand Shockers, or weird characters such as crippled domestic terrorists or, like in Warped Ambitions, a gorilla trainer with warped ambitions. This is standard tough guy noir fare with a predictable solving of the crime.

We get a quick glimpse of Morpsie’s son who answers the brothel door, a pimply young lad on vacation from an Ivy League law school…in the short story “Flesh House,” this son is about 10 years older, a legal eagle deep in Chicago politics with public office ambitions. So the story takes place a considerable time after the novel. Morpsie has been murdered, and after a few wild goose chases, Sand realizes it was the son, who changed his name but couldn’t have it come out that his mom was a pimp of female flesh — that would ruin his warped ambitions as mayor, assemblyman, senator, maybe president…

In his introduction to “Flesh House,” Bill Pronzini notes that there is enough material for a novel, and we can’t help but think Willie should have wrote this novel.

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Passion Has No Rule Book by Ennis Willie (Merit Books, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on August 30, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is one of the better Sand books, or better than the two we have discussed here, Aura of Sensuality and Warped Ambitions, which were okay…then again, maybe they were read out of order.  Ex-hitman on the run, Sand, as well as Ennis Willie, have quite the uinderground following, and seems to have influenced a number of writers, from Ed Gorman to Wayne Dundee to Bill Crider…and now we are convinced that Andrew Vachss modeled his anti-hero, Burke, after Sand: similar voices and tone, similar colorful characters popping up…like Sand, Burke lives on the edge of society and the law, but operates on a curious moral compass of justice and a code of honor found only in the mean streets of crime noir, with the occasional over sensual beauty entering the anti-hero’s life.

Passion Has No Rule Book is a dumb title for this short novel, which is why Willie has re-titled it Death in a Dead Place for the recent omnibus from Ramble House, Sand’s Game. It opens with Sand catching a bullet from a Syndicate snuper but surviving. He has been hiding out as a homeless man, making friends on the street…one is an old man named Sticky, who lets Sand rest at his niece’s place. His niece is shocked, but soon falls for Sand and they spend three days in bed — strange? Well, passion has no rule book as the title says, and women always fall for the tall blonde Sand in these books.

Uncle Sticky then turns up dead in a dark rented room with strange growths all over his body — just as Sand arrives, a man in a suit is there and tries to shoot Sand and Sand takes the gun and kills the man.  Seems Sticky had stolen an attache case belonging to this man, and inside were liquid viles, but they did not contain booze…

The man Sand kills has a foreign passport. He knows this isn’t a hit man from the mob.  He puts two and two together and comes up with a bio-terrorism plot that Sand’s inside guy at the police station thinks is a crazy idea, so Sand decides to do his own investigating — he cares less about the terrorists, he wants to avenge the death of his friend, which is the motivation behind the other two Sand books we looked at here.

The terrorists and their plot is a bit far-fetched, but who knows these days, maybe possible and plausible, and as Sand kills off more hit man on his tail, he winds up saving millions, and probably the world, something he will never get credit for…

Damn good read with an ending Mickey Spilliane would give two thumbs up.

Uncontrollable Urge! by Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1963)

Posted in noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on August 30, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Uncontrollable Urge is aptly titled, when many Novel/Merit Books often were not — it’s about a man whose right hand is not his, and is possessed. This is a bit of a horror/paranormal storyline, unlike other Goffs we’ve read here. Whether or not he plagarized Prather in this one is uncertain.

It begins with the narrative of Dr. Mays, who tells of George Calumet, a wealthy Beverly Hills stockbroker who wants his right hand cut off. Not seeing a life or death situation, Dr. Mays refuses, so George goes down the street to a machine shop and places his hand at a saw.

Treating George at the ER, Dr. Mays gets the story from the handless man. Here the narrative gets sloppy, we’re spposedly listening to George on a tape recorder, but the author doesn’t make an effort to change voices much.

For reasons unknown, George’s right hand started doing things beyond his control — stealing small items, trying to run nurses down on the street, smacking strange women on the ass, buying an engagement ring for his girlfriend while they are in Vegas, and then marrying her…and later, when he realizes his new wife is unfaithful, the hand picks up a gun with the intent of murdering her…

He also writes in cursive not his own, and writes out a review of a pay about Satan, signed “Etienne Coeur.”  That’s the name of the local paper’s love advise column writer, who also does reviews…the same play review appears in the paper.

Dr. Mays finds out from a cop that Etienne Coeur is the pen name of George’s brother-in-law, whom George had given a cushy job at his stocbrokereage firm, and has had a criminal past George is unaware of: three years in the pokey for forgery.

The funny thing is, at the same time George cuts his hand off, someone pushes his brother-in-law in front of a subway and he loses his own right hand too, when the subway runs over it…

Strange. There’s plenty of sex to make this a sleaze men’s paperback, but the whole notion of this possessed hand gets confusing.  But it’s not a bad read.

Love Doll by Mel Johnson aka Barry N. Malzberg (Softcover Library, 1968)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on August 27, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Love Doll is an early Malzberg 30,000-word novella that Softcover matched up with one of Orrie Hitt’s last published novels, The Sex Pros. Both are about people in the carnival business, old hat for Hitt, something Malzberg never tackled in any other work.

Love Doll is narrated by Danny Heaven, who owns and runs the traveling freakshow of seven-foot tall men, men without arms, and odd women. He hires a knife act most because of the girl, sexy young Emma. He has his eye on her, and she comes to him for help, says she was once married to her partner, got away, but went back, and she’s afraid for her life. Danny vows to protect her, and she rewards him with her body.

The knife guy., Toby, catches them, and says Danny can have her, she’s a whore, and leaves…but he comes back, with violent intent to take Danny out, recruiting disgruntled employees.

Emma’s been a wild one since a young age:

From thirteenth birthday Emma was Lolita […] Emma-Lolita discovered early that her body was a weapon, a tool which she could use to reduce men and boys to confused parodies of themselves. Her virginity did not last to her thirteenth birthday. She lost it in  a stack of hay, sweet and fragrant, to a farmhand named Harry…

Lolita, my own Lolita…

Emma loved it.

By the time she was fourteen, she had taken almost every available man in town but none had left a mark. (pp. 40-41)

An interesting effort for early Malzberg but the text is uneven. It begins in the present tense and then lapses into past tense 1/4th the way through and for the rest of the story.  We’re never quite sure how old Emma is–she’s supposed to be this little Lolita-esque vixen, Danny tells one of carney folk she’s his 15-year-old cousin, but there are references of Emma having been married to Toby for 10 years, so that would make her 24 or 25…

Someone told me — either Malzberg or Malzberg fan Jim Mixx — that a Softcover Library editor re-wrote the ending and that seems to be the case, this doesn’t have a Malzbergian ending but one of those patent sappy romantic endings where all is hell, Danny asks Emma to marry him and she says yes. Danny muses with some irony: “In books, people like us always make it. So we have a chance.” (p. 116)

Flying High by Eve Linkletter (Fitz Publications #NT 3001, 1964)

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on August 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Linkletter continues to surprise and delight.  Flying High comes from a pulp paperback publisher we’ve never heard of before, Fritz Publications, out of Cypress, California, a city east of Long Beach and north of Los Alimitos Air Force Base.  After Fabian/Saber went out of business, Linkletter needed a new publisher…maybe Fritz was connected with Fresno-based Sanford Aday (and we’re still not sure if Linkletter was an actual person, or a pen name of a man).

This little novel is told from the first person by male flight attendant Bob Harris, a free-loving guy who runs around the country on Columbia Airlines flights.  he has a girlfriend in Florida, Jan, who wants marriage, especially now that she’s a month pregnant, and while Bob loves her truly, he cannot give up all the casual encounters one-nighters that come with his jet set job.

Flying High is a collection of his sexual mishaps, all of which are comical and absurd and handled with deftness by Linkletter.  In the first mishap, the jet hits bad weather and crashes in farmland. Bob crosses paths with hillybilly Bertha, who wants  a roll in the hay, until her jealous husband shows up and tries to put a pitchfork up Bob’s ass.

The second incident, Bob picks up a lounge singer who took one of his flights. Back at her apartment, he realizes that they are not alone in her bed…her pet is with them:

Now I saw that the creature was a monkey…It gave me a dirty look. Then the son of a bitch began to kick me!

“Don’t be afraid, Bob. Aldo won’t hurt you. Let him play with you. Ot’s a lot of fun.”

“The bastard already did. I came here to have sex with you, not the monkey.”

“I only enjoy sex when Aldo gets into the act.”

“Well Aldo can save his act for somebody else. I’m getting the hell out of here. I don’t go for that kind of monkey business.” (p.43)

There’s another funny incident with a post-op transexual. After a while, Bob realizes his swinging days are over and it’s time to settle down and be a family man.

Funny book.

Sex Substitute by Eve Linkletter (Playtime Books #770, 1966)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on August 24, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This one came in the mail without a front or back cover.  It’s a lesbian novel by Linkletter. I happened to also catch on cable the movie, Monster, as I was reading this, and they are oddly similar: about butch lesbians searching for love in a prejudiced world.

Sex Substitute is the diary of a 35-year-old woman named Peggy, a “butch” lesbian who has a thing for young lipstick lesbians, who keeps getting hurt and betrayed, often when a lover turns to a man, as we see in the first chapter. She’s worried about being one of those old lonely dykes who chase young tail.  Her rival and friend, a woman named Johnny who hooks on the side for money, tells Peggy that true love and ever-lasting lesbian relationships are impossible for women like them, and she should take the “love them and leave them” route.

Peggy still believes she may one day meet a woman she can be with forever, even marry.  She picks up a young girl walking down the road named Sheila.  Sheila has just jumped out of a car of a man who tried to rape her.  Peggy expounds on the evils of the penis and how women don’t need it. Sheila is naive, a virgin, and has no idea Peggy is a lesbian.

They become friends, and Peggy has her designs on the heterosexual Sheila: she will turn the girl to the joys of the third sex.  Over the course of months, Peggy falls desperately in love and dares not make an overt move for fear she will lose Sheila.

Peggy shares a house with her younger brother, Ray; their parents died and left them some money and a home, which is why Peggy can afford to help Sheila and spend her time drinking and hanging out at lesbian bars.  When Ray and Sheila meet, it is love at first sight, and as much as Peggy tries to keep them apart, Ray winds up asking Sheila to marry him and she accepts.

In a drunken rage, Peggy attacks Sheila and tries to rape the girl, but Sheila fights her off, and agrees to forget the incident if Peggy mainatins herself.  Ray has no idea his sister is gay and would disown her if he knew — which he eventually does.

Having the love of her life marry her brother send Peggy into an alcoholic, suicidal downfall; she gets into a car accident and later tries to kill herself.  But no fear — she does find some love at the end, when she goes to see an old flame she broke up with because the woman wasn’t young anymore.  Peggy realizes if she is going to have gay love in her life, she can’t be picky about age, and the young lipsticks are no longer for her.

At times trite, this is a pretty mature novel about butch lesbian lifestyles, and I’m surprised not to see it on the lesbian classical pulp lists, perhaps an oversight for having been published by schlock house Neva/Playtime, which had an address in Vegas but was really run out of Florida.

There’s a powerful section where Peggy remembers her father visiting a mulatto hooker he was in love with, and the atmosphere of bigotry at the time (and still exists).

If you can find a copy, this is recommended along with Linkletter’s others recently read: Taxi Dancers, Our Flesh was Cheap, and The Gay Ones.

There are about five or so other Linkletter books we will look at soon as well…

The Gay Ones by Eve Linkletter (Fabian Books, Z-134, 1959)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on August 23, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Sanford Aday’s Fabian and Saber imprints were the first of the sleaze paperbacks to seriously publish explicit books about gay men, years before Greenleaf jumped into that untapped market.  Even the lesbian titles did not have the moral endings that stated the third sex route was a sin, the way the Gold Medal titles did.

Linkletter’s third book for Fabian is about gay men, cross dressers, drag queens, lesbians and the gender-explorers of the tawdry New Orleans nightclub crowd in the 1950s (the same crowd that Lee Harvey Oswald had hung around with).

The novel opens with ten-year-old Jerry confused by his feelings — he’s an introvert who likes to try on his mother’s clothes and lipstick. His mother always wanted a daughter so she encourages this (the same way Ernest Hemingway’s mother did, because she too wanted a daughter and called Hemingway “Ernestina”).  He befriends a nine year old girl nextdoor, Norma, and they have fun, play house, etc., but a year later she moves to California. They vow love. They write to each other for years. In high school, a gay boy comes on to Jerry and Jerry is appalled, and the gay boy says Jerry just doesn’t know what he is.

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Man Hungry by Alan Marshall aka Donald E. Westlake (Midwood #20, 1959)

Posted in Midwood Books, Paul Rader, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on August 22, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Donald Westlake wrote the first ten Alan Marshalls for Midwood (and one Sheldon Lord and a couple Lord/Marshalls); this is the first one that Paul Rader did a cover for.

Man Hungry is an unfortunate trite title for what happens to be a rather excellent, quasi-literary novel.  It opens with 23-year-old Daniel Blake finishing his first novel, frantic behind the typewriter, and now that he is done, his girlfriend  realizes he no longer needs her, she acted as muse and he’s done with her like he’s done with the novel.

Five years later, Blake has yet to publish a second novel to follow-up his successful first.  He’s written four, but his agent and publisher have all turned them away, and have dropped him. Broke, he takes a teaching job at a small college in upper New York state. He immediately gets involved with Ann, a fellow teacher in physical education for girls…they live near each other in faculty housing. At first she is afraid to be intimate with Blake, she just wants to be friends, but she finally gives in and seems glad she did. Blake has no idea why she fears sex so much.

Next we meet 18-year-old Janice, highly intelligent, once a geeky awkward girl until around age 16 her body changed and she became a beauty to behold.  She has tried boys her age, older men, men from all strata, and she’s easily bored with them all.  She has an unknown need to be filled.  She is currently trying a lesbian affair with a woman who makes money by having her taxi cab driving uncle being her men for sex-for-money. When she hears about this new young professor who is a published novelist, she enrolls in his creative writing course and decided he could be the man who will fit her need: not too young, not too old, handsome, accomplished. Little does she know about his failures.  But Ann is in the way, and she seduces Blake, and Blake finds she is a lot like the girlfriend he had while writing his first novel, and Janice could be the muse he needs. But Janice gets bored once she has conquered him, and he has sacrificed his relationship with Ann and possibly his job, but at least he has fuel for that second novel…

A remarkably good read from a young Westlake.

Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake (World Publishing, 1971; Hard Case Crime, 2006)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction with tags , , , on August 21, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Richard Stark books were the more violent,  hard-boiled side of Donald Westlake’s fiction. Stark mainly wrote about Parker and his crime crew, with off-shoots like this one centered around Alan Grofield, one of Parker’s crew. Grofield does heists and robberies to fund his true love: a Midwest small theater he runs. (Theater figures in several of Westlake’s Midwood titles, too.)

The novel opens with Grofield in Vegas; he gets off the plane and pulls the lever of a slot machine, getting three lemons and a meager winning. While people around him see this as a lucky move, Grofield knows the omen is bad. He almost turns around, but decides to stay to do the crime job he’s been chosen for…a job that goes haywire with no profit.  He should have known better.

He goes back home, broke, back to the theater…but soon other guys from the botched job show up, and it’s a race from New Orleans to New York to get the guy who double-crossed them.

It’s a fun, fast-paced read.  The book has been reprinted a number of times over the decades, from Foul Play Press to Countryman Press, and finally a Hard Case Crime edition.

The Seduction Game by Vin Fields (Midwood #33-882, 1967)

Posted in Midwood Books, Paul Rader, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on August 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A medicore book in two ways — the Rader cover art and the text, which takes on the common theme of a mother and daughter vying for the same man.

19-year-old Jean Shaw is the product of divorced parents.  She doesn’t get along with her mother, whom she lives with, and she only sees her traveling father once or twice a month, and she loves him desperately.  She doesn’t admit it, but it’s between the lines: she has an Elektra complex for her dad. Instead of sleeping with her father, she instead goes after her mother’s new boyfriend, who is 10 years younger than her mother and ten years older than Jean. The fight gets ugly but the guy sure has fun, fucking both of them.

This wasn’t as engaging as The Baby-Sitter.