Archive for September, 2010

Death Pulls a Doublecross by Lawrence Block (Gold Medal, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, Lawrence Block, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on September 29, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Block wrote and sold this one to Gold Medal the same year he did Mona, but it’s not as good as Mona (aka Grifter’s Game). This is a private eye novel — Ed London is a gumshoe with a Ph.D., likes to smoke from a pipe and listen to chamber music. No rough Matt Scudder here.

It opens with London helping out his brother-in-law by tampering with evidence.  His sister’s hsuband has been cheating with a sexy blonde and he’s found her dead body, with her face shot off, in her apartment and he’s afraid that he will be accused of the crime and his wife will find out he’s a cheater.

Why does London help the guy?  And why is London so willing to get himself in trouble by moving a dead body, wrapped in a rug, from a Manhattan apartment to Central Park?  Doesn’t make any sense. Plus, he as spotted by some bad guys, two at least, who now threaten him because they want a briefcase they think he has.

Block was obviously influenced by Dashett Hammel because there’s a loit of Maltese Falcon in here — instead of the falcon statute, it’s a briefcase, and an assortment of quirky criminals (who could be played by Peter Lori) show up at his door with guns and apologies.

But this was a young man’s effort at the P.I. book, and Block never (as far as we know) wrote another Ed London yarn, probably for the best.

It was reprinted as Coward’s Kiss.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1952)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on September 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The recent film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s classic, and (aside from The Grifters) probably his most well-known, very reprinted novel, had us going back to read this work of psychological crime that was way ahead of its time.

Do we need to talk about the plot here? Certainly many of you who read this blog know the premise — first-person narrative of a sociopath and murderer, West Texas deputy sheriff Lou Ford, age 29, who keeps murdering to cover up his initial crime, setting up an old friend with what appears to be a murder-suicide between the friend and his hooker girlfriend.

There was a 1970s film adapt with Stacy Keach, a medicore actor who portrayed Mike Hammer and Ernest Hemingway on television.  The new 2010 adapt, starring Casey Afleck as Ford, is far more true to the novel, and examines Lou’s obsession with spanking and S/M in grander detail.  The spanking scene with Jessica Alba alone is worth the price of admission, and shows that Alba, along with her recent role in Machete, is moving away from that goody-two-shoes image that hindered her career (most likely cooked up by her agents and managers).

When Thompson died in 1977, in San Diego, California, working his final years as a time card manager at Lockheed-Martin, all his books out of print and forgotten, he told his children that one day his books would be rediscovered and they would provide revenue for the family.  He was right: a Thompson resurgence happened in France in the 1980s, in the U.S. in the 1990s, helped along by the movie version of The Grifters (penned by Donald E. Westlake, in fact)

Lion Books was a short-lived paperback house that vanished as quickly as it appeared. Interestingly, Lion bought Harlan Ellison’s first novel, Web of the City, and went under before publishing it, selling the manuscript to Pyramid Books, publishing it as Rumble. (Also of interest: Ellison originally acquired and edited The Grifters in the 1950s for Regency Books, an imprint of William Hamling’s, along with Rogue Magazine and Nightstand Books.)


Fade to Blonde by Max Phillips (Hard Case Crime, 2004)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on September 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Not a real vintage novel, we decided to review this one since we are fans of Hard Case Crime and its vintage reprints and originals in the vintage mode.  And we love the covers!

We wanted to like this one but it was hard.  It starts off great, a first-person narrative in the hard-boiled voice: Ray Corson came to Los Angeles to write for the movies but has only optioned a few treatments. He’s done some extra work as an actor, but he’s hard to cast, being a big, muscular guy suitable for manual labor, which is hoiw he has been surviving.

A blonde comes to him help: Rebecca LaFontaine; she claims a local thug is harassing her snd she wants him off her back. Despite some warnings that this dame might be a nutcase, he takes the job because it’s money and there’s nothing better to do.

No year is given, but there are clues that the story takes place in the 1950s or 60s: Roy writes on a manual typewriter with carbons; his labor job [pays $17 a day…

The novel won the Shamus Award 2004 for Best Paperback Original, albeit Roy is not a private eye per se, he does sleuth and he does speak like a cousin of Mike Hammer or Matthew Scudder.  However, the narrative is convoluted with banter and what reads like padding to make the book 70,000 words.  The real story in these pages is probably a tight 40,000 word short novel, but the publishers don’t like those 1960 lengths for paperbacks anymore.

The Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford (Newstand Library, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on September 24, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks


What is it with vintage sleaze books and having protagonists as used car salesmen in Los Angeles? It worked well in Robert Carney’s excellent Anything Goes, as it does here in this early Willeford novel. And like Anything Goes — both published by Newsstand Library — this is an example of superb literary fiction marketed as softcore smut in the 1960s. Someone at Newsstand had a good eye for writing.

Stylistically, The Woman Chaser is an experimental novel for its time, taking its cue from John Dos Passos’ American Trilogy, with transitions between “chapters” using screenplay format: CUT TOs, WIPEs, DISSOLVES, etc. Near the end, one section takes the form of a short play (Moby-Dick?). At the top, we are presented a third person text, then go to first person as the narrator, Richard Hudson, sees himself in the third person as a different person as he changes his life: he’s a used car salesman for the Honest Hal franchise in San Francisco; he’s come down to Los Angeles to open an Honest Hal lot.  Hudson grew up in L.A., with a diva mother and a father who wrote a “True Grits” jungle that made a lot of money. Her current husband, the narrator’s stepfather, was once a visionary filmmaker in Hollywood, but art in the end did not sell movies and he lots a lot for the studio, so he had to retire from the biz. But Hollywood seems to always lure those who have returned back into the game of moving photo narratives…

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The Snatch by Jack Pine (aka?) (Pendulum Books, 1969)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on September 23, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Ah, a title with a double meaning…or double-entendre.

It’s a crime book, a kidnap caper, Robin Warner is grabbed, snatched, off the street and held for ransom; meanwhile, her captors subject her to all kinds of nasty things.

Not the best book, of course, but kind of entertaining in that guilty pleasure sort of way.

Pricey to find a copy, but you can get a $1 ebook download here.

Enough of Sorrow by Jill Emerson aka Lawrence Block (Midwood Books, 1965)

Posted in Lawrence Block, lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on September 21, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Lawrence Block stopped writing as Andrew Shaw and Sheldon Lord by 1964, but he kept at the lesbian novels as Jill Emerson with two titles, Enough of Sorrow and Warm & Willing. As previously noted, Block would use his Emerson pen name for more commercial, hardback womens and erotic fiction.

Enough of Sorrow exhibits much more maturity in authorship and seriousness in theme than previous lesbian titles by Block, as Leslie Evans, Benjamin Morse, Ben Christopher and Sheldon Lord.

The novel opens with a depressed and lost woman, Karen Winslow, who checks into a cheap New York City weekly rooming house with the plan to commit suicide. She is pregnant and the married man who gave her the baby skipped out when she told him, leaving her alone to deal with a child.  She is saved by a neighbor amd wakes up in the hospital alive, but told she lost the fetus.

She later gets an apartment and meets a new tenant named Rachel. The two become friends, then lovers. Karen realizes she may have been a lesbian all the time, never knew it, maybe this is why her relationships with men were always bad.  She and Rachel (Rae) move in together and are happy lovers for a while. Karen gets a job as a receptionist for a talent agent who deals mostly with TV and bit actors and exotic dancers.

Karen starts drinking a lot, a gradual downswing from too such social drinking to drinking at home and then needing booze to function. Rae is worried,. Karen says it is no problem until she tries three dry days sober.  It is hard at first, then hellish, as she cant type at work and she has a headache and the shakes.  On the third day she gives in to her addiction and gets sauced, comes home and fights with Rae, then goes out on a bender, hitting up a number of lesbian bars, dancing, making out, and fingering all kinds of dykes, from lipsticks to bulls to skinny young girls exploring the scene.  She wakes up in bed with a drooling, snoring bulldyke and runs out…when she gets home, Rae has left a note saying she needs some time away from these troubles.

The passage about the evils of booze eminded me of Block going into the same issues with his Matt Scudder character, who destroyed his life with booze and then went to AA. It makes me wonder about Block and alcohiolism, if this is personal ‘… and I am sure Block has talked about it somewhere, I have just not seen it. MMaybe not… this is from wikipedia;

Though it’s been suggested that Scudder’s struggle with alcoholism is in part autobiographical, Block has repeatedly refused to discuss the subject, citing AA’s own tradition of anonymity.

Eventually, Karen does win her battle with booze and disasterously sleeps with an actor she knows, an older man in his 60s, to determine if she is really gay or bi or whatever.

The book ends on a somber note, with Karen finding the strength to move on, move to anther city, and to say enough of sorrow, time to live.

Not a bad little book…would have preferred a darker ending, more in a Block tradition, but this is a moral lesbian tale…

Hellcats & Honey Girls by Lawrence Block and Donald E. Westlake

Posted in crime noir, Don Elliott, Lawrence Block, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Sheldon Lord, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on September 20, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Subterranean Press is soon to publish a 400 page omnibus with three collaborative softcores from the 1960s by Block and Westlake, Hellcats and Honeygirls.

It contains two Sheldon Lords, So Willing and A Girl Called Honey, and one I am not aware of, Sin Hellcat (or A Piece of the Action).

There certainly seems to be a flurry of these old reprints popping up like lillies in the field, with Creeping Hemlock Press doing Block´s Campus Tramp and April North, Hard Case Crime doing two Block lesbian-crime books, Stark House doing two Silverberg-Don Elliotts plus all the others they have out, Ramble House with Ennis Willie, Borgo Press with Victor Banis, and so on…

Will this effect the collector market? I may boost it.  We here are delighted with these reprints and say, more, more…