Archive for March, 2011

Recoil by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1953)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on March 30, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The Blazk Lizard edition:

This isn’t Thompson’s best, this is no Grifters, Getaway or Killer Inside Me. However, even Thompson not at his best is better than many during the era.

Pat, the narrator, has been in prison for 15 years for a bank robbery where nothing was stolen. He could spend his life behind bars unless he can find some outstanding citizen to sponsor his parole.  He sends out a number of letters…

An angel comes to spring him, in the guise of Doc. Doc acts like he is doing a good deed to atone for his sins, and says Pat got a crappy deal on the sentence.  Doc has alos enlisted the help of a Senator for the parole, securing Pat a government worker job.

Enter Doc’s wife who isn’t his wife, some shady characters, textbook salesmen, and a private ye Pat hires to find out the real reason Doc sprung him.  The gumshoe winds up dead and the cops finger Pat for it.

Before Pat goes back to the hoosegaw, he wants to know what the hell this is all about.  It seems convoluted at first, Doc swindling some money to get a certain textbook banned from the schools so the competing publisher can get that lucrative state-wide grant, selling thousands of textbooks at high prices.

But what really is going on, the Doc using that bribe money to guy ten life insurance policies on himself, fake his murder and make it look like Pat did it, and hiding out for a year as his real wife collcts the $100,000 double indemnity payouts.


Yes, it gets Chandler-esque in its strange crime plot, and kind of corny at the end with a two-page “happily ever after” ending where Pat gets an investigator job for foilibg Doc’s plans, and winds up with Doc’s wife as his own.


But a fun read, more goofy than dark.

Books Purchased at the Los Angeles Vintage Paperback Show

Posted in crime noir, Lawrence Block, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on March 30, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

BAYOU SINNERS by J.X. Williams aka Earl Kemp (Idle Hour Book 401, 1964)

Posted in Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on March 26, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

J.X. Williams was the original pen name for John Jakes, and then later used as a house name by many, from Harry Whittington to George Smith and David Case.

And editor Earl Kemp…Kemp, when not running the Cornith/Greenleaf imprints, wrote a few titles himself, such as this one (with its nifty Robert Bonfils cover)  and Seance Sinners (which we have yet to find).

Editors as writers is always tricky — are they as good behind the typewriter as they are with the red pen?  There are some former editors who have proven themselves good writers: E.L. Doctorow (used to edit Dial Press), Gordon Lish (Knopf). Harlan Ellison (Nightstand/Rogue/Regency) come to mind…

Kemp is cocky about his role in paperback sleaze and First Amendment cases.

So is this just as good as any Silverberg, Block, Westlake, Knoles, James? No, but it is a good read with a swampy, hot atmosphere. The back cover copy:

SWAMP OF SHAME! Harold Weyman, an ambitious young executive, is assigned an almost impossible task . . . he has to locate Reginald Carminada, the fabulously wealthy sugar heir who has been missing for some time. His new assignment tears him from the arms of Margo, his fiery redhead who likes to sunbathe in the nude [obviously the cover’s inspiration] . . . and tosses him headlong into a world of wild improbability. First he encounters the sinister Hache, the serpentine wanton who cavorts through degradation with Harold in the seclusion of a motel room. Then the lovely young blonde, Rosiemae . . . whose innocence is rapidly sacrificed before the altar of shame, while her pets, the beasts of the swamp, shout their guttural encouragements. Finally, Harold finds himself caught by the swirl of the most ribald voodoo ritual that ever degraded the bayou as the fires of hell flicker toward the gloating moon and the tortures pierce the night like the cruel snap of a whip or the hiss of a devil snake . . .

Harold’s journey from New Orleans to the swampy southern marshlands, where people have old ‘gators for pets, his search for the missing millionaire, is an obvious nod toward Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a decade before Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (and Robert Parker did one with his Spencer novels). His journey down the river with Roisemae reflects Marlowe’s journey through the heart of the African Congo, full of strange encounters along the way, like Old Cuddles, a grandpappy of alligators, that Rosiemae has known all her life — she knows Old Cuddles won’t eat her, he only likes to eat dogs.

Kemp, being a southern boy, writes his southern characters with flair and authenticity.

There are the sounds of distant drums (a funny nod to Block/Shaw) that bring him to a voodoo ritual where he finds the man. “Reginald Carminada, I prsume?” says Harold, a nod to Kipling.

Sex? There’s plenty of sex in Harold’s adventure into the Swamp of Shame, the Sin Swamp, among the Swamp Lusters,  with all the cautious language we expect from a Cornith — in fact, there is so much use of “Now! Now” and “faster! faster!” that it gives credence that Kemp added these things into the manuscripts of other writers, because they all seem to cookie-cutter.  Silbverberg has said something about Kemp writing in extra stuff to the books.

A fun read. If you come across a copy, get it.

An autograph from Kemp:

Lust Kicks by Alan Marsh aka Donald E. Westlake (Pillar Book 808, 1963)

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A well-written, page-turning coming-of-age novel from Donald E. Westlake, Lust Kicks tells the tale of two 17-year-old buddies, Mike and Frank, from Ohio, who decide to take off on a summer adventure before returning to high school in their senior year.  Knowing their parents would not approve, they slip away in the night, a few hundred bucks between them.

Their three week road trip, taking buses and hitchhiking, goes from Ohio down to Mexico.  They are both virgins on the outset, but both soon lose their cherries to older women — lonely women, needful women, and then they share a cheap whore, and it’s not the same.

There are plenty of women for them to gain experience. Then they save the life of a young heiress who is grateful and takes them to her mansion, where they meet Katherine, a pretty young maid who has dreams of Hollywood.

Mike falls for Katherine, and agrees to take her to Los Angeles.  She’s full of all the usual delusions:

Mike: “What makes you so sure you’ll make it out in Hollywood?”

Katherine got up and poured herself another drink. “I’ll make out all right. There are two ways to make it.  I know. I’ve read everything I could get my hands on about the movies and Hollywood. If a girl has talent, real talent, she has to keep plugging away until she makes it. And even then she has to entertain at least a few men on her back. The other way is to start out flat on your back and love your way to stardom. What’s the difference if it’s only a couple of men or a lot of men?”

“But if you can’t act what good is it?”

“I don’t want to be an actress,” she said, her eyes closed as visions of mink and ermine raced through her mind. “I want to e a star. There’s a world of difference between the two. I don’t care if I never make a picture.  All I want is the publicity and the money. I want to be able to pick up a newspaper and see my name there. And I don’t care how it gets there.” (p. 143)

Or: bad publicity is better than no publicity; as Burt Reynolds once put it:  “I don’t care what you say about me, just say it and spell my name right.”

How many times have we at this blog heard the very same, or close to it, thing from the mouths of those many who head west and later wind up dancing or making videos in a certain field…

Then again, such tactics have worked for the fame-seeking…Courtney Love, Sharon Stone, Marilyn Monroe…

Katherine is vixen and good at manipulation; she almost breaks the friends up as she plays hard to get with Mike but immediately sleeps with Frank.

Frank takes her to Hollywood and Mike goes down to Mexico where he meets Carlita, a 17-year-old virgin who feels it is time for her to know a man; and in bed, Mike–three weeks ago a virgin himself–teaches the girl all he has learned on his road trip.  He comes full circle, no longer a boy, but a man of the world…

There’s more, but you get the gist. Nothing original here, the same ol’ situations in any coming-of-age road book, but the way Westlake handles it is smooth and delightful. You can really tell that, by 1963, Westlake was getting his plotting and dialogue chops down better than his books from 1958-61 for Midwood and Nightstand.

A great little read if you can find it.

Memos from Purgatory by Harlan Ellison (Regency Books, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks





While William Hamling’s Greenleaf Publishing was putting out Imagination SF, Rouge Magazine, and Nightstand Books, there was also the Regency imprint, a second-tier paperback line that published crime, literary, and non-fiction books acquired by Harlan Ellison, who was also editing Rogue and Nightstand. Ellison published, with Regency, the first editions of Gentleman Junkie and Memos from Purgatory.

Playing sociologist or journalist, or even ethnographer,  Ellison decided to join an actual Brooklyn street gang and write about that life rather than rely on news items and imagination as other juvie gang writers did.  he joined the barons for ten weeks, resulting in the novel Web of the City (aka Rumble), the collections The Deadly Streets and The Juvies, and one half of Memos from Purgatory, which also became an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Hour, starring James Caan as Ellison, sort of, and Walter Koenig as the gang prez.

George Edgar Sluser, in Unrepntant Harelquin: Harlan Ellison, a Borgo monograph from the 70s, contends this book is one of Ellison’s weakest, when still figuring out his non-fiction voice, though does note its sociological merits.  Mainly, it is even because the two parts do not exactly make this a whole book but a book of two long essays.

The second part is an extended essay from The Village Voice about Ellison’s arrest and time in The Tombs, New York City’s jail,  for being in possession of items from his gang research: a .22 zip gun and brass knuckles, etc. It is not only a scathing critique of the law, the cops, and the system, but works as an examination of cause and effect: how past research has continued negative effects.

The most interesting aspect, in terms of the this blog, is its original publication by William Hamling as the two were also putting out the Nightstand books.

There are have been several reprinting of Memos:










Guilty March 1962

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on March 21, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Seeking a copy of this issue. The short novel by Dan Malcolm is a Rbt Silverberg pen name.

Jade Brothel by Clyde Allison aka William Knoles (Nightstand #1573, 1962) aka To Kiss a Dragon by Carter Allen (Reed, 1973)

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on March 17, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The narrator, Dave Owen, is a bit of a criminal in Thailand — he runs a bar and a brothel, does some drug and weapons smuggling on the side, and the local police have hinted that while they know what he is up to, and they appreciate the money his business generates for their economy, if he keeps it up, he will find himself in prison and then deported.

Dave likes where he is and what he does so decides to play it straight for a while — one way is to invest in a friend’s low budget movie that could have a good ROI: the project is called Rivers of Lust and can be made for $75,000 and perhaps bring in millions.

Dave can lose his investment, he thinks this swill be fun and will occupy his time until the hat of the police simmers down.  The highs and lows, many lows, of making low budget films has an authenticity to it, from a bad script to bad acting and sexual shenanigans off set.

This is a fine little novel that could’ve easily found a home at Gold Medal, Dell, Ace, Pocket, any other place than Nightstand, but William Knoles was one of Scott Meredith’s black box writers and content to supply Cornith with many excellent gems, as long as the checks were steady.

Jade Brothel was reprinted in 1973 as To Kiss a Dragon with the pen name Carter Allen attached; that edition as a few F-bombs and racier sex scenes tossed in, fitting for the decade and more freedom in publishing.

Brute in Brass by Harry Whittington (Gold Medal, 1956) aka Forgive Me, Killer (Black Lizard, 1985)

Posted in crime noir, Harry Whittington, noir fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on March 17, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Mike Ballard is a bad cop — not as bad as Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me, but but he’s a bad lieutenant on the take and I.A and the D.A. are investigating him and what he has done while working vice. He basically gets paid to look the other way when it comes to the local mob’s involvement in prostitution and gambling.

Harry Whittington’s gritty Gold Medal, written in the early years of his career, before Hollywood and the changing book market slammed him down, is hardboiled, swift, and 40,000 words — the short novel was the form he worked best in.

The novel opens with Ballard going to see a guy in prison, Earl Walker, doing life for the murder of a hooker, Ruby. But h swears he’s innocent and was framed, and since Ballard was the only cop on the case who didn’t beat him, and treated him like a human, he is asking Ballard to look into the case and clear his name.

Ballard refuses — the hero gets his call of action and turns it down at first, classic structure. But Ballard is no hero. However, when Walker’s wife comes to see him and begs for help, he gives in.  he’s facing going to prison himself, an for all his wrong-doing, he believes there could be redemption if he freed an innocent man.

He starts to wonder about the case when he discovers that a bartender may have lied during testimony. The bartender claims Walker was never in the bar the night of the murder, at the time of the crime, yet Walker says he was.  After the trial, the bartender disappeared. May mean something, may not…but it leads to a dirty road of  petty crime, murder and darkness.

A damn fun rad if you like your mysteries tough and brutal and don’t mind men slapping women around, for Ballard is indeed an abuser: he has one woman kept in an apartment, the ex-wife of a man he put away, whom he treats like shit, and screws around with Walker’s wife, and any other woman, hooker, grifter, or citizen, who crosses his path.

Along the way, Ballard goes from cop to criminal, faced with murder and flight from justice. But he does his good deed for Earl, even though he falls in love with the man’s wife.

Brute in Brass was one of the first Whittingtons Black Lizard reprinted in the mid-80s, re-titled as Forgive Me, Killer.

In fact, these reprints were Whittingtonj’s re-discovery; in the 80s h was out of print and known only to die hard pulp fans.  The introduction Whittington wrote is a great history of the crime pulp era, the paperback industry and its changes, the Hollywood game, and a brief mention of 38 softcore books he wrote in the mid-60s which lead some pulp scholars to search for them, finding out that Whittington wrote under three pen names for Earl Kemp and William Hamling, a few which we have discussed on this blog: Sharon Sharon, Sin Psycho, and The Sin Fishers.

Oh, and the strange southern gothic  nurse romance, The Abortionists.

It’s too bad Black Lizard didn’t do for Whittington what it did for Jim Thompson, with movies being made…and it seems that Random House decided not to keep Whittington in print.

No one said the folk running Vintage Books are all that savvy or bright.

The Paperback Sleaze of C.M. Kornbluth

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on March 16, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

We only recently discovered that legendary SF writer C.M. Kornbluth wrote a number of books as Jordan Park, three of which were in the softcore sleaze genre.  The lesbian novel, Sorority House, was co-authored with Frederick Pohl.  Valerie is about a girl accused of witchcraft and Half is about an “intersex” person.

All are from Lion Books.

Untamed Lust by Orrie Hitt (Beacon Book 336, 1960)

Posted in Beacon Books, crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on March 16, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This one, like many other Hitt books (Dirt Farm, Two of a Kind, Violent Sinners, Naked Flesh) is set on a big farm run by a sadistic old man married to a younger woman.

The usual Hitt motifs are present — a big and tall hero jumbling three women and a plot to murder the owner of the farm to get his wife and daughter.  Eddie, the hero, works mostly as a trapper, getting all the pests that run rampant on the land: snapping turtles, foxes, badgers, racoons…he actually feels bad for killing these creatures, but he needs the job.

The three women are:

Joan, the domestic, who is an old girlfriend and he’s still sleeping with her. She is in the process of divorcing her husband whose in prison and then wants to marry Eddie.

Kitty, or Mrs. Jennings, married to an old man in a wheelchair and hot to trot.

Carole, Kitty’s teenage daughter, who likes to hang out at nudist camps.

Carole seduces Eddie into seducing her mom so Eddie will testify in court that Kitty was unfaithful, on grounds for divorce; Carole will pay Eddie $5K for this.

Kitty wants Eddie to set a trap that her husband will accidentally stumble into and die. She promises a good chunk of the land and bank accounts, worth millions.

He only agrees because both women say they will claim he raped them and he’ll lose his job.

Despite these repeats material from other books, and the James Cain territory, Untamed Lust is well-written and a speedy, good read.