Archive for the Barry N. Malzberg Category

The Box by Mel Johnson (Barry Malzberg), Oracle Books, 1969

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on September 14, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Stylistically, The Box is the same as the other Oracle title,  A Way with All Maidens: no chapters, just one long narrative with a few scene breaks.  Thematically, however — except for being marketed as a “sex book” — this is 180 degrees different than Maidens, yet it is also similar: it is set in the past, the 1900s this time, narrated by William Jenniungs, a solider in some sort of military unit that is in conflict with “the Indians.”  At first we think this might be the calvalry vs. the American Indians, but a few pages further in, we realize the action takes place in India, and this is a British military unit enforcing colonial rule, fighting against rebels who want to oust Her Majesty’s reign.

So this is a historical “sex” novel, with hints of political commentary, such as discussions about British culture vs. Indian culture and worldviews:

The “colonel” is a bombastic leader who, like many Malzbergian men-in-charge, is quite possibly on the brink of insanity.  The narrator is screwing his wife without the colonel’s knowledge; she seems to be cheating on him as revenge for pulling her away from civilized London and forcing her to spend time in the barbaric India.

The sex is plenty and graphic and like Maidens and Southern Comfort, doesn’t ring true to the historical dialect. Does it matter for these kinds of books? In Malzberg’s case, it winds up being funny and you wonder if he meant it that way, as if making fun of the whole form of “historical erotica’ like the many faux Victorians published…

The Box is a rare and pricey book to find, one of the many must have Mel Johnsons for Malzberg fans out there.

The Many Worlds of Barry Malzberg (Popular Library, 1975)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction with tags , , on September 12, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

in 1975, Barry Malzberg published two collections, this 160 page little book and the massive, SF classic, The Best of Barry Malzberg (Pocket Books). By 1975, however, Malzberg had pretty much stopped writing SF novels and was collaborating on mysteries with Bill Pronzini and writing the Lone Wolff series as Mike Berry. But he was still chrurning out stories; his trademark was the 1500 word quickie tale of strange virtual reality or time travel schizoanalysis.

This one opens with a preface from Roger Elwood, the prolific editor who published many Malzberg stories in his dozens of theme anthologies and commissioning novels for various paperback houses, like Tactics of Conquest for Pyramid, that Malzberg wrote in four days and broke some ground in SF with an explicit gay rape scene. (The story, “Closed Sicilian,” that the novel expands is also in this collection — a short of SF take on Nabokov.)

Malzberg broke many taboos and crossed many lines in SF, including incest and matricide in his work.

Many Worlds collects several much reprinted works, like the novella “Final War,” a Nebula nominated work that I have always been convinced was ripped off by Oliver Stone for Platoon, since it’s about solidiers who turn against and kill a sadistic officer. Malzberg wrote “:Final War” in the late 60s as a Vietnam cautionary tale but was unable to sell it to literary markets, so revised the first page to make it SF and immediately placed it with The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Two other widely reprinted stories are also included: “In the Cup” and “Death to the Keeper.”

“Here they are, what Nabokov calls the sins of youth,” Mazlberg starts the introduction, and notes that he is now thirty and feels old. Ha! I bet he looks back on that statement now and guffaws — the folly of youth! For instance, why did Malzberg include the sub-par story, “Initiation,” as the first story? It’s a weird tale about the narrator and his “Pop” kidnapping a 19 year old girl, and telling her they wish to form a cult of worshippers to usher in a speedy Armageddon event, for they are Satan and the Anti-Christ and demand that she bow down to their power, only in the end she has more power in a twist in semantics. Sounds cool but it falls flat.

Malzberg was writing about the ill effects of virtual realities used for simulations and therapy in the 70s, long before anyone else. One such tale is “The Union Forever,” that starts off with a presidential aide plotting to assassinate the President, and the the President desires to kill the aide, or they kill each other — we find out it is all computer simulations working on a variety of scenarios, and then the President and his aide, mere analogue computer tape constructs, turning against the computer and destroying what gives them reality.

But is Malzberg ever acknowledged for this pioneering vision?

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)

Clyde Allison — Who Was He?

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on January 29, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

“Clyde Allison” was one of the many pen names used by prolific author William Knoles often misspelled as “Knowles” by booksellers), who committed suicide in 1972. He was 46.

Other pen names: Max Williams for men’s magazines, Cylde Ames for Lancer Books, Carter Allen for the Reed Nightstand reprints, and Wilson Craddock, Jr., which is widow, Lily Knoles, said:

He came up with that one at a party to test his theory about people at parties. He made up this name and went around saying, “Have you read Wilson Craddock, Jr.’s latest novel? I just finished it and I think he’s going to be big.” An hour later this woman walks up to me and says, “I just finished the great new Wilson Craddock novel. Have you read it yet? He’s going to be big!”

At Earl Kemp’s zine el, Lynn Munroe writes:

William Knoles came of age in Greenwich Village in the late 50’s. “He loved people and he loved parties,” one friend told me. With his friends, all of them aspiring artists, poets, writers, and beats, Bill worked all day and partied most nights, often at a bar called the White Horse Tavern, a place Dylan Thomas had made famous. Sometimes the parties were at artists’ lofts. At one such party Bill met Lily Pendleton. Lily was attracted by his intelligence and his sense of humor. They started going out together.

Bill used to entertain Lily with stories about his life at the Meredith Agency. Like many other aspiring writers, he was put to work reading manuscripts in the fee room. People from all over the country would mail unsolicited manuscripts to Scott Meredith, hoping to join his stable of famous writers like Norman Mailer and Evan Hunter. The aspiring writer would get a form letter advising them to send a fee (usually $50) for the agent’s analysis. The gullible and the hopeful would send the $50 and get back a one-page letter signed by Scott Meredith encouraging them to keep trying, and making vague suggestions on how to improve their story or novel. Meredith had a roomful of people turning out these letters and signing his name. It was, depending on who you ask, either a valuable literary service or a profitable scam. Would-be writers who weren’t very bright, or just desperate, would send in another $50 and a rewritten manuscript, only to get a second letter encouraging them to keep trying.

Bill told Lily that one unpublished writer had been yanked on by the Meredith agency for weeks, sending in several readers fees, only to get yet another form letter. Finally the poor guy realized he was being bilked and he came into Manhattan, burst into the offices of Scott Meredith and his brother Sidney, threatening them. Bill claimed from that day on the brothers went to the men’s room together in case any more “clients” came in looking for them.

Reading through hundreds of unpublishable stories, Bill was sure he could writer better than any of them. He began selling stories to men’s magazines like Escapade and Gent, usually using the pseudonym Max Williams. He would save his real name for something important, something he could be proud of. Like most of the young writers Meredith represented, many of whom also got started working at the agency, Bill was offered a job providing adult potboilers for publisher William Hamling.

And contends:

As “Clyde Allison,” Bill Knoles wrote a series of surprisingly well-written and frequently hilarious comic crime novels. His protagonist was usually a con man, a rake, a coward, or a bon vivant. These antiheroes narrate their stories in a fresh, funny personable style. They are usually lovable rogues and their wild stories, while obviously the work of a highly intelligent, well-read writer, are rather unlike nothing else coming out at the time. Several of the agents and writers at Meredith suggested to me that Knoles influenced the work of a whole generation of comic crime writers who followed him at Nightstand. Donald E. Westlake, who worked at Meredith after Knoles, remembered the name. “He was a legend at the office,” Westlake said, “because he was so funny and so fast.” The prolific author Barry N. Malzberg told me he met Knoles once in the elevator at the Meredith Agency. Knoles was with Richard Curtis, who had written porno novels for Hamling as Curt Aldrich and Burt Alden. Curtis introduced them and then said to Knoles, “You know I learned everything I know about writing these books from you.” And Knoles replied, “That’s funny, so did I.”

Apparently, Knoles got the pen name from a Presbyterian minister in Chicago named Clyde Allison who write a book, A Christian Understanding of Sex.

One wonders if members of the real Allisn’s church picked up these sleaze books thinking it was penned by none other than the man at the podium?

Knowles suffered from manic depression and the usual pulp writer’s dismay that he knew he had great literary work inside him, but he had to write smut to pay the bills.  What used to be fun became a tedious hack job.  Says Lilly:

Bill had a hard time writing the books because he didn’t really like them. He wrote them for the money. Then he’d buy a new boat and need money again. Bill kept himself tied up owing money. He’d write another adult novel just to pay his debts. Just like his Dad, sometimes he was loaded, sometimes he was broke. When he was able to do a lot of tongue in cheek stuff, he enjoyed that. He’d be typing away, laughing, wondering if anyone out there got the jokes. Some were so clever – I remember a character called Eva de Struction.

Around December 20, 1972, in Provincetown, RI, Knoles opened his jugular vein and bled to death.

Kung Fu: The Way of the Tiger, the Sign of the Dragon – Howard Lee/Barry N. Malzberg (Warner Books, 1973)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on January 14, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Well, this is a vintage paperback…I am adding it because it has an interesting back story.  I was re-reading it today because it was penned by none other than Barry N. Malzberg, probably the most unlikely fit for a TV tie-in writer.

I’d once asked Malzberg about it.  He of course did it for a quick paycheck, like his adaptation of Phase IV, a strange little low budget SF movie that was more in tune with Malzberg’s style and concerns.  Seems Warner Books needed someone to write this in a week, which he did, and as part of the deal, Warner agreed to publish his 1974 collection, Out from Ganymede, which explains how that book of esoteric and experimental short stories was published by a commercial paperback house.

Malzberg has not found the irony golden that this Kung Fu title sold half a million copies and made the bestseller lists, outdoing any original book he penned, and he saw no royalties, it was  a work for hire, probably feeling the same dismay that Mike Avvalone and Harry Whittington experienced when they were paid $1500 for their Man from UNCLE tie ins which were bestsellers and sold well.

Speaking of which, Mike Avallone seemed to have penned the next two Howard Lee Kung Fu books.  In the arly 70s, Kung Fu was one of the biggest TV shows going — much to Bruce Lee’s dismay, who conceived the show and had it stolen from him.

So how is the book?  It’s okay.  Malzberg was obviously just translating a TV script to prose, but here and there a few Malzbergian sentences make their way in — the fact that Malzberg adapted this is worth the price of purchase alone; many writers have done tie-ins for a buck, and we did get one of his best collections of stories out of the deal.

Here’s the galleys of that book:

Everything Happened to Susan by Barry Malzberg (Belmont Tower, 1972)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Like A Way with All Maidens, this one is about the dream of acting — sort of.  A young lady named Susan goes to New York to chase the acting dream, “but, the fact is, she has very little talent and no luck” (p. 13).  So she gets into porn — she answers an ad for actors and actresses needed, $100 a day, not knowing it’s for an adult film.  Needing money, and naive enough to believe porn can lead to legit and mainstream work, she falls into it.  A common story told a million times in the lives of porn actresses, and in sleaze books — but this is Barry N. Malzberg, for Pete’s sake, and no one tells a common tale like Malzberg! Things get meta:

In the script, Susan is playing a young girl who has come to New York to look for a legitimate break in show business but instead has been forced into the making of pornographic films to support herself […] she suffers from a deep sense of shame and seeks to degrade herself. All the characters in the film are seeking degradation. In the course of the role, then, she is to have intercourse three or four times, as well as much petting, and one incident of sado-masochism with a tall man holding a whip. (p. 11)

Susan also came to New York several months ago to look for legitmiate work in show business […] she gas been forced into making pornographic films to support herself. Presently she is living with an unpublished writer named Timothy West who feels he is on the verge of a major breakthrough in style and technique but, at the present time, is an assistant supervisor for the New York City of the Department of Welfare […] “You have no idea how doomed the welfare system in this country is,” he told her. (p. 13)

As we know, Malzberg also worked for the NY Dept. of Welfare, resulting in books like The Day of the Burning and The Social Worker.

This was also reprinted as The Masochist, that edition harder and far more pricey to locate than Everything Happened to Susan.

Everything does indeed happen to Susan, in life and in porn — she does every possible type of porn, even beastiality…

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A Way with All Maidens by Mel Johnson (Barry Malzberg), Oracle Books, 1969

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Fellow Malzberg fan Jim Mix sent me a copy of this lost Malzberg/Johnson classic, A Way with All Maidens, issued by the short-lived imprint, Oracle Books (looks like they only put out eight titles, two of them Malzbergs, the other being The Box).

Maidens is, like many Malzberg novels, a darkly humorous romp through insanity and sexuality, and a bit different than your usual Malzberg yarn.  It concerns an acting troupe in England preparing to put on a production of The Tempest, directed by someone name “S—-” who also seems to be the writer.  The play is in manuscript form, inked on good paper.  We don’t realize until 20-30 pages in that the action is supposed to be taking place in the 17th Century, and that “S—-” may very well be the Bard himself, ol’ Shakespeare, 47 years old.  Or is he? And is this really the past?  The language is 20th century colloquial, wth the exception of a few “trollops” and “slatterns” tossed into dialogue. But were words like “asshole” and “fuck” used back then?  Like the Malzbergian Gerrold Watkins’ Southern Comfort, set during the Civil War, neither the narrator nor the characters speak in historical idiom.  So we have to wonder about the validity, and keeping in mind that this is Malzberg, it’s possible the narrator is simply insane:

Pauda? Sorrento? Milan? Or Rome — I think it was Rome. Of course I am not sure of any of these; they may all be mental rather than physical places. (p. 13).

Characteristic of Malzberg’s sex books, this one opens with a sex scene, with an obsessive interest in nipples:

Her breast was enormous in my mouth, the nipples huge and pointed, my teeth chewed down on it, and it was as if, from this angle, I am totally surrounded by her flesh.  (p.5)

Of course, it has to open with a sex scene, for a book like this, for reader appeal, since the cover is plain orange without any art or photo models.  They did this to make production cheaper, not having to pay for art or photography — with a nod towards Olympia’s plain green, pink, and gray covers.  Midwood was doing the same at the time, the late 60s-70s.

Here is a scan of a British pirate edition. Haven’t seen it but heard it was basically a photo copy of the original slapped together in a taped spine.

The narrator is David, who has recently joined the acting troupe, taking on small roles and doing grunt work. He’s lied about his theater experience to get in — he has no experience at all.

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