Archive for the Barry N. Malzberg Category

The Circle by Francine di Natale (Barry N. Malzberg) The Olympia Press TC #444

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

Malzberg - circle

The cover is pretty simple — the usual plain green Traveler’s Companion series from Maurice Girodas’ Olympia Press, this time while he was in exile in New York City, having been driven out of France by scandal, lawsuits, and puritanical uproar.  Girodas was also irked that many publishers were making good money off his efforts — since Olympia titles were not under U.S. copyright protection, U.S. publishers could leaglly print them without paying rights fees and royalties — Candy, Tropic of Cancer/Capricorn, de Sade’s books, etc.  The public attention and Nabokov’s reps kept any U.S. money for Lolita going to the old professor, even though he claimed to have no interest in all the “Lo-litgation.”

Girodas wanted to go into co-partner business with publishes who had pirated his titles, but no one was interested — why pay out what they had been getting for free?  Plus Girodas had some stigma attached to him…he was not quite welcomed in the U.S., but tolerated, and the feds were looking for ways of getting rid of him, which they eventually did.

Meanwhile, Girodas found investors and set up shop, and one of his writers was then-young-up-and-coming Barry N. Malzberg, who had not yet made a name for himself in SF, and who had been selling books to Midwood as Mel Johnson.

The Circle (1969) is one of Malzberg’s single-shot female pen name books — others are Diary of a Parisian Chambermaid as Pauline Dumas (Midwood’s Classic Collector’s Series, 1969) and Lady of a Thousand Sorrows as Lee W. Mason (Playboy Press, 1977).

The Circle is a first person account of a young lady in the Big Apple trying to survive.  In order to get a low-level graphic design job in a big ad agency, up against dozens of women with more experience, she agrees to sleep with the man interviewing her — or, agrees to a dinner date, but they both know what that leads up to.  After she has sex with the married man, before he leaves he tells her to report to work on Monday.  “I got the job, of course,” she writes. She sees him around the office but never has to sleep with him again.  She sleeps with others, to get ahead in the game…

This set up is a sleazecore common — the secretary or whatever spreading her legs to get a job, keep a job, or get promoted.  Was this the plight of young women in the office work force in the 60s?  Is it the plight today?  Yes and yes — it’s the ugly side of office politics and the backbone for equal rights at work and sexual harrassment suits.  To work in big city offices in the 1950s-60s was to put out or marry the boss.

The narrator also has sex with her female roommate, Roslyn, one night — something that takes up the bulk of the book: while the two women make love, she thinks back on how she arrived here in the big city, all the men she’s had to bed, and how she would prefer to be with women.

I taught Rosyln…that a woman could come thigh to thigh, a woman could mount another woman…

How convincing do men write lesbiana?  Malzberg told me that the girlfriend of one of the Olympia Press editors read the book and said, “So who’s the dyke?”

A good early Malzberg…

Screen/Hollywood by Barry N. Malzberg (Olympia Press)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on August 12, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Malzberg - Hollywood

Malzberg - Screemn

Sometimes you can find rare Malzbergs from Olympia or Midwood/Oracle in UK pirate editions…or the nifty translation, such as Hollywood, which is the German translation of Screen. There was a second German edition, credited to B.N. Berg:

Malzberg - Screen German 2

Screen is probably the best known of Malzberg’s handful Olympias, that he did under his name, Gerrold Watkins, or the one-shot as Francine di Natale.

BarryMalzberg_sAfter he sold Olympia Orancle of a Thousand Hands, Maurice Girodas pitched Malzberg on a book he could not get his other writers to tackle. In an essay at Earl Kemp’s special Olympia Press-cenetered edition of  el, “Reptenace, Deisre, and Natalie Wood,” Malzberg writes:

“The problem with your pornography,” an editor at Olympia named Uta West said to me in relation to the problem, “The only real trouble is that you write about sex the way that 95% of us experience it 95% of the time but it’s hard to get us to pay to read about it, you know?”

Still, like the Common Man in Marat/Sade, I had plans. If my sex scenes were dreamy, my intentions and style were, Malzberg - oracleI trusted, not: I wrote the opening chapters of Oracle of theThousand Hands in a dead fever of February 1968, trying to figure out what might impress Nabokov’s publisher’s first reader and came up with a crazed pastiche of Pale Fireand Despair, the memoirs of a compulsive masturbator narrated in the alternating first- and third-person with quarts of semen spewed over electric fences, cattle mooing nostalgically in the background at the instant of self-defloration and ultimately a powerful shock from that electrified fence at the moment of final consummation. Girodias or someone there noticed what was going on, he summoned me to Gramercy Park (the Press and four employees worked out of his apartment, skirting the mattress on the floor as they sidled from room to room) and offered me a $2,000 contract.

Well,” he muttered six weeks later when on an impossible June afternoon I came to hear the verdict on the completed novel mailed oh-so-recently, “it’s not your number one best seller but it’s amusing and interesting isn’t it?” Amusing and interesting were his favorite attitudes and everyone in the ideal Traveller’s Companion or Ophelia Press book would climax with a smile and a sigh. “I have to accept this, I guess, but now you do something for me. I have a novel I want you to do as a special project for me.”

That novel I soon discovered had been offered to and declined as an idea by every writer who had come trooping around or past the mattress: a young man with an empty life and much seminal backup is obsessed with film, watches five films a day, falls vividly in love with actresses, has an imagination so passionate that he can place himself on the screen with and make passionate love to Elizabeth Taylor, Doris Day, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia and the ever-popular “others.” “Use their real names,” he said, “I want scandale; without scandal this cannot work.”

“What becomes of the boy?”

“I don’t know. Who the hell cares? Maybe he becomes Joe E. Levine, what’s the difference. I’ll give you a clause protecting you against lawsuits. I love lawsuits,” he reminded me.

I delivered Screen in two weeks, taking Martin Miller, a Department of Welfare investigator in Brooklyn (as I had been) through a series of Bijoux and into and out of the genitalia of some actresses, also to Aqueduct race track in the borough of Queens and also through more desultory (if unrequested) collision with a fellow social worker whom he did not love (roman a clef here) but who intimated his obsession and pointed out that Martin had better get wise, “because I’m for real. I’m also your last chance.” (No, she wasn’t.) I hold no great brief for the novel but doubt if any better has been written faster, pace A.J. Liebling, and it contains for whatever it is worth probably the best sentence I ever wrote and maybe the best sentence published in a novel of lust in 1969; the last sentence of that novel as Martin Miller having walked away from the suddenly desperate colleague, pounds it into a star (and pounds it an pounds it and pounds it, “her body a map, her hands a road to carry me home”):

It is strange and complex, complex and strange and my orgasm is like a giant bird torn wing to wing by rifle fire, falling, falling, in the hot drenched sun of that damned Southwestern city.

That sentence written (as were many of the sentences of that and Oracle) with two-year-old Stephanie Jill burbling and cooing and muttering and bounding and volubly discussing matters of climate at her father’s knee didn’t have in draft the word “damned,” something seemed to be lacking and in the only revision in either of those two novels, the word was put in for rhythm and emphasis and all of it placed on or next to the Girodias mattress shortly after Independence Day.

Malzberg - Parents Bedroom“You son of a bitch,” he pointed out, “you made me crazy, do you know that? I ask you this time for pornography, a simple work of pornography, give you a plot and everything and ask you to keep it simple and low-class, I publish one book for you and ask you to this forme and what do you do? You give me 40 pages which are beautiful, just beautiful, you even know the color of that one’s bush how you tell that? And then what do you give me? You give me horse-racing, you give me existentialism, you give me despair! You give me terrible anxiety and depression! You give me pain and thwarted desire! This book will sell 400 copies, I have to publish it hardcover too because in paperback everyone will throw it away; I have to publish it because it is a masterpiece, but you destroy me, do you understand?”

It sold 350 copies in hardcover, actually, making it the leader of the second “new hardcore line” (Oracle sold half that and a novel by Alex Austin, Eleanore, sold according to statement 52 copies) but none of this was my fault, was it? I mean it was indeed (Lehmann-Haupt backed me up on this) anti-pornography for the coming age of Nixon and under the circumstances, the time could have been right.

It never became the controversaial bestseller with lawsuits and scandal that Girodas was hoping for.  As for his Olympias, I prefer some of the others over this one, such as A Bed of Money or The Circle.

===============================

Barry Malzberg’s Olympia Press (NY) Bibliography

Watkins - Bed of MoneyLP/2 Screen, by Barry Malzberg, 1968 boards
LP/3 Oracle of the Thousand Hands, by Barry Malzberg, 1968 boards
444 The Circle, by Francine Di Natale, May 16, 1969
460 Southern Comfort, by Gerrold Watkins, 1969
474 A Bed of Money, by Gerrold Watkins, 1969
476 A Satyr’s Romance, by Gerrold Watkins, 1970
479 Giving It Away, by Gerrold Watkins, 1970
483 The Art of the Fugue, by Gerrold Watkins, 1970
OPS/8 Screen, by Barry Malzberg, 1970 paperback
OPS/17 In My Parents’ Bedroom, by Barry Malzberg, 1971
OPS/29 The Confessions of Westchester County, by Barry Malzberg, 1971

malzberg - Westchester

Recursive Novels About Writing Sleazecore

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Nightstand Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I recently came across the term “sleazecore” and I like it.

I have obtained copies of two novels that are recursive of the vintage sleazsecore writing career:

Dresner - Man Who Wrote Dirty Books

Westlake - AdiosDresner wrote as Don Holliday, John Dexter, and Andrew Shaw, but mostly Holiday, before selling this novel and heading to Hollywood as Jack Lemmon’s lead writer.  Westlake wrote as the second Andrew Shaw, Alan Marshall, and Sheldon Lord now and then (toss in a Dexter or two), and then flowed into his career as a mystery and crime writer.

Both novels draw on their experieces working for/with Scott Meredith and writing for Nightstand/Greenleaf.

Well, at least these guys got something mainstream out of those many hard (no pun) hours at the typewriters.

There are some memoirs/autobios out there too, such as Victor Banis’ wonderful Spine Intanct, Some Creases (about leading the gay pulp era with Greenleaf, and dealing with the feds and prosecution); CharleGirl Who Writs Drty Bookss’ Neutzel’s Pocketbook Writer (about the Los Angeles-based sleazecore industry);  and Linda deBruiel’s The Girl Who Writes Dirty Books (about the some 300 she wrote, for Greenleaf, Leisure, Dorchester, and others).

The SpreadI would probably toss in Barry Malzberg’s The Spread as well, a novel about a sleaze tabloid publisher cracking up, because the basis is the sleaze publishing industry in general, and Malzberg’s short stint as editor for low-tier men’s magazine, Escapade, and his early Mel Johnson stories for Knave and others.

There are probably others I have not seen yet.

Online, of course, there is Earl Kemp’s e-journal/memoir, el.

Instant Sex by Mel Johnson (Barry Malzberg), Midwood Books

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Midbook Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I just realized I have been neglecting Barry Malzberg’s sleaze novels as Mel Johnson, Gerrold Watkins, and himself, which half this blog (along with Robert Silverberg’s pen names) is supposed to focus on (and now I have added in March Hastings, Joan Ellis, and Andrew Shaw).

I have been trying to track down Malzberg’s Mel Johnson Midwoods for years with little success, and if I do find them, they are priced outrageously.  I have no idea why these Midwoods — even the doubles and triples Johnson is in — are scarce and priced so high, when other late 1960s Midwoods are not.

A kind Malzberg fan, Jim Mix, contacted me and said he had a couple extra beat up Johnsons and one Watkins and sent them to me, in the interest to advnace my overdue Mazberg monograph, Beyond Science Fiction (let’s say early 2010 from Borgo Press at this point).

One of them was Instant Sex, that has a nifty Paul Rader cover:

Instant Sex A

Not even Lynn Monroe had this one in his Rader catalog, and he lists it as wanted. When I sent him this scan from Jim, he was surprised he had never seen it — I mean, he’s one of the top authorities and collectors of vintage paperbacks in the country.  Before my telling him, he had no idea Malzberg had written as Mel Johnson, and the Johnsons were not in his catalogues.  This makes the Mel Johnson scarcity more mysterious…the Gerrold Wakins books are hard to find because Olympia only printed 1000-1500 copies and maybe sold half the run.  But Midwood printed in the 25-50,000 unit range…

Does this great cover art depict the storyline inside the pages?  Not really. But when do they ever?

In an email conversation aboutl, Barry Malzberg told me that the novel

was written with real ambition under the working title FIRE.  I was trying, in 9/68, to write the first Vietnam veteran‘s novel, to make a major statement.  I reread it just a few years ago, tried to anyway, thought it was all right.  Better than all right.  I don’t know what was crazier: a) writing a novel of that ambition for Midwood Books’ $900, b) thinking that I had a chance at some “literary” recognition.  Cough cough.  This way to the egress, ladies and germs.

Here is a true or at least represented-as-true story told me by my Midwood editor and good friend Robert Devaney: Malzberg-Barry_thumbthe novel was delivered, Harry Shorten paid for it, Devaney put it on top of the small pile of delivered manuscripts heading for copyediting.  Harry Shorten came into his office.  “I had a dream,” Harry said, “I had a dream last night.  Here is the dream: it is that I published a novel and it was called INSTANT SEX.  I awoke and thought ‘that is a really good idea, I want to call a novel INSTANT SEX.'”  He pointed to the pile of manuscripts.  “Take that one on the top,” he said.  “Call it INSTANT SEX.”

This goes along the lines of other Harry Shorten tales.  In an interview with Gil Fox (Paul Russo, Kimberly Kemp, Dallas Mayo), Gil Fox  says to Muroe:

Harry Shorten had no knowledge of books whatsoever. He had some money from his cartoons, wanted to start a business, used the money to start Midwood. I don’t think Harry ever read a book in his whole life. He did not recognize intelligent writing in books. He would slap a hot cover on anything. For some reason Harry loved me. He would hit me on the back and call me “his most prolific Mayo - When the Lights Are Lowauthor.” How Harry operated: one day we came back from lunch and Harry picks the title WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW out of the air and says “Your next book for Midwood will be WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW.” That was it, no meaning at all, no story. So, you know, I went home and wrote WHEN LIGHTS ARE LOW.

In another interview, Joan Ellis says:

One time I walked into Harry’s office and he held up a painting of a blonde eating an ice cream cone and he said, “I now own this cover art. Write me a book to go with it.” So I did. (ed. note: the book is TALK OF THE TOWN, Midwood 32-396).

Would Fire have been a better title than Instant Sex?

Malzberg states he wrote this novel in Sept. 1968, and it’s pub. date is 1968 — Midwood must have had a quick turnaround from accpetance-copy-editing-production.

As for the story…

Instant Sex B

Coleman got into some trouble in Saigon — he was arrested for being with a Vietnamese prostitute and he assaulted a superor officer (tones of “Final War,” Malzberg’s novella written as K.M. O’Donnell).  After some time in the stockade, he returns Stateside despondent and impotent.  The letters from his fiancee were distant, and when he tries to re-connect with her, he knows the marriage is off.

He goes to New York in search of himself, hell, and meaning of his experiences in Vietnam. He wanders into the world of prostitutes, since it was a hooker who ruined his army career.

(I am left wondering if William T. Vollmann [whom I have published two books on, with the recent one out now] read this book, because there are some parts that remind me of Vollmann’s short novel, Whores for Gloria.)

Coleman meets the cliched “whore with a heart of gold” — Cynthia, a skinny girl in Harlem, that he picks up on the street.  He goes limp while they have sex.  She feels bad, like she has not satisfied a custimer, and offers to give him half his money back.

Coleman is an angry Nam Vet.  He goes into a bar and looks for a fight. He wants to go back to jail.  Cynthia has followed him.  When he gets into a brawl and the cops start to take him away, Cynthia comes to his rescue and says she’s his girlfriend and he’s a war hero, blah blah…she takes him back to her apartment and he sleeps in bed with her, and attemepts a half-ass (no pun?) act of anal sex with her.

He wakes up with Cynthia’s pimp, a man named Creature, in his face.  He leaves, although he feels he shouldn’t and Cynthia gives him some looks…he decides to go back, just as Creature is about to stab Cynthia (why do all the charcters have names that start with C?)…Coleman fights Creature and beats Creature up…feeling like the winner, like a man, he takes Cynthia on the floor and, yes, has instant sex. Violence becomes the pure for his impotency.

This book surprised me — it’s a good novel, but the style is different than most Malzberg’s: it’s not in present tense or first person, and Coleman is not as insane as many Malzberg protagonists tend to be.  This also has a “happy” ending.  As a “Vietnam novel,” it does comment on PTSD and what soliders coming back home from an unpopular war have to endure. The sex, as in many Malzbergian fictions, is not “hot” or enticing for the label “one-hand book” but realistic, horrifying, sad, nuerotic.

It’s an early Mazberg, a novel written before he was publishing under his own name, and before his stint at Olympia Press, and was just starting to write as “K.M. O’Donnell” in the science-fiction field.  It reminded me  somewhat of Larry Heinemann’s Paco’s Story.

As for the cover art — that isn’t Coleman and his  skinny teenage Harlen hooker…it could be Coleman pre-Vietnam, with the girl he was to marry…

Some day I will find and read all the Mel Johnsons…next is A Way With All Maidens, from Midwood’s short-lived Oracle Books imprint. Then The Box and The Sadist.  I really want to find Campus Doll and Nynpho Nurse.

Southern Comfort by Gerrold Watkins (Barry Malzberg)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Watkins - Southern

The narrator of this novel is named Gerrold Watkins, a spy for the north.  This is a Civil War novel, although the characters talk like they are from the 20th Century.  I was suspecting, like some Malzberg’s Crossstories, that we’d learn the narrator is in a virtual environment, like Malzberg’s Cross of Fire where the protagonist becomes Jesus ina  virtual  for therapy.

Watkins is in Atlanta, a month before its burning down, spying on some important Confedaerate big wig. he winds up sleeping with his target’s wife and also their black house slave.  What he does not know is that his journals, what we are reading, dispatched to his superiors, have been intercepted, at the Conferates know he is a spy and are letting him go on to find out what his agenda is.  His target’s wife has told her to keep sleeping with him to find out if he slips and tells her something the South can use.

No matter — the Union troops have enterered the city and are bruning it down. As Atlanta burns, so does Watkins in sex frenzy with the wife and the slave.

Not one of Malzber’s better Watkins novels (A Bed of Money is better) but a fun read.

The book is the second Malzberg wrote for Olympia Press New York as a green paperback.  It does not have a sexy photo in front like the others.

Gerrold Watkins aka Barry Malzberg’s A Bed of Money

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Barry Malzberg wrote a handful of green-cover Olympia Press paperbacks as Gerrold Watkins, one at Francine di Natale, as well as those under his own name, al duirng 1968-1969.  This was when Maurice Girodas had beenbooted frm France and was in New York and trying to build a U.S. version of Olympia, finding it hard to compete with bigger publshers, many whom had pirated Olympia titles since they were not legally protected under U.S. copyright because they had been technically illegal to have in the States in the 1950s.

Watkins - Bed of Money

I have been a Malzberg fan since I was 14 and discovere Beyond Apollo — I had never read SF like that, abiout crazy people and insane aliens and ugly sex.  Malzberg influenced my own writing, and still does — I titled one of my Blue Moons A Bed of Money as an homage, sort of.

In Malzberg/Watkins’ book, we get a look at the day of a grifter/jhorse track player at the Queens Aqueduct, the setting for other Malzbger novels: Overlay (SF/aliens, Lancer, 1971), Underlay (mob/crime, Avon, 1973) and Screen (postmodern porno, Olympia, 1969).

Malzberg - Overlay malzberg - Underlay

In A Bed of Money, Foster has two personalities: Foster the Winner and Foster the Loser; which personality comes out depends on how he does at the track that day. (Malzberg characters having identity issues is common.)  In the first chapter, Foster is a Winner, having won $2300 in a good bet.  He gets a drink to celebrate and picks up a woman; they go to a motel to have sex.  He feels like a winner, until the woman has two thugs she works with come in to steal the money, and then he becomes the Loser.

He gets away with the girl.  He lives with his mother, also a horse player, remidning me a lot of Jim Thompson’s The Grifters (which, by the way, was originally published by William Hamling’s Regency Books, edited by Harlan Ellison.)

Thompson - Grifters

In one scene, the text is split in two columns, as Foster feels like both Winner and Loser, and we see each viewpoint as he has sex with the woman who tried to shill him.

There’s a lot of sex, dirty talk, and sex talk, since this is a sex book, but it is also a good crime thriller, and I could see it as an indie crime movie on the Tarantino scale.  I may just make a screenplay out of this and try to sell it or make it myself.  (Beyond Apollo is being made into a film right now.”

Malzberg - Beyond Apollo

On the last page of A Bed of Money is a great line, one for the books: “Fuck the metaphysics of it all.”

Indeed.