Archive for the Lawrence Block Category

Slum Sinners by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Midnight Reader #499, 1962); rpt as Pity the Damned (Reed Nightstand, 1973)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, crime noir, Lawrence Block, lesbian pulp fiction, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on March 15, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Two characters from other books appear in this one:  Kyros the Greek pimp from The Twisted Ones, and Joan McKay from Girls on the Prowl (with a footnote).

Slum Sinners opens with ffifteen-year-old Monita Ruiz, a Puerta Rican girl who lives in a slum neighborhood up towards 100 Street and Columbia, is bed with a boy in a ratty room.  She can’t go through with it.

Then we see Ruth Lansing who lives on the upper West Side; she’s married, has a six month old baby, and is miserable. She really has deep secret lesbian wanton desires and has no idea what to do.

Then we meet Al Carter, newly released from a five-year prison stint for armed robbery. he has ten bucks to his name and needs to find some sort of quick con game to earn quick cash.

We tend to prefer Block’s Shaw and Sheldon Lord books that center on one character, or are first-person, rather than these multi–character stories where everyone’s lives mesh together at a cross in the road; still, this one is pretty darn  entertaining and smoothly written as both a softcore and crime novel. Like The Twisted Ones, he gets a little postmodernly reflexive at the beginning when giving a historical account of New York neighborhoods and how they changed racially and economically over time.

Monita decides she needs to lose her virginity and she doesn’t care who does it, so she randomly picks the first good-looking guy she sees on the street, who happens to be Al.  She also has another plan: she will blackmail him for statutory rape so he will give her money and she can get out of the slums and start a new life.  She loses her virginity quite painfully and she tries her blackmail on Al, he laughs and tells her he doesn’t have a dime, and tells her she’s bad at the con. However, he suggests they could work a “badger” game together….

Ruth goes to a lesbian bar and gets picked yup by Joan McKay…

The first mark Al and Monita get is a Manhattan businessman, who happens to be Ruth’s husband, Glenn.  He pays up on the blackmail: $500.

Monita is amazed at the easy money and wants to blackmail more unsuspecting men she picks up in hotel bars.

Glenn, although robbed, has gotten a taste of young girl and wants more. He connects with Kyros, the Greek pimp in The Twisted Ones who specializes in underage prostitutes. He provides Glenn with a number of them, from Canada to Europe to the south, girls 12-14…he so much desires this that he leaves his wife…

Ruth has a short fling with Joan, and some other women, but decides she would rather have men, and begins to let men, any men, pick her up in bars and have their way…

Monita has $3,000 in her bank account and she decides to start life over, changing her name to Mona, leabing Al and going to San Francisco.

Al needs a new girl, but young girls won’t be easy to find. He does find Ruth in a bar, and he talks her into a business deal: he’ll find the men and take them to her, she’ll wait at home, they’ll both make money…

Definitely a fun read. The Twisted Ones, Girls on the Prowl, and Slum Sinners would make an excellent reprint omnibus edition.

Reed Nightstand reprinted it as Pity the Damned.

Girls on the Prowl/The Wantons by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Nightstand Book 1548, 1961/Reed Nightstand, 1974)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Lawrence Block, lesbian pulp fiction, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on March 13, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Girls on the Prowl (later, The Wantons) opens with a bang– pun intended. A cab driver picks up a sultry-looking blonde; he’s in 40s, married, and it pains him he could never have a woman likes this.  She tells him to drive into Central Park and starts to undress in back; she tells him to stop and asks if he likes her breasts; then she invites him to join her in back for sex. He obliges.

The woman is Saundra Stone, hailing from Ohio where she went to Clifton College.nd works at a pretentious literary quarterly, Agony Magazine (pergaos a take on The Paris Review?)  She lives on West 73rd Street in a four-bedroom apartment that goes for a pricey $210/month (this is the early 60s). She has two roommates: Marilyn and Joan.  Marilyn is waiting for her, asks her how the fast anonymous sex was. Seems it was Marilyn’s idea, something she likes to do, picking up strangers for quickies and one-nighters.  Saundra says it was exciting and fun.

Marilyn is an on-the-rise young assistant editor at a Phulcorte Press, which publishes a variety of magazines and books.

The other roommates, Joan McKay, is a lesbian, but they don’t know that; they would appalled to know that while Joan is just as promiscuous as they are, she sleeps around with women she finds in the Greenwich Village gay bars.

Lynne Munroe has a good summation from his article in el:

Sandy from Clifton College and her two roommates in Greenwich Village. Schwerner. A Sound of Distant Drums. Some great jokes, like a publisher named Phulcorte Press, a night club called Open d’Or, a Chinese restaurant called Haow Naow, a Spanish restaurant called Dolor de Estomago. Harvey Chase’s Agony Magazine is introduced. As Wayne Mullins showed us on one of his excellent Block checklists, two of the characters are anagrams for the author: Cornwall Becke and Lance Brecklow (“Phoney sounding name,” a character says.)

Saundra/Sandy may also be Sandy from The Twisted Ones. Joan, however, does make an appearance in Slum Sinners, which we will discuss next.

Girls on the Prowl is less than a novel than a character study of three sexually free and open women. They do evolve and change: Marilyn finds true love and leaves her career and New York to be with the man of her dreams, and Joan, at the end, fully embraces her llesbian desires, instead of being ashamed of herself and her feelings for the third street.

Again, this Block/Shaw is a bit more sexually explicit than the softcores of the day; the erotic elements are not as subtle and evasive as, say, Silverberg, Westlake and Harry Whittington’s Corniths. It’s not a matter of exact description, but the lewd nature. For instance, Sandy goes to an underground live sex show, which opens with “a Negro and a Puerto Rican girl” going at it n stage, and then they are joined by a young blonde girl that Sandy realizes cannot be older than fourteen, and the man and woman on stage rabish the young lady is a mock rape act.  So, here we have not only an illegal public sex act, but a sex show with an underage female…another is the final sex scene, with Joan and a pale woman meeting in the Village, never asking each other’s name, and having intense, kinky lesbian lovin’.

But we understand this pales in comparison with the Jill Emerson 70s novels, The Trouble with Eden, I Am Curious (Thirty) and Sensuous., which we have yet to get to, but will at some nifty point in the future…

Forthcoming: Jill Emerson’s Getting Off (Hard Case Crime, 2011)

Posted in Lawrence Block, pulp fiction with tags , , on March 11, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This September, Hard Case Crime will publish a new, original Jill Emerson novel, Getting Off.   The cover, for maximum marketing, reads Lawrence Block writing as Jill Emerson, who in the 1960s-70s wrote lesbian novels for Midwood, erotic and mainstream stuff for Putnam and Arbor House.

This will also be the imprint’s first hardcover.  Other titles have switched from mass market to trade paper.

We love Hard Case, but we wonder if this shift will work. The whole novelty and charm of the line was emulating vintage mass markets with the cover art, delivering books in the 40-60K word range like the old days, not these padded 80-120K word paperbacks that are now the market norm.

The market norm is also pushing the mass market trim size into memory.  We have been seeing paperbacks in a size somewhere between the mass and the trade.

We wonder if readers may be annoyed that they have to fork out more money rather than the under ten bucks price you can get a mass market for. Trade paper and hardcovers will make Hard Case like every other line out there, and not unique, kind of the way Random House took away the uniqueness of Black Lizard by re-issuing everything in trade paper with covers that look like everyone else’s covers, and not the uniqueness that the Creative Arts Black Lizard editions have.

Is this not typical of all conglomerates? They buy out a company that is small and cool and has its own style and slowly make it generic. And we’re not talking just publishing — films, music, art, it happens across the board when a big company’s board thinks people want the same thing rather than something original, and grumble when sales diminish because the fans get bored.

Anyway, we are looking forward to Getting Off.

Read an excerpt.

The Twisted Ones by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Nightstand Books #1543, 1961)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Lawrence Block, lesbian pulp fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on January 23, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A clever early Nightstand from a very young Lawrence Block bends toward self-reflexivity, what later would be called postmodern fiction.

The narrative concerns three people: Dave and Nancy Schwemner, 34 and 29, and a girl who lives down the street, Lucy King, 16.

Dave is no longer sexually attracted to Nancy; he married her when she was 19 and delighted in her youthfulness, which she has lost.  He wants a young girl for a lover, a teen girl; he has come to terms with what sexologists now coin as Ephebophilia — the male adult attraction to those in the 14-19 age range. (Another Shaw, Lust Damned, focuses on this theme.)

Nancy knows her marriage is on the outs. She recalls a lesbian experience she had in her teens.  Her friend gives her a Fawcett novel, Strange Are the Ways of Love by Lesley Evans, Lawrence Block’s first novel in 1958.  Then she has sex with her friend — and while she was ashamed, she knew this was what she was, or liked.  Nancy wants to explore this hidden third sex side of herself.

Nancy is the neighborhood babysitter and she has boys over but never lets them go all the way.  She would if any of them were forceful enough to take her, but she finds high school boys too mamby-pamby to be men. She needs a real man to take her maidenhood.

Dave hears about, and visits, a fat Greek pimp in a New York cafe that he hears can provide any sexual perversity for  a price: from threesomes with twins, sadistic women who will torture a man or masochistic women who let men beat them, to ten year old vixens who will give a man fun all night.  Dave isn;t interested in a girl that young, but he does tell the pimp he’d like a girl n the 13-15 year old range. The pimp provides him with a 14-year-old Nephrida, of Egyptian blood, to quell Dave’s inner need.  It’s only for a moment, because Dave finds he needs to have young girls all the time, perhaps one as a mistress or wife.

Nancy meets a shop owner in town named Roberta, nickname Bobby, and Nancy knows the woman is a secret lesbian (Block has used the Robert/Bobby lesbian type in one of his Jill Emerson novels).  She makes her move on Bobby and Bobby asks, “How did you know what I am?” Nancy knows.  They have their affair, but Bobby is more afraid than Nancy.

Lucy heads into Manhattan to find a real man in a bar.  She finds a guy who says he will “teach” her the ways of sex, but she has to do everything he asks, no matter what. He shows her a porno reel of a woman with two men first, so she will see what to do.  He takes her virginity, a bloody and painful event, then makes her perform oral and anal sex (hinted at, really, for the time of writing) and she leaves disgusted with him, herself, and sex.

Block/Shaw then has the narrator, the author, step into the picture as commentator of these lives, sort of the way Rod Sterling did in Twilight Zone, or that Kurt Vonnegut did in his early postmodern novels.  Shaw clinically examines these three people, noting that each has a twisted need, but is it bad? Cannot sinful desires lead one on the road to happiness, the way de Sade pontificated  that if one had a need for debauchery, to embrace it and be who you are? “That which is natural is not always good. That which s good is not always natural.” (p. 189)

So one day Dave and Lucy cross paths on the street and they see each other’s need: he for a teen girl and she for a man who will treat her right. They get together and in a motel they have wonderful sex and fall in love.

Dave tells Nancy he wants a divorce. She’s okay with this. She runs off to the Village with Bobby and Dave marries his teen lover, much to the shock of her parents.

Do they live happily ever after? Seems so.

A fun read.

Reed Nightstand reprinted it in 1973 as The Unashamed.

Campus Tramp by Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Nightstand Books #1505, 1959)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Sheldon Lord, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This was the fifth book William Hamling published at the end of 1959, and the first of many titles that a very young Larry Block furnished for Hamling and his editor, Harlan Ellison.

This is also one of the more hard-to-find Shaws, at a reasonable price, with a but of a cult status among Antioch University alumni from the 1950s and 60s.  Block went to Antioch, later opting out for a career in Manhattan as a hack pulp writer, selling his first novel, as Lesely Evans, to Fawcett Crest in 1958, then to Midwood and Nightstand in 1959-63.

A number of Block’s early books are, well, uneven–they are either good or bad.  Mona was very good and The Adulterers and The Wife-Swappers very bad.  Campus Tramp is not on part with Mona, $20 Lust, The Sex Shuffle, or Candy, but it isn’t bad, and there’s even some sociology involved in the text.

Campus Tramp tells the story of Linda Shepard, a nineteen-year-old young lady from Cleveland, Ohio, who is off to her freshman year at Clifton College, Block’s version of Antioch, a liberal arts institute with a loose structure in experimental (for the time) pedagogy.

Linda is a virgin and has been proud of keeping it that way, as a number of boys in high school tried to claim her cherry but she was firm in her desire to wait until marriage…until college that is. Once at Clifton, she decides that she wants a lover, that she wants to lose her virginity, and while a guy named Joe has his love eye on her, the man she really wants is a senior, Don Gibbs, a sort of bohemian rich boy who edits the college newspaper (as Block did at Antioch).

Many sociological studies have been conducted over the decade about how wild freshmen get in college, especially in the dorms: they are away from home, mommy and daddy, they have access to alcohol and drugs, they let loose. I remember when I was in the “older student” dorm floor way way b ack when, and the freshmen were all on the eighth and seventh floors, said floors in shambles every weekend, shattered bottles, beer cans, clothes everywhere…rooms where a drunk or high 18 year old was taking on anyone, and guys lining up for a turn…yeah, the good old days. Later, the young girls who did this would experience shame, and they’d leave the dorms or even try to kill themselves, or they’d wallow in booze and cocaine and sleep with anyone who passed by…

That’s what happens to Linda.  She gets Don Gibbs, inserting herself into his life, and when she loses her virginity, and experiences lust, she can’t get enough.  She an Don fuck whenever they can; she spends all her time with him, not going to classes, her grades slipping.

When Don breaks up with her over her ultra possessiveness, Linda sinks deep into debauchery, having sex with any boy or guy or man who wants her, a shabby replacement for Don; she thinks of suicide but getting drunk is better to dull the pain, and there are plenty of older students willing to give her the booze in exchange for a romp in the backseat.

Linda starts to get a reputation as the campus tramp, and guys ask her out only with sex on their minds. Linda doesn’t care what people think of her.  Her roommate, Rachel, is quite concerned, and one drunken night, when Rachel gives Linda a massage, the two girls go at it.  Linda is shocked by what she has done, and her roommate confesses that she’s been a lesbian since she was fourteen.

Then Linda realizes she is pregnant, and she has no idea who the father could be…just as she decides to stop drinking and tramping and get her grades back up, the school informs her that they want her to leave for a year or face explusion…and now she is pregnant…she isn’t getting a break anywhere.

The book doesn’t wrap up as expected — usually these stories, for moral standards, have the wanton floozie realize the errors of her sinful ways, and finds the boy who loves her…we thought it would be Joe, that seemed to be the set up, he confesses his love despite her reputation, but she just fucks him and drops him…

Instead, Linda returns to Don Gibbs and tells him she’s knocked up and needs help.  He’s willing to help because, unknown to her, he broke it up because he was in love and was afraid of the emotion…

Creeping Hemlock Press recently reprinted Campus Tramp as a a trade paperback, with an intro by Ed Gorman and an afterword by Block; the afterword is worth the price of admission: Blocks talks about leaving high school and going to Antioch as a would-be young writer, sellingb his early novels, moving to New York, and being asked to leave Antioch in a way that Linda is asked to leave Clifton.  He talks about the book’s cult status at Antioich, and how some students and faculty thought the book was his way of “getting back” at Antioch.

Clifton College appears in a number of Andrew Shaws, referred to in one Sheldon Lord, and is the setting of one of Donald Westlake’s softcores, as Edwin West.

Creeping Hemlock is set to reprint the Seeldon Lord, April North, which has many similarities to Campus Tramp.

Sin Seer by Andrew Shaw aka ??? (Nightstand Books, 1966)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on December 5, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This one wasn’t penned  by Lawrence Block and there are no clues who wrote this, of the many other Andrew Shaws, such as William Coons or David Case.  It does have some crime elements and the multi-character narrative that Block often used in his Shaw novels.

The setting is Neuvo Lardo, in Mexico at the Texas border; in 1966 it was a haven for Americans to gamble,party, and have sex with a variety of prostitutes; today, of course, it is blood-spattered from the drug cartels.  The novel focuses on a number of Americans who find themselves down south, and eventually their lives cross paths — much like Crossroads of Lust, so this might be Coons imitating Block as he has done in other Shaws.

Sharon is a lost soul who works the bars down south, and seems to have the gift of precognition, hence the title. Eddie and Lee are a couple of criminals on the run, Lee a sadistic psycho serial killer. Kitkat Kelly is a butch lesbian who performs in dyke shows for people to watch, and seduces Mexican girls on the side — she is a female Humbert Humbert, and in one strange chapter she works on a slow seduction of a preteen Mexican girl who seems virgina, although she notes in Neuvo Ladro, any girl keeping her virginity past age seven is rare, and many preteen girls make themselves available to pedophile gringos.

A good read–many of the post-1965 Shaws aren’t–but confusing at times with too many characters. Worth looking at if you come across a copy.

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.

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…

Lawrence Block Seeks Lost Pulp Sleaze Novel

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Beacon Books, crime noir, Lawrence Block, Midwood Books, Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Sheldon Lord, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks on August 12, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Great essay online by Lawrence Block.