Archive for the noir fiction Category

Blood on the Mink by Ray McKensie aka Robert Silverberg — Trapped Magazine (1962) and Hard Case Crime (2012)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on July 29, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

One of Hard Case Crime’s latest, post-Dorchester, is an old Silverberg crime short novel Blood on the Mink, originally published in 1962, in the last days of Trapped,  as Too Much Blood on the Mink by Ray McKensie.

Silverberg provides an afterword and notes that he had forgotten about this one until publisher Charles Ardai found it and wanted to reprint it. Silverberg had written the 45,000-word tale in 1959 originally for a crime pulp companion of Fantastic Universe, around a series character other writers would write about (but only RD did) a federal agent named Nick and his many undercover jobs. The magazine folded before publishing it and Silverberg dug it up when Trapped changed format in 1962 to feature a novel each issue and market it in paperback format. He was paid twice for the work — paid three times now with this reprint.

One must keep in mind that this is from a very young Silverberg so has a lot of flaws. It certainly is not the best of his earlier pulps, but not the worst either. Nick is undercover here for the Reasury Department, taking on the personality of a known Los Angeles-based counterfeiter to catch some funny money thugs in Philadelphia. Things get tricky when a thug who knows the real guy sees him and knows something is funny. Double-crosses, backstabbing, shootings and gangster dames wanting out mix into the story, sometimes to confusion and you are not sure what is going on,and what Nick’s real agenda is.

To round out the book, included are two short stories: “Dangerous Doll” and “One Night of Violence” both from Guilty.

I am wondering why the first Nick Undercover agent story, “Bridegrooms Scare Easy,” was not included.

The two tales are fun: “Dangerous Doll” is about a Syndicate delivery guy who transports plates for counterfeit money and how he is set-up;  and “One Night of Violence” is about an everyman traveling salesman who finds himself caught in the middle of a gang battle. They are in the vein of the Mark Ryan Illicit Affair and David Challon Campus Hellcat books from Bedstand.

A collection of Silverberg’s old crime tales, or the best of, seems to be in order next.

Kicks Books Brings Back Paul Merchant!

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on June 10, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Been waiting for this one. Kicks Books reissues the 1959 book that Ellison used to deny, would never reprint, but now in his 11th hour on earth, he allows “a very young” collection of his then-racy stories published in men’s magazines like Knave, Rogue and Caper, and pulp crime rags like Manhunt and Guilty…the original Nightstand Books title was, of course, Sex Gang by Paul Merchant (he originally wanted to use D.S. Merchant, as in Dirty Sex), the third title from the series after Robert Silverberg’s Love Addict.

Pulling a Train is the new title (from a novella in the book), with an ironic twist on the cover: a woman with a blade hovering over a man.

I have not gotten a copy yet, but when I do, I will talk about it more. What is nifty is that Kicks will come out with a companion volume, Getting in the Wind, that will contain previously uncollected softcore sex and crime stories from the same era, written under a variety of pen names.

What is nifty is that Kicks also offers a limited box set and a perfume called Sex Gang. Great creative marketing there indeed…

Explosive Teaser – Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on January 30, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A pretty good one here, and again: did Goff lift anything from Prather for this?

This is a Vegas novel, narrated by Barry, a 23-year-old dreamy hunk crooner, grew up in the Virginia coal mines, learned to play guitar and sing, cut a record that went Gold, got a gig in a Vegas room where he packs the women, old ladies and teens and lookers, and has the pick of any each night…but he is secretly married to Adrian, a gorgeous lounge singer in the same room. Their marriage has t be secret so their fans will think they are single and available.

A problem arises when an out of town housing developer gets a lucky streak and wins $150,000 from the hotel. The boss, Boccio, wants to keep the guy, Henderson, there so he will lose the money back the hotel — such a chunk will get the Syndicate boys back in Chicago pissed and Baccio could lose his job, or a hand.  Henderson has fallen for Adrian, so Boccio wants her to “entertain” him, to keep him in Vegas, to encourage him to bet heavy and lose…

Well, neither Barry nor Adrian are keen on this, because she will have to fuck the guy t keep him in Vegas, to promise to. Boccio informs Barry that it would be unwise to say no, and offers a $10K kick back if they get their money back from Henderson.

Barry and Adrian try to take a week-long trip away from Vegas that night, but Boccio and his two henchmen catch them — they beat Barry up pretty bad, and make Adrian keep her date with Henderson.

Barry is certain his wife will notive in, but when he comes to after the beating, he sees her standing naked on a craps table…Henderson is rolling dice  have her…if he wins, he doesn’tet her; if he loses, he gets her…so he loses her…and Barry watches in horror as the man fucks his wife on the crap table, and instead of fighting him off, she is enjoying it, encouraging the man…and then later Boccio shows Barry a hdden-camera 8 mm film of Henderson and Adrian going at it in a room — she does not seem like the Adrian the wife we had seen at the top of the novel: she talks dirty, smokes and drinks, throws herself on Henderson, does “perverse” things with him…and all Barry can do is watch and cringe and wonder if he really knows the woman he married…

Goff writes these scenes in a cold way, but you too cringe as you read what Adrain does, what the mob makes her do, how Boccio and his boys get a nasty thrill out of hurting Barry, physically and mentally.

After Dark, My Sweet – Jim Thompson (Popular Library, 1955)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on January 25, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Reading the Jim Thompson bio, Savage Art, Lion Books had pruchased too many manuscripts from the writer…not all his books were published in the chronology he wrote them, some were inventoried for a few years, and some were re-sold to other publishers, often new ones that needed quick product, as the case is here with After Dark, My Sweet with Popular Library. (Harlan Ellison has a great personal story of selling his first novel, Web of the City, to Lion for $1,000 in 1958 — in fact he met Thompson at the Lion Books office — and then he was drafted, and while working on the armny base newspaper over a year later where he talked them into a book review section, he opened a box of review copies from Pryamid Books and found one called Rumble with bis name on it…Lion had gone ot of bisiness and had sold its unpublished inventory of manuscripts to Pryamid.)

After Dark is narrated by the typical outsider caught up in crime…Kevin “Kid” Collins is an ex-boxer who has escaped from a mental institute…he has anger management and rage issues and had removed his goves and murdered his oppenent in the ring.  Acting a bit insane and mentally challenged, he got off the murder charge on an insanity plea.

He wanders into a small town and in a bar, he meets Fay, a sexy widow who takes him home and hires him to maintain the house, and later maintain her in bed. He gets pissed off at the bartender and knocks the bartender out with a skillful punch, which impresses Kay, who at first was making fun of him because he seemed slow and dim-witted.  She has a “friend,” an older man and ex-cop known as Uncle Bud, who has been plotting the kidnapping of a rich family’s sickly son.  Uncle Bud recruits Collie — as Fay calls him — into the crime, and seems she has been luring him into the scheme from the start.

Collie almost splits town, but he is in love with Kay and thinks fhey have a future, and the possibility of a three-split ransom entices him, even though he suspects that Uncle Bud will double-cross him, kill him, pin the whole kidnapping on him to make Uncle Bud look like a hero and get back into the good graces of the police department. (Mel Gibson’s movie Ransom had a simnilar plot.)

Of course, things go awry — at first taking the wrong boy from a playground, the boy having diabetes issues and needed medicine, Fay’s ambiguous attitude after she learns Collie is a bughouse escapee…

There is a 1990 movie version, a smooth indie, with Jason Patric playing Collie, Rachel Ward as Fay (with a Brit accent) and Bruce Dern as Uncle Bud.  The movie is fairly faithful to Thomspson’s story, adding in a pretty stemy multi-orgasmoic all-night sex scene (and many shots of Rachel Ward’s behind in veruy tight demin short-shorts). It was filmed in Indo, a place I know, and I was pleased to see familiar territory.

Like a number of Thomspon’s books, the novel is the final thoughts of a man before he dies, but we see it coming…how else could it be for Kid Collins?  It’s almost as if he wants it, knowing he is a loser in life who knew a few moments of happiness.

Torrid Wenches – Arnold Marmor (Merit Books, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on January 24, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Another swift and nifty crime tale from Arnold Marmor with the typical Camerarts/Merit title and cover.

Karl is a real estate developer come into New York City over the death of his brother, a freelance investigative journalist. It was made to look like his brother committed suicide but Karl knew his brother well, and he was not the suicida; type.  Karl goes on his own investiagtion, racking up a list of possible suspects: the shady lawyer who stole ten grand from his brother’s estate; his brother’s floozy lover/call girl, Lola Knight; a magazine editor; a rich party throewe who makes his money from blackmail; and his brother’s jilted ex-girlfriend, Janice, a TV actress who soon becomes Karl’s lover…

Th wrap-up is a bit implausible, but reading Marmor’s prose is fun: fast and witty, a lot of snappy dialogue and wise-cracking a la Chandler or Robert Parker’s Spencer.

I Should Have Stayed Home – Horace McCoy (Signet, 1939)

Posted in noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on January 10, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

McCoy’s second novel is also pretty short, maybe 30K words, bleak, first-person, and covers similar ground as They Shoot Horses: the struggles of hopeful wannabe actors scrambling each day for extra work in the 1930s Hollywood industry.

The narrator is Ralph, a young and naive kid from Georgia, a strapping farm boy who is handsome but cannot get a break, mainly because of his thick accent. He lives on a couch in Mona’s Hollywood bungalow, a would-be actress who has a history of finding young men who need her mothering. They do not have a sexual relationship but the way they act with one another is almost like a marriage. Her previous stray boy is now the sex toy for an older woman, a rich Beverly Hills widow who has a lot of influence in the film industry and gets written up in the gossip columns and fan magazines.  This woman sets her sites on Ralph as her next boy toy, something Mona is not too keen on…unless it might help her career.

The novel opens with a neighbor of theirs being sentenced to three years in the women’s prison for grand theft — out of desperation, this staring wannabe actress turned to crime. She later escapes and gets Ralph into legal trouble too.

Ralph moves about the shallow and materialistic power players and movie stars of Hollywood, both wishing for what they have and loathing the kind of people fame, money and attention has turned them into.

Other bloggers have recently written about this lost classic, noting its noir attributes and probable influence on Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. It takes on some interesting 1930s social and political issues, such as the beginnings of Nazi Germany, union strikes among actors, and budding Communist ideals in Tinsel Town that would later destroy many, even Mona in this story. There is a telling scene where Ralph gets riled up when he sees a white woman kissing a black man at a party; Mona has to hopld him back from beating the black fellow up — Ralph is a Georgia boy and seeing interracial affection is an abberation in his eyes, even though he is surrounded by naked women in pools, drunken lechers and wild lesbians, a black man kissing a white woman to him is a crime.

Mona is similar to Glora from They Shoot Horses: she is angry that others have gotten breaks in the biz she feels she is better at; she hates the shallowness and broken dreams of Hollwyood; she is jaded, witty, and self-destructive.

What is sad is that we know Ralph, or even Mona, will never become the famous actors they hope for; they will be crushed by Tinsel Town, used by rich people until they are too old to be desirable for the sharks, men and women alike; and will wind up going back home with their tails curled under their rears. And it ends on that very bleak note: they are all doomed failures.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? – Horace McCoy (Harper & Sons, 1934; Signet Books, 1935)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on January 9, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I have only now discovered Hoarce McCoy, a best-selling noir novelist who wrote in a combination of Hemingway’s minimal style and Nathaniel West’s existential angst of Hollywood back in the 1930s-50s.

McCoy was a newspaper and radio man and small theater actor/playwright from Dallas who moved to Hollywood to act and wound up as a screenwriter — most notably an uncredited hand in the script for the first King Kong. While he worked with many fine directors and wrote in many fine genres, he never produced a memorable or classic film.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was his first novel and put him in the limelight — the French existentialists loved him like they did Jim Thompson and James Cain. This is a very short novel, 120 pages, maybe 25-30,000 words, narrated by Robert Syverten as a memory text as he is being sentenced by a judge to death row for murdering Goria Beatty, using a .22 to her head on the Santa Monica Pier.

He meets Gloria by the Paramount Studio lot at Melrose and Western, both looking for extra work and having no luck, as they are not registered with Central Casting. His goal is to be a great director; hers is to be a grand actress even though she does not have the Hollywood looks, and may be too old to start from square one.

Gloria is a bitter, pessimisstic narcissist, bipolar before there was a word, suicidal and angry: “As long as I am a failure I’m jealous of anyone who’s a success,” she tells Robert.  She thinks she can act better than most famous actresses. She comes from Texas, having run away from her abusive aunt and uncle, basically selling herself to men for food and a bed; after a failed suicide attempt, she took off for Hollywood.

Througout the story, she constantly talks about how she wants to die, how she hopes someone will kill her, how she hates life and hates everyone, etc.  She talks Robert into beng her partner in a dance marathon by the Santa Monica Pier — where many couples dance for hours, days, weeks, the winner getting $1500. It is the Depression, they cannot find work, the marathon offers meals for all and cots to sleep on during breaks.

The marathon is grueling, a rackett — it draws in an audience who want to see the couples suffer. It draws Hollywood in. It is like a reality game show before TV had them. So many desperate people enter, hoping for sponsors and money, or just to get free food and a place to crash. The whole situation is depressing and brings Gloria down more and more…there is the daily derby where the couples have to trot and run like horses around the dance hall and people make bets and cheer them on, and contestants fall down and pass ouyt from exhaustion. A doctor and nurses are always on hand. Some couples do tap dances and other enetertaining tricks and have coins tossed at them for tips. It all seems rather humiliating for these struggling wannabe actors and such…and apparently these sort of events were around back in the Depression, kind of like drawf-tossing today, or people doing humiliatting things on TV in shows such as Fear Factor.

Noir elements enter: loose women, crooked show runners, a contestant who is a prison escapee and wanted killer, a murder from an argument and a stray bullet killing an innocent bystander.

And then Gloria asks Robert to end her miserable life for her, to do her a favor…he sees her as a wounded horse, and there is only one way to put a wounded horse out of misery…

Apparently Charlie Chaplain had optioned this fine terse novel in 1950 for Marilyn Monroe to star in, but when J.Edgar Hoover had Chaplain’s re-entry visa from England revoked (Hoover fingered him as a Communist sympathizer and a danger to US culture and ideals), the project was shelved and was not made intil 1969 with Jane Fonda playing Gloria. McCoy had been dead for 14 years so never saw a notable film with his name on it — this one with Fonda and Bruce Dern garnered many Oscar nominations. I have not seen it yet…

I definitely have to read Horace McCoy’s other books…