Archive for crime fiction

$20 Lust by Andrew Shaw (Lawrence Block)

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on October 11, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Shaws - $20 Lust

Nightstand #1546 (1960) is an early Lawrence Block, as he started to explore crime fiction in his softcores with Cornith and Beacon.  It’s a flawed novel, but fun, and has the usual Block clues: a book called The Sound of Distant Drums and a casino called West of Lake.

The narrator is a young man in a bad place: an out-of-work journalist living in a rented room and working at a diner for $40 a week.  His life fell apart when his wife, Mona, left him for his friend, and then the two got into a car accident and died (same situation in Orrie Hitt’s Diploma Dolls).

He has noticed this beautiful blonde around, and follows her to find out where she lives. Her name is “Cinderella Sims.”  She knows he is wacthing her and pulls a gun on him.  She thinks he is working for her ex-lover, a criminal she absconded $50,000 of counterfeit $20 bills from.  She is on the run, not knowing what to do with the cash.

She makes a deal with the narrator, to escape somewhere and launder the funny money.  They have sex, too.

This one has a lot of problems — structure and logic, obviously a good young writer still ironing out his chops, which may be why Block was so reluctant to have Subterranean Press re-publish it a few years ago (I hear among the grapes that Sub will also reprint some Sheldon Lord Beacon titles in the future).

What I liked is that the hero/unwilling criminal gets away with the loot in the end, and gets the girl, and it’s all a happy ending.  Even the narrator wonders about that, how his life doe snot have a cliched moral ending. “Life is stranger than fiction,” he muses, rich, with Cinderella Sims pregnant with their child.

Reed Nightstand reprinted it with the title Block intended in 1973.

Shaw- Cinderella Sims

The 2002 Subterreanean edition is in hardback, a fine edition with a preface by Ed Gorman about the sleaze era and paperbacks, and nudging Block to reprint, and an afterword by Block himself talking about his hack days and reconnecting with an old work he barely recalls writing.

Block - Sims

You’ll Die Next! by Harry Whittington (Ace Double, 1954)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

whittington - youll die next 2

Previously, I had talked about Harry Whittington’s first Nightstand novel, Lust Farm.  He wrote 39 for Hamling, listed by Lynn Munroe over here.

He also wrote softcores for Bedstand under his name and as Shepard, and nurse novels under a female pen name and even his own name, like The Young Nurses. Westerns, movie tie-ins, Man from UNCLE books, Whittington wrote anything for a buck — a true hack’s hack.

Whittington - Naked Lust

Whittington - Prodigal Nurse

I had heard about how wild and good You’ll Die Next! is, so I pciked up the old Ace Double and read it in an hour — it’s that short (c. 35K words) and fast-paced.  At the time I’m sure this was crazy crime fiction; today’s it’s ho-hum and has some major plot problems, but it is a fun read if you like that “common man with his back against the wall, let’s see how he squirms out of it” genre.

whittington - you'll die next ace double

Henry Wilson is an average guy, not that good-looking, semi-tough buy not hardboiled, with a sixty-five-dollar-a-week job at the V.A., and married to bombshell Lila, a former club singer and gangster moll (or so it seems).  He has no idea why she loves him or wanted to marry him — cowlick and big ears and all, but he’s grateful. They have a common suburban home and a quiet life, the marriage six months old.

One idyll morning a thug knocks on the door and beats him up and sas more is coming.  He gets a threatening letter from someone named Sammy.  He goes to work and finds out the VA thinks he served prison time in California and ask for his resignation or else face fraud charges for lying on his job application.

He thinks this may have to do with his wife’s previous life among the criminal types, that someone is jealous of their marriage.  He comes home and his wife is gone.  He knows someone was there, though.  He leaves.  His wife is assaulted and in the hospital and the cops think he beat her up.  The cops chase him down and one cop accidentally shoots another and they blame it on him.

Henry is a man on the run, trying to clear his name, with a blind fellow, whose eyes were burned out by acid, wanting revenge for something he did not do: steal money from the syndicate and take off with the woman the blind man, Sammy, was in love with.

He’s being set-up all right, in an almost implausible manner, but it’s still fun to read. The ending is predictable as hell.

Next Whittingon to read: Desire in the Dust, Fires That Destroy, and Blood Lust Orgy.

Whittington - Fires That Destroy

Dexter - Blood Lust Orgy - Whittington

Whittington - Desire in the Dust

Pads are for Passion by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block), Beacon Books

Posted in Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Lord - Pads Passion

Another early Lawrence Block novel from Beacon, with some sex, drugs, and crime to make it a 60s sleaze title.

It’s a hipster tale, baby, about Greenwhich Village beatniks and reefer pushers, daddy-o.  Some of the period language seems funny reading it today, but at the time, had its place and rang true.

Joe and Shank share a little pad. Shank sells marijauna, Joe just hangs out and picks up girls.  One, Anita, is a Hispanic virgin from Harlem who hates that her life is heading toward medicore-ville: marriage to an engineer student, “2.3” kids — “One a boy, one a girl, and who knows what the fraction will be.”  She lets Joe take her virginity and moves in with the two in their pad.

Joe goes from selling pot to heroin — better money.  He rapes Anita at knife-point.  Anita wants to move out with Joe, 27, who has never held down a real job.

The sex scenes are ho-hum.  The characters are not sympathetic –they’re all rather stupid, in fact, especially Anita, who has no idea what she’s doing half the time.  Perhaps that was the intention: these nowhere people with no goals are as dull on the page as they would be in real life.  There is a sort of existentialist nature about it all.

A cop is on their tail.  Before he can bust them for selling H, Shank kills the cop with his shank.  They go on the run, from Buffalo to Cleveland.

Shank robs a man on the street, kills the man with the dead cop’s stolen gun.

Not the best Block or Sheldon Lord, but better than some of the early Andrew Shaws for Nightstand that are unreadable.

Hard Case Crime reprinted this as A Diet of Treacle.  Neither are good titled.  Shank and Joe or Reefer Pusher might have been better.


The Sex Shuffle by Sheldon Lord (Lawrence Block) Softcover Library, 1964

Posted in Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Lord - Sex Shuffle

Sex Shuffle Small


An early Lawrence Block writing as Shedon Lord, later republished under his name by Hard Case Crime as Lucky at Cards.

BlockBlock would work on a novel and depending on where it was going, would determine the market…for instance, he started Mona for Nightstand, but figured it was good enough for Gold Medal…he started $20 Lust for Gold Medal but decided it was for Nightstand as Andrew Shaw.  Ditto with books for Beacon/softcover as Sheldon Lord or for Midwood as Lord, Jill Emerson, or even Dr. Benjamin Morse for Monarch.

The Sex Shuffle doesn’t have enough sex for Nightstand, but enough nudity and sex for a Softcover Library sleazenoir.  Told in the first person by Bill Maynard, “The Wizard,” a former stage magician turned card shill.  He goes to Chicagio to get his teeth fixed after a bad betaing in New York, when some card players realized he was cheating.  Playing a friendly game at a lawyer’s house in Chicago, he is entranced by the fat old attorney’s young, busty wife…and she knows what he is, having been a grifter herself.

They have an affair and, like these stories go, she wants him to kill her husband, she’ll get the money, they’ll be rich and together. Sound familar?  Robert Carney’s Anything Goes, ames Cain’s The Postman and many other vintage noirs…Maynard has a better idea: to set the guy up for a murder of an imagianry person blackmailing him.

As with these noir tales, things turn against him in odd twists, but it does have a happy ending, oddly.

If you know Block’s work, this is obviously an early work, and has its plotting flaws.  As a 1964 Sheldon Lord, it’s a nifty sleaze title.

Block has allowed some of his old pen name books to reprint: $20 Lust as Cinderalla Sims, Pads Are for Passion as  Diet of Treacle, and Mona as Gifter’s Game…I will be talking about those later on.