Archive for Gil Fox

Honey Child – Greg Hamilton – Midwood Books (1965)

Posted in Midwood Books, Paul Rader, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on November 29, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The yummy Paul Rader GGA and cover copy makes you think this is a Lolita type story, and Midwood certainly never shied away from the sexcapades of teen wantons…but Robin, the heroine, is a 19-year-old college student; she is hardly a nymphet although she acts like she is twelve when it comses to maturity and the games she plays.

Not all that impressive. I need to read more Greg Hamilton, one of the pen names used by Ron Singer, the brother of Sally Singer, aka March Hastings, lesbiana author gallant.  Apparantly, Midwood’s Harry Shorten had set up a small writing office in the Village that various people used as a manuscript grindhouse, so says Gil Fox in an interview with Lynn Munroe:

I also wrote some books for one of the Midwood writers, Ron Singer. They had an office set up at Christopher and Hudson in the Village, with typewriters, and you could go in there and write for money.

Ah, the good ol’ vintage days of analog pulp writing. A simpler time? What would they have done if they had iPads and laptops?

The Curious Case of Sloane Britain

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Loren Beauchamp, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

When pop culture historians and critics write about the lesbian paperback pulp era in the 1950s-60s,  the same names are often use das examples: Vin Packer, Randy Salem, March Hastings, Valerie Taylor, Paula Christiansen, etc., with such classics in lesbian pulp Spring Fire, Three Women, Baby Face, Women’s Barracks,  and so on.  Seldom is the name Sloane Britain mentioned, the pen name of Midwood-Tower editor Elaine Williams, although as both a writer and editor, Williams/Britain etched her own legacy in the history of early commercial lesbian fiction.

Williams started with Midwood in 1959, when the company first formed, acquiring and editing novels by Lawrence Block (Shekdon Lord), Donald Westlake (Alan Marshall), Robert Silverberg (Loren Beauchamp), Orrie Hitt, and Mike Avallone, among others.  It’s not clear when she left Midwood, if she did, but she committed suicide in 1964. Seems her family did not approve of her gay lifestyle and had disowned her, a matter she hinted at in her fiction.  She was 33.

She published her first novel with Newsstand Library in 1959, a paperback house out of Chicago: First Person–Third Sex was a deeply personal account of a third grade teacher’s discovery of her “third sex” passion and desire of a “twilight woman.”  It was reprinted in 1962 by Dollar Double Books as Strumpets’ Jungle (see above pic) , back-to-back with Any Man’s Playmate by James L. Ruebel.

Also in 1959, she published with Beacon Books, The Needle, a story about a bi-sexual heroin addict prostitute.

Her next novels for Midwood were 1960’s Meet Marilyn and Insatiable, like The Needle, written commercially for the market; These Curious Pleasures (1961), however, has the same autobiographical, first-person narrative that her first novel does. In fact, the narrator’s name is “Sloane Britain,” perhaps Williams’ indication that this book is based on her own life, rather than the writer’s imagination. 1961 also saw That Other Hunger. Both books sported cover art by Paul Rader.

Other titles were Ladder of Flesh plus two posthumous short novels published as Midwood Doubles: Summer of Sin and Peep Booth.  Three titles, Ladder of Flesh, That Other Hunger, and Unnatural,  were reissued in the late 1960s with new titles: Taboo and Delicate Vice.

Both First Person–Third Sex and These Curious Pleasures break away from the genre norm of lesbian paperbacks in that they end on a gay-positive note, rather than having the protagonist meet with tragedy for her sins of the flesh or meet a male she falls head over heels with, marries, and lives forever after in heterosexual marital bliss.  Publishers such as Fawcett Gold Medal, Beacon, and Nightstand often required this so the Postal Inspector would not prosecute for mailing obscene material in the U.S. Mails — if the lesbian character meets a horrible end or goes insane over her unnatural lust, or repents from sin and finds true love in the arms of man, then the books were deemed to have social value as morality and cautionary tales; if the books ended on a positive note with women loving women, that, in the 1950s-60s, was considered perverted and sick.  Homosexuality was still considered a mental disease that could be cured with medicine, psychology, or religion…

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Pagan Summer by Dallas Mayo (Gil Fox), Midwood, 1965

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

pagan summerPSThere were two editions of this novel, each with a great Paul Rader cover to drool over.

Muriel is a lesbian nurse.  She thinks she has her perverted lesbian desires beat with the beatnik painter, Chan Crieghton. Until she becomes the private nurse of a beautiful young widow, Erin.

Erin became a widow the same day she married Barry, worth millions.  It was a car accident. In the hospital she makes a connection with Nurse Muriel and offers to hire her full-time, privately.  Mostly the two lounge on the beach in North Carolina, drinking beer…and soon having sex.

Then Chan shows up and Erin has a yen for the artist, complicating things in a bi-sexual way…

Sound good?  Boring, boring as all hell.  Gil Fox wrote under three pen names for Midwood: Paul V. Russo, Kimberly Kemp, and Dallas Mayo.  The Kemp titles were generally lesbian, and are collectible, while the Mayo books seem to be bi-sexual and tawdry.

In an interview with Lynn Munroe, Fox rags on Orrie Hitt, saying Hitt wrote unreadable “drivel.”  Obviously jealousy and the green monster, because it is Fox’s work I have found to be unreadable, whatever name intimate nursehe uses. His sentences are awful, his dialogue flat, his characters two dimensional. I tried to read Intimate Nurse, which I have posted the full text here: you can see how bad Fox’s writing is. The Groovy Age of Horror, however, seemed to dig it.

The only thing going for this yawner is the Rader art for both editions, to collect for art alone.  Those seeking a cool (or hot) lesbian nurse read won’t find it here.

I have a few other Mayos and Kemps here, and a coule of Russos I got in ebay lots…I’ll give them a try down the line (next year) but I don’t have any high hopes for a good read.

Fox tells Munroe he wrote books for Olympia, Grove, Masquerade and Blue Moon…I have no idea who he “was” at Blue Moon but it makes me shudder that we shared the same publisher. 😉

Kidding, of course.

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.