Archive for Gold Medal

I’m Cannon — For Hire by Curt Cannon aka Evan Hunter/Ed McBain (Gold Medal, 1958)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Before Block’s Matthew Scudder, there was Curt Cannon, a private eye with a severe drinking problem.  His name later changed to … with the Ed McBain byline, published The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter of Blackboard Jungle fame) by Hard Case Crime — Cannon’s  name changed to Matt Cordel. Seems Hunter was reluctant to have this old book reprinted, similar to Lawrence Block was with Grifter’s Game, but, like Block’s, critical and fan reception was positive. This is tough Manhunt-style, two-fisted hardboiled noir.

In fact, Cannon appeared in the first issue of Manhunt; there were four other stories, later collected in I Like ‘Em Tough.

In this nifty little hardboiled novel, Cordell lives on the streets in the Bowery, drinking his pain away until he passes out.  An old friend, Johnny Bridges, tracks him down, needing Cordell’s help in the detective realm. Cordell has no interest, and reminds his buddy that his license was yanked after an unfortunate incident that occurred when he found his wife cheating on him.

Johnny talks Cordell into it anyway — seems simple: Johnny operates a tailor shop and he believes his partner is reaching into the till. Cordell goes to the shop with Johnny and they find the partners dead body there.

The last thing Cordell wants or needs is to get involved in a homicide. But he is. Johnny is arrested for the murder and Cordell has to clear his buddy’s name and find the real killer. But first he must shave, shower, get a new suit, and look presentable. He doesn’t stop drinking, though.  And along the way there are women who throw their bodies at him, more dead bodies, and two-fisted moments in the noir fiction vein.

A fun read, whether you read the Gold Medal or Hard Case version.

Blackmailer by George Axelrod (Gold Medal, 1952)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on October 31, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

George Axelrod wrote The Seven Year Itch and adapted The Manchurian Candidate and Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the screen, and was often on TV talk shows in the 1950s.   Ed Gorman, on his blog, said he was the kind of writer many young writers aspired to be: hip and successful, because Axelrod also wrote a Gold Medal crime thriller, Blackmailer.

This is a nifty bug on the wall view of the publishing industry. The narrator, Dick, operates a mid-level two-man publishing house that mostly issues coffee table books and crossword puzzles, every now and then a novel that never gets noticed by the critics. This is why he is flabbergasted when a sexy dish of a 1950s dame comes to his office saying she has the last written manuscript for a novel by a famous author who committed suicide, and won the Novel Prize. She shows him the first page of the manuscript. Dick knows the author’s style of typing and writing notes, on yellow paper, because he once worked for this writer’s main publisher and had seen the manuscripts. He knows the writer’s handwriting — so this is either the real thing or a very good forgery.

The dame wants $50K for the rights. Why?  The book would go for a million at his regular publisher, and the public would buy hundreds of thousands of copies for this famous author’s unknown work.


The famous writer? Charles A., very Hemingway-esque wirh his five ex-wives, his bouts with alcohol, his love for fishing and big game in Africa, his various homes from key West to Paris, the Novel Prize, and the suicide…but wait!  This book was published in 1951 and it would be a decade before Hemingway would shoot himself — and Charles A. shoots himself “accidentally” while cleaning a rifle, but that’s a nice way to say suicide, and it’s what was said about Hemingway in 1961.  Eerie how Axelrod predicted this a decade early…

Dick says he will have to talk t6his over with his business partner and the dame says she needs an answer before close of business at 5 pm.

Then a letter from some power agent who handles top writers and actors in Nerw York arrives, offering the rights to the same manuscript! What the hell?  The dame shows up at his apartment, and she’s being chased by two thugs iun suits who beat him up and toss his apartment around, make him and the dame get naked and doing the full body cavity search…for wnat?

Then, at a party for this eccentric tycoon, the dame is murdered…and then his ex-girlfriend comes into the picture, a once struggling actress with a similar background as Marilyn Monroe and now a famous star…she and the tycoon and the power agent seem to have their hands in this last novel scheme, which turns out to be a hoax cultivated by a young author who used Charles A’s notes for the book and three unpublished stories, and a good mimicking of a certain style; the tycoon has already sold the film and serial rights and some foreign stuff, and instead of dealing with the usual publisher, he wants to use Dick’s small company as a front, giving them 10 percent, whereas the tycoon will cash in the bigger profit…

But more people want a piece of this action, and more people are killed, and maybe the famous author was also murdered by the people he swindled $150,000 into believing they were investing a novel that did not exist on paper, but as a dream in the old alcoholic writer’s delusional mind.

Like a Raymond Chandler yarn, there’s plenty of snappy dialogue and a series of odd events loosely strung together, leaving you confused at times about what the hell is going on and who is doing what…but it’s a damn fine and funny and fast read.

Hard Case Crime reprinted it in 2006.

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.

Whip Hand by W. Franklin Sanders (Gold Medal, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on May 7, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

For your reading pleasure, the full text…


Bill Brown

MY reinitiation was off to a thundering start. It was my first day back in Traffic after three good years in the Auto Theft Bureau, and the day was not a pleasant one for me. Not pleasant in the smallest detail. My determination to make the best of my comedown and see it through was already running into serious trouble. Shame and disgust were banging brutal, body blows against my determination, and my hot temper was a rotten referee in the clinches.

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Wild by Gil Brewer (Gold Medal, 1958)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Private eye Lee Baron has come from California to take over his dead father’s P.I. biz in Florida.  His first client is an old high school flame, Ivor Hendrix (Ivy?), who has had a spat with her trailer park husband and is afraid he’ll beat or kill her; she wants Lee to go talk to him and make sure all is okay.

It’s difficult for Lee, to see his old flame again, to remember all that youthful lust and fumblings…she’s older, but sexier, a woman he still has some feeings for.

He goes to the trailer out there in the Florida backwoods, and finds the husband: dead, and not a pretty decaying body.

He muses: “A corpse looks strange with no arms.” (p. 14).

Brewer jumps right into the action, wasting little time with character set-up. Dead bodies, big fat philosophizing thugs, wayward young women, love sick salesmen, a hound dog, cliched cops, backwoods hicks, shady guys in backroom bars, another dead body, $400K from a bank heist, this book has all the hackneyed elements from any PI novel.  But in 1958, they were not so hackneyed — other writers have since borrowed, pilfered, and appropriated so that the elements are now cliche.

It’s a bit predictable.  Brewer was not cut out for the gumshoe genre — with The Venegul Virgin and The Three-Way Spilt, he was best suited to crime, caper, and double-cross. There’s a double-cross here, of course, but you see it coming.

A fun read, though; but on the  1-10 scale, I’d give it a 7.

Mona by Lawrence Block (Gold Medal, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Block - Mona2An early Block with quite a history. It’s been reprinted twice since its Gold Medal debut in 1961 — as Sweet Slow Death in 1986 from Jove, Mona in 1994 from Carroll & Graf,  and as Grifter’s Game as the the first offering from Hard Case Crime in 2005.  A lot of mileage for an old title that has now become somewhat a classic in 60s noir.

block-791579I read somewhere that Block had started this one as a Nightstand title, and $20 Lust as something for Gold Medal or Beacon, but things got switched around, and when his agent Henry Morrison at Scott Meredith read the manuscript, he concluded it was good enough for Gold Medal and under Block’s own name.  Thus, Mona became the first paperback Block had his name on the cover, instead of Lesley Evans, Sheldon Lord, or Andrew Shaw.

There’s a Mona, a dead ex-wife, in $20 Lust (aka Cinderella Sims), talked about earlier, and a number of Monas show up in Block’s Andrew Shaw books.  She’s like Harry Whittington’s Cora, popping up often in different, same soul.

Block’s many Monas are just no good…tramps, cheats, and liars all…

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Warped Ambitions by Ennis Willie (Merit Books, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, Orrie Hitt, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

willie - WarpedAmbitionsLrg72

Several recommendations for Ennis Willie came in the past month or so…these used books are all pricey but managed to find a few on eBay in lots from people who didn’t know what they had (I got this one plus four other Merit Books for $9).

Merit Books evolved from Novel Books, both in Chicago, both boasting to publish shocking in your face novels “for men.”   On the cover spine reads: MERIT BOOKS – UNCESORED OFFBEAT NOVELS FOR SOPHISTICATED ADULTS.  Both were published by Camerarts, owned by Joe Sorrentino.

Orrie Hitt and George H. Smith were Novel regulars, but did not publish with Merit — some suggest that authors did not like their books re-issued with unauthorized new titles.

willie - vice townEnnis Willie published most of his books with Merit, and one with Sanford Aday’s Vega Books, Vice Town. Willie had a series character, Sand, who is the “hero” of Warped Ambitions (“A Sand Shocker”).

I didn’t need to read the previous Sand novels to get the gist of what was going on — Sand is a former syndicate knockaround guy who left the mob for moral reasons and is now on their hit list, but every time they send assassins, things get bungled.  I felt, half-way through, having read the first few Sand books would have been good, to get a better “feel” for Sand — he’s basically two-dimensional, your run of the mill killer with his own moral code not unlike Andrew Vachss’ Burke.

Warped Ambitions opens with a botched hit on Sand on the street; a passerby gets the bullet, an old man who, dying, makes Sand promise to “find Sarda.”  He later learns that Sarda is his daughter and they are carny people…and later he finds out Sarda is The Monkey Girl — she has a disorder where thick hair grows all over her body.

With “a blood oath” on his conscience, he sets out to find the Monkey Girl — was she kidnapped or did she run away, now that she has turned 18?  Sand uncovers info that Sarda was actually the daughter of an old time mythical mob boss who gave her up for adoption because of her condition, and has left her $250,000 for her 18th b-day.

There are stereotypical thugs and hitmen, the stereotypical overweight detective who is pissed that Sand is always leaving bodies around, and the usual gorgeous blonde rich woman who has a thing for apes and simian rights.

Despite the stereotypes, Willie is a remarkable writer — he is spare, minimalistic, violent and witty.  This book clocks in at 125 pages in large type and wide margins, probably 25-30K words long, far too short for commercial publishers like Gold Medal or Pyramid, where one mght expect gangster noir titles would come from.

Thee are some annoying issues with logic and continuity, however — if Sand is being hunted down by the mob, why do they have trouble killing him when he’s always out in the open, walking the streets, lives in a hotel room that everyone knows he is at?  In one chapter he takes taxi cabs, in another he has a car — why?  And the detective and cops just let him roam about with his gun, playing tit for tat…well, this is fiction.

In fact, the world Sand lives in is an alternate universe, much like Sin City — Sin City types of fiction ans film and many other dark crime works, even Andrew Vachss and Joe Lansdale, follow in Ennis Willie’s shabby footsteps.

I’m not sold on Willie yet.  I need to read more, especially non-Sand books. There is much to admire but there are some major flaws in the story-telling — but did that matter for a “sleaze” adult book?  This is not erotica or softcore, this is crime noir in the Manhunt vein with sleazy and dirty situations (a woman stripping in a private party to pay off her gambling debts), kinky encounters (a naked whore waits in Sand’s room as a gift to him, and she is surprised he does not take her as his slave), and warped ambitions (the rich woman wishes to have her favorite gorilla mate with the Monkey Girl and create a new species, which would be genetically impossible, but she does not care for facts).

EnnisWilliePhoto72Willie wrote 19-20 books it seems, and then stopped, taking up the fine profession of printing, or so I have read.  He apparently is still alive and kickin’ and there seems to be a call to put his work back in print. His books tend to be scarce and pricey to find.

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willie - Haven_DamnedLrg72

willie - scarlet goddess

Willie - Sensual Game

Willie - Luscious

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Now, as for Merit Books — in this lot I got are some curious gems that I will talk about later, from writers Jerry Goff, Jr., Herb Mongomery, and Bill Lauren…I love finding these obscure writers who are obviously pretty damn good, lost in Amercan pulp literature’s margins…

Goff - Wanton Wench

Goff - Rocco's babe AGoff - Strange LoversNovel Books - Torrid Wenches