Archive for Harlan Ellison

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…

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copies from Pryamid Books and found one called Rumble with bis name on it…Lion had gone ot of bisiness and had sold its unpublished inventory of manuscripts to Pryamid.)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.

Sex Gang to Pulling a Train — Harlan Ellison Becomes Paul Merchant Once Again

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on July 11, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Word has it that Harlan Ellison has agreed to reprint his Paul Merchant Nightstand Sex Gang with a new title, Pulling a Train, containing new stories. The publisher is the new Kicks Books, from underground music zine Kicks Magazine, also a vintage record label, Norton Records, that reissues and produces new groovy, 50s-style retro bachelor pad garage tunes and co-run by vintage-collector, ex-Cramps drummer, Miriam Linna.

Kicks is also publishing a collection of “science fiction” poetry by Sun Ra. How cool is that? The line has a vintage look based on Signet and Avon books of the salad days.

This is a curious and surprising re-issue on many levels…Ellison has said he would never republish it, had in the past denied it…maybe the upswing in vintage reprints by many old pals from the heydays changed his mind…one would surmise he would have gone with Subterranean or Stark House or even Hard Case rather than a new venture, or maybe a new venture is the way to go.

Either way, we are looking forward to this one.

Memos from Purgatory by Harlan Ellison (Regency Books, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on March 23, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks


 

 

 

 

While William Hamling’s Greenleaf Publishing was putting out Imagination SF, Rouge Magazine, and Nightstand Books, there was also the Regency imprint, a second-tier paperback line that published crime, literary, and non-fiction books acquired by Harlan Ellison, who was also editing Rogue and Nightstand. Ellison published, with Regency, the first editions of Gentleman Junkie and Memos from Purgatory.

Playing sociologist or journalist, or even ethnographer,  Ellison decided to join an actual Brooklyn street gang and write about that life rather than rely on news items and imagination as other juvie gang writers did.  he joined the barons for ten weeks, resulting in the novel Web of the City (aka Rumble), the collections The Deadly Streets and The Juvies, and one half of Memos from Purgatory, which also became an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Hour, starring James Caan as Ellison, sort of, and Walter Koenig as the gang prez.

George Edgar Sluser, in Unrepntant Harelquin: Harlan Ellison, a Borgo monograph from the 70s, contends this book is one of Ellison’s weakest, when still figuring out his non-fiction voice, though does note its sociological merits.  Mainly, it is even because the two parts do not exactly make this a whole book but a book of two long essays.

The second part is an extended essay from The Village Voice about Ellison’s arrest and time in The Tombs, New York City’s jail,  for being in possession of items from his gang research: a .22 zip gun and brass knuckles, etc. It is not only a scathing critique of the law, the cops, and the system, but works as an examination of cause and effect: how past research has continued negative effects.

The most interesting aspect, in terms of the this blog, is its original publication by William Hamling as the two were also putting out the Nightstand books.

There are have been several reprinting of Memos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1952)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on September 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The recent film adaptation of Jim Thompson’s classic, and (aside from The Grifters) probably his most well-known, very reprinted novel, had us going back to read this work of psychological crime that was way ahead of its time.

Do we need to talk about the plot here? Certainly many of you who read this blog know the premise — first-person narrative of a sociopath and murderer, West Texas deputy sheriff Lou Ford, age 29, who keeps murdering to cover up his initial crime, setting up an old friend with what appears to be a murder-suicide between the friend and his hooker girlfriend.

There was a 1970s film adapt with Stacy Keach, a medicore actor who portrayed Mike Hammer and Ernest Hemingway on television.  The new 2010 adapt, starring Casey Afleck as Ford, is far more true to the novel, and examines Lou’s obsession with spanking and S/M in grander detail.  The spanking scene with Jessica Alba alone is worth the price of admission, and shows that Alba, along with her recent role in Machete, is moving away from that goody-two-shoes image that hindered her career (most likely cooked up by her agents and managers).

When Thompson died in 1977, in San Diego, California, working his final years as a time card manager at Lockheed-Martin, all his books out of print and forgotten, he told his children that one day his books would be rediscovered and they would provide revenue for the family.  He was right: a Thompson resurgence happened in France in the 1980s, in the U.S. in the 1990s, helped along by the movie version of The Grifters (penned by Donald E. Westlake, in fact)

Lion Books was a short-lived paperback house that vanished as quickly as it appeared. Interestingly, Lion bought Harlan Ellison’s first novel, Web of the City, and went under before publishing it, selling the manuscript to Pyramid Books, publishing it as Rumble. (Also of interest: Ellison originally acquired and edited The Grifters in the 1950s for Regency Books, an imprint of William Hamling’s, along with Rogue Magazine and Nightstand Books.)


Rumble/Web of the City – Harlan Ellison (Pryamid Books, 1958)

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Rumble is Harlan Ellison‘s first novel. It wasn’t SF or sleaze, but a related genre: juvenile criminals and gangs.

Ellison has a great story about this book. First, he had actually joined a Brooklyn street gang to, like a reporter or ethnographer, write realistically about such lives.  His long essay, Memos from Purgatory, about it, was also an Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode, with a young Paul Newman playing Ellison, “Larry Bledsoe,” a writer from the Midwest who joins a gang to write a book.  Stories in Ellison’s collections The Juvies (later Children of the Streets) and Gentleman Junkie were derived from his experiences — and Rumble, too.

And there is also the collection Sex Gang, the third title from Nightstand, written as Paul Merchant; it is one o the most collectible and pricey vintage paperbacks around.

The manuscript title for Rumble was Web of the City. He sold it to Lion Books for $1000 before he was drafted into the army.  While in service, Ellison manages to convince the base camp newspaper to let him have a book review column.  One day he opens a box of review copies from Pyramid Books and finds a book called Rumble with his name on it!  He was floored.  Seems Lion Books went out of business and sold their inventory of bought manuscripts to Pyramid and he never knew, never saw galleys, never agreed to a title change.

There it was, his great American first novel., “that was to change the course o Western Civilization,” as Ellison has said, done as a cheap sleazy paperback  (would Lion have done any different?)

Rumble went through two editions and was later reprinted, by both Pyramid and Ace, as Web of the City.

Some have mistaken “Hal Ellson” to be one of Ellison’s 50s pen names, as Ellson wrote quite a bit about juvies, such as Tomboy, Duke, and I Take What I Want, among others, but Ellson was publishing, in 1951, when Ellison was still an unpublished teen.

Rumble is most certainly not Ellison’s best work, it’s a first novel by a young guy still honing his craft.  It is recommended, however, for a number of reasons, and as a literary artifact of an era.