Archive for Harry Whittington

Harry Whittington’s “Cora is a Nympho…” (Novel Books, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on February 12, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Prolific authors often have a re-occurring character name, along with a theme — for Orrie Hitt, it’s “Lucy” and for Harry Whittington, it’s “Cora.” Many Coras and Noras appear in Whittington’s work, under his name and others.

Whittington published this one under his name, as Cora is a Nympho…, and looking at the back cover copy (above), one wonders if the mob-tied boys at Camerarts knew who Whittington was. “We now take pride in presenting a  young unpublished author — Harry Whittington.”

In 1963, Whittington was 48 years old, not exactly a “young” writer, and had dozens and dozens of books under his belt, a run in the 1950s as a top suspense crime writer with Gold Medal and Ace, work in Hollywood films, riding the constant whirlwind of paperback and genre trends.  He penned westerns, nurse romances, tie-ins and mysteries.  Either the Camerarts guys did not know who Whittington was, or decided to market him as a new writer to an audience who wasn’t aware of his work — in the newsstands sleaze market, Whittngton had only written a few books, for the short-lived Bedtime and for Beacon and Newstand Library under pen names.

The original title of this book was To Find Cora.  Both Fawcett Gold Medal and Newstand Library rejected it — a bad blow for such a professional writer.  So said writer sells it to a secondary market, Novel Books, a Chicag0-based publisher of girlie magazines and men’s fiction with some questionable business ties.  He rewrote the story for William Hamling as a 1966 Sundown Reader by J.X. Williams, Flesh Snare. In 2009, Stark House reprinted it as To Find Cora in a three-book omnibus.

The 40,000 word novel is narrated by Joe Byars, an everyday-man whose wife, Cora, has disappeared on him.  Did she leave with another man?  Possibly, because she was not faithful.  Did she leave because she was bored in the marriage?  Possibly.  Did she meet foul play? Who knows.

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Web of Murder – Harry Whittington (Gold Medal #740, 1958)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on February 5, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

One of Harry Whittington’s better known novels and Gold Medal titles (reprinted by Black Lizard in 1993), “web” is fitting in the title as attorney Charley Brower digs himself into one giant whole of a mess as he attempts to plot the perfect murder of his wife, Cora.

See, Charley is in love with his secretary, Laura.  He knew he should have fired the sexy, leggy and busty Laura before something bad happened, or good, and it does — he takes the girl to bed and the two fall in love but they cannot be together because of his wife.

He has been wanting a divorce from Cora for years but she won’t grant him one.  She doesn’t mind if he cheats on her, she won’t give him up.  She has plenty of money, inherited from a father who put Charley though law school, but she does not let him have any of it — he has to fend for himself by defending criminals.  And now he is about to become a criminal himself.

A murderer who, it seems, is up for consideration by the Governor of Florida to become a Circuit Court Judge.

The writing is extra-terse, noir-ish and hardboiled, and Whittington packs into one chapter three normal chapters of action and information. It moves with the same speed as You’ll Die Next! and notably different from his Cornith titles.

We just know a monkey wrench or two is going to be tossed into his well-plotted plan, this wouldn’t be a crime novel unless that were so.  The first thing we wonder is: does Laura really love him, or is she playing him and her own game?

Brower in many ways is a sociopath, the cool, calm way he devises his plan and then murders Cora — here he is, a lawyer, up for a judge’s appointment, a pillar of the community, when deep down he’s a stone-cold homicidal whack job.

But after he suffocates Cora dumps her body in Indiana, Laura’s beaten dead body shows up in Florida and the cops at first think she is Cora…

What a mess…

What a web!

Would it be a spoiler to state that he does pull off the perfect murder? That he gets off scrott-free from Cora’s homicide…but at what price?  The price he pays for “freedom” seems to him that the elctric chair would’ve been a better option.

A good introduction to Harry Whittington’s genius storytelling if you’ve never read him before…

The Black Lizard edition, along with others that publisher reprinted, includes an essay from Whittington, “I Remember It Well,” chronicling his career as a pulp meister hacker — from his early days with Gold Medal and that success, to Hollywood, to his fall writing a book a month for William Hamling for much needed cash.  His career was certainly quite up and down, and today he is hailed as the King of Paperbacks from 1950-1965.

Soon on this blog I will be reading more Whittington but focusing on his Cornith/Greenleaf sleaze novels as John Dexter, J.X. Williams and Curt Coleman, one from Novel Books, one from Bedtime, a couple from Beacon under pen names…

The Many Faces of John Dexter #4: Sharing Sharon by Harry Whittington (Idle Hour Books #402, 1965)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A great sadistic-in-nature cover for this Harry Whittington-penned John Dexter,  one of the “The Missing 38” Whittngton penned for Cornith/Greenleaf from 1964-67.

Lynn Munore describes this one as

James M. Cain country: Sharon seduces her young lover Steve into murdering Pete, her older, well-to-do husband. Steve does not need much convincing. Cain told this same story in masterpieces like THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and DOUBLE INDEMNITY. SHARING SHARON is not a masterpiece. Not knowing just how to classify this genre, bookstores usually group Cain with the murder mysteries. But there is no mystery who killed the husband. We are in on it from the start and ride it out right to the end of the line.

Steve is a punk, arrested for robbing Pete’s grocery store by a tough cop named Frank Lock. Pete is a kind-hearted guy, who arranges a job at his store for Steve on probation. That’s where Steve meets Sharon. Sharon is all screwed up because she was molested as a young girl by kindly old Uncle Wilbur…

Indeed, the incest history Sharon has are pretty explicit for a book of this era;  by 1965 things were less stringent. “Molest” isn’t the correct term — for all the innocence feigned, we gradually learn that Sharon is a calculating, manipulative dame fatale; she makes men feel as if they are controlling her, when in fact she’s the puppet-master, using her sexuality to hoodwink them…

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The Many Faces of John Dexter #3: The Abortionists by Harry Whittington (Nightstand #1790, 1966)

Posted in Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Dexter - The Abortionists

One of the “missing 38” of Harry Whittingon’s ouvere, as he produced a book a month for William Hamling and Earl Kemp between 1964-1967, 38 in all (only 36 have been “found,” however).  The books were published under the John Dexter and J.X. Williams house names, and then as Curt Colman, an exclusive pen name for Whittington.

For a while in 1966, Nightstand was issuing books without cover art and with a strange eye-straining design as seen above. Lynn Munroe speculates that a court case may have been going on, like when Hamling briefly spelled the house names differently (John Baxter, Andrew Schole, Dan Eliot, Alan Marsh).  Most likely this is the case, but we might also consider the topic of this novel, which was a political and social suicide bomb in the mid-60s, with heated curltural and legal debate and religious debate on abortion, murder, a woman’s right to choose, women dying in back room abortions, health care, and so on.

Apparently this novel is expanded from a story Whittington published in a romance pulp.  It may have also been an unfinished or unsold nurse novel he had (he wrote a number of them under a female pen name), since the obligatory sex scenes seem to be “dropped in” — the first is a masturbation scene, the next a double rape.

This is a combination southern gothic and nurse tale. Munroe tells the synopsis better than I on his website:

Virginal nurse Mary Hood fights off all the advances from the lecherous doctors at home and takes a job offered by her Uncle in the Deep South. She travels to Mayesville, a town run for years by the Mayes and Conline families, called there by her handsome Uncle, Dr. Mayes Conline. His hospital is located on the grounds of his decaying Southern mansion, complete with insane relatives locked in upstairs rooms and strange goings on throughout the dark nights. On page 100, there is a shocking surprise: Dr. Conline is performing abortions late at night at his hospital. That is, it was designed to be a shock, but the editors put a new title on Whittington’s manuscript, one that gives everything away.

Mary has fallen in love with the brooding and mysterious Dr. Mayes Conline, and the plot twists and thickens from there. Whittington’s challenge was to describe sexual activity without using any naughty words. I think he fares well here when he refers to Mary “taking her pleasure from the obelisk of his strength .”

Dr. Mayes Conline is also her uncle — not by blood, the second hubby of her Aunt Rose, a man 10 years younger, and a seemingly successful good ol’ southern physician.  From the start, Mary is attracted to him, and Conline is drawn to her, and he says, “I must keep in mind that you are my niece.”

A gothic is not a gothic without some incest brewing in the backwoods, after all.  But 19 year old Mary, a nurse, has left the big city in favor of the woods because she loathes the world that orbits sex, a world where men see her as nothing but vagina to conquer.  In one flashback scene, on graduation day for the nurses, a drnk intern, Cal, rapes her.  She had looked up to Cal, even favored romance and marriage, but he forces himself on her — when she runs off, clothes torn, legs and boobs sticking out, and tells one of the doctors what happened to her, the doctor is turned on by it all and rapes her too.  Two rapes back and back — the invitation to be a nurse at her uncle’s southern bacwoods hospital sounds like a good way to get away from the evils of the world.

Hardly…soon she finds out why her uncle works late hours and sleeps till noon.  At night, he performs illegal abortions, where he makes more money than taking care of the elderly and sickly.  Women who have complications and die from the procedure are tossed into a river or left in the woods (back then, some abortionists would have dead patients cremated, to get rid of the evidence).

The novel moves into the moral and medically ethical questioning of abortion, a quagmire for Mary since she has the hots for her uncle.  Whe her aunt dies, the path is clear for romance, but can she love a man who is a murderer of children?

There is also the evil head nurse who gets in the way and hates Mary’s coming into the picture and stomping on her territory — where can all this lead but the fires of hell, physically?  No gothic can have a happy ending, like your usual nurse novel…

Not the best Whittington in my opinion, but not the worst (I prefer crime noir and hardboiled Whittington).

I feel like getting on a nurse novel kick here — next up: Nurse Carolyn by Loren Beauchamp (Midwood, 1960)  and Man’s Nurse by Orrie Hitt (Chariot, 1963).

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

Harry Whittington’s Softcores

Posted in crime noir, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Whittington - Dexter - Passion Burned

The great thing with the Greenleaf/Cornith books, is you never know what you might get, especially with house pen names, since you don’t know who wrote it, and the covers and blurbs often do not match the story…there will be sex, sure, but you may get a detective noir, a murer mystery, a mob story, a romance…Lynn Munroe talks about Harry Whitting’s 38 softcores here.  This is what he says about the above, Passion Burned, which is

…about loneliness. Lots of other things happen, including the shooting pictured on the cover, but at its core it is a tale of two lonely, heartsick people. Don’s wife has died in childbirth, and he drifts from town to town trying to fill up that huge emptiness in his heart. He meets Ginny, who reminds him of his late wife. Ginny’s husband Paul is one of the first men drafted in the Vietnam War (“a war nobody wanted” is how Whittington describes it here.) He is gone after only three blissful months of marriage, leaving Ginny alone and despondent, aching to be held. Don wants to hold her. We learn from David Wilson that this story was also sold to DARING ROMANCES, and PASSION BURNED is a romance, spiced up a just a little and passed off as a sleazy paperback. Don may be screwed up emotionally, but all the women in the book want him. The way he is described we imagine he has a manly voice as deep as Cal Meacham in THIS ISLAND EARTH…

Whittington - Taste of Desire

Or Taste of Desire:

Using the same logic that states that a great writer churning out a novel a month for three years is bound to write some clunkers, it follows that he should write some great books too. Several of the hardboiled stories on this list approach that designation, but THE TASTE OF DESIRE is a surprise because it is not a mystery, not a hardboiled murder yarn. But it is a fine story. On our previous catalog, writing about a book called FIRES OF YOUTH, I proposed a theory that certain “sleazy” paperback originals, if reprinted by a prestige publisher with a different title, would be hailed as great literature and win awards. THE TASTE OF DESIRE is one of those paperbacks. Involving and professionally written, this is a story about a country high school boy named Calder Fenton and his beloved hound dog Fanny. Calder’s Dad is a no-account drunk. Calder falls for the rich landowner’s daughter Lu Ann, who spends winters in Cottonseed County. Whittington never names the state this takes place in, but the nearest big city is Jacksonville.

Whittington - Dexter Blood orgy

And this:

guy drops his girlfriend off for some shopping at a department store. He waits in the car. She never comes back out. Cornell Woolrich wrote stories like this called “All at Once, No Alice” and “You’ll Never See Me Again.” Harry Whittington wrote one too, but this is like Woolrich on crank. Harry wrote the tense mystery story called “The Crooked Window”, published by SHELL SCOTT MYSTERY MAGAZINE in 1965. That same year – apparently no one noticed this in 1965, and never noticed it until now – he expanded it as a fast-paced John Dexter Nightstand. The editors there retitled it BLOOD LUST ORGY, a very intriguing title until you read the book and notice there are no lust orgies and very little blood. But there is a gripping story, well told by a fine writer, and to tell you all the surprises and twists would only spoil your fun.

Anything Goes by Robert Carney (Newsstand Library, 1961) and Lust Farm by J.X. Williams (Harry Whittington) (Ember Books, 1964)

Posted in Nightstand Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Anything GoesI got this one because Feral House used the Robert Bonfils art for the cover of Sin-A-Rama, so I was curious about the book — as in, was the story as good as the “water baby” theme art (that Bonfils also uses for Don Elliott’s Lust Queen, soon on my reading list).

Elliott - Lust Queensinarama

Boy was I pleasantly surprised.  This is a great little novel, a lost gem in the blackhole of sleaze paperback publishing….take out sleaze, I would not call this novel “sleaze” per se…it is a hardboiled tale of a guy who has gotten himself into a few tangles in Los Angeles and is trying to wiggle out.

I have no idea who Robert Carney is — Sin-A-Rama calls him “Robert H. Carney” who used a pen name, Herbert Roberts, from what I can tell one novel, Mardi (on my list). The only other Robert H. Carney books I can find is a non-fiction title about the Atlanta Times.  There is a Robert H. Carney in Atlanta on Facebook who seems the right age to have written this 1961 novel…maybe it is him and this is not a another pen name who Whomever.

Carney is influenced by Nathaniel West, but there’s also some James Cain and Jim Thompson tossed in there.  The prose is lean, mean, and to the point.

Joey Allen is a used car salesman whose former partner destroyed their business by gambling, then killing himself.  Joey wants to be rich.  He is sleeping with three women and trying to keep them from each other — a former fiance he has dumped, a new fiance whose father owns used car lots all over California, and the bosses new, young, hot wife, who hates her fat rich husband and his spoiled daughter, and has a plan for getting Joey to committ murder, promising him the car business, money, and her sleek slender body.

Like any good hardboiled Los Angeles story, there’s plenty of drinking, sex, violence, colorful characters, Malibu, and Hollywood smog.

Finding these great lost novels is fun — it’s also depressing to think they are lost, and a book like this was not re-discovered by, say, Black Lizard, the way Harry Whittington’s noirs were.

Williams - Lust Farm

Harry Whittington was a pulp writer who penned in many genres, but is best known for hardboiled crime and nurse romances (I will talk about his The Young Nurses at some point, as well as more of his Greenleafs).  Lynn Munroe recently put together a catalogue and narraitive of his search for Whittington’s softcore:

In 1986, the prolific “king of the paperbacks” Harry Whittington (1915-1989) wrote an essay about his writing career entitled “I Remember It Well” for Black Lizard Books. Black Lizard used it as an introduction to the 1987-88 reprints of six classic hardboiled crime stories, originally published by Gold Medal and others. In that piece, Whittington revealed this:

“ I signed, in 1964, to do a 60,000-word novel a month for a publisher under his house names. I was paid $1000. On the first of each month. I wrote one of these novels a month for 39 months.”

These 39 unknown books became “the missing 39” for Whittington collectors.

These “missing” books were published under house names J.X. Williams and the ever-prolific John Dexter, and Curt Colman later on, ranging from crime, romance, office, and hardboiled themes.  Lynn Munroe notes:

John Dexter and J.X. Williams are well-known house names used by many different authors, but Curt Colman is a more obscure name. No one I’ve talked to, including Colman’s editor Earl Kemp, knew who Curt Colman was. Only eleven of this publisher’s books are credited to Curt Colman, and seven of those were in the box in Whittington’s house. It was a safe bet to look at the remaining four Curt Colman titles, and all four of them proved to be written by Harry Whittington.

Kemp did not know who Colman was since the manuscripts were coming from the Scott Meredith Agency, true identitfies hidden. Plus it seems Whittington’s wife did not approve of these books by her prolific husband, and Whittington kept them secret until after his passing.

The first was Lust Farm, as J.X. Williams, with (again) a Robert Bonfils cover; it is another James Cain/Jim Thompson infuenced story set in the Detroit farmlands.  Cora has escaped her brutal criminal thug boyfriend from Chicago, but he finds her in a small town working as a waitress.  She “accidentally” kills him and goes on the run.  In another town, as a waitress, dodging men, she meets a 50-year-old farmer, Aaron, and marries him.  She’s 22.  She figures she can lead a safe, quiet life as a farmer’s wife.

Here is Lynn Munroe’s review:

We tend to think of “backwoods” stories taking place in some hillbilly hollow or in the deep South, but LUST FARM takes place in Michigan. Not in any city, but out in a rural setting near a little town called Cold River, down the highway from Lansing. There is no such town in Michigan, but there is a real town on that highway called Coldwater, and LUST FARM is certainly set there. Small town waitress Cora Barnes has a secret. She has fled her previous life, killing the Jack Daniels-guzzling sadist Tony and stealing a package of his money. A kind farmer named Aaron Barr marries her and takes her out to the country to live on his farm. When his college-age foster son Caleb comes home from University up the highway at East Lansing, it’s lust at first sight for Cora and Caleb. Then someone disappears and the local sheriff comes out to the farm and starts asking questions. With names like Aaron and Caleb, LUST FARM reminds us of an Old Testament tale like EAST OF EDEN.

The three on the farm are reminiscent of the trio in Jim Thompson’s CROPPER’S CABIN. Even though it is set in Michigan, the farmers behave more like sharecroppers in Whittington’s DESIRE IN THE DUST than like Yankees. This is Whittington country, not Steinbeck’s or Thompson’s.

I will be reading more books by Whittington…