Archive for Joan Ellis

Let’s Play House – Joan Ellis (Midwood, 1967)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on April 30, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Vicky Taylor has just turned 18, is a senior in high school, and wants the hell out of her impoverished life, living with her “loose” mother and five siblings, another on the way, all fathered by different “uncles” who have come and gone over the years.  One “uncle” threw her on the bed at 13 and took her virginity by force, so now she does not trust men. In fact, she knows she can use her body and allure to get men to do her bidding.

So she has her gunsites aimed at Mr. Woodward, the middle-aged widower lawyer she babysits for.  She has noticed how he looks at her. One night she lets him knows she is available, for a price: for $200 she will sleep with him.  He takes her up on it, and also gives her his dead wife’s mink coat.

She uses the $200 to buy a bus ticket to New York City, to start a new life.  This is where the “let’s play house” Lolita aspect of the short novel ends — Vicky arrives in New York fresh and naive and gets involved with a group of 20-somethings into nude modeling and general hustling to survive.

The book is short — 118 pages, 30,000 words or so.  I have noticed Midwood put out a lot of very short books in 1966-7, manuscripts that were most likely originally purchased for double or triple books.

Let’s Play House is okay, the usual young sexual girl story that Ellis wrote quite a bit of.

Liza’s Apartment – Joan Ellis (Midwood #69, 1961)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on February 24, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Here we have a lack of communication between author’s text and the art department — the character in the book is named “Lisa” not “Liza.” Then again, Liza looks more sexy.

And this is one of Paul Rader’s more sexy covers — his art often dons the covers of Joan Ellis’ Midwoods and the combo is a good match.

Liza’s Apartment is one of those fresh-young-woman-from-the-Midwrest-looking-for-love-and-survival-in-Manhattan tales.  When she refuses to take any guff from the bombastic office boss at a job, she quits, and this causes the boss to take notice of a girl who dares to walk away from his business.  So he, a man named Guy, asks her out on a date. He wines her, dines her, beds her, and then offers her a different kind of job — as rental manager of a building with 60 overpriced apartments.

Lisa learns the ins and outs of landlords out to make a buck by cutting back on things, waiting until last minute for repairs, etc.  The building has a fast turnaround and only renting at 60% capacity; Lisa’s goal, and job, is to get it at 90% so client investors start seeing better ROI.

One night she finds a guy, Andy, in her apartment, the lover of the girl who lived there before…and eventually they also become lovers, as Lisa continues to occasionally date her rich boss and see another guy and fend off the advances of every married and single man in her orbit.  She’s a modern girl in the dating world…and then she winds up pregnant. Whose baby is it?  She gets guys to pay for the abortion…

Joan Ellis’ novels are never deep, but fun, with a romantic flair — you know, the young girl in the office romancing the Alpha-Male boss.

I’d give this one a B-plus and recommend for a breezy read.

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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Gay Scene by Joan Ellis (Midwood Books, 1962)

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, Midwood Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Gay Scene

Ah, another delighfully fun Joan Ellis sex story with another great Paul Rader cover.

The Gay Scene opens up almost like an Orrie Hitt novel: small town scholl teacher Elise is a bombshell who seems to like married men. She is having an affair with the husband of her childhood best friend. They are caught, and the husband commits suicide.  To escape pain and scandal, Elise leaves and heads for New York and a new life.

She also considers her deep secret yearnings for women. Maybe she’s a lesbian and was only sleeping around to deny her twilight desires?

On her way to New York City, she stops off at a small town motel to get some sleep, and winds up trying her hand as a bar girl to make a few extra bucks.  When  she gets raped, she decides she hates men for good.

In the Big Apple, she meets Carol, a bar model, who gets her a job in that biz.  Carol is bi-sexual and they have an affair — her husband waks in on them and freaks out that his wife is with a lesbian.  Here Elise is doing it again: breaking up marriages.

But Carol leaves her husband so she and Elise can model bras and live together.  Carol introduces her to “the gay scene” in Greenwich Village, and meets Jo, a lesbian she gets a crush on.  Carol is freaky and possessive, and Elise leaves her for Jo, and then leaves Jo for Lorna, the daughter of the old man who runs the brassiere company. Loran is 19 and has a temper problem — here we get a good look at lesbian domestic violence.  Afraid she may one day kill Elise, Lorna leaves New York.

In the end, Elise finds that reltaionships are complicated and painful with either sex.  She and her gay male buddy, Zeth, decide to get married and be each other’s beards.

Probably the best Joan Ellis I’ve read yet.

Reprinted as No Men Allowed.

Campus Queen by Ursula Grant (Midwood 33-682, 1966)

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

Rader - Campus Queen

As often is the case with me, I initially acquired a copy of Campus Queen because of the nifty Paul Rader art.

Campus Queen fits a double-bill for my wanting to read/review sleaze books that are lesbian or college-set for the next week or two — this one is set on campus at a city university that is an “Ivy League” and seems that it could be Yale or Brown.  And there’s lesbian action — bi-sexuality if you want to get technical.

Previously, I suggested that “Ursula Grant” was one of Julie/Joan Ellis’ pen names, like Linda Michaels and Randy Baker that are Midwood exclusive.  This was upon a quick look at the prose, and there seemed to be some Ellis-like sentences.

Now that I have read it, I know Grant is not Ellis. Have no idea who Grant is, pen name or not. Grant is not a man in drag, this I am almost certain; this reads with a touch of sensitivity that (and I could be wrong) has the female pen all over it.

Grant seems to have only written three stand-alone novels and a couple Midwood Doubles…in fact, I’m, guessing Campus Queen was meant to be a Double because it’s short — 138 pages and small trim size book, is about 35-40K words.[1] For some reason, Midwood made this a book of its own — and I have several 1966 [2] Midwoods that are short and small sized (e.g., March Hastings’ Barbie), so perhaps these were trying out new formats as publishers are liking to do. (The very early Midwoods were digest-sized like Nightstand and Newstand Library, then switched over to standard mm ppbk.)

Campus Queen is an elegantly-written co-ed/dorm/lesbian story that’s not all that original yet still a joy to read.  Nancy Malone is a 19-year-old undergrad wo is eager for experience and shares a dorm with Elizabeth, who has traveled the world and went to boarding school, where she learned, among other things, lesbian sex.

Both girls date guys, and talk about their experiences.  Elizabeth tells her how men from different countris are in bed — Greeks are rough, French are gentle, etc.  They share the same bed because it’s winter and cold, and their bodies are close, but it seems innocent.  One night, Nancy says she wonders what sex with another woman is like and Elizabeth says it’s great, she’s done it, do you want to try?  Nancy is shocked at first but she gives in to twilight sin:

Boldly, she rose to meet her roommate’s naked body\[…]Elizabeth began to move her hands and herRader Girl 2mouth danced over [Nancy’s] body [which] glistened with caresses, her breasts and her belly glowing with warmth […] Nancy discovered the primal rhythms and let her body pick its way to movement, let her hips slowly revolve, let her legs thrash until her heels dug into the mattress […] She was on a rollercoaster that was climbing to the dizzying heights of that first big hill […] She heard herself scream, fingernails digging into Elizabeth’s back and clinging for dear life. (51-52)

Had this little book been published in 1959-61, that third sex scene would have been less descriptive.  And a man does not write lesbian sex like that.

So begins their life as lovers, and like lovers in a cramped living situaion, they fight and bicker.  Elizabeth likes to have sex with many boys and Nancy doesn’t mind.  They don’t compete over men, until Nancy corsses path with

Timothy Forrest, visiting professor in literature, was [the university’s] catch for the year and one of the most celebrated poets in the country.  At the age of 21 he had published his first volume of poetry and became the center of a full-blown literary controversy.  The critics who thought he was prodigiously brilliant had fought vrbal duels in the literary quarterlies with the critics who found him precocious. And dull. (63)

Nancy meets him at the commons and he seems interested in her and she wonders why some famous poet, only 25, would like her.  She says she and her rommate wanted to take his class next semester but they cannot because they are nit juniors.  He says he can swing it to get them in and he does.

Elizabeth is jealous that the poet likes Nancy…she decides that she wants the poet and this angers Nancy.  There is arguing, hurt feelings, but in the end — as these books often end — Nancy winds up in bed with the poet/prof and “it was good. It had never been so good.” (138)

I look forward to reading Grant’s other Midwoods, especially Boss Lady

Grant - Boss Lady


1. For those interested, most Midwood novels were 50-60K words (200-240 manuscript pages, 158-184 book pages), and pay was $1000-1200, depending on who you were, your history with the company, how well your books did.  Midwood Doubles clocked in at 40K words (140-160 manscript pages, 120-130 book pages) and paid $900. Midwood Triples were 30K words (100-120 manuscript pages, 90-110 book pages) and paid $750.  Info courtesy of Barry N. Malzberg, who wrote some Midwoods as Mel Johnson.

2. It’s always curious to read a book published the same year one was born…puts things into perspective.

Campus Jungle by Joan Ellis (Midwood Books #182)

Posted in Midwood Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on August 26, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Campus Jungle A

Camous Jungle B

Both editions of this Joan Ellis novel are sought after by colletors because of the Paul Rader covers.  I prefer thsi first one, Midwood #182 (1962), that wild sexy kiss, than the two students on the second edition.

Entering a Joan Ellis universe is quite different than the world of Orrie Hitt, Don Elliott/Loren Beauchamp, March Hastings, or Block’s Andrew Shaw/Sheldon Lord…Ellis’ world is playful, never too dark, never too serious.  It takes me a chapter or two to get into her books and enjoy her writing — the dialogue rings true, but her pretentious adjectives and attributions drive me nuts sometimes, like: “‘That’s a compromising remark,’ she flipped unconvincingly.”  Why not just “she said”?

Campus Jungle is more absurd and un-realistic (well, is any sleaze erotic movel?!) than, say, her other college novel, Faculty Wife, reviewed here, which treated infidelity and academic politics seriously.  Ravenwood College, a small Eastern institution somewhat like William and Mary or Bennington, has been voted by a NY newspaper as the country’s Most Typical College. But there are also rumors of wild sexual abandon, not only among students but students and faculty.

Seeking her Big Break, scandal, and to make a name for herself, Annie Winters, a cub reporter, has talked the New York Comet, a daily paper like the Observer or Post, to send her undercover to the college and find out if the rumors are true.  She’s 24 but can pass off as a 19-year-old undergrad.

Less than an hour after arriving, accepting a ride from the train station to campus by a 30-year-old man, Mike Raden (who owns a bookstore near campus and is a writer working on a novel), she instantly has sex with him — she doesn’t know the guy, doesn’t know what’s gotten into her, but she accepts his advances and fucks him…feeling slutty and bad, she then ignores him throughout the book, not wanting another date, but secertly has fallen in love with him.  She can’t get him off her mind although she rejects and evades him.

She also reveals her secret assignment to him, since he’s neither faulty nor student, and he tells her his secret: he bought the bookstore an year ago because he wants to exact revenge on one of the profdessors, also the Dean’s son, who got his sister pregnant. She died on the abortion table.  He finds it hard wanting to destroy the Prof because he has a small child and wife — he doesn’t want to ruin their lives.  But he’s looking for a way to expose the dirty dealings of the teahcers and the Dean here.

He thinks Anne’s assignment could be dangerous — these are faculty with power and much to lose.  He takes her into the woods and shows her a secret lust cabin where the old Dean, and some faculty, lure young women to and have sex.  He knows about the cabin from his sister’s diary.

Anne roommates with Rea in the girl’s dorm, an 18-year-old hellcat hellion nympho who wants to have sex with every male student and teacher on campus.  From Rea, Anne gets an idea how much sex is going on, and she is also hit on by many males professors.  Seems to the male profs, Ravenwood College is nothing more than a haven for an endless supply of new pussy each year, all 17-22 year olds.

Ellis - Campus Jungle

Rea has sex with a married prof she calls “The Beard” because of his thick bushy, pretentious and arty facial hair.

Anne hides in the love cabin, wiating with her camera, and soon the Dean and the Beard bring two teenage girls inside, and pay them $50 for a strip show and sex.  There’s booze and music. Anne jumps out, takes a photo like a tabloid papatrazzi, and runs away.

News travels around the day before the story hits the Comet.  The Dean is terrified, thretaening to sue the paper.  Anne doesn’t have her real name on the byline, just “Sorority Sister.”  The Beard finds out she’s the reporter and kidnaps her at gun point, but Mike the Bookstore owner save sthe day, when he jumps in on the Dean, his son, and the Beard forcing Anne and her roommate to get naked.

There’s a happy ending, of course — Mike proposes marriage and Anne says yes.  He will be her husband instead of some guy she had sex with an hour after meeting him.

One thing I like about Joan Ellis’ Midwoods are that they’re short and quick reads, you can get through one in an hour or two.  She has also done a great deal of Midwood doubles noevellas, as Ellis, Linda Michaels, and a few others names.  College campuses and high school girls seem to be her favorite subjects.

I am curious about her Beacon books as Jill Monte, like Thrill Clinic.

Beacon - Thrill Clinic

In light of the fact that this week and next, many colleges are opening up for the Fall term, and I will be at my office at UCSD a lot, I will be reading a lot of college-set sleaze books for the next month, along with lesbian titles, Don Elliots and Orrie Hitts.

Ellis - Campus Party
Ellis - Dangerous Age

Ellis -- Hellion

Ursula Grant and Other Pseudonyms

Posted in Midwood Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Midwood - Campus Queen

Grant - Boss Lady

I ordered these two Ursula Grant Midwoods because I liked the covers.  She only did a couple stand alone movels and a few doubles, but looking at th style, this is obviously Joan/Julie Ellis writing under this pen name. Odd, as the name is not listed as attahed to her, like Linda Michaels and Jill Monte are.

Ellis’ style is too distinct, easy to recognize, and the themes of the above are classis Joan Ellis: the college hellion and the woman going for the younger lover.

I will review these two down the line…but next: an early Midwood by Fred Martin, Hired Lover, that is obviously Orrie Hitt…

midwood - hired lover

Also found out that Barbara Brooks was a female pen name for William Coons, who penned some Andrew Shaws and Don Hollidays at Nightstand…

Midwood - hellcat

Faculty Wife by Joan Ellis (Midwood 32-588, 1966)

Posted in Midbook Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Faculty Wife

I bought this book several months ago before I had read any Joan Ellis because I loved the Paul Rader cover — this disproportionate woman with a glazed, dazed barbie-doll look on her face, walking down a campus and all these frat boys and book-carrying academics staring at her ass and wolf-calling her.  This was a rader motif — men are often staring atRader - Sallywomen, or women at women, or women looking at themselves in the mirror…either, someone is observing someone, which draws our attention more to that person.

Of course, this is not what Faculty Wife is about. The wife in question is Fran, a former computer programmer (progressive for 1966!) who is married to a young consumer research wiz who has published key papers and has left the corporate world to teach. The college wants him for his published works — he does not have a Ph.D. and this pisses off the old researchers because he’s well-published and has world experience in the consumer trade field.

Boy this rings a bell — I have seen and experienced the same in literature, sociology, and anthropology: the fellow with no high degree but lots of publications and practical hands-on know-how frightens the dusty Ph.D.’s who can never get their dull work published.

Ellis must know this world too, because she writes with autheticity.

Ellis - Day in, Day OutMany of her books are set in college or high school, often dealing with confused, over-sexed girls age 17-19, such as Campus Jungle, Campus Kittens, The Cool Co-eds, After Class, High Shcool Hellion, Girl’s Dormitory, Odd Girl on Campus, Campus Pet, Campus Rebel, Campus Affair, etc.  Her other themes are young women in the entertainment industry (Flame, Redhead, Pleasure Girl, Daughter of Shame) and young women in the office work life (Temporary Secretaryl, Executive Sweet), and bored housewives (Day In, Day Out, Married Too Young, No Last Names).  She also wrote quite a few of the Midwood doubles and triples under Ellis, Michaels, and some other names.  Rader did the covers of most of Ellis’ books — they seemed a good match.

The hellion in Faculty Wife is not Fran but 19 year old Shirl, a spoiled rich girl who can’t stand to not get her way, or whatever man she wants, student or professor.  She is sleeping with a grad student and the drama teacher, and she has her gun sites on Craig, Fran’s husband.  A newlywed, he has no interest and that drives her crazy, so she sets up a situation and tries to break up the marriage.

Fran is gorgeous, but the students are not chasing her — other professors are, damn that she’s married.  Ellis captures the little petty sexual games within academic politics well.

The nice irony is that Fran, thinking Craig cheated on her with Shirl, goes out and sleeps with the drama prof as revenge…then she finds out Craig neverdid anything and Shirl made it up.  Fran shows no guilt or remorse.

The book ends in a strange, anti-climatic way. Country Girl did too. This seems to be Ellis’ style — a sorta New Yorker-ish literary trick: dangling the slice-of-life ending…

Joan Ellis is really Julie Ellis, who wrote under other pen names for other houses, but mostly Midwood as Joan and Linda Michaels.  Here is an excerpt from an interview with Lynn Munroe:

LM: What pen names did you use?

Julie Ellis: I was Joan Ellis and Linda Michaels for Midwood. I was Jill Monte for Beacon and Domino, and Susan Richard at Paperback Library. My daughter is Susan, my son Richard. Susan Marvin became Susan Marino for one book when an editor at Avon wanted an Italian name on a book. I was Allison Lord and Jeffrey Lord. And I did some paperback originals under my own name before going hardcover/softcover with Simon & Schuster in 1975.

LM: I found some of your books at my local used bookstore in the romance section.

Ellis: I’ve never written paperback romances. Today the term “romance novels” is being widely expanded. I’ve done multigenerational novels, historicals, and romantic suspense.

I will be reading Girl’s Dormitory and Campus Jungle next.

Ellis - Campus Jungle

Girls Dorm

Joan Ellis – Elegant Dirty Books

Posted in Midbook Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on July 3, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Joan Ellis was the pen name for Julie Ellis, who later became a bestselling historical novelist…but in the 50s-60s, she wrote a lot of softcore for Midwood, also as Linda Michaels; other pen names for Bedstand and Newsstand Library.

In Lynn Munroe’s interview with Gil Fox (aka Paul Russo, Dallas Mayo, Kimberly Kemp), Fox says Ellis was too elegant for dirty books…there is a calm elegance to her writing, and her female characters are much more three-dimensional sexually than men writiting as women, but what bugs me about her style is she does use “said” or “ask” in dialogue, but a lot of adjectives, too many, such as:

“Turn around,” he coaxed. “Turna around,” he repeated.

“Okay,” she bushed this aside.

“I’ll pick you up afterwords,” he decreed.

“Smart,” Denise purred.

“She’s very attractive,” Denise forced herself to concede.

“Don;t worried, honey,” he whispered huskily.

All takes from Country Girl.

Ellis - Country Girl

Perhaps it’s just my preference of style, simple he said she said…but Ellis’ style grows on you. Country Girl about a precocious sexy teen girl, Denise, playing love games with two young men she’s dating, one a college guy from the city.  It’s a lot similar to Don Elliott’s Sexteen (no cover scan, Nightsand Books), which has more twists and turns than Country Girl, such as a Elliott/Silverberg-esque gang rape by a group of young thugs, a la Connie (Loren Beauchamp).

Ellis tackles sex on college campuses with Girl’s Dormitory and Faculty Wife.

Girls Dorm

Faculty Wife

Many of her books were illustrated by Paul Rader.

Ellis - Daughter of Shame

Ellis - Hold me Tight

Ellis - Pleasure GirlEllis - Snow Bunnies

Ellis - Redhead