Archive for Lion Books

Bad Boy – Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1955)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , on February 27, 2012 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Here is a case of the pulp writer slipping “something else” onto the book racks simply on name value. Bad Boy isn’t a novel but a series of interlinked autobiographical vignettes…today we would call it a collection of creative non-fiction or flash memoir. Thompson offers anecdotes about his childhood, his restless father who could never decide on what to be (lawyer, oil man, insurance agent, realtor, lender), his three-year stint as a bellboy, which led to looks like Now and on Earth and A Swell-Looking Babe; a stay in a sanitorium to dry out, leading to The Alcoholics; a bizarre encounter with a smiling but psychotic sheriff who told a young Thompson he could kill Thompson and no one would ever know or care, leading to The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1240…tales of odd jobs and odd men in the Depression era; working as a junior and senior reporter; writing stetckes and stories and then novels; hunger, desperation, and so on.

According to the Thompson bio, Savage Art, he would later mine the chapters in this book and re-write them as stories and articles for magazines when he needed a few bucks.

A must-read for Thompson fans…if you are not into is work, you might not appreciate the memoir of it all.

Savage Night – Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1954)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on December 25, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The narrator of this fine noir novel is Carl Bigelow, once known as Little Bigger, a notorious hit man for the mob who is five feet tall and perpetually looks like a kid. He has been hiding out in Arizona, running a gas station, having got a new set of teeth, contact lenses, and a new life…but he is suffering from a lung ailment that has him coughting up blood from time to time.

“The Man” has found him…The Man is a mysterious syndicate guy who one day is in the papers for indictments, beats them, and a month later he is seen in society pages yukking it up with the judges and politicians who were trying to convict him of this or that. We realize it is all for show, and it is all about money.

There is a fellow who is abut to tur state’s evidence because he cannot deal with jail, and Carl Littke Bigger has been found and hired t take the guy out. Carl cannot say no to the job, or The Man will just have him killed, just as The Man orders Carl to kill a mutual acquanitance to prove he still has a killer inside him.

The plot for murder is an intricate one: Carl moves to the snall town where the target lives, enrolls in the local teacher’s college as a cover, and rents a room in the house of te very target…there he seduces and plays emotional games with the target’s lonely ex-singer/stripper wife, and the crippled maid, Ruthie, who also goes to the college.

Ruthie needs crutches because ne of her legs, at the knee, did not fully form, and there at the knee isna tiny foot wth tiny toes. Carl witnesses this tiny foot when he ravishes Ruthie in his bedroom in one of the most perverse sex scenes to come out of noir fiction yet.

I could see Mickey Rooney in this part, c. 1960 or so…a small tough guy. How does this five foot fellow charm the ladies? They crave attention and he gives it to them — he is s charmer, and flatters them, and gets them to love him…the idea, he tells The Man, is to get the wife to actually help him murder the target, and he will patsy her and make it look like she did it alone.

Instead, he frames Ruthie, and then runs away with her…he runs because he knows The Man will take him out after he does the job, to insure no loose ends.

The local good ol’ boy sheriff suspects him, checks him out…and in a bold and swifty move, Carl frames himself by sending an anonymous note stating who he really is, the notorious Little Bigger, but shen it all comes up to look like b.s., it helps him in his plan.

But Carl is insane…he is dying from his ailment, he knows he will never get out of the grip of the mob, and he slowly goes nuts…he may even have fallen for Ruthie, the cripple girl he has knocked up and framed for murder.

The last 10 pages are bizarre…we are not sure what is reality and what are hallucinations…did he kill Ruthie and the baby in her or has she murdered him? Did she ever exist? Has this whole novel been the wild paranoid fantasies of a dying man?

An amazing read…evidence of Thompson’s brilliance as the, yes, Fyodor D. of crime spree. Existential, literate, and American all the way.

Valerie by Jordan Park aka C.M. Kornbluth (Lion Books, 1953)

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , on December 20, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Jordan Park was one of the pen names of golden age SF writer C.M. Kornbluth, a New York member of the Futurians, who died at 34 of a heart attack and may have reached the ranks of Asimov, Silverberg, Pohl and Delany had he lived and continued. Many have compaered Barry Malzberg to him for the black humor of the future. Frederick Pohl would later finish some of his imcomplete manuscripts.

Valerie is a 30,000 word short novel with a misleading cover and cover copy, making it look contemporary. It is set in 1512 Scotland and deals with a witch cult and its leader, “The Black Man,” who seems to be Satan; the 12 witches in the coven dance and worship him in the woods on certain nights and they all have sex with him, for he is an entity of great stamina.

Valerie is a kitchen wench in a castle who once came from a family of wealth but now is poor and looked down upon. She tries to get a nobleman interested in marrying her but she is laughed at — why would such a man marry a lowly whore? She vows vengeance…her desire is noted by a woman who says her coven is 11 and needs one more woman, and the The Black Man will give her whatever she wants in the world if she worships and gives her body and soul to this fellow.

She does.

And a mysterious “inheritance” of an “uncle she never knew comes her way, castles and lands that were supposed to be absorbed by the Catholic Church, setting off suspicion by a Bishop and an inquiry into witchcraft…

While not as compelling as his SF, Kornbluth was a solid storyteller and this little tale was a fun read, and shows that Kornbluth knew a lot about history of the time and the beginings of the Inquisoition.

A Swell-Looking Babe by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1954; Black Lizard Books, 1987)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on December 17, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A third-person narrative, where Thompson normally wrote his best in first person, of young Dusty Rhodes, a bellhop in an “upscale” ($15 a night) hotel that never lets a single woman take a roon, because chnaces are she is a working girl, and young couples must show marriage certificates, and more importantly: employees are forbidden to spend some time in any guests rooms, especially the male employees with female guests. Dusty has had some propositions but thus far has ignored temptation, until one swell-looking babe from Dallas comes rolling into town and takes a room…her looks even make the night desk clerk forget that she is a single woman, and she gets the special rate of $10 a night.

His life basically sucks. He was going to college with an intent of becoming a doctor, but then his mom died, and his father lost his teaching job because he had signed a petition associated with an American Communist group. It is the early 1950s, there is the red scare and the black listing. His father’s health is bad and his mind is slipping. Dustyhad to quit college and get a job not take care of his dad, and pay the lawyer handling his dad’s lawsuit to get his job back.  Working the night shift at the Manton Hotel is better for him, the tips are better.

One of the residents is a former botegger and wise guy with underworld crime connections named Tug. He always has wise guys coming to visit him. Tug has taken a liking to the young bellhop Dusty.

One night the swell-looking babe calls up for stationary and Dusty brings itto her…he is met with her half-naked body and a lipstick smeared kiss…then she pushes him away and starts screaming…the furniture in her room is upturned…Tug comes to his rescue, tells him gthe broad is setting hm up and do’t worry, kid, ol’ Tug will take care of it.

Dusty can’t believe she has set him up for a lawsuit at the hotel; she will claim he tried to rape her; the hotel will pay her off to keep quiet. He has heard of such scams. But he has Tug onhis side, Tug and his boys have whisked Marcia away, but Tug wants Dusty to do soemthing for him: help him rob the hotel of the safe desposit boxes where some of the guests, in for the horse races, keep a lot of money, at least $200K all together…

Murders happen, doublecrosses, the babe from Dallas is in on it with Tug, they had set him up all along…and despite Dusty trying to do the right thing, nothing works out for him.

Like many Thompson novels, a noir read with a dark twist ending.

Always fun.

Swell-looking babes:

The Paperback Sleaze of C.M. Kornbluth

Posted in lesbian pulp fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on March 16, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

We only recently discovered that legendary SF writer C.M. Kornbluth wrote a number of books as Jordan Park, three of which were in the softcore sleaze genre.  The lesbian novel, Sorority House, was co-authored with Frederick Pohl.  Valerie is about a girl accused of witchcraft and Half is about an “intersex” person.

All are from Lion Books.


A Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson (Lion Books, 1954)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on March 10, 2011 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Yawdry and sordid from the get go — door to door salesman Frank “Dolly” Dillon knocks on a door not only looking to sell some wares, but find a fellow who owes the company bucks. He encounters a 70 year old lady who is willing to let her young niece have sex with him in exchange for a set of silverware.  The set-up is the cover art on te original Lion Books edition, only the girl, Mona (was Lawrence Block influenced here, with his many Mona characters? Harry Whittington too?) does not have long flowing curly blond hair like the babe depicted, but messily chopped off hair.

When Frank, our narrator, takes Mona in a backroom, she immediately gets naked and he notices a bleeding welt on her.  Mona is very submissive and he knows her old aunt has been whoring the girl out to salesmen and other men in exchange for material goods.

Frank is disgusted and he can’t even get himself to fuck her. He promises Mona that he will come back and save her from this life of sexual slavery. He has no idea how. He first has to deal with his boss, Staples, who is breathing down his neck, and his alcoholic wife, a former cigarette girl in a club he used to frequent in Chicago. Her name is Joyce. They get in a fight and she runs off; he goes to work the next day and Staples has discovered that he’s done some creative bookeeping and taken the company for more than $300.  He’s arrested, and all he can think about is: what will poor Mona think when he doesn’t show uo?

Then get gets sprung by Mona, she pays his debt and he’s released. She has money — or, her aunt’s money, she stole it from a stash of money her aunt has. How much? One hundred grand.

Frank must have the money and the girl, and the only way to get both is to murder the old lady and frame someone for it — frame a dead beat immigrant handyman who owed Frank money on a a suit he didn’t make full payments on.

Of course, as in all noir tales like this, the murder doesn’t go exactly as planned, and things pop up, people get suspicious, like his wife who has seen the money and his boss who knows something is fishy…

Frank acts like he is smooth and knows what he is doing, but he’s actually a dupe, a fool, and a heel — or a fuck-up, and his fuck-ups lead to his evntualy downfall.

Any Jim Thompson is worth reading, and while this one has a few plot and logic flaws, who cares, it didn’t matter in 1954 and does not matter in 2011…A Hell of a Woman is a hell a read.  (The same year, Thompson and Lion Books published A Swell-Looking Babe, which we will get to soon.)

Black Lizard revived the book in the 1980s with a nifty cover.

Then this one…

The Vintage trade ppbk edition isn’t that nifty…trying too hard to be b%w noir, another corny generic cover by uninspired art directors.

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.)