Archive for Merit Books

The Genuine Wanton – Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Apparently, this Goff book has “lifted” passages and plotlines from four Richard Prather novels: Kill the Clown, Shell Scott’s Seven Slaughters, Three’s a Shroud, and Dagger of Flesh

Since I have not read them, I can’t pinpoint what Goff used.  Seems he used a lot from Seven Slaughters for a number of books, since it’s a collection of stories.

The Genuine Wanton is told by Angus Cordi, a syndicate hitman. It’s pretty short, 128 pages of big type, so a 30,000-worder, episodic.  Cordi is hired by gang boss Mancini — he gets $300 a week retainer, always ready for a job, which he will get a $5K bonus, 10K if he’s loaned out to another syndicate family.

His first kill: the ex-mistress of Mancini, whom Cordi has been seeing.  Mancini wishes to test Cordi’s loyalty: will he murder th woman he has feelings for? She knew this would happen, and to help Cordi, she commits suicide in front of him.

Cordi develops an MO: get close to the wife or mistress of each target, romance the woman, and make it hurt the target twice, sometimes killing the woman as well.

Cordi is deeply cruel, strangely cold and hardboiled — much like an Ennis Willie killer perhaps…and how much like Shell Scott?

If I didn’t know what Goff was up to with stealing from Prather, I would say “wow!” to this cold, violent short novel; as is, original or whatnot, it’s still a cool book in the ultra-hardboiled fashion.

So who is the “genuine wanton” in the title, or is this another misleading Merit book?  It may be either Cathy or Susan, two young ladies he escorts to a reefer madness swinger party that later proves to be his downfall.  There’s enough sleaze to make this a sleaze book:

The brunette’s tongue lasted like bourbon and went like a piston in my mouth. I forgot about Cathy and Susan and the marijuana, and concentrated on the naked woman in my arms. (p. 111)

And enough killing to make it crime noir.

Hotel Hustler by Jerry Lane/aka Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Playtime Books #670, 1964)

Posted in crime noir, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The first Jerry Goff book I read, a few months back, was Thrill Crazy, a Merit title, and here I thought: Wow, another cool find. Then I read Wanton Wench! which was better and Tropic of Carla which was an okay men’s adventure style yarn.

A reader of this blog mentioned that Goff had been sued by Richard Prather for plagarizing from a Shell Scott novel, and then bookseller and vintage paperback scholar Lynn Munroe told me the case just wasn’t one book, but a whole lot of them.  In fact, Munroe’s Fall 1997 auction catalogue was for Goff books that were hard to find because the U.S. Court ordered all offending copies destroyed.

Munroe was kind enough to send me a copy of that old catalgue for research’s sake, that gives the whole nitty-gritty.

Basically, it began with Hotel Hustler, the novel I will discuss in this blog entry. Someone told Richard Prather there were plagarized sections from three of Prather’s Shell Scotts: Find This Woman, Strip for Murder, and The Wailing Frail.

Prather read Hotel Hustler, got wide-eyed and angry, and called his lawyer.  Tracking down info wasn’t easy — Playtime Books was an imprint of Neva Books out of Las Vegas — but the address was a mail drop for an outfit actually in Florida (they had learned from the mistakes made by Nightstand and Faber about addresses and the feds); plus Jerry Lane was not a real person, but the pen name of Merit Books/Camerarts author Jerry M. Goff, Jr., a real name.  A ceased and desist letter was sent to Neva and ignored — the novel remained in print and two more Lane books were issued, also with plagarized sections.  Munroe writes:

Prather, who now lives in Arizona and is still writing, told me he never met Jerry Goff. When Prather’s lawyers tracked him down, he was in prison, a three-time convicted felon.  In his sworn deposition, Goff admitted to being such a huge “fan” of Prather’s books that yes, he would on occasion borrow ideas and dialog from Parther’s books. And then, to Prather’s lawyer’s shock and surprise, Goff proceeded to name for them some 30 books he had done so in, most of them published by a company neither Prather [n]or his lawyers had ever heard of, Merit Books of Chicago.  This led to a second, larger lawsuit in The US District Court for Northern Illinois in 1972 […] the Judge in the trial would later say that Prather v. Camerarts Publishing was the largest case of plagarism he had ever heard about. (Lynn Munroe Books List 37, p. 3)

In some cases, Goff only “borrowed” phrases and paragraphs, but, with many of Goff’s books in hand, many reprinted with new titles a year after first publication, as Camerarts was known to do,

Prather and his wife spent hours at home with a box of Goff’s paperbacks, reading them and highlighting familiar passages. To their amazement they found not just phrases but entire paragraphs, entire chapters, entire plotlines, lifted in whole from Prather’s books, with only the character’s names changed.  Prather found one Goff book about a lusty  French female spy named Julie Odlie.  Something about Julie was so familiar to him, but what was it?  Prather had never created such a character.  Finally, as he read on, it hit him — Julie was Shell Scott, and Goff had only changed the character’s sex. (ibid)

In the end, after appeals, both Neva and Camerarts had to pay damages — about $17, 500K for Neva and $40K for Merit Books (plagarism cases have set amounts these days, I think the ceiling s now $120K per cause of action).

I have no information on Goff, other than his demise in the late 1990s.  What was he in prison for?  Did Camerarts, with its mob connections, go after him to pay that $40K back?  Did they, like Neva, know he was lifting from Prather?  Did Goff publish other books later under a different name?

And does this mean the Goff books I liked were really Prather novels I liked?  According to Munroe’s catalogue, Thrill Crazy (reprinted as Lisa) stole from Strip for Murder, Way of a Wanton, and Three’s A ShroudWanton Wench! and Tropic of Carla are not listed — but if not taken from Prather, were they lifting from other books?  Did Goff do any original material at all; were the Prather liftings done when the well was dry?

And does this change my mind about Goff being a nice vintage find?  Well, he is still a find — but in a much different light.  When Munroe was auctioning some Goff/Lane books, they seemed to be rarities because the court ordered all remaining copies destroyed.  Now, however, you can find most of these books in the $5-20 price range, ad I have about 20 of them, which I will get to all eventually.

Hotel Hustler is a short novel, about 35,000 words, about a card shark on the run from both the mob and the feds.  He travels around the world, steals a new identity, then someone inherits an old hotel, the Dorado Oasis, from a long lost uncle on the small West Indies island, Callerie — a fictional place, it seems, where the natives speak Creole and were once ruled by Napoleon, just like Haiti.

He thinks this is the perfect place to hide from those who either want to murder him or put him in federal lock up for tax evasion — fix the hotel up, make it profitable, live his days out on the small island as a small businessman.

Not so easy.  A fellow named Ahogary (allegory?) has been using every means he can to push out and buy up all the small storefrnts, fishing boats, and eateries in center town, to build his own little business and crime empire.  Ahogary wants the hotel — which seems worthless since it seldom has guests — and the land it’s on.  The plot becomes a cat and mouse game between the narrator and Ahogary, who did not count on his competition having street smarts and knowing how to bluff and con.

Toss in some islander native sex and you got an “adult” novel.

While this one is not as good as, say, Wanton Wench!, the writing is smoother more confident — but is this Prather’s doing or Goff’s?  The novel reads like a cross-between wanting to imitate the atmosphere of Casablanca and the intrigue of Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.

I’d give it a C-plus overall, but a B-minus for being a part of vintage paperback history, the impetus for the court system’s biggest copyright infringement case at the time.

Also: Goff as criminal. A real hood, or crook, writing books about hoods and crooks, even if all the prose ain’t his — Goff was no pale weasel writer pretending at tough men’s fiction…in some way he was living it, even as he stole from Shell Scott.

Love Addiction by Arnold Marmor (Merit Books, 196?)

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

There’s no publication date on this Merit title, but is most likely 1962 based on the typeface…in 1961, Merit published Love Addict by Arnold Marmor, and it may be the same book, as Merit/Novel was known to do…

Who was Arnold Marmor?  He seems to be one of those forgotten, obscure pulp guys of the early and mid 50s, who wrote often for Hamling’s Imagination, Amazing, the crime ones like Manhunt, Trapped, Pursued, and second and third tier men’s mags like Dude, Pleasure, Rogue, etc.

Project Gutenberg recently put up his short SF novel Spies Die Hard! from Hamling’s Imagination…which might make one wonder if Marmor was a Robert Silverberg pen name, but he wasn’t. He seemed to be a UK writer who specialized in spy-type fiction — Spies Die Hard! is about earth and Martian spies…he also ghosted a Nick Carter or two…and when the pulp market dried up in the late 50s, like many others, he started to write books for the sex market, though they were still spy and crime thrillers packaged with lurid covers and suggestive titles…such is the case with Love Addiction.

Marmor (1927-1978) published a number of sleaze-styled books for Merit, Saber, Playtime, Intimate, Boudoir, Twilight, and other short-lived imprints, but never the bigger ones like Nightstand, Midwood, Kozy or Beacon…

Love Addiction introduces Nick Sparta, former British Secret Service ex-patriot living a low-rent life in a New York fleabag hotel with an American woman.  He’s been called to a meeting by the head of British-Lion btea Limited, a front for MI-5.  They want to locate another former agent, Major Walter Waldron, who, supposedly, has written a memoir about his spy days and contains information that could compromise Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  While Nick’s vice for gambling and women got him kicked out of the spy force, the Major Waldon’s is heroin — he’s an addict, so the back cover blurb states:

Nick Sparta always left the babes asking for more.  The major might be a dope addict, he thought to himself.  But, ‘m a love addict, and I’m sure getting a lot more kocks from my addiction than he is from his!

Does he get the dames?  His Nick Sparta a B-grade James Bond?  Yes and no.

The writing is spare, minimal, 34 short chapters in 128 pages.  The tone is laid bad and smooth, less action-oriented, more clever dialoague and incidents between old spies from the O.S.S. and World War II days, Germans and Russians, Americans and Brits — in fact it reminded me a lot of Le Carre and Trevenian spy books.

Sex?  There’s some sex, the kind expected in a spy or sleaze book.

Not bad. I will seek more Marmor.

Wild Pursuit by Bill Lauren (Merit Books, 1961)

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

I got this book in an eBay lot; it was falling apart and in bad shape and I’d never heard of the author, but it looked interesting and it was a Merit/Camerarts title so I gave it a try, as a “wild” titled novel.

Who is Bill Lauren? Real name or pen name?  Who knows.  But he did a number of titles for Merit.

Wild Pursuit wastes no time and jumps right into the action from the first paragraph:

The blonde was split from neckline to waist and a bare, trembling breast poked out at me. She wasn’t trying to cover it because hshe had her hands full wih the torn top of her capri pants.

Her eyes were wide with pleading. “Help me! Please, help me!” (p. 5)

The blonde is Eddi, short for Edwina, on the run from goons trying to kill her.  She’s a cigarette girl at a club owned by the local Sndiacte boss, who is a choots with the town’s sheriff — both are planning to murder a politician getting in their way.  She overheard their planning it and need to shut her up.  So she’s on the run — and ran into the cabin of Brigham Galt, the narrator, a building contractor in the town of Marklyn (state unknown).

She’s hot, she’s in danger, and Galt has been separated from his wife for six weeks, after he caught her in bed with another man — so why not help her?  Even with the goons shooting at them, and then kidnapping his secretary and raping her, threatening to kill her if he doesn’t give up Eddi.

But since he’s had great sex with Eddi only hours after she came running into his cabin for help, he’s got feelings for her…

But there’s still his estranged wife, whom he has make-up sex with the next morning after being with Eddi…ah, the sex lives of sleaze book heroes!

It had all the usual sterotypical tough hero, gun-toting hoods, bad cops, and over-sexed dames, the elements that make for good men’s fiction of the 1960s, or even now.  This is no work of art by any long shot, but like Jerry M. Goff’s and  most Novel/Merit titles, a fast-paced, tough-guy good read. I’m interested in reading others by Bill Lauren.

Tropic of Carla by Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

I was previously impressed with Jerry M. Goff, Jr.’s Thrill Crazy and Wanton Wench! and continue to be so with Tropic of Carla.  I have been amassing all his other books for future reading.

His novels aren’t perfect by any means, and have any number of flaws that many books like these do, but there is a certain assured quality of story-telling, mixed with good manly two-fisted hardboiled-ness typical of Merit/Novel Books, that tickle my noir funny bones.

Wanton Wench! was about a sea diving bum getting into some trouble because of a rich woman; Tropic of Carla is about a pilot bum getting into trouble because of a rich woman, Carla Lopez.  The narrator, Dino Shawn, muses on it:

I had been in boxes before, but never like this.  And all because of a beautiful woman with a fantastic figure.   But what the hell? I thought. Life without beautiful women and fabulous builds wouldn’t be worth living. I had no other choice but to do General Lopez’ bidding. (p. 81)

Dino had been forced to fly a fighter plane for a small banana republic dictatrorship, a fictional Latin American country, Tammara…

Continue reading

Wanton Wench! by Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Goff - Wanton WenchPreviously, I noted what a wonderful find Jerry M. Goff, Jr. was, author of the hardboiled L.A.  noir, Thrill Crazy, and a dozen Merit titles.

Since then, I have found out a few things about Goff — that’s his real name, and he also did a few Neva/Playtime titles as Jerry Lane.  He passed in 1992 in Milwaukee.  Apparently Richard Prather at one time sued him because one of his books resembled a Shell Scott yarn.

Wanton Wench! is another hardboiled ditty set in Los Angeles and Marina del Rey, the rich peep’s yact land between Venice Beach and Malibu. (I once had a picth meeting there on the boat of some yacht bum turned film producer.)

The narraor is one Johnny Saueterne, 27, a professional diver who escaped Cuba, where he was working, afte Castro’s goons were killing Americans.  He retuns to southern California, where he went to UCLA, working odd jobs to get through school.  He learned how to dive in Santa Monica.

He has $33 to his name and no prospects…

Continue reading

Thrill Crazy by Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Thrill Crazy

I got this one in a lot from eBay, opened it, and was pleasantly surprised.  This is an ultra-hardboiled sleazenoir set in Los Angeles. “One bullet killed three people,” says Bob Harding, Jr., the narrator who has set out to find who killed his father, Captain Robert Harding of the LAPD.

Bob is a high school English teacher, taking time off to sleuth.  It’s funny how hardboiled he is, fist fighting and shooting guns, but attests this to being a cop’s son.

The murder seems to trace back to the L.A. underground mob, and a mysterious woman, Lisa Farrell, former mob moll, now a thrill crazy nympho and his father’s lover.

The terse writing is good, damn good, but like Chandler, sometimes you have no idea what the hell is going on — not sure if Goff was doing this intentionally, in that L.A. noir way, or if all his work is like that — I have ordered some of his other Merit Books titles, like Wanton Wench, Tropic of Carla, Rocco’s Babe, and Hot-Road Broad.

Looks like Goff did about two dozen of books for Merit only…not sure if Goff is a pen name, and whose, but he also wrote as Jerry Lane for Playtime and Private Editions. Seems Goff’s name was his real name, and he passed away in 2002 — a reader of this blog pointed out an obit in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Another lost writer in sleazecore alley.  From what I have see, Merit focused on hardboiled men’s fiction with sex slant, like the Ennis Willie titles.

Why aren’t there publishers like this anymore?  A shame.

Thrill Crazy gets a little too hard-boiled with flat characters at times.  When the woman Bob is supposed to marry, the daughter of a detective, gets raped by the bad guy, Bob shows no emotion except to want to kill.  Even the victim is flat: “What I was saving for you is no more.”

Plus, Bob becomes a cad, sleeping with Lisa, even though he knew his father was having sex with the woman.

The bullet that killed three?  The bullet in his father, his mother’s death from a car crash in despair, and finally the thrill seeking wench…

We see it coming.  Predictable, but sometimes hardboiled fiction is read for the language and violence, and sex, not the solving of the murder.  Look how convoluted some of Chandler’s great works get — sometimes you have no idea where the plot is going in The Big  Sleep (even William Faulkner was flabbergasted when writing the screenplay adapt) but you are entertained by the dialogue and narrative nonetheless.

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.

willie - TwistedMistressLrg72

willie - Haven_DamnedLrg72

willie - scarlet goddess

Willie - Sensual Game

Willie - Luscious

Willie - erotic_search

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