Archive for Midnight Reader

Lust Slum – Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Midnight Reader #416)

Posted in Andrew Shaw, crime noir, Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags on May 16, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A sleek, hardboiled crime novel that has Lawrence Block’s early (and later) style all over it.

Told in the first person by big a big tough guy named Sylvester who is working as a bouncer in a club.  In walks a classy woman, Karen, who takes a liking to him.  Her husband walks in, Jake, a big tine wise guy, who has to keep his nympho wife on a leash.

Our narrator takes out Jake’s bodyguard with a few fists and loses his job; but Jake is impressed, and later hires him as muscle.  He’s told to ignore Karen’s advances and keep his nose clean. He tries. He can’t resist Karen and the more he learns about how her husband, who is involved with drugs and the syndicate, and how he treats her, he can’t blame her for her wandering eye, seeking love and comfort that the cold man doesn’t give her.

And he falls for her.

Block/Shaw makes good use of the “metaphor” sex scene, here describing in poetic language oral sex in the “69” position:

She was on top of me. Her belly was against my chest. “This way,” she said.

Her mouth was like fire, searing me.  I held her, and was consumed in a sea of liquid flame.  Her long hair swept against me like a gale sweeping the land. Her head moved with gyrating rhythms …

Faster and faster …

I sought her too, then.  The turbulent river had overflowed its banks and I smoothed the waters.

The river became a rolling sea and I dipped my face in the tide.  It seemed that the heavens had opened at that moment and all the torrents of the ages had come pouring out.

The sea was clam then, and quiet.

And I, as never before … I became the storm. The storm raged, turbulent and rampant. I felt pulsations of thunder, and an explosion of lightning. There was a flash of white-hot sensation as the storm erupted into a cloudburst. (pp. 55-56)

Nice, but it’s out of place with the narrator’s clipped, tough guy prose writing in the whole book.

Sometimes the writing gets a little too clipped and tough-guyish that we get lost in the coldness of it all. Is the narrator even a human being, or a fucking and killing machine?

In this book, and others such as Lust Damned, Crossroads of Lust, $20 Lust, for Nightstand; April North, The Sex Shuffle and Pads Are for Passion for Beacon; Candy and A Strange Kind of Love for Midwood — we see the seeds of the writer and style Block was to later become; working out of Scott Meredith’s “black box” was a wealthy training ground for a young author.

Sex Bum by Don Elliott aka Robert Silverberg (Midnight Reader #489, 1963)

Posted in crime noir, Don Elliott, Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on May 13, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks


Rumor has it this one may soon be reprinted.  It’s a Syndicate crime novel in the Manhunt or Trapped style. It could have been a Gold Medal.

Johnny Price is 22 and a big-strapping guy working for fifty bucks a week and tips as a grocery delivery guy in Reesport, NY, an upper state small town in the Orrie Hitt tradition, where girls dream of being high class call girls in Manhattan and boys dream of being made men.

Johnny gets his chance to prove himself to the two local mob hoods when he stumbles upon a kill of a rival in a pool hall and helps the local wise guys, Lurton and Kloss, take down their target and two of his henchmen.  He’s offered a job to work with them, mainly as muscle, and collecting weekly “protection” from local businessmen.  He even brings a girl he met, Elle, who wants to be a Syndicate hooker, into the fray, proving his worth.  Beyond his base pay of ninety a week (ah, again, 1960s money!) he learns how to “earn” — collecting the extra $5-to-10 “tips” on his collections, or that “extra protection.”

Johnny Price has plans, though.  He doesn’t want to be a hired hand all his life, or even a year; within six months, he schemes to betray his bosses and take them down, and take their place.  He makes good with one of the New York City bosses, Rizzo, and lets Rizzo know that Lurton and Kloss are skimming off the top of their monthly payments.

There’s plenty of sex, with the call girls, such as this subtle scene hinting at anal sex:

“I showed you a trick that day. Want me to show you another one?”

“I’m game,” he said.

She wriggled up against him.  The firm cushion of her buttocks pressed against his thighs. She thrust one hand around behind, seized him, guided him.

Johnny frowned. “There?”

“Sure,” she said. “I like it there just like the regular way.”

“Can you feel anything there?”

“If I couldn’t, I wouldn’t do it. I feel different things there.”

“But doesn’t it hurt?”

“Only the first couple of times. Not anymore. I’ve been a busy little girl.”

“I bet you have,” Johnny said. (p. 121-2)

He falls for Rizzo’s main whore, too, Marie, too high class for him, and a wrong move, just as betraying the men who gave him a job was a dumb move.  Johnny Price is not the smart thug he’d like to believe he is.  “You gotta be careful when you play around with razor blades.  You can get cut” (p. 167) is advice he doesn’t heed.

Like all of Silverberg’s sleaze paperbacks — all of his work, in fact, i whatever genre or form — this is compulsively readable, but not the best of the Elliotts.  It’s predictable, Goodfellas way before the movie, where betrayal and loyalty in the mob is a fine line.

Shame House – Don Elliott aka Robert Silverberg (Midnight Reader #440, 1962)

Posted in Don Elliott, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , on May 8, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks


We’ve been neglecting Robert Silvberg’s many sleaze titles lately — on his yahoo fan group, Silverberg recently announced that some Don Elliott books would be reprinted; he didn’t say which ones, yet, or the publisher, until things are solid.

Shame House should be a contender for reprinting, and is one of the better Don Elliotts he wrote.  The little novel could have been published in the 1980s and found an audience — it’s about Wall Street, in a way, and stock market speculators and their sex lives.

The narrator is Jack Thorne, a trader who has made his first million by 28.  Having made a $6,000 killing on a shifty speculated trade, he goes to a club to celebrate (even as a millionaire, the daily procurement of money is still a high), looking for a woman to fuck, and crosses paths with beautiful Francine,  who was actually seeking him out, on orders from her “master.”

Continue reading

Lust Campus — Andrew Shaw aka Lawrence Block (Midnight Reader #408, 1961)

Posted in Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on March 26, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The third title, along with Crossroads of Lust and Passion Bride, that was deemed obscene in the court case People v. Sikora, 32 Ill. 2d 260, 267-268, 204 N. E. 2d 768, 772-773 (1965), and later footnoted in a 1977 Supreme Court Case, Ward v. Illinois, appealing a conviction for selling obscene materials. Justice Brennan noted in footnote 3 of his dissent:

“`Lust Campus’ by Andrew Shaw is a story of sexual adventures on a [431 U.S. 767, 772] college campus `where even members of the faculty taught sin and evil.’ The book describes homosexuals `necking’ on a public beach; mutual masturbation; self fondling; a circle of persons engaged in oral-genital contact; rape; intercourse; lesbian intercourse; cunnilingus and flagellation; flagellation with barbed wire; an abortion with red-hot barbed wire; masturbation with a mirror reflection, and a transvestite episode.

Yeah, it has all that, but it’s a disjointed book.  Block was at his least when he did multi-character college campus sleazsy books; he was better at the first-person and crime stuff, which he later went on to excel at with Gold Medal and other places.

I also detect a hint of Donald Westlake’s style popping in and out, but it’s mostly Block done in eight very long chapters.

It opens interestingly — Mike Fisher is on a beach and he thinks, while sunning himself, he is being fondled by a gay guy, and he attacks the person, punching them, but it turns out to be a girl, Linda.  They wind up dating but she won’t give her virginity to him, she just lets him findle her and get her top off.  He tells her he loves her, hoping she will give her cherry away, but she doesn’t.

From there both Mike and Linda go off on various sexual adventures in and around New York City, without cohesion.  In a weird way, this reminded me of Don DeLillo’s style, such as in Players or even the recent Falling Man: an event happens to a man and woman, and then they both go off on their own adventures and travels as a result of the event.

For its place in U.S. court history, the book is worth a read but I can only give it a C+.

The Many Faces of John Dexter #6: Passion Bride (Midnight Reader #415, 1961)

Posted in Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books, noir fiction, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Not sure who wrote this Dexter, but I suspect that Lawrence Block penned part of it — the first few chapters seem to be his style; perhaps toss in some Westlake or Hal Dresner with other chapters.

It would be fitting if Block penned part of this book because Passion Bride, along with Crossroads to Lust to Lust Campus were deemed obscene in the court case People v. Sikora, 32 Ill. 2d 260, 267-268, 204 N. E. 2d 768, 772-773 (1965), and later footnoted in a 1977 Supreme Court Case, Ward v. Illinois, appealing a conviction for selling obscene materials.  Justice Brennan noted in footnote 3 of his dissent:

`Passion Bride’ by John Dexter described curricular and extracurricular sexual episodes that take place during a honeymoon on the French Riviera. The book describes masturbation; intercourse; a party between an old man and three prostitutes; attempted intercourse in a bath; lesbian foreplay; flagellation; rape ending in the death of the female from a broken back and intercourse ending in the broken back of the male participant. “`

Passion Bride tells a strange and surreal story that borders on early horror with a sense of the supernatural.  It opens with Mike and Tammy Hale, a young couple on their honeymoon on the French Riviera. Tammy is an innocent virgin, but once Mike shows her the ways of marital coitus, she becomes an insatiable hellcat; spent, Mike can give her no more and she screams at him to finish what he started. Mike gets freaked out and runs out of the room, the hotel, and into the French night of sin and shame.

First he has a sexual encounter with a beautiful “negress” who works for The Woman — an exotic wealthy and gorgeous lady by the name of Lorelei, who entrances men and women all around her, and does as she pleases, including murder.

Never in his most exotic dreams had he imagined a creature like this. Although Mike himself was tall, she towered over him,her gold hair cloujd-like on her nude shoulders.  He was driven wild as his eyes crept down the pristine ivory of her neck to those fantastic, gigantic firm breasts thrusting at him unsupported for all their hugeness… (pp. 106-7)

“Her name is Lorelei. No one knows where she comes from, who she really is. She’s rich, but not so rich that she doesn’t crave more […] It may sound unbelievable to you…that’s because the Riveria is a different world […] This is another universe. Ruled by the money of the few people who really run the world.” (pp. 143)

She is vampire-like, sucking the life and sex out of people, driving men mad and women to serve her.  Mike is of interest because he is an engineer on a secret U.S. governemnt project, and his knowledge can be sold. So there is some political intrigue here.  Yet the narrative tends to all apart with too many characters, maybe too many writers working on this book.

As Justice Brennan noted, there is plenty of kinky stuff going on — I pictured Brennan’s law clerks combing through this little Cornith and reporting back the offensive passages.

Not to fear — it does have a happy ending.

Some Andrew Shaw Covers!

Posted in Andrew Shaw, Lawrence Block, Nightstand Books with tags , , , on January 2, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

The Girl Takers by Don Holliday (Art Plotnik), Midnight Reader #407, 1961

Posted in pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on December 13, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

In his whimsy memoir/book of essays, Honk if You’re a WriterArt Plotnik devotes a chapter, “Sexual Solitude in a Fool’s Paradise,” to his time as a sleaze writer, which he took up after several years as a professional journalist.  Like many reporters, he secretly wished to become a novelist.  His old college buddy, Bill Coons, told him of a chance to “ghost” a Don Holliday book for Hal Drenser. learn the craft of sex books, make some needed money, and perhaps make it a gig: the composition of “potboilers.”

Posing as literature, potboilers skirted  the obscenity laws and could be sold on newstands and drugsore racks as well as shops specializing in “one-handed magazines.”  Titles often sold in the 100,000-copy range.

No one has to write potboilers; virtuous writers can always starve or sell Tupperware. But since the opportinity was there, many good fiction writers turned to potbpoilers to make ends meet. (p. 74)

Plotnik is one of the few writers of the 1960s sleazecore who didn’t try to hide the fact he was doing this for money.  He saw himself as a craftsman, a professional doing a job for a buck; feeling that the writing would hone skills for later, more serious commercial fiction, the way Donald Westlake, Evan Hunter, Larry Block and Bob Silverberg eventually did…and Dresner, too. He took a pragmatic view of work-for-hire:

As Plotnikov began his next book, he thrilled to the idea that eachpage completed was money earned — $4.28 to be exact — and that when he pumped out two pages of orgiastic cries in thirty minutes, he earned the then-dizzying of $17.12 an hour or $684.80 a week! (p. 77)

Not bad wages — in 1961 money, that was $170 and hour, and about $6,000 a week, the salary of a good lawyer.  That’s what TV writers get these days…but no most fiction writers, for sure.

The Girl Takers took “Plotnikov” two weeks to write; according to him, it was based on some real events in his life, “a cross-country fling taken six years earlier” (p. 75). This little book does have a weird “feel” of the autobiographical in it, although it is not written in the first person.

John is a big beefy ex-sailor driving from Montreal to New York, having left one of many girls there in Canada.  He’s a free-wheelin’, free-lovin’ guy out to explore all the women the world has the offer. But he’s heading to New York to see his ex-girlfriend, Sheila, that he still has a yen for — he broke up with her a year ago when she pressured him for marriage.

He sees a guy hitchhiking and picks him up. He’s William, also escaping a woman — a girl he was dating since he was 16, but who turns out to be frigid and less than loving.  William is still a virgin at age 21, so the women worldly John, age 25, talks William into traveling around with him, and he will teach William how to pick up and bed all the millions of girls out there in 1960s America.

In a weird way they are like the low-rent versions of Kerouac’s Dean Moriarity and Sal Paradise, driving fast across the country in search of experience and truth.  As On the Road was at its height of popularity among all young men at the time, it seems this was Plotnik’s intention.

The cover art is actually a scene from the book, for a change in sleaze.  John and William share a room and across the way, they often see a woman walking around in her underwear — and then one day she is naked and dancing in front of a mirror.  Turns out she’s a stripper, and William decides she must be the first woman, she must take his virginity.  Being a good friend, William sets this up, after paying her — she is a stripper and a working girl. “I need the dough.”

After a brief reunion with Sheila in New York — she still wants marriage — John and William set off to California, on the road, meeting a variety of women, yet still drawn to their pasts and wondering if they both chose the correct road to travel down.

A whimsy read, nothing heavy here. A 7.5.

The Many Faces of John Dexter #2: Shame Dame Penned by Lawrence Block

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

Dexter - Shame Dame

Published in 1963 as Midnight Reader #471, Shame Dame is the only John Dexter book that Lawrence Block has admitted to writing, although there are probably others since in the past he has denied writing any Dexter, and denied writing any Sheldon Lords when he wrote many. His general pen name at Nightstand was Andrew Shaw, with one or two Don Hollidays and J.X. Williams tossed in there, maybe a Alan Marshall collaboration, since Dnald Westlake collaborated on some Andrew Shaws.

A better title for this would have been Bad Wife, as there are two of them.  The novel opens with Frank Fisher, 20s, sitting in a bar on Hollywood Blvd. and celebrating a letter he just got from his agent, stating that a publisher wants to buy his first novel.

He had been working on the novel for several years, since getting out of the Marines, and then meeting Helen, a rich woman who has been his sugar momma.  He feels good that he will have an income now.

He meets a girl in the bar and almost has sex with her but backs out, pissing her off. He has to think of his wife.  But when he goes home to surprise her with the good news, he overhears her and another man talking — her lover, and they make fun of him, and she says she used him for sex but now he isn’t enough, and she ridicules his desire to be a novelist.

Frank sees red. He attacks the other man and beats the other man to such a pulp that it’s murder.  Frank takes off, on the run.

The next chapter opens a year or two later in Fort Lauderdale, FL (Gil Brewer and Harry Whittington country, I can’t help but think Block did this on purpose) with Hank making a meager living as a drifter and boat hand.  His novel was published but he has been unable to collect on the money or else the cops would find him.

A series of strange events happen…this is definitely Block’s style here, and by 1963 he had honed his crime fiction pacing well, publishing alternately between Cornith, Gold Medal, Beacon, and Midwood. There’s plenty of sex in this one, sometimes lacking in his Beacon sleaze books as Sheldon Lord.

Frank has a series of encounters with three women — 30 year old Norma, married to a rich older man (again that theme); her 19 year old stepdaughter, a rebellious wildcat; and a revivalist preacher who was a former stripper and still has a body.  He has sex with them all. he’s a stud.  Norma wants him to knock her up and she will pay him $5K, so she will have something to hold onto her husband’s money…the stepdaughter needs sex because her boyfriend won;t do it until they are married…and, drunk, he rapes the preacher but she gets into it, since she once liked rough sex in her sinner years,  and then she falls in love with Frank…

What Norma doesn’t know is that her rich husband will also pay Frank to knock his wife up, because she does not know he had a vasectomy and he will use it as  a surprise on her plan during the divorce…but seems Norma really wants Frank for something else…she has had a private eye do a background, she knows Frank is wanted to murder in Los Angeles, and she puts it this way: shoot her husband dead or she will turn him into the cops.

This is a fast paced and enjoyable read and with some toned down sex, this could have been a Gold Medal crime novel; perhaps Block gave it to Hamling to meet his contractual obligation.  There are some interesting sub-plots: Hank working on another novel, Hank getting caught up in a student street riot, the preacher woman’s sordid past and her own sins and crimes…

Frank is indeed a “fisher” in Florida, fishing for crime noir and trouble everywhere he turns.  Seems he can’t make a move without having strange things happen.

The ending was a little too moralistic and unrealistic for my tastes — Frank is a likable character and who could blame him for killing his wife’s lover on what was supposed to be the greatest day of any young writer, the sale of a first novel…I wanted to see Frank vanish with his love and the money and getting away from jail…

Two thumbs up as both a Dexter and Block book.

Sin Dealer by Don Bellmore

Posted in Nightstand Books, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Bellmore - Sin Dealer

I don’t think this Bellmore was written by George H. Smith, who had the Bellmore pen name, as well as Jan Hudson (and wrote some interesting SF books under his own name).

This is the first Nightstand/Midnight/Cornith I was unable to finish.  I got about 60 pages in and tossed it aside it was that bad.

The narrator is a talent agent and a former client, a washed up but rich actress, offers to pay him good money to take her on as a client and re-vitalize her dead career.

Bad dialogue, bad writing…bad book.

A Note on Craft: Nightstand, Bedstand, Midwood

Posted in Don Elliott, Loren Beauchamp, Midbook Books, Nightstand Books, Robert Silverberg, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on July 13, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Elliott - Gutter Road

As I have been reading these various books this summer, I have noted the excellent craftsmanship, especially by Robert Silverberg, inRS-Rotslerdelivering books that always reach the 50,000 words mark.

In his seminal essay, “My Life as Pornographer” (from Penthouse Letters, reprinted in Sin-a-Rama on in Kemp’s el), Silverberg states his books for William Hamling were 12 chapters, each chapter 14-16 pages (or 4,000 words); his memory is fauluty, because every Don Elliott and John Dexter he did consist of 14 chapters, 12-13 printed pages, and always reach 192 pages.  Every Nightstand/Ember/Midnight Reader/Idle Hour was 192 pages — if the novel only reached 188-190 pages, they would add in a list of available books to get that 192.  Earl Kemp once told me this was necessary for gang-running books — printing four at a time, all the same length, which saved on money; if books were more or less than 192 pages (later, 224 pages as Reed Nightstands), they would have to be printed separately from the gang-run.

Beauchamp - Unwilling SinnerSilverberg’s Beauchamp Midwoods were also the same length, with 12-5 chapters, reaching 158 pages in Midwood’s format and type front.  Bigger font, the books reach 186-188 pages. Ditto on the Bedstand/Bedtime Books.

Other writers kept to the same — it was a matter of craft, of sketching out a story so that it would reach that length with that many chapters.  This is not unlike writing for TV, when scripts need to be 45-50 pages, broken into a teaser and four acts that are 10-15 pages each.

I find this admirable, because I have a hard time writing that way.  My Blue Moons varied from 120 pages to 260 pages, and I never plotted them out for x amount of chapters to reach x amount of words.

Such discipline, Silverg notes in his essay, helped him plot his SF novels in the 1970s-80s better.

Bum - Sin

Dexter - Bra Peddlers

Elliott - Sin Hellion

Elliott -- Sin Bait

Bellmore - Shame Sheet

Back then, the min. word length for a book was 50,000 words.  The decade before they preferred 40,000 words (like the Ace Doubles).  In the 1970s-80s, it was 60,000 words.  Today, commercial publishers don’t want to see a genre novel less than 80K words, and like them up to 100,000.

Is more better?  The end result, sometimes, is a lot of padding and unneccesary banter dialogue, dreams, or sub-plots.