Archive for Mike Avallone

Stag Stripper by Mike Avallone (Midwood #F132, 1961)

Posted in crime noir, Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on July 18, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

A fast-paced Mike Avallone…Ivy Savage is a redheaded bombshell burlesque dancer with her own on the road act, making up to $700 week. Despite her exuded sex, it’s all an act, she sends money back home to help take care of her sister and sister’s kids, and she holds a flame for a young man who died in Korea, the only man she ever loved.

In Kansas City, she’s arrested for lewd public behavior and put on trial.  As the jury debates over it, we learn that the judge in the case is a sadist who beats on his wife; that the prosecutor holds a secret desire for women like Ivy, and has a black book of call girls; and that the jurors are rather biased pro and con about the art of stripping, neglecting legal boundaries.

Meanwhile, Ivy has been rejecting the advances of the local burly producer, who has mob ties. They kidnap Ivy’s young sister and give Ivy a choice: the sister gets raped and it’s filmed, or Ivy stars in the stag film for them to make money on.

Not a bad book.


Kung Fu: The Way of the Tiger, the Sign of the Dragon – Howard Lee/Barry N. Malzberg (Warner Books, 1973)

Posted in Barry N. Malzberg, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , on January 14, 2010 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Well, this is a vintage paperback…I am adding it because it has an interesting back story.  I was re-reading it today because it was penned by none other than Barry N. Malzberg, probably the most unlikely fit for a TV tie-in writer.

I’d once asked Malzberg about it.  He of course did it for a quick paycheck, like his adaptation of Phase IV, a strange little low budget SF movie that was more in tune with Malzberg’s style and concerns.  Seems Warner Books needed someone to write this in a week, which he did, and as part of the deal, Warner agreed to publish his 1974 collection, Out from Ganymede, which explains how that book of esoteric and experimental short stories was published by a commercial paperback house.

Malzberg has not found the irony golden that this Kung Fu title sold half a million copies and made the bestseller lists, outdoing any original book he penned, and he saw no royalties, it was  a work for hire, probably feeling the same dismay that Mike Avvalone and Harry Whittington experienced when they were paid $1500 for their Man from UNCLE tie ins which were bestsellers and sold well.

Speaking of which, Mike Avallone seemed to have penned the next two Howard Lee Kung Fu books.  In the arly 70s, Kung Fu was one of the biggest TV shows going — much to Bruce Lee’s dismay, who conceived the show and had it stolen from him.

So how is the book?  It’s okay.  Malzberg was obviously just translating a TV script to prose, but here and there a few Malzbergian sentences make their way in — the fact that Malzberg adapted this is worth the price of purchase alone; many writers have done tie-ins for a buck, and we did get one of his best collections of stories out of the deal.

Here’s the galleys of that book:

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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Sinners in White by Mike Avallone (Midwood, 1962)

Posted in Midwood Books, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Midwood - Sinners in White

I’ve had several Mike Avallone Midwoods here for a while, this one and Stag Stripper, and wondered what kind of writer he was.  Avallone was mostly known as a mystery/crime author with his Ed Noon P.I. series andhis active involvement with the Mystery Writers of America, plus he seemed to be fairly full of himself, based on his bio entry at Thrilling Detective, viz:

…he was quick. He once completed a novel in a day and a half. One story goes that he wrote a 1,500-word short story in 20 minutes, while dining in a New York restaurant. One year, he supposedly churned out 27 books. Avallone was a tireless committee volunteer for the MWA, serving on the Board of Directors, as well as editing the newsletter. He was also the chairman of its awards, television and motion picture committees. And he was always quick with a quip. Rumours have it was the Avallone who coined the “Father, Son, & Holy Ghost” line to describe Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald, way back in the early sixties.

He was also legendary for being quick to take offense and quick to lash out, and for his high opinion of himself. An original; a seemingly tireless letter-writer and self-promoter, his own biggest fan, a romping stomping ornery cuss, often charging off in two or three directions at once, at times bitter and spiteful, prickly, opinionated, pounding out white hot attacks on anyone he felt had failed to acknowledge their debt and pay their proper respects to him (never mind that some of these writers never READ him) or in some other way slighted him. He was especially venomous towards more successful writers, notably, supposedly, Stephen King who, Avallone exclaimed at every chance, based every thing he ever wrote on an a Robert Bloch novel.

“A few times,” Avallone’s son, David, admits, “he substituted himself for Bloch, but this was mostly to drive King fans into rage. Most of his “ornery cussedness” had a pretty simple intention; to piss people off and get attention. Once when I was a child and we were in London, he calmly threw into an interview that he thought Arthur Conan-Doyle must have known exactly who Jack the Ripper was… otherwise he wouldn’t have avoided writing about it. This managed to get him into all the other papers, with headlines like “Yank Writer Says Sherlock Was Jack The Ripper”… My point being (one that seems to be lost on a lot of folks) I don’t think Dad particularly believed King plagarized him any more than he believed Conan-Doyle knew the Ripper. He just got a huge kick out of the reaction it caused when he said it.”

Certainly, Avallone had a high opinion of his own work. After his death, the quips and stories rolled out. “He never wrote a book he didn’t like.” “He rewrote one book three times, and sold each version, once as a mystery, once as a romance and once as a horror story, to three different publishers.” “In making a list of the ten best mysteries of all time, he included one of his own books.” “Reading him may have sometimes been a dubious pleasure, and dealing with him an onerous task, but I was glad I knew him. He was his own best character.”

I enjoyed his essay in Paperback Parade #33, talking about the books he did for Midwood and Beacon in the early 60s.  He had lost his editor at Gold Medal, and new editor Knox Burger (later a powerful agent, and famed for having given his old army buddy Kurt Vonnegut his first publishing breaks, buying stories for Collier Magazine and buying Vonnegut’s first two novels as paperback originals in SF with Dell) didn’t want to work with him, so Avallone started to seek new publishers for his work; his agent suggested Midwood. I liked how Avallone was not afraid to put his real name on his “sex” books, wasproud of them, and even dedicated some to family members — Sinners in White is dedicated to his sister, “who would have been a fine nurse.”

Avallone (“Avo” to friends)  claims he wrote his books in a week, some in 3 days.  Seems he’d take on any job, writing many tie-ins for Man from UNCLE, Mannis, Hawaii-5-0 and The Partridge Family (!).

Since I was on a vintage nurse novel kick this week, I decided to sit down with Sinners in White, not knowing what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised — this little novel is no work of art, but it was smoothly written, fast-paced, and entertaining.

It opens absurdly, with three nurses being interviewed for jobs by one Dr. Stryker, who presents himself completely naked when they walk in.  Only one nurse, Kelly Connors, starts to remove he clothes, assuming the interview involves sex.  The other two have different reactions.

Stryker is eccentric and wants to see their reactions — he’s kooky in a Dr. House sort of way.  All three nurses pass the test and are hired. Avallone gives each a chapter about their past, and what led them to the nurse field:

Kelly Connor — prety much a slut nad failed actress, an incident of delivering a baby and helping an accident victim leads her to nusring…

Fran Turner — girl from NY tenement slums, wanting to better herself, get away from her prostitute/drunk mother and the thug who wants to marry her…

Kate Orley — Innocent little rich girl and psychology major, she gets car jacked and raped repeatly for 18 hours by a man. She was a virgin. She does not blame the man, thinking he just needed help…so she decides to go into nursing to help people and deny her debutante life…

nurse

From there it gets soap opera-ish with all the dirty little gioings-ons within the hispital staff — from the one womanier doctor who has to bed every nurse to a love affair between Nurse Turner and Dr. Stryker, to Striker’s invalid wife hiring a private eye to pregnancies and car crashes and emegercy room surger to the head nurse’s gabling problems…

Not bad, not bad, a B-.  I will definitely read more by Avallone.