Archive for shamus

Wild Wives by Charles Willeford (Beacon, 1956)

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

Charles Willeford’s orginal title for this quirky private eye yarn was Until I Am Dead, but Beacon Books re-titled it Wild Wives as the seond part of a double book, the reprint of High Priest of California, which had originally appeared in 1953 as the second half of a Royal Giant digest number.

Since both novels are short — c. 30,000 words — they were suitable for one regular-sized 60,000 word paperback.

Wild Wives is dubbed a “First Award Novel” which a number of Beacons from 1956-1958 were, for whatever reason…one will note that Beacon misspelled the author’s name as “Williford.”

This is my first read of Charles Willeford; people have been recommending him to me for years.  It takes me a while sometimes. He certainly has an interesting history as a writer.  Out of the army, he fancied himself a San Francisco beatnik poet, publishing a chapbook in the mid-50s, then turning to novels at age 30, writing the first few in a cheap room at the Powell Hotel on weekends, soaking up the San Francisco lifestyle.

His aim, like many young pulp crime writers then, was Gold Medal, but his books were too short. He found a home at Royal Giant/Beacon, and later Newsstand Library.  He wasn’t prolific.  He used the money to pay for graduate school.  He later went into college teaching, published more poetry and memoir, was re-discovered in the 1970s and 80s, and hit big time with the bestseller turn into a movie, Miami Blues.  In his autumnal years, he enjoyed his re-discovery as a pulp master, wrote more books, and passed away in 1988, age 69.

Since I have not read any other Willefords yet, I cannot say, but have read that Wild Wives is unlike his other novels, being a more “conventional”  noir/crime/gumshoe tale.

The narrator shamus is Jake Blake, San Fran wise-ass tough guy private eye.  In the first chapter, a 15 year old girl points a water pistol at his head then lifts her skirt and bends over, asking to be spanked — already we know that Willeford’s writing is a bit…off-kilter…

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Wild by Gil Brewer (Gold Medal, 1958)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Private eye Lee Baron has come from California to take over his dead father’s P.I. biz in Florida.  His first client is an old high school flame, Ivor Hendrix (Ivy?), who has had a spat with her trailer park husband and is afraid he’ll beat or kill her; she wants Lee to go talk to him and make sure all is okay.

It’s difficult for Lee, to see his old flame again, to remember all that youthful lust and fumblings…she’s older, but sexier, a woman he still has some feeings for.

He goes to the trailer out there in the Florida backwoods, and finds the husband: dead, and not a pretty decaying body.

He muses: “A corpse looks strange with no arms.” (p. 14).

Brewer jumps right into the action, wasting little time with character set-up. Dead bodies, big fat philosophizing thugs, wayward young women, love sick salesmen, a hound dog, cliched cops, backwoods hicks, shady guys in backroom bars, another dead body, $400K from a bank heist, this book has all the hackneyed elements from any PI novel.  But in 1958, they were not so hackneyed — other writers have since borrowed, pilfered, and appropriated so that the elements are now cliche.

It’s a bit predictable.  Brewer was not cut out for the gumshoe genre — with The Venegul Virgin and The Three-Way Spilt, he was best suited to crime, caper, and double-cross. There’s a double-cross here, of course, but you see it coming.

A fun read, though; but on the  1-10 scale, I’d give it a 7.

Mad for Kicks by Jack Lynn (Novel Books Special, 1960)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

This is dubbed a “Novel Books Special” and is one of a number of Lynn;s Tokey Wedge private eye books.  Not sure which one is the first but doesn’t seem you need to start with the first, although there are references to characters and incidents from other books.

Wedge is not your typical tall, dark and handsome gumshoe.  Wedge describes himself as

five-six and one half [tall]. One hundred aned forty-seven pounds. A bundle of nerve and verve. Persuasive. Permissive. When it comes to girls, I love ’em. (p. 19)

The women he connects with often note that he’s “a little guy” or “short man.”  On the cover of Tall and Torrid, we get an idea of what he looks like:

Like the typical 1960s shamus, he gets laid often, he’s tough as rawhide, and he kills the bad guys when necessary. Which has given him somewhat a rep — in Mad for Kicks,  a man offers Wedge $5,000 to track down the man men who kidnapped nd raped his daughter, and wants Wedge to kill them. He’s heard Wedge kills but Wedge tells him he’s not a hired gun, and has only killed ijn self-defense.  Wedge takes the five grand to track the men down, but says he will turn them into the cops. Wedge’s relationship with the local cops is shaky.

Novel Books’ usual hyperbole to make the book seem more than it cam be is employed with this blurb from Men’s Digest (which was owned by Camerarts, that owned Novel):

MAD FOR KICKS outdoes LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER and any book that you care to name for that strong stuff that you men like. Not recommended for women and children.  This NOVEL BOOK powerhouse will make you do a double-take every time you pass a beatnik.

What the book’s connection to Lady Chatterly’s Lover is unclear, as this is a private eye two-fisted tough guy yarn…

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