Archive for vintage crime

The Getaway Man by Andrew Vachss (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Books, 2003)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction with tags , , , , on December 24, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Not a “vintage” sleaze/crime/sex book, but written in the vintage mode, with a retro type cover, by noir-man Andrew Vahcss (“Vax”).

A few years ago, seemed Vintage/Black Lizard was going to issue some 50K-word trade paper originals, with that old time pulp feel, with covers to match — The Getaway Man was one of them, but seems that idea feel to the side. Too bad.  Then came Hard Case Crime, picking up on the notion…

This is Vachss’ Gold Medal book — has that Gold Medal sensibility and could have been one.  The first-person narrator is recruited to be a getaway driver in a heist; he’s a nowheere guy with a rap sheet from his juvenile days, but he can drive. And find trouble.

He doesn’t “sound” any different than many of Vachss nameless narrators in his short stories, or his characters Ghost and Cross; as for Burke, Burke is more distinct.  Vachss tosses in his trademark sexually abused children sub-plot, which is almost disappointing, that he goes back to an element that, while powerful, has become repetitive in his work.

I first discovered Vachss the summer of 1990; I stumbled on a used mass market reprint of Blue Belle (the third Burke novel), opened it, and was blown away by what I read.  I couldn’t put it down. I had never read crime fiction like this, and it was exciting — the very short chapters, the terse writing, the explicit sex and wild violence, along with dark taboo subjects like incest and child prostitution/porn. The novel was filled with an assortment of colorful characters who helped Burke out, from a transvestite hooker to a homeless rhyming philosopher and a Chinese dragon lady who acted as banker and momma.  Burke himself was a criminal private eye, sorta, a mixed character who was both a crook and avenger of the helpless, who toted a giant mastiff around in a souped up old car. Who the hell was this guy and why had I not found Vachss and Burke before?

I quickly picked up Vachss’ others, such as Hard Candy (the fourth, connected to Blue Belle), Strega, and others.  His first, Flood, was not as good — dense, too private-eye-esque; I later heard rumors that he was unable to sell it and “created” a fake literary agent to get editors to read, selling it finally to Donald I. Fine, not the best of the hardcover publishers at the time.

I have since heard many rumors that Vachss is a con guy and created that image of himself as the one-eyed tough guy lawyer as a marketing ploy (did he really lose his eye in a street fight from a thug with a bike chain?).  Who knows if this is true or made up by jealous competitors?  Does it matter?  Not really.  All promotional images are cons of hype one way or another.

I was a fan throughout most of the 90s, eager for every new Burke book; around the late 90s, the books started to become repetitive and dull, and disappointing.  He came back for me with Shella, and with The Getaway Man.

A recommended read.

Mona by Lawrence Block (Gold Medal, 1961)

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

Block - Mona2An early Block with quite a history. It’s been reprinted twice since its Gold Medal debut in 1961 — as Sweet Slow Death in 1986 from Jove, Mona in 1994 from Carroll & Graf,  and as Grifter’s Game as the the first offering from Hard Case Crime in 2005.  A lot of mileage for an old title that has now become somewhat a classic in 60s noir.

block-791579I read somewhere that Block had started this one as a Nightstand title, and $20 Lust as something for Gold Medal or Beacon, but things got switched around, and when his agent Henry Morrison at Scott Meredith read the manuscript, he concluded it was good enough for Gold Medal and under Block’s own name.  Thus, Mona became the first paperback Block had his name on the cover, instead of Lesley Evans, Sheldon Lord, or Andrew Shaw.

There’s a Mona, a dead ex-wife, in $20 Lust (aka Cinderella Sims), talked about earlier, and a number of Monas show up in Block’s Andrew Shaw books.  She’s like Harry Whittington’s Cora, popping up often in different, same soul.

Block’s many Monas are just no good…tramps, cheats, and liars all…

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Somebody Owes Me Money by Donald E. Westlake (Lancer Books, 1969; Hard Case Crime, 2006)

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction with tags , , , , , , on September 4, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

Westlake - Somebody Owes Me old

Written a few years after Westlake stopped wearing the Alan Marshall mask for Cornith and Midwood, and was establing his career as a crime writer…

This is one of his funny goofy books.  It starts off somewhat serious, with sardonic moments, and eventally takes a turn for the absurd, the way the Lethal Weapon movies got more and more ridiculous.  If you like the humor in Joe Lansdale’s Hap novels, you’ll dig this.

A NY cabbie, 29-year-old Chet, gambler and invisible in the big city,  makes a good bet on a tip from a fare, and is owed $950 from his bookie; but when he goes to see his bookie, his bookie is dead and bloody, murdered.

Two mafia gangs think he did it; the bookie’s sister thinks he did it; the cops suspect he did it; he gets shot at and beaten up and is on the run, having developed a romance with the sister, Abby, a blackjack dealer from Vegas.

Through it all, all he wants is the $950 owed him, dammit.

Flaws and predictable, it’s still a fun read from vintage Westlake, a Lancer orginal recent re-printed by Hard Case.

Westlake - Somebody owes Me