A lot of vintage paperbacks can be knocked off in an evening – or actually, just a part of an evening – and I suppose that was pretty much the intent back when they were published and bought off revolving racks in downtown office building lobbies en route to the bus, taxi stand or train station. Lillian Dowling’s Sexy Psycho surely had some other title when the manuscript was turned in. I’m certain that the author had something less salacious in mind when writing this novel, which tells the tale of troubled Gloria, who finds herself in a sanitarium and relating the tale of her sordid past that includes discovering orgasms on a playground pole, wondering about her possible bisexuality after a naked-in-the-shower frolic with her best teenage pal, and a three-way with the man who’s in-and-out of her life and her bedroom, and her old school gal-pal. But all of it’s related in incredibly un-sexy and tepid prose that seems to be probing the possible sexual roots of a young woman’s 50’s-60’s era’s mixed-up misunderstanding of mental health…and what it meant then and now when a lady says “no”. That the publisher decided straight sleaze was the way to go instead can be guessed at with the choice of good ol’ Robert Bonfils for the cover art.
Mickey Spillane’s Killer Mine, a 1968 Signet paperback of his two 1965 novellas, Killer Mine and Man Alone. These are non- Mike Hammer tales, but pure vintage Spillane. As the back cover tells us: “The guns, the punks, the whores were dying too fast. A wise guy was speeding up the underworld’s death rate with a .38 special. Lt. Joe Scanlon manhunts the tawdry dives and deadly alleys of the slum jungle…his cover, a gorgeous lady cop who plays sex-bait…his target, a one-shot assassin who’s killing off the killers.”
Now, don’t that just say it all? This old paperback’s a little worse for wear, but still solid as can be.
Murder Charge by Wade Miller, a 1951 paperback of ‘Miller’s’ 1950 novel. This oldie’s spine is ready to give, so it’s being read very gently. It was a bargain rack buy, so how could I pass it up, even if it was a bit crumbly?
“Genovese was still sprawled on the carpet. Charm Wylie stood over him, looking fleshy in a green satin dinner dress cut low over her plump breasts…”
Wade Miller is actually the pen name of two writers – Robert Wade and Bill Miller, who began writing together in high school, and after a stint in the Air Force in WWII, published their first novel in 1946. Together they wrote some memorable vintage series and stand-alone crime and mystery novels, including Kitten With A Whip in ’59, and Branded Woman, which was reprinted by Hard Case Crime a few years ago. They also worked under a other pen names and on their own. Miller died in 1961, and his partner Wade passed away in 2012.
After vintage Batman and Detective comics from childhood buy-em-at-the-newsstand days, and (the always brilliant) Terry Moore’s venerable Strangers In Paradise, I realize that most of my favorite comics and series have been by Howard Chaykin, whether as the all-around and in-charge creator, or as the writer, or on occasion, as the artists-only. Black Kiss, Satellite Sam, American Flagg, and then DC-Vertigo’s American Century, which may be my very favorite long-running series, starting back in 2001. Co-written by Chaykin and David Tischman, it was a series of linked multi-issue mini-series telling the tale of Harry Block, a Korean War combat pilot who fakes his death, assumes the name Harry Kraft and gets involved in a series of adventures from Central American drug and gun smugglers to Hollywood crooks, backwoods Southern moonshiners and New York gangsters. Hard-boiled, noir-ish, pulpy-spicy, and always excellently scripted and drawn, American Century was a real treat, and I sorely miss it. And, all the Glen Orbik and Jim Silke cover illustrations didn’t hurt none either!
“Suggestions” by Vincent Peters: Not sure what fashion editor Valentina Serra and photographer Vincent Peters had in mind with the title “Suggestions” for this particular October 2014 Vogue Italia photo suite. Models Sara Sampiao, Luma Grothe, Fardau Van Der Wal, Masha Gutic, Travis Bland, Brendon Beck and Bill McLamon are posed in urban scenes that range from bored city-fringe and blue collar suburb kids to shots that almost echo the Jets and The Sharks and their girl gang squeezes in some kind of bungalow belt couture version of West Side Story.