Jan 042015
 
Paperback 848: Dell 105 (1st ptg, 1946)

Title: Appointment with Death
Author: Agatha Christie
Cover artist: Gerald Gregg

Estimated value: $15-25

Dell105

Best things about this cover:

  • "Where have you been? You're late. We had an appointment. [Sigh]. I guess we can get coffee and wait for the next tour to start, but … I really wish you'd called." #PassiveAggressiveDeath
  • Killer Gerald Gregg cover. KILLER.
  • "AN Hercule Poirot Mystery"—I like that the cover knows the "H" is silent.


Dell105bc

Best things about this back cover:

  • O, man, jackpot. First off, MAPBACK!
  • Second off, check out the 1946 map! Predates existence of Israel by a scant two years.
  • Third, check out the insert map from "Star Wars." You can see a Jawa camp and everything.


Page 123~

"None of the servants seemed to be about, but I found some soda water and drank it."

You'll thrill to the tale of the intrepid rich guy who risked all to survive in … A House Without Servants.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

Nov 272014
 
Hawker #1: Florida Firefight, by Carl Ramm May, 1985  Dell Books One of those men’s adventure series that goes for high dollars now, thanks to the current fame of the author, Hawker ran for 11 volumes and, if this first volume is any indication, was pretty good. Unfortunately, given those inflated prices, I’ll only be reading the handful of copies I came upon last year at a Half Price
Jul 082014
 
I was very sad to see the Burke series end, but was confident Andrew Vachss would still give me the best entertainment and food for thought in fiction with his new Cross series. That series doesn't beat this new series featuring ex-Legionnare Dell though. With this guy and his love, former Médecins Sans Frontières nurse Dolly Mr. Vachss has found the perfect guides into the world of sexual violence and the advocates for justice for the abused, just like Burke and his crew were.
When a teenage girl shoots a fellow student in the hallway people try to compare it to Columbine. The girl's not talking at first, but Dell sets out to investigate her reasons for shooting the student and discovers their hometown has a dark secret.
This story is a perfect combination of court room drama and vigilante justice as Dell enlists the aid of a lawyer and a really cool and original forensic psychologist to find out the truth.
Great, dark and chilling hardboiled prose, the best dialogue Vachss has written so far and a lot to think about.
A winner.
Apr 072014
 
Paperback 760: Dell 696 (1st ptg, 1953)

Title: Slan
Author: A.E. Van Vogt
Cover artist: Uncredited, aarrgh!

Yours for: $20

Dell696

Best things about this cover:
  • "I Was a 22nd-Century Gun Moll!"
  • Her mouth! Is she talking? Hissing? Shouting "Slan!"?
  • I have seen the future. It is full of 8th graders' atom diagrams.
  • Pretty bold to paint right on top of a well-used bandage.
  • Quintessential mid-century sci-fi cover art. Iconic. Beautiful. Perfect.

Dell696bc

Best things about this back cover.
  • Why aren't people named "Groff" any more? Or "Jommy"?
  • Idea: Western / Scifi epic with a hero named "Slim Tendrils"…
  • I'm guessing that's not "Jommy" on the cover. But who knows what the future holds…

Page 123~

The impression smashed into fragments. Granny.

That has to be the weirdest two-sentence sequence in literary history.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Mar 262014
 
Paperback 757: Dell 223 (1st ptg, 1948)

Title: Hammett Homicides
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Cover artist: Gerald Gregg

Yours for: $30

Dell223-1

Best things about this cover:
  • Taste the (lead) rainbow!
  • Uh, guys? I think it's probably dead now.
  • I see a pretty butterfly.
  • Gerald Gregg is my favorite early, semi-abstract, non-sleazy cover artist.

Dell223bc

Best things about this back cover:
  • [ahem] … MAPBACK!
  • So iconic—Hammett's S.F.!
  • Sausaleto? What the?! … aw, I can't stay mad at you, mapback! Come here!

Page 123~ (opening paragraph of "The Main Death")

The captain told me Hacken and Begg were handling the job. I caught them leaving the detectives' assembly room. Begg was a freckled heavyweight, as friendly as a Saint Bernard puppy, but less intelligent. Lanky Detective-Sergeant Hacken, not so playful, carried the team's brains behind his worried hatchet face.

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Jan 272014
 
Fear Itself, by Ric Meyers June, 1991  Dell Books About a decade after writing Ninja Master, Ric Meyers turned out this now-forgotten trilogy that seems very much inspired by Sam Raimi’s film Darkman. But whereas Raimi was sure to keep his story action-packed and darkly comedic, Meyers unfortunately delivers what is for the most part a padded, tepid, and uninvolving story – a definite
Jan 252014
 
Paperback 736: Dell 186 (1st ptg, 1947)

Title: She Ate Her Cake
Author: Blair Treynor
Cover artist: Uncredited [Gerald Gregg]

Yours for: $12

Dell186

Best things about this cover:
  • Hell yeah she did! Good for her.
  • She ate her cake, then stood near the window and shot at birds.
  • Pretty dang racy for a '40s Dell cover.

Dell186bc

Best things about this back cover:
  • Mapback!
  • Chickens! 
  • I'm not sure where to go after "Chickens." Not sure how you top "Chickens."

Page 123~

"Well then, why not come back to Los Angeles when I leave? You can go places with me. Now that Al is gone, I'm Mr. Big."
"Yeah, Mr.-Big-on-the-Lam."

Yeesh, I've heard better gangster patter at crossword puzzle conventions. Come on!

~RP

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Jan 092014
 
Traveler #3: The Stalkers, by D.B. Drumm September, 1984  Dell Books Sort of picking up from the events of the previous volume, this installment of the Traveler series, once again courtesy John Shirley, sees our titular protagonist movin’ on down the road, where he’s promptly ambushed by mutant horrors called “Bloats” which string him up with another captive and then line up for dinner. As
Dec 122013
 
Traveler #2: Kingdom Come, by D.B. Drumm July, 1984  Dell Books Yet another post-nuke pulp series from the ‘80s, Traveler is one I remember checking out from my local library as a kid (they actually had men’s adventure novels on a spinner rack!). I think I read the first volume, but they didn’t have any others and so I never bothered buying the later volumes at WaldenBooks, as even then I
Nov 112013
 

Making U-Hoo, by Irving A. Greenfield
November, 1973  Dell Books

Another of those early ‘70s sex novels Dell Books specialized in, Making U-Hoo is courtesy Irving A. Greenfield, who again delivers a fast-moving narrative that, while not being especially memorable in the plot department, definitely delivers some memorable sex scenes. In the ‘60s Greenfield served as “Vin Fields” for porn imprint Midwood, so he certainly had the experience under his belt (so to speak) to capitalize on the sex novel boom of the late ‘60s/early ‘70s.

The playful title is apt – the characters in this novel “make yoo-hoo” in both the literal and the figurative sense. Sales for a previously-low tier soft drink called U-Hoo (a citrus-lime soda clearly modelled on Sprite) have gone through the roof, basically destroying the profits of larger soft drink manufacturer SDA (read: Coca-Cola). Protagonist and sometimes narrator Bart Sherriff, a consulting ad whiz, is called in by SDA to find out what’s going on.

I say “sometimes” a narrator because most of Making U-Hoo is in third-person, but Greenfield will arbitrarily jump into Bart’s perspective for several first-person sequences. Sometimes it’s when he’s meeting with clients, other times when he’s just walking around (strangely though, none of the actual sex scenes are written in first-person), so there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the perspective changes.

Bart Sherriff is a totally ‘70s protagonist; he’s in his 30s and lives in a swinging bachelor pad in Manhattan complete with a round bed and a stereophonic system that’s hooked into a fancy lighting system, so that various colors will flicker in accordance with the mood of the music. He’s such a successful advertising man that he rents out his services, charging high dollars for his consultations. Just as importantly, so far as the narrative goes, he’s also a big success with the ladies, able to score with ease.

We see Bart handling a few accounts before he’s called in by SDA president Knowles to handle the U-Hoo situation. Knowles states that the problem threatens the national economy, and it’s so bad that people are bootlegging U-Hoo, buying it off shelves and reselling it at a massive upcharge. After accepting the job Bart realizes he’s being followed, and soon discovers that the Feds are on the case, shadowing his every move.

Not that this prevents him from sleeping with the first of three conquests in the novel, this being a gorgeous blonde SDA secretary named Sandy, who just started working at SDA, is happy to go home with Bart, and is obviously an FBI agent (though it takes Bart a while to realize this). In the ensuing sex scene Greenfield takes us completely into the shagadelic ‘70s, with the couple engaging in explicitly-rendered sex on Bart’s round bed while stroboscopic lights flash around them.

Greenfield lazily works up a mystery here, but the novel is moreso in the light humor vein, with no violence or deaths or anything of that nature. In fact when Bart is confronted by a pair of FBI goons he’s easily able to fool them into thinking he himself is a G-Man, and then gets the guys drunk and sends them on their way. This after the trio have watched a televised speech from the President (clearly Nixon, though he isn’t named – and there’s a fair amount of President-bashing throughout the novel, again firmly rooting it in its era), in which the President informs the country of the “soda conspiracy” and requests that everyone buy a can of pop the next day.

It’s his ruse to further throw off the Feds that leads Bart to his next conquest, a brunette model named Lois. The focus of the most sex scenes in the novel, I guess Lois is the closest we get to a female protagonist. Bart calls in a crazy friend to throw a costume party in Bart’s apartment, so Bart can take off in the fray and leave the Feds to wonder what happened to him. He tells his crazy friend to bring along anyone he knows; one of these people happens to be Lois, who offers her place to Bart as a safe place to stay, and thus moments after meeting each other they rush back to her place to screw. Ah, the ‘70s.

Greenfield serves up another pages-long sex scene here, miles beyond the metaphor and analogy-ridden purple prose you’d encounter in say the Baroness series, with graphic depictions baldly rendered…though not with the outrageous aspects of Harold Robbins or the boring, repetitive, and mechanical sex descriptions you’d find in a vintage sleaze novel like Flowers And Flesh. One thing I’ve noticed though about Greenfield is his tendency to always mention what his female characters taste like, if you catch my drift.

Making U-Hoo runs at 251 pages of fairly big print, and I figured most of those pages would be given over to sex scenes, but that’s really not the case. In fact Greenfield seems determined to deliver an actual story, one that’s couched in goofy humor and the occasional sex scene. Most of the novel is focused on Bart’s inner monologues and his thoughts and feelings on various things as he traipses around ‘70s New York City tracking down clues. However the U-Hoo “conspiracy” stuff is not given enough weight or focus to classify the novel as a thriller or anything of the sort. Again, it’s more of a comedy.

In fact the whole mystery angle is rendered moot in the reveal, when Bart meets Flosie, a black masseuse. While giving Bart a handjob she casually informs him that she’s behind the “conspiracy,” having spread the word that the black community should “get whitey” by buying up one brand of soda and then gouging the market with inflated resale prices. Bart thanks her by paying to have sex with her, having already broken off his days-long relationship with Lois. In fact the women just abruptly drop out of the narrative once Bart’s done with them, and Greenfield intentionally or not builds ill will against his protagonist, as it’s clear that these women develop feelings for Bart, particularly Lois, but he could care less.

I’m sort of on the fence with Making U-Hoo; I enjoy Greenfield’s writing and the dialog he gives his characters, but the plot is middling and forgettable. However the book works as a nice capsule of early ‘70s New York and the fashions of its hipper denizens, which always results in high marks from me. I guess I’d end by saying you should maybe check it out if you come across it for cheap, but it’s not worth going to great lengths to hunt it down.