Aug 142013
 
Paperback 683: All Star Books AS 531 (PBO, 1963)

Title: Big Heat
Author: No author credit? Seriously? Not even on the title page or anywhere?
Cover artist: too sad to think about

Yours for: Not for Sale [Part of the Doug Peterson Collection]

AS531

Best things about this cover:
  • Several things. First: peach?
  • Second: the most offensive thing about this cover—his shirt. Actually, probably all of him, but especially his shirt.
  • I am enjoying her stockings.
  • I like (seriously, like) how they start her off at "Twice."

AS531bc

Best things about this back cover:
  • BIG HEAT! Comin' atcha! 3 times!
  • In what universe is the phrase "giant breasts falling free of her halter" erotic or titillating? It makes me want to shout "Run!" to all the endangered villagers.
  • Hmm. If you're looking to find a man who could release you from the tortured lust of being a lesbian, I'm not sure reckless affairs with other women is the way to go about it. "I keep having reckless affairs with other women, but so far, no luck on the man front. What am I doing wrong!?"
  • Ah, "unnatural" and "twisted," my favorite code words. How you guys doin'? Good to see you again.

Page 123~
"Christ, what's the matter with me?" he said. "Blowing my stack over some dumb kid in hick fishing camp!"
Wow. Did not see those last three words coming.

Here's some bonus footage, which I tweeted last night—from the preview page inside the front cover:
Her breasts were enormous bombs of powdered white flesh, tipped with crimson tidbits the size of plums.
The Crimson Tidbits were also a moderately successful doo-wop group from the late-50s.

~RP

P.S. this book appears to be ... short stories. But with no table of contents and no author credit and no apparent dignity, who's to say?

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]
Jul 162013
 
It was bound to happen. I have been disappointed by the latest Jonathan Craig novel I’ve read. This is number eight in the series and there are only two more left. With the best of the lot already behind me I figured the final three might perhaps deliver a clunker among the trio. Case of the Laughing Virgin (1960) is the first letdown in what previously had been a crisply written, offbeat series set in Greenwich Village of the 1950s. In this novel we enter a new decade and already a deeper cynicism has sunk into both the characters and the overall writing.

Craig’s police procedurals are characterized by detail in the bureaucracy of police work and characters consisting of colorful oddballs among what might be called the lowlife of Lower Manhattan. The books nearly always include some unheard of kinky sex practice or fetish as the murder investigation almost always involves sex in any number of practices and preferences. But in this story the situation is seedier than usual, most of the characters are unrelentingly loathsome, and the overall tone is bitter and caustic.

Pete Selby and his partner Stan Rayder trade sarcastic quips more often than usual but the humor is  forced and tone is flippant. The usual crackerjack dialogue is not enhanced with lines like these:

"I was beginning to wonder where everyone was. They must have come by way of Bluefield, West Virginia."  (Says Rayder when his police colleagues finally show up at the murder scene) 

"Once upon a time...there were seven little thespians, all in a row. But the brave and brilliant detective team of Selby and Rayder went to work on them -- and now there are three."

Was Craig getting tired of these guys? Was he in a bad period in his life? Or was he just fed up with sex and crime books?

The story centers around the shooting death of Larry Yeager, a no talent actor who blackmails his way into a role in a grade Z play called Grade A about the life of milkmen and the strange notes they find in milk bottles on their delivery route. I can only guess this is Craig’s attempt at humor but it bombs as badly as those lame lines above. Yeager we soon learn managed to purchase a movie featuring a group of six individuals unknowingly caught on film displaying their talent for bedroom acrobatics in a round robin of sexcapades. With the use of clever lighting, a two way mirror, and a hidden camera the evening's activities were filmed without their knowledge and the movie was then shown at a variety of underground stag shows. When Yeager saw the film he recognized several of the unwilling participants in the movie and persuaded the stag show producer and owner of the film to sell him the movie for $1000. Selby and Rayder deduce that he wanted the movie for blackmail purposes. The murder investigation focuses on the search for the missing movie and uncovering the identity of the sex addicted participants all of whom had reason to kill the blackmailing Yeager.

Normally Craig writes about these people with a kind of aloof hipness and tends to make light of the sex underground and its obsession with all things carnal. In previous books these seedy escapades were dealt with almost farcically which took the edge off the freaky. Craig made it interesting, sometimes fascinating, and often amusing to read about. However, the emphasis on pornography and hedonistic sex parties this time is not played for laughs. The writing highlights the squalor of these dens of iniquity, the slobs involved in promoting sex and profiting from it, and the crassness and vulgarity of the people who are their customers and victims. Few characters are presented in a favorable light. Ironically, the only murder suspect who appears to have any decency turns out to be the killer.

Case of the Laughing Virgin has an extremely cynical viewpoint and is unfulfilling as a mystery novel. Craig’s usual offbeat humor which often can elicit a laugh or a smile is all out nasty this time around. Selby and Rayder come off as jaded cops, utterly fed up with the losers and downtrodden types they are forced to deal with day in and day out. Each suspect they question turns out to be selfish, haughty, mean-spirited, brash or unfeeling. The blackmail plot is hackneyed, the detection is at a minimum, and there is not a single twist to enliven the proceedings. (Well, to be truthful there is an attempt at an eleventh hour surprise but it was obvious to me.) I’m moving on to the ninth and tenth books and I’m hopeful for a return to the spark and life of the earlier books.
 Posted by at 1:12 am
Jun 072013
 

As you've may have noticed, I haven't relly been blogging lately (not even in my Finnish-speaking blog, Julkaisemattomia). It's been due to an enormous amount of work I've immersed myself in lately. I've finished four books in a week and I still have the new issue of the Ruudinsavu/Gunsmoke magazine (plus some book reviews) to finish off before I can drop off to spend the Summer holidays with my family. 

What are the four books, you ask. Well, one of them is a double book, but still a pretty mean piece of work, if you ask me. I compiled an anthology of old Finnish hate speech, from the first five decades of the 20th century, focusing on the aftermath of the Finnish Civil War. There will be two books (or one double-sided, I'm not 100 % at the moment), one focusing on the Leftist hate speech and one on the right-wing hate speech. The latter one includes some samples by the Finnish Nazis, and let me tell you it wasn't fun to work with that stuff. Ugly, nasty, paranoid, stupid, even though there seemed to be some attempt to authorize the hate with intellectual reasoning. 

The other two books: a collection of old pulp crime and adventure stories by the famous Finnish writer, later singer-songwriter Reino Helismaa (forthcoming under the title Kolme luurankoa/Three Skeletons; see the cover illustration by Timo Ronkainen above) and the last entry in my own sleaze paperback quartet, called Varissuon varvimestarit (a friend of mine already dubbed this "The Cum-Masters of Crow Moor", Crow Moor being a part of the Turku city). I haven't really finished that, though, I only wrote the first version - I typed the last five or six pages in a feverish state, fingers flying on the keyboard. (Insert smiley here.) I've still got loads of editing to do with the novel. It's some 22,000 words long (in English, it might be something like 30,000 words), so it's not long. The earlier titles: Lausteen himokämppä ("The Lust Cabin of Lauste"), Mynämäen motellin munamällit ("The Spunk Gang of the Mynämäki Highway Motel") and Runkkuloma Rivieralla ("Getting It Off at Riviera"). 

At times I find myself thinking, "how do I manage this?"
May 242013
 
I really don't know what to make of Thirteen Women (1932) by the eccentric stylist Tiffany Thayer. Is it a thriller? Is it a character study? Is it some kind of allegory on Fate? What I do know is it's tawdry, vulgar, lyrical, pulpy, poignant, disgusting, frustrating, infuriating, and utterly addictive. It's sort of the equivalent of driving by an utterly gruesome car wreck on the highway. You don't want to look, you know better. You, of course, are not a gawker or a rubbernecker. But when you get close enough you do slow down and you stare in horror and then look away, but you look back and you gape again. Then you move on. That's what it's like to read Thirteen Women. What can you say about a book that in the first chapter includes a dinner party scene in which the guests discuss a sex act that a depraved nanny performed on her charge and who ended up giving the boy a venereal disease? Of course it's all done in a sly innuendo type of writing, but it's just down right wrong, isn't it?

Thayer is not interested in making you comfortable as a reader. He wants you to squirm and recoil and shudder. He's a bit too obsessed with the nastiness and cruelty of life. He revels in pointing out his character's flaws -- their ignorance, their stupidity, their hedonism. The book is, I guess, meant to be a nihilistic view of the early years of depression era America told mostly from the viewpoint of female characters. But these women are merely symbols and puppets for Thayer's intensely cynical and fatalistic philosophies. Few of them resemble anything approaching a real person. The plot involves an absurd revenge plot decades in the making that stems from the villainess' life of abuse, neglect and bullying. She blames a group of schoolgirls for all her problems and vows vengeance on them all. She devises a ridiculous plan in which she creates the persona of an astrologer who sends letters to all the women in her past. The astrologer foretells death, suicide and disease for everyone.  And when the predictions start to come true one of the women sees not the power of superstition and Fate at work but a very real murder plot starting to unfold at the hands of a mad genius.


Illustrations from the 1st edition by David Berger

Laura Stanhope take her collection of letters to the police along with a packet of powder she received from the astrologer who goes by the preposterous name of Swami Yogadachi (a Japanese swami?). The powder was to be given to her son on his birthday according to the Swami's instructions and is meant to save the boy from a potentially fatal disease he predicts. Laura suspecting it harmful never did a thing but instead of disposing of it she saved it. For five months! She had to or else it wouldn't further the plot, right? The police have the powder analyzed and it turns out to be a highly poisonous compound usually intended as a pesticide for vermin. Thus begins the hunt for the murderous Swami Yogadachi and the search for the other recipients of his letters to prevent any further deaths.

The story is a veritable Pandora's box of ills and pestilence released upon the reader. Murder, suicide, insanity, venereal disease, abortion, sex addiction -- it's all there in abundance. In keeping with the shock factor Thayer also includes a lesbian romance and makes it as tawdry and unattractive as one can imagine for a 1930s audience. Simultaneously making fun of the butch/femme stereotypes and also writing in such a manner as to titillate the easily aroused. It's not as tasteless as the sex addicted nanny story -- at times the relationship between Hazel and Martha is touchingly rendered -- but clearly the scenes are there for the reader who picked this book to be shocked.

Thirteen Women is told in a hodgepodge mess of letters, telegrams, newspaper articles, and author omniscient narration. We get to know the women through their own voices in their letters, but also through the condescending viewpoint of Thayer's narrator who at times is the author himself. Often Thayer steps into the story addressing the reader as "you" and giving his opinions of his characters as if they are real people ("You can't have Josephine Turner. Make up your mind to that. In the first place, I want her myself.") It's only one of the many unexpected parts of the book that make it a genuine head-scratcher yet strangely entertaining in a very offbeat way.

Tiffany Thayer's life, however, would make for a much more interesting book than any of his novels. There is a fascinating article here that goes into great detail about his beginnings as a writer, his friendship with Charles Fort, the origins of the Fortean Society which Thayer helped found, and his megalomaniac takeover of the society and its first magazine/newsletter Doubt. Someone should write a biography of the man. I'd read that with great interest. But as for further investigating the fiction of Tiffany Thayer I have had my fill after indulging myself in the pages of Thirteen Women.

This review was suggested to me by Curt Evans who has written about Tiffany Thayer's publisher Claude Kendall here. This week we chose to write about Thayer's bookend titles Thirteen Women and Thirteen Men. His review of Thirteen Men can be found at his blog The Passing Tramp.
 Posted by at 3:27 pm
Mar 282013
 
In my on-going exploration of British crime and adventure paperbacks, I dipped into The Courier by Stanley Morgan. I left it pretty soon when I noticed it wasn't crime-related, but I thought I'd say something about it.

Stanley Morgan seems to have a bit of a cult following these days, since he has a fan-based website - and it's quite good, too. There's something about him and his books that feels like targeted towards the recent laddie and GQ culture with its tailored, expensive suits, sports cars and pretty dames. Though I'm fond of pretty dames and well-tailored suits myself, I find the culture surrounding them pretty dated and even abrasive. The hero of The Courier is one Russ Tobin, the hero of Morgan's long series of books, free-wheeling bit-actor whose sexual escapades the book follows. There's an add for other books in the series in which Russ Tobin is called "romeo-rapist". Nice touch, eh?

I started to read this, since Morgan has one thriller translated in Finnish, Octopus Hill. Anyone read that?

One thing that comes to mind: the difference between the British and American sex paperback is that there are more crimes and more angst-filled feel of punishment in the American sleaze. And free-minded as I'm about all things related to sex, I find the American way more fascinating.
Nov 132012
 
Death Weekend is one of the Canadian exploitation movies made in the seventies and eighties, and this one was strictly made in the wake of Deliverance and other horror movies about hicks terrorizing nice city folks. Death Weekend, however, doesn't portray any of the city folks being very nice.

Produced by young Ivan Reitman, Death Weekend is actually a pretty good film, with solid direction by veteran TV director William Fruet and good actors, mainly with the menacing Don Stroud as the main terrorizer. Brenda Vaccaro is also good as the terrorized woman. She is spending a weekend on a cottage owned by a Corvette-driving dentist playboy, a sleazy scumbag who takes pictures of women he's taken to his cottage. The film begins with a good car chase the terrorizers lose, hence the revenge on the playboy and his woman. 

Everyone in the picture is a scumbag, save for Vaccaro, who's resourceful, strong and knows how to use things (which the dentist doesn't do). One might say Death Weekend is an attack on self-content petty bourgeoisie and also a description of the threats it's facing. There's a frightful scene in the middle of the film where the gangsters start to destroy the playboy's place, throwing things, smashing furniture, books, bottles, mirrors etc. It goes on and on - a whole way of life is being ruined here, almost in a way that an absurdist or surrealist theater group might do. Antonin Artaud might've liked this film. 

Having said that, it's a mild disappointment that Vaccaro's revenge is a little too easy. The major flaw in the film are the last seconds which may be telling that Vaccaro fell in love with his rapist. It's pretty ugly, given the film doesn't show the rape scenes in an erotic way of any kind. 

There's no DVD of the film at the present, but I managed to see a 35 mm print. The colours of the print had started to fade, but not too much. Some of the scenes seemed to be cut. 

Here's the Canuxploitation Site review of the film with more background on the makers. 

More Overlooked Movies here
 Posted by at 8:47 pm
Sep 252012
 
The mondo documentaries were a fad in the sixties carrying on till the seventies and even the early eighties. The genre was born in the hands of Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi in their dubious early film Africa Addio (1966) that was blamed for racism in its depiction of what happens to Africa after the white Europeans leave the continent.

I haven't seen Africa Addio, but I just recently saw another film by the same duo, called Addio Zio Tom AKA Goodbye, Uncle Tom (1971). It's another exploitation documentary, using lots of footage of sex, rape, killing, maiming and torture. It's also a political film, since it's about the rise of Black Power in America in the late sixties and about the slavery of the earlier centuries. All the scenes are acted out, as there are understandably no archive films about the time of slavery. This is by no means as clever as the Cuban The First Charge of Machete.

Goodbye, Uncle Tom is a very shocking film with all its violence and gratuitous sex, including even minors. It's clear that the directors want very much to condemn the exploitation of slave business and the bad treatment of the Africans, but still they use it to depict sex and violence to attract audience. Goodbye, Uncle Tom is a very confusing film: I really didn't know what to think about it. It's also a bit too long, but the main problem is that it never really gives the word to the Africans or the Black Power activists of the sixties (it even at times ridicules the African-Americans of the late sixties, either for the lack of political consciousness or at their funny seriousness), and with this gesture it becomes clear that Jacopetti and Prosperi want to shout at white Americans: "Watch out, the niggers are coming and it's all your fault!"

More Overlooked Films at Todd Mason's blog.

Edit: Earlier I had used Mondo Case as an example, but I was pointed out that I was actually talking about Africa Addio.
 Posted by at 7:36 pm
Sep 192012
 
Lynn Munroe has just posted an excellent essay and a thorough bibliography on Ben Haas in his website. Ben Haas was of course better known - at least here in Europe - as John Benteen, the writer of the delightful Fargo series. Lynn Munroe writes in length also about Haas's sex and sleaze paperbacks, many of which were previously unearthed.

I haven't read much Haas, but along with the Fargos I'll heartily recommend Big Bend as Richard Meade and some of his Lassiters and Cutlers. (Why not all of them? Because I have read only few. All have been consistently good.)

Oops! There's no Wikipedia entry for Haas! Work up one!
 Posted by at 3:48 pm
Sep 172012
 
As some of you are aware, I've self-published two sleaze crime paperbacks in 2010 and 2011. This year will see yet another sleaze novel, but it will be a double, just like the old Ace Doubles - or actually the Midwood Doubles might be a more appropriate reference point here!

The other book was written by a friend of mine who wanted to use the pseudonym Carlos Caramba. I'm still using my old moniker Mikael X. Messi. Both books have the same title: Runkkuloma Rivieralla. It means something along the lines of "Jacking Off at Riviera" and it refers to the idiotic Finnish title of Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday (I know, I know, they aren't at Riviera in the film!). It also refers to a once popular vacation spot at Masku, near the town of Turku, that's known as Riviera.

The cover photos are found material, the other one is from an old LP, the other one from an old C-cassette. I guess no one will come asking about copyrights.
 Posted by at 7:05 pm
Jun 022012
 
A good if not stellar example of the sex and crime thriller.  Reminded me of The Man with My Face in reverse with a bit of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers thrown in.

Steve Nolan wakes up from a drunken (or drugged?) stupor to discover the woman who claims to be his wife is a sexpot impostor.  No one believes him when he insists she is not his wife.  He approaches his pal Bill Rhodes, a cop, then his ex-girlfriend Claire.  They begrudgingly allow for the possibility of truth in his preposterous story.  The two become his only allies.

To save money Steve and his wife live with his bedridden aunt and Dr. Earl Paige and Janice Langford Nolan (the fake wife) seem to be victimizing her for some unknown reason. Even with the frequent visits from Paige Aunt Eda 's health worsens rather than improves.  Could it be all that food Jan keeps preparing? As the story progresses it is clear that Doc Paige, a one time friend of the Nolan family, and the fake Jan have joined in a conspiracy against Steve. But why?

When a dead woman is pulled from a river Rhodes asks Steve to identify her.  Though she's been violently beaten (and later learned been raped repeatedly) Steve is able to confirm that the woman is the real Jan.  To borrow a phrase from Richard Prather  -- Steve is in some kind of pickle now.

Monarch Books, the publisher, was one of the leading marketers of sleazy paperback originals in the late 50s and early 60s.  They loved sex of all kinds -- straight, gay, lesbian, three ways, bigamy -- and even ventured into publishing non-fiction books about "perverts" and "sexual deviants."  It was a prerequisite that any novel published by Monarch contain a heavy dose of sex. Brewer delivered the goods with passages like these:
There were other girls.  When one sells mattresses one has an in. Talk comes quickly to the point.  A woman wants to buy a mattress.  Take it from there.
She didn't say, "Yes." It wasn't combustion, not that time." She asked him point blank, "Oh, damn you! Do it to me -- hurry, before I go crazy! Do it to me, now!"
When he touched [her breasts] she moaned, touching him with a savagery that made him explode, her body a circus of frantic urgency.  And he as wild and frantic as she -- lost in a world of heat and desire.
She laughed with wild abandon, savoring this tumultuous moment, riding her passion like a running steed, hoarsely gasping half-intelligible words.

I can't help but think that last pun was Brewer's private joke at his requirement to fill pages with this kind of thing. Fulsome breasts and erect nipples abound.  Frequent use of the word "savagery" and its adjectival form sum up Brewer's style of sex writing.  The woman's bodies are always described in great detail in these books.  I find it laughable that nothing is ever mentioned about the guys other than their hands. No wonder a lot of these writers were so good at writing lesbian sleaze as well.

The crime plot is typical of this kind of book and not meant to be anything other than a frame-work on which to get a guy in trouble with violent thugs and temptresses of the flesh. This is one of Brewer's lesser books with few twists, but he tells a fast-paced, exciting story. At least you're rooting for Steve to be proven right. Unlike most of his books published for Gold Medal which were bleaker and more cruel this one even has a happy ending.


 Posted by at 3:26 pm