A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: Meow.

I’m usually not big on the vintage pinup and cheesecake photos, but I am big on Paulette Goddard, probably best known for her work with Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times and The Great Dictator. But in her way, she also marked her turf among Golden Age Hollywood horror actors and scream queens for her starring roles in back-to-back horror comedies with Bob Hope, The Cat And The Canary (1939) and The Ghost Breakers (1940). 

Paulette Goddard (real name: Marion Levy 1910-1990) was a child model, a Zeigfield Girl, an Oscar nominee, a 1950’s Hollywood blacklist victim, appeared in over 60 films between 1929 and 1964 and was married to Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith and Erich Maria Remarque. And she managed to look pretty adorable when she had to wiggle into a studio costume department’s black cat suit (literally) for some often Halloween pinup shots. 

A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: Les Edwards’ Vampires.

During his school days at Homsey College Of Art, British artist and illustrator Les Edwards (who also goes by Edward Miller for some of his romance work) was told in no uncertain terms that he’d never become an illustrator. Well, he graduated from there back in 1972 and has been incredibly successful in publishing, film posters, advertising and even graphic novels ever since. Probably better known for his SF/Fantasy work (as well as romance novel covers under his nom-de-brush), Edwards has done a bit of horror work too including this mini-gallery of Draculas and sundry other ‘children of the night’, with WWII Polish concentration camp survivor and horror grand dame Ingrid Pitt (1937 – 2010) from The House That Dripped Blood among them. 

A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: Bacall At The Blood Bank.

Oh, I know this one’s seen everywhere, but it is almost Halloween, after all, and who better to help celebrate the season here at a “noir culture” site like The Stiletto Gumshoe than Lauren Bacall, in a now-famous Harper’s Bazaar cover photo from 1943. I’ll assume the photo had more to do with serious business like wartime blood drives (it being right in the middle of the U.S. involvement on WWII) than Bacall posing as a stylish creature of the night contemplating a blood bank raid. 

But then, who needs an excuse to post a picture of Lauren Bacall?

My Bloody Valentine.

The title of the photo suite these images come from might make you think of Halloween. Wrong holiday. I suppose I ought to repost this group come February 2021. From “My Bloody Valentine” by Dallas, Texas based photographer and artist Tom Hussey.

A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: The Toff.

“The Toff” (the Honorable Richard Rollinson) opens his mail and discovers a beautifully crafted doll of a naked woman – with a dagger plunged into her chest – which lures him into the bizarre world of the Obeah and a dangerous occult mystery. Maybe mystery, crime fiction and the supernatural (or at least the exceedingly eerie) ought to intersect more often. This one’s a pulpy adventure in John Creasey’s long running series of some sixty “Toff” novels published between 1938 and 1977. The piece of cover art above is from a 1967 Hodder & Stoughton UK paperback edition of A Doll For The Toff, though sadly without an artist credit that I know of.

If Looks Could Kill.

The Daily Mail’s men’s style feature “If Looks Could Kill: This Season’s Noir Fashion” (though it’s from a few ‘seasons’ ago) tells us “If you want to turn heads and get the girl, you need to look the part. Dress like this and don’t be surprised if trouble walks through your door with eyes like marigolds. You might even get a job offer about a mysterious statue, or receive a visit from a beautiful brunette with a dark secret. Thankfully, roscoes and heaters are no longer de rigueur accessories”.

Well, I don’t know about the copywriter’s take on hard-boiled patter, but the selections from Ian Derry’s photography looks just fine.

More From Larry Schwinger.

Pennsylvania artist and illustrator Laurence ‘Larry’ Schwinger’s full color illustrations made my recent used bookstore find of the 1997 Illustrated Junior Library hardcover edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula a real jewel. And all for less than ten bucks. His non-stylized, no-nonsense illustrations added a lot to the classic vampire tale. 

Schwinger didn’t do a lot of horror work that I’m aware of. Or that much mystery/crime fiction material either. But he did some, and they’re nifty pieces, including a series of Cornell Woolrich 1980’s Ballantine paperbacks like I Married A Dead Man (at the top), The Bride Wore Black and The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and more recently, some Hard Case Crime novels, including Spiderweb, Shooting Star, Witness To Myself and Robbie’s Wife

A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: A Used Bookstore Jewel.

Picking up some books I’d ordered at the local indie, I first browsed a bit, in the mood for something suitable for Halloween time. Sad to say, I didn’t find anything there that piqued my interest, but on the way home, a stop at one of two nearby used bookstores yielded a treasure of sorts: A 1997 Illustrated Junior Library hardcover edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, illustrated by Larry Schwinger. It looked like-new and was only $7.99, so that bargain went home with me. 

Sure, I’ve read it before and more than once, but it is one of the grand-daddies of the horror genre, about as influential a book as you can choose, whether for its obvious place of honor in vampire literature, gothic horror literature and horror cinema, or simply its impact on pop culture. I’m nearing the halfway point (that is, as of the few pages I could devour over my drive-thru A.M. coffee earlier today). I wanted something suitable for Halloween. Well, reading Dracula alone in your car in an empty parking lot in the pre-dawn darkness (in a storm, no less, this morning) is pretty damn seasonal.

The book’s been dissected by vampire enthusiasts, critics and scholars alike, so I have little to add to their much wiser assessments, except to note that for all its flaws, and there are many, this re-read reminds me of just how ‘modern’ a novel Dracula really is, clumsy 19th century epistolary structure notwithstanding. A re-read also provides a healthy reminder that Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula is a wholly evil villain, which is almost comforting for an avid noir-ish crime fiction fan like me, being immersed so much in a literary and cinematic world of anti-heroes and sundry shades of gray. 

I suppose I’ll finish it over the weekend (it’s Thursday now as I write this), and I expect to be in the mood for more Dracula on-screen. Reading the novel is bound to find me watching the original, as in Todd Browning’s 1931 Universal film version with Bela Lugosi as the tuxedo and opera cape clad Transylvanian vampire. Its connection to the source material is thin at best, as is Lugosi’s iconic portrayal, but there are all those magnificent Charles D. Hall designed sets and matte paintings to marvel at, and after all, the film’s source material was the successful Hamilton Deane play more than Bram Stoker’s novel anyway. 

Of course, that’s a short film, so I’ll likely have to pick some other Dracula, vampire or horror flick to round out an evening of viewing, but there’s a classic horror DVD or two (well, way more, actually) lurking down in the writing lair. The 10.21.20 edition of Crime Reads (www.crimereads.com) could help, with Lit Hub and Crime Reads staff writer Olivia Rutigliano’s piece “The Fifty Best, Worst And Strangest Draculas Of All-Time, Ranked”. I won’t say who’s her favorite (but it wasn’t Bela…hmmmmm) and the list includes David Niven, Lorne Greene, Morgan Freeman, puppets and cartoons. It’s a fun read, and helpful for recommending a film or warning you away from some. Check it out – link below. 

A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: Witches, 1950’s Style.

This should’ve been in an October issue, but it’s actually from the February 1958 issue of Jem, “The Magazine For The Masterful Male”, one of the countless Playboy knockoffs from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

“Broom And Board” by R. Fred Arnold, is the “authentic, never-before printed story of the life and times of a witch”. Authentic it’s not, though 1950’s-funny it aims to be. Young Beaulah Broome of Coffeyville, Kansas is more or less a normal small-town teen who sometimes hears spooky voices and other-wordly laughter. Tossing and turning in bed one night, she awakes to find a witch perched right on her own footboard. “At least, I imagined it was a witch. She had on a peaked hat and long grey robes. There was a broom clutched in her hand. But far from being the weather-beaten hag pictured in the usual drawings of witches, she was a beauty. The grey robes fitted tight over a voluptuous figure. The peaked hat made her long face and laughing eyes even more beautiful.” With a sprightly “Hi-ya, witchy,” the visitor welcomes Beaulah to the IWW (the International Witch Workers) who’ve been monitoring her since childhood. Young Beulah is whisked away for training at…Wichita State University.

You can actually read the whole story online (the entire February 1958 issue of Jem is at Flashbak (flashback.com), “Where Everything Old Is New Again”. Beulah masters the art of infiltrating other women’s bodies in order to seduce men, but if you’re expecting something 1950’s-naughty, be warned: the tale’s strictly PG rated, if even that. Nonetheless, it did feature a nice (though uncredited) illustration.

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