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.

Le Diable.

These femmes fatales are devilish enough, but this isn’t another Halloween post.

I confess: I’ve seen some of these illustrations lurking around sites and blogs forever and always assumed they were retro styled but recent comic or pinup art. Not so. They’re but a few of dozens of cover illustrations from French paperback and digest novels done by “R & R Giordan”, which is really the brothers Raoul and Robert Giordan, who had a long and successful career doing comics, book covers and spot illustration work in the 1940’s through the 1970’s, particularly popular in science fiction and adventure titles.

The Giordan brothers came from Nice, Robert born in 1922, Raoul in 1926, and worked at a hotel during WWII. After a brief postwar stint at an animation studio, they began working in comics, much of their 1950’s-60’s era work being graphic novel style adaptations of popular science fiction books. In the 1970’s, Raoul began to drift away from comics and illustration work to focus on his own painting, and some years later, both had stopped commercial work altogether. Sadly, brother Robert passed away at the young age of only 61, though Raoul gave an SF/Fantasy comic one more go as late as the 1990’s. Raoul Giordan passed away in 2017.

Even though they’re best known in European science fiction/fantasy/adventure circles, the brothers did a lot of covers for mystery/crime fiction digests and paperbacks as well, some of which are shown here. Le Diable En Bas Nylon by Gerald Rose (The Devil In Nylon Stockings, no surprise) from 1952, and others, are indicative of their consistent style: A particularly ‘fatal’ femme fatale either beckons to some soon-to-be victim, or is already gloating over his downfall, as we see in Robert Trebor’s Mauvais Pretexte. There’s quite a bit about the Girodan brothers to be found online, but mostly in French, and four years of high school French doesn’t equip me to decipher more than a random word or two. Perhaps the less linguistically-challenged among you will fare better.

More Manhunt.

A little over a year ago, I got my hands on Stark House Press’ The Best Of Manhunt, edited by Jeff Vorzimmer (see link below for more on that book).  A legendary postwar mystery/crime fiction pulp magazine like Manhunt clearly deserves more than just one “best of” volume, so Vorzimmer’s back with The Best Of Manhunt 2 (2020), a 420+ page companion trade pb. Much like the first book, there aren’t a lot of ‘extras’, such as author bio’s or cover reprint images. The stories are the attraction. The book opens with some brief entries including Peter Enfantino’s foreword, Jon L. Breen’s introduction and his 1968 article, “On The Passing Of Manhunt”, and finally a 1970 Robert Turner article “Life And Death Of A Magazine”. Those only take up twenty pages or so, and then it’s on to forty tales culled from 1953 through 1964 issues of Manhunt magazine.

The first book may have included a roster of more ‘marquee’ authors, but this follow-up volume still features familiar names like Fletcher Flora, Bruno Fischer, Erle Stanley Gardner, Wade Miller and Donald Westlake. Manhunt’s gritty, hard-boiled rep didn’t seem to attract many women writers, but you’ll find Delores Florine Stanton Forbes (1923 – 2013) included, appearing here as De Forbes. Helen Nielsen (1918 – 2002) was better known as a TV mystery scriptwriter, but her “You Can’t Trust A Man” from a 1955 issue is short, sweet tale with a gotcha ending, and it’s a real treat. 

I don’t know if it makes sense to list “best of’s” from a “best of” book. So I’ll just point out my favorites. While the anthology finds noirish and hard-boiled crime and mayhem in every corner of the U.S. from Florida to Chicago, make-believe burgs and various nowheresvilles, my faves were coastal, one in New York and one in Los Angeles. Frank Kane (1912-1968) is the man behind the long running Johnny Liddell P.I. series of nearly thirty novels and numerous sort stories. His glib NYC gumshoe is too slick and smart-assed for some readers, but Kane’s non-Liddell story, “Key Witness” from a 1956 issue is near-perfect. In part a police procedural, it feels like it could have been written today save for a few anachronisms. There’s no wisecracks or trademark Kane leering, the longish tale was quite dark, gritty and, for me, wholly unexpected.

Heading west to Los Angeles, William Campbell Gault’s “Death Of A Big Wheel” from the April 1957 issue is a lengthy story featuring Hollywood private eye Joe Puma. Some innocent cocktail lounge small talk with a past-his-prime film star finds Puma mixed up with hard-as-nails B-movie studio starlets and gangsters. It’s a real fun read, and was just begging to made into a movie. Still ought to be, if you ask me.

Covers of some of the Manhunt issues the forty stories included in The Best Of Manhunt 2 are shown here.  If you’re interested in postwar mystery/crime pulp fiction that’s a couple notches above the repetitious fistfights, gunplay and outlandish mysteries of 1930’s-40’s era pulps, you can’t go wrong with either (or both) of The Best of Manhunt books.

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2019/09/06/the-best-of-manhunt/

Tomorrow, You Die.

Austrian artist Rudolph Sieber-Lonati (1924 – 1990) was best known for his colorful and action-packed science fiction, horror and western illustrations, but he also painted a number of crime digest and paperback covers. An excellent example: This illustration for G. W. Jones’ Morgen Wirst Du Nicht Mehr Leben, one of that prolific writer’s many “Fledermaus” and “Die Schwarz Fledermaus” digests. Unreliable online translators work that title out as “Tomorrow You Won’t Live Anymore”, but what do you want to bet it’s really “Tomorrow, You Die”?

More From The Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators.

The B&W spot illustration above is from “Murder In Season” by C.A.M. Donne, actually Donald Clough Cameron (1905 – 1954), a prolific novelist, pulp scribe and comics writer who penned many Batman and Superman issues and has been credited in whole or in part with coming up with Wayne Manor’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, and the Batcave. I’ll have to leave it to true Bat-Experts to correct me on that.

The other illustrations (above and below) are from “Sabotage Salvage” by Jerome Severs Perry, which is actually one of Robert Leslie Bellem’s many pen names (as if he wasn’t cranking out enough material for Dan Turner Hollywood Detective tales). It sure seems like forties frills just couldn’t manage to keep the hems of their frocks from flapping open over their stocking tops, at least in Spicy Detective artwork.

The cover for this December 1940 issue was by the great H.J. Ward. But alas, no credits are available for the interior artwork.

Detectives In The Shadows.

Georgetown University professor Susanna Lee’s Detectives In The Shadows (2020 Johns Hopkins University Press) is subtitled “A Hard-Boiled History”, and some may quibble with that. Lee’s 216-page hardcover (the last 46 pages comprised of appendices and footnotes) is less a ‘history’ of fictional hard-boiled detectives and more a close look at how a shortlist of exemplary private eye characters from literature and broadcast media represent and echo their eras. 

If you’ve been burned in the past by academics’ books, I can relate. Susanna Lee previously authored Hard-Boiled Crime Fiction And The Decline Of Moral Authority, but also Proust’s Swann’s Way and Stendahl’s The Red And The Black among other titles, and those might give anyone the willies if they’re disinterested in a return to high school and college required reading lists. (You say ‘Proust’ and I’m automatically fleeing the other way, one particularly disastrous college term paper still nagging at me to this day.)

But, fear not. Detectives In The Shadows is engaging and readable throughout, and I for one would’ve been happy with another 100 pages to devour. She selects a key hard-boiled detective to represent different periods, starting with Carroll John Daly’s Terry Mack as the start of the hard-boiled detective sub-genre, soon supplanted by that same writer’s more popular Race Williams, both of them Black Mask magazine staples. Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op and Sam Spade embody the late 1920’s and early Depression years, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe represents the 1930’s-40’s, and Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer violently echoes the post-WWII Cold War era. Lee dismisses the 1960’s altogether, considering its social upheavals unfriendly to hard-boiled private eyes’ rugged individualism and quasi-vigilanteism. She jumps to the 1970’s with Robert Parker’s Spencer and his first appearance in The Godwulf Manuscript in 1973.  From Parker’s Spencer, Lee switches from fiction to the screen with HBO’s The Wire and True Detective series, and lastly, Netflix’ Jessica Jones. Brief mentions of broadcast television’s The Rockford Files and David Janssen as Harry O may still leave some readers scratching their heads. Wither Kinsey Milhone and V.I. Warshawski? Lew Archer and Easy Rawlins? The roster could continue, but again I’ll point out that Susanna Lee didn’t assemble a laundry list of hard-boiled detectives, but instead, aimed to show how the uniquely American literary invention of the lone-wolf hard-boiled P.I. represents evolving periods in modern history. 

Coming from a steady diet of cozies and ready to take a peek at the dark, violent world of hard-boiled detective literature? Then pick another non-fiction book to provide you with an overview, but keep Susanna Lee’s Detectives In The Shadows on hand for a later read when you want to delve deeper into what these iconic characters represent.

The Dawn Is For Dying.

(Spotted at that most excellent of reference sites, Notpulpcovers.com)

Back in 1944, ‘Noir Prince’ David Goodis penned a dogfight story titled “Dusk Is For Dying” under his own name for Fighting Aces magazine. For Goodis, any time may have been a good time for dying, dusk or dawn. 

But let’s assume that “The Dawn Is For Dying” (above) by Lance Kermit doesn’t deal with heroic American airmen blasting Zeroes, Messerschmitt’s or whatever else Fighting Aces magazine showcased. 

Actually, “Lance Kermit” was one of several pen names David Goodis used for the pulp magazine market (though he used his own name for many stories too). Not that I’d consider Adventure magazine a prestige venue…or any of the men’s adventure or ‘sweats’ mags, for that matter. But a David Goodis story graced by an Al Rossi two-page B&W illustration is prestigious enough for me, even if Rossi’s art is pure vintage sleaze at its ‘best’…or worst, depending on your point of view. 

Now that I think about it, this April 1959 issue would’ve been on the newsstands during my own The Stiletto Gumshoe project, the hoped-for series’ first novel set in April and May of that same year. As it happens, “Sharon Gardner/Sasha Garodnowicz” (the Stiletto Gumshoe herself) inherited a soft spot for mystery fiction and true crime pulps left behind by her old man, and she’d have been sorely tempted by “The Case Of The Deadly Doll” and “Are You A Slave Of Desire?”. But I know she’d have snickered at “Land Of The Love-Captive Girls” and John Stygna’s cover art with its sword-wielding sheik and harem girls. My bet: A quick thumb-through of the rag would’ve probably found her settling in to Kermit/Goodis’ “The Dawn Is For Dying”. 

The Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators.

More from some anonymous residents of the “Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators”: Three B&W interior illustrations by (sadly) unidentified artists from the November 1942 issue of Spicy Detective Stories, including “Too Many Clubs” by John Wayne (I’m assuming it wasn’t The Duke) above, and below, “Riddle In Red”, a Robert Leslie Bellem Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective story, and “Dead Girls Can’t Talk” by John Ryan.

Thriller.

From Peter Adrastos Athos’ First Draft Wordpress blog (link below): a 1973 LP from Bay Area band Cold Blood. The front is a pretty fair homage to the mid-fifties true crime and detective magazines that used photography instead of illustrations. But it’s the album cover’s back side that’s a real treat. Head to First Draft to read more about this band and the LP, or better yet, just to keep an eye on the blog’s “Pulp Fiction Thursdays”.

https://first-draft.com/

Half Past Danger.

More from Stephen Mooney, from his IDW/creator-owned delightfully dark yet daffy “dames, danger and dinosaurs” (with Nazis, for good measure) series Half Past Danger from 2013/2014.

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