Lady Killer: Joelle Jones

Lady Killer 1

I never say this person’s the best artist, the best writer, the best actor, etc. But I’m not timid about saying who are my favorites, and the brilliant Joelle Jones is on that list. Incredibly skilled with design and composition as well as an artful stylist, Jones isn’t content being a terrific artist, but has to be an inventive and creative writer as well…the show-off. Some handiwork of her best project so far (IMHO) shown here: Lady Killer, about 1960’s suburban housewife Josie Schuller, who’s also happens to be a lethal hit woman.

Lady Killer 2Lady Killer 3

I Still Miss Hayley Atwell

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Lesson learned: Never get hooked on a TV show. The damn networks will just cancel it once you’re fully invested.

Some handsome artwork above by Arne Ratermanis of Hayley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter, complete with that wonderful red hat of hers.

Farrah & Friends

Farrah Fawcett

It might look like a publicity still from the first season of Aaron Spelling’s kitschy 70’s ABC TV series Charlie’s Angels. But it’s actually Farrah Fawcett (RIP) in a Halston fashion photo from ’round about that same time. Almost reminds me a bit of the edgy images shot by Helmut Newton for the 1978 film Eyes Of Laura Mars. Below are the three original Angels themselves: Kate Smith, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith, elegantly attired and fashion-shoot ready, even if they are armed with purse-size pistols and what must be a pre-cell phone era walkie-talkie. Talk about ‘stiletto gumshoes’.

Charlies Angels 1976 2

There’ll soon be three more Angels to add to the growing mix with the Elizabeth Banks directed Charlies Angels reboot due in November. Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska are the new trio, with Banks herself not only directing but playing agency manager Bosley.

 

 

Easter Bunnies

The Playboy Club 2

Femmes fatales and stiletto gumshoes simply don’t mix well with Easter.

Molly Odintz explains (somewhat tongue in cheek) why Passover is the most ‘noir’ of all Jewish holidays in a 3.20.19 CrimeReads.com article, “10 Reasons Why Passover Is The Noirest Holiday”, though she winds up concluding that, after all, most Jewish holidays can be summed up as “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.” Go to Crimereads.com for some serious thoughts along with a seasonal chuckle.

The Playboy Club 1

While Odintz managed handily, I’m stumped trying to find anything remotely connected to both Easter and noir culture. Springtime, marshmallow eggs or coconut covered lamb cakes just don’t belong with dark alleys, gunsels and gun molls or shadowy hot-sheet hotel rooms. The best I can do is to riff on the Easter Bunny, or ‘bunnies’ of a sort…so, alas: Playboy Bunnies.

The Playboy CLub 4

NBC’s short-lived 2011 series The Playboy Club only aired three episodes before it was cancelled, though seven were started, with five in the can. Apparently network execs assumed the popularity of AMC’s critically acclaimed Mad Men meant that everyone wanted more of that early 60’s vibe, so ABC brought out the similarly short-lived Pan Am and NBC launched The Playboy Club, set in 1961 and shot on location in Chicago.

The Playby Club 3

The show wasn’t even on my radar at the time, but I have since seen the pilot or first episode online (everything is online somewhere, isn’t it?) and have to say that A) it wasn’t nearly as offensive as religious conservatives and irate women’s groups contended and B) it was actually pretty good, sort of an eye-candy soap opera melded (much to my surprise) with a healthy dose of neo-noir-ish flavored Second City mobsters and Chicago political corruption (the two going more or less hand-in-hand in real life). But I suppose the few folks who tuned in did so to ogle Amber Heard in a satiny corset and bunny ears, but not enough of them to keep the show afloat for more than three weeks.

Well, I sure as hell wasn’t going to tempt fate with any Easter-related religious noir, and couldn’t come up with any legit Easter-Noir, so bunnies it is, even if only from a cancelled TV series.

In Comes Death

In COmes Death 1951 copy

This 1952 paperback edition of Paul Whelton’s In Comes Death is actually an abridged version of his 1951 hardcover (also released in the UK in 1952), the last in his six-book Garry Dean series, Dean a tenacious, hard-nosed reporter for Belle City’s Press Bulletin.

In Comes Death Hardcovers

Here Dean witnesses a young woman faint right in the courtroom when she hears that her boyfriend, Leo Parrish, will be charged with manslaughter for the hit and run death of one David Muriel out on deserted Frog Lane. She knows he’s innocent, and although Dean’s editor and the police are sure Parrish is their man, the reporter investigates, coming up against some mighty dangerous types determined to frame young Parrish for the murder, and racing to protect Parrish’s girlfriend when she’s marked for death as well. The cover art (uncredited, as best I can verify) depicts an actual scene from the novel (now there’s a rarity!) with the real killer stealthily creeping up on the girl, about to strangle her with one of her own stockings.

Other novels in Paul Whelton’s Garry Dean series included Call The Lady Discreet, Women Are Skin Deep (AKA Uninvited Corpse) and Pardon My Blood.

Paul Whelton montage

 

The Dames

pulp fiction the dames

Otto Penzler’s Pulp Fiction: The Dames is a follow-up to his previous anthologies Pulp Fiction: The Crimefighters and Pulp Fiction: The Villains. My copy shown here is a 2008 Quercus UK edition, a big fat 500+ page trade paperback which includes 22 stories plus two saucy Sally The Sleuth comic strips from 1930’s – 40’s pulp fiction magazines, including the top tier mags like Black Mask, Dime Detective and Detective Fiction Weekly, right down to the bottom rung in publications like Gun Molls, and Spicy Romantic Adventures. Penzler’s preface and Laura Lippman’s well-written introduction frame the material well. As she writes, “The pulps of the early 20thcentury will never be mistaken for proto-feminist documents…(but) there is just enough kink in these archetypes of girlfriend/hussy/sociopath to hint at broader possibilities for the female of the species.” Indeed, the roots of V.I. Washawski, Kinsey Millhone and even Lippman’s own Tess Monaghan can be traced right back here.

Pulp Fiction The Dames Back

The anthology opens with a terrific Cornell Woolrich 1937 tale, Angel Face, about a chorus girl trying to keep her wayward younger brother out of trouble, but when he’s framed for murder, she ignores the cops and does her own sleuthing to nab the mobster she’s sure did the deed. It may end abruptly and even a bit implausibly, but every sentence absolutely sings with vintage slang and retro word-smithing that’s a dark delight. That’s followed by Leslie T. White’s Chosen To Die from 1934 with husband and wife team of P.I. Duke Martindel and attorney Phyllis Martindel, the well-intended gumshoe relying on his savvy spouse to get him out of jams with the law. The book includes stories from Dashiell Hammett, a Lars Anderson’s Domino Lady tale, a T.T. Flynn Trixie Meehan story and even Raymond Chandler’s 1935 Killer In The Rain, which he cannibalized (along with material from other short stories) for The Big Sleep. Read it and see if you don’t spot some mighty familiar scenes and passages, even if the private eye isn’t named Marlowe.

‘The Dames’ from pulp fiction aren’t all snoopy reporters, private investigators or even uniformed cops (rare as those were). The bad girlz might be some of the more memorable characters in this anthology, from gun molls to gang leaders. Unlike Penzler’s recent – and enormous – The Big Book Of Female Detectives (see link below for a post on that book) this one’s strictly vintage pulp fiction. Which isn’t always literary, can sometimes be a little squirm-worthy, but is almost always entertaining, and the female private eyes, girl reporters, sleuthing secretaries and, yes — even former chorus girls – make for one terrific tale after another.

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2019/03/09/the-big-book-of-female-detectives/

And The Real Nancy Drew Is…?

Pamela Sue Martin - Nancy Drew

Bonita Granville, Emma Roberts and then only last month, Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew in the Katt Shea-directed feature film (which kind of vanished in a blink). Now there’s Kennedy McMann, who’ll assume the role of the plucky ‘girl detective’ in the upcoming CW series due this Fall, which from all advance news sounds more like Veronica Mars meets Riverdale than a Carolyn Keene novel, which may not be an entirely bad thing, after all.

Pamela Sue Martin - Playboy

But there’s still one more Nancy Drew we shouldn’t forget: Pamela Sue Martin, who played the part in the late 1970’s The Hardy Boys-Nancy Drew Mysteries series on ABC, which alternated between Parker Stevens and puppy-love heartthrob Shaun Cassidy as the Hardy Boys one week, then Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew the next. A largely forgotten bit of 70’s era TV, perhaps, but episodes are actually all over the place online, and I assume available as DVD’s…I mean, every  television series good or bad seems to be. Martin went on to do some films (the original The Poseidon Adventure, for instance) and more TV series, initially stirring up quite a to-do when she tried to rev up her clean-cut ingenue image by posing for several men’s magazines including France’s Lui and U.S. Playboy. Now Pamela Sue Martin will join the CW’s Nancy Drew series, playing Harriet Grosset, a psychic who assists the teen detective with her murder investigation, though the clues will lead to some seemingly otherworldy mysteries.

Playoby 1978

The CW network seems to enjoy inside-TV nostalgia casting. Supergirl, starring Melissa Benoist as Kara Danvers/Kara Zor-El/Supergirl has included Helen Slater (star of the one-shot 1984 film Supergirl) as Kara’s earth stepmother Eliza Danvers, while Dean Cain (Clark Kent/Superman in ABC’s Lois & Clark: The New Adventures 1993-1997) as her stepfather, and Terri Hatcher (Lois Lane on that same show) was a villainous alien mother of Supergirl’s season two love interest. Oh yeah, and Linda Carter, star of ABC’s kitschy 70’s Wonder Woman series, played the President (who turned out to be an alien).

Tinsel Town

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I never saw this five-issue series from Alterna Comics which apparently ran last year, and just happened to stumble across it recently at a blog. I’ve looked for it since with no luck. But a trade pb collecting the whole series is due out this summer, though not till the end of July (which could just as easily mean anywhere from August through Autumn). I suppose I’ll pre-order now.

 

Tinsel Town 1 Cover

 

Sure looks interesting: David Lucarelli writes a story drawn by Henry Ponciano set in the silent film era, when Abigail Moore dreams of becoming a police officer. Of course, women weren’t welcome then, but she takes a job as a studio security officer, where soon enough she’s mixed up in a noir-ish behind the screen mystery. Well, that cover art’s a little bright for ‘noir-ish, but I’m still eager to check this out.

HIT 1955 – 1957

Hot 1955 #1

HIT, from BOOM Comics, written by Bryce Carlson with art (and some of the series covers) by the great Vanesa R. Del Rey.

There are two HIT series: 1955 and a follow-up, 1957. Both are dark, noir-ish hard-boiled crime fiction at its very, very best. The set-up’s reminiscent of James Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential, and films like Mulholland Falls or Gangster Squad, dealing with LAPD Detective Harvey Slater, who’s an undercover member of the secret Hit Squad, lawless thugs with badges on a top-brass-endorsed mission to purge Los Angeles of organized crime. But Detective Slater’s due for real trouble when the woman from his past returns to L.A., none other than Bonnie Brae, who just happens to be his Captain’s daughter. Brae’s pure trouble in a dress, and one of the finest femme fatales to appear in comics in years.

Hit 1955

Like many comic trade paperbacks, the HIT books include extras, like a Duane Swierczynski introduction and cover alternates from Erik Gist, Trevor Hairsine, Terry Dodson and Ryna Soo. But best of all, both of these have bonus short stories, which were a real treat. I loved both series, loved Carlson’s storytelling and Del Rey’s art, but most of all, I loved Bonnie Brae, and I bet you will too.

Hit 1957

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