A Broken Heart To Go…

Martinis And A Broken Heart To Go

Mid-January: Snowflakes started falling mid-afternoon Friday, and by Saturday morning (not especially cold) a thick coating of snow turned streets and sidewalks treacherous. But by mid-afternoon today, the temps plummeted into the 20’s, headed for the frigid teens by tonight, with gusty winds whipping people right down icy driveways.

The writing lounge sounds like the place to be tonight, maybe tomorrow as well. Maybe there’s no reason to poke my nose out the door till I head back to work on Monday. The keyboard beckons, and there’s work to be done. There’s a freshly refilled thermal carafe of coffee on my desk, the ashtray’s in reach, and though they’re only CD’s (vinyl would be better) the Jazz Noir compilation and 1997’s Martinis And A Broken Heart To Go (complete with Richie Fahey case art) ought to do the trick to keep things warm while I pound the keys.

There are worse ways to spend a weekend…

Jazz Noir

Dangerous Dames

Pulpster copy

The Pulpster No. 26, a 2017 PulpFest publication: Not that I attended PulpFest, only being greedily acquisitive, not really a collector and generally steering clear of cons and swap meets.

But I wanted this particular “Dangerous Dames” issue with Ron Goulart’s survey of early crime and mystery pulps’ female detectives, including Hulbert Footner’s Madame Storey, Cleve F. Adams’ Violet McCade, D.B. McCandless’ Sarah Watson, and of course, Theodore Tinsley’s Carrie Cashin, the most successful of the bunch with nearly 40 stories appearing in Crime Busters and Street & Smith’s Mystery Magazine between 1937 and 1942. Prolific author and pop culture historian Ron Goulart was the perfect choice for this piece with his mile-long fiction resume and a dozen or more non-fiction books including The Hard-Boiled Dicks: An Anthology And Study Of Pulp Detective Fiction (1967) and The Dime Detectives (I have a 1980’s edition of that book). You may know him from a roster of pen names including Howard Lee, Jillian Kearny and several others. Goulart’s piece was followed by Bill Pronzini’s “Women In The Detective Pulps”, a look at women crime fiction writers working in the pulp magazines’ boyz club, including Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Carolyn Wells, Dorothy Dunn and others.

Black Mask July 1949

The Pulpster wasn’t a newsstand magazine, to my knowledge, and at only 40 pages, a bit pricey, but well worth it for those two articles. Well, those, and the nifty Norman Saunders cover illustration, which was from the July 1949 issue of Black Mask, and still available as a poster at the artist’s website (normansaunders.com). BTW, that bloody hand print really is the artist’s own hand covered with red paint, according to Saunders’ son.

Bahner’s Hand-Colored Femmes-Noir.

Bertran Bahmer 4

German photographer and photo-artist Bertram Bahner may be better known in some circles by his “Kim Anderson” brand name, which he used for a long running series of charming hand-colored black & white children’s photos, popular in posters, prints and licensed to greeting cards. Born in 1959, Bahner originally worked in advertising and fashion photography, his sometimes provocative black & white images catching the eye of Verkerke Reproukties, a Dutch art print, poster and greeting card conglomerate. By the mid-1990’s, Bahner had begun photographing his own children, hand coloring the prints (a truly dying art now in a digital photography/Photoshop era) and moved to Switzerland to pursue that work full-time.

Bertran Bahmer 1

But his distinctive hand-colored work graces some wonderfully neo-noirish images from his earlier advertising, editorial and fashion work, like these shown here. ‘Femmes Fatales’ indeed, and a visual reminder of how brimmed hats are such an integral part of femme-noir iconography.

Bertran Bahmer 2Bertran Bahmer 5Bertran Bahmer 6Bertran Bahmer 7

Walker’s Back.

When Old Midnight COmes ALong

Loren D. Estleman’s latest Amos Walker mystery series novel When Old Midnight Comes Along was released right before Christmas, but I didn’t get my hands on a copy till a week ago. While it’s possible I’ve missed one or two Amos Walker novels (possible, but unlikely), there are almost thirty of them, so I probably ought to do a careful check of the full list…just in case.

If you’re a hard-boiled detective fiction fan, an Amos Walker novel is like coming home to a beloved and familiar place. If you’re foolish enough to be taking a whack at writing hard-boiled or noir-ish crime fiction yourself, then a tour of Walker’s Detroit mean-streets are must-read tutorials. The writing feels effortless, though I’m sure it’s not, and Estleman consistently manages to rival Raymond Chandler when it comes to snappy banter and vivid descriptions. The Motor City private eye’s a bit older here, aging pretty naturally in each book, and his not-a-friend but not-a-nemesis Detroit PD detective John Alderdyce’s retired and working for a hi-tech security firm now (and not liking it one bit). Walker’s hired by a high-profile political fixer to locate the man’s wife. Or, verify that she’s deceased, seeing as she’s been missing for nearly seven years. With only months to go before she can legally be declared dead, and a million dollar life insurance policy on the table, our beloved P.I. naturally wonders why the bigwig doesn’t just wait it out, particularly since he originally was the prime suspect in the wife’s disappearance. But as you’d assume, the plot thickens. Quickly.

I devour mystery and crime fiction, but admittedly, not because I love whodunits. If I did, I’d read more cozies (which I rarely do), which are really the realm of the great locked room mysteries, authentic trails of clues and genuine puzzlers. But it’s never been about the ‘mystery’ for me, and instead, all about enjoying dark and dangerous rides through noir-ish settings riddled with crime and corruption, populated by good guys with an edge and bad girls with an agenda, the final resolution of ‘the crime’ relatively unimportant to me. Well, there’s no one better to guide you through those dark netherworlds than Loren D. Estleman and his grim, gritty, wisened and wise-cracking Amos Walker. But in this case, I found myself uncharacteristically ensnared by the novel’s mystery, naively thinking I’d figured out everything about halfway through, only to discover I had it all wrong (and I mean completely and totally wrong).

It’ll be a wait for the next Amos Walker mystery. But in the mean time I can cross my fingers that Estleman hasn’t given up on his Valentino, Film Detective series. A little more light-hearted, perhaps, and only five novels so far, but I really, really wish there’d be another. Please.

She Could Be “The Stiletto Gumshoe”…

by mike redman

So well composed and deceptively simple looking, this piece by UK artist Mike Redman is almost as much a graphic design as it is an illustration. I think it always catches my eye because it reminds me so much of my own in-progress work on ‘The Stiletto Gumshoe’, Sharon Gardner (real name Sasha Garodnowicz) described as “more comfy atop a barstool than behind a receptionist’s desk”.

This art pops up frequently at Pinterest, Tumblr and random blogs…it’d be nice if Redman’s name accompanied the image more often…

The Landlady

Landlady 1961

“Landlady” from 1961, by west coast beat-scene and proto-hippie counterculture chronicler Wallace Berman (1926 – 1976). Let’s guess she had some troublesome tenants, seeing as how she’s taking a nap with a revolver in hand.

Taking A Moment…

Hammett 1

Just before shutting off the writer’s cave lights before heading to bed last night, I paused for a moment to browse one particular shelf on one of too many bookcases. Spines out, there were my Dashiell Hammett books lined up, a fancy hardcover Chatham River Press novel omnibus edition, a couple frail vintage paperbacks, and various Vintage Crime/Black Lizard trade paperbacks, the handsomest of the bunch in my opinion.

When it comes to the granddaddies of hard-boiled private-eye/crime fiction, I’ll concede here that I’m more Chandler than Hammett, more Marlowe than Spade. Still, yesterday was the anniversary of the day Dashiell Hammett passed away from lung cancer back in 1961. A moment of reverence seemed in order.

Hammett 3

Pinkerton Agency operative, US Army vet in both WWI and WWII, staunch anti-fascist, Hammett was blacklisted and even served time in federal prison for contempt during the 1950’s communist witch hunts. He published over 100 short stories, story collections and novels, created The Continental Op, Nick and Nora Charles and of course, Sam Spade, and wrote for the silver screen as well, such as the screenplay for his long-time partner Lillian Hellman’s play Watch On The Rhine (a particular favorite film of mine). And yet, he wrote his final novel at age 40, more or less turning his back on fiction decades before his death, his novel and short fiction output penned primarily in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. It was a puzzlingly brief career, but one that obviously influenced the mystery/crime fiction genre far beyond its duration.

Hammett 2

My to-be-read pile is disturbingly tall at the moment. No, I don’t plan to squeeze in a re-read of The Maltese Falcon right now. But then I am reading Loren D. Estleman’s new When Old Midnight Comes Along, an Amos Walker mystery, and can feel the echoes of Dashiell Hammett’s work from eighty and ninety years ago in even that beloved private eye’s story.

More Than Barbarians (If Given A Chance).

boris vallejo 1967

Several cult-fave illustrators like Frank Frazetta, James Bama or Basil Gogos, will always be linked to SF/Fantasy and Horror. Even moreso with Boris Vallejo, known almost exclusively as a fantasy artist, with infrequent forays into movie poster work (though even those were clearly assigned to capitalize on his fantasy style).

Boris Vallejo was born in Peru in 1941, started painting at age 13 and got his first paying work at only 16. He attended the Escuela Nacional Superior Autonoma de Bellas Artes on a five-year scholarship, then worked locally for a few years before emigrating to the more lucrative U.S. marketplace in 1964. The U.S. is also where Vallejo met his partner and, ultimately, wife-to-be, Texan Julie Bell, a fellow fantasy artist with her own considerable rep, though in recent years she’s been transitioning into an award-winning wildlife painter.

Hatchett 1976

Yes, we know Boris Vallejo for sword-wielding nearly-naked winged fantasy femmes. But seeing what the master illustrator could do with other subjects makes me wish he (and others among the comics and fantasy art scenes) took a crack at crime/pulp/noir subjects more often. I’ve previously shown Vallejo’s cover art for Lee McGraw’s 1976 hard-boiled private eye novel Hatchett (link below and an image above), and this post also shows “At The Door” from 1994 (below) and an intriguing bit of pencil work from 1967 at the top. There’s almost a familiar hint of Robert McGinnis or Ron Lesser evident in that sketch, and I’m liking it.

At The Door 1994

I’ll always appreciate the skill employed by so fantasy artists’ elf maidens, aliens, angels, demons and warriors, even though the SF/Fantasy genres aren’t my thing. But when I see those talented illustrators’ work, it makes me wish that more would take a closer look at the thugs, gumshoes, femmes fatales and midnight lovers lurking in the noir shadows.

https://thestilettogumshoe.tumblr.com/post/188674058874/just-a-few-years-too-early-perhaps-lee

The Mic’s Art, Not The Book.

love thief 1962 Micarelli

Oh, Orrie. Another ‘shattering novel of a nymphomaniac’. I can guess how Orrie Hitt’s 1962 Love Thief  goes, having read my share of Hitt’s novels, and I’ll wager this is one of those postwar paperbacks boasting a cover that’s way better than the book itself.  The art’s often listed here and there as uncredited, but is attributed to Clement Micarelli in some locations. Well, I’m going with that.

Nicknamed Mic to family and friends, Micarelli took his first Rhode Island School of Design figure drawing class at age 12 in 1941, and vintage paperback and retro sleaze enthusiasts have treasured some of his late 1950’s illustration gems for years since. The artist passed away at age 79 in 2008.

Love Thief 1962

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