She Knew Plenty.

Jane may be a man-hater, but only because she’d been jilted by her high society beau. So, she set out to punish all men, or so her story goes in “Man-Hater” from a 1953 issue of All True Romance. 

The art’s by the Iger Shop, headed by Sam Iger (1903 – 1990), originally the Eisner & Iger Studio (that’d be comics icon Will Eisner). She got another whack at the chumps when Jane’s story was reprinted forty years later in a 1994 issue of Terrible Romances from New England Comics.

Sweet Temptation.

Some examples of Egyptian photographer, artist and filmmaker Yousseff Nabil’s hand-tinted gelatin prints shown here, much of his work intended to evoke the look of old Egyptian films he saw in his youth. I’ve tried my hand at had tinting B&W prints with oils, the results pretty tragic, and have to marvel not only at his lens work but his deft hand with the subtle and effective coloring. I believe these come from Nabil’s 1997 “Sweet Temptation: Cairo” series. 

Renato Fratini

Born in a small town outside of Rome, Italy in 1932, Renato Fratini studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti de Roma and began his commercial art career in the early 1950’s, originally doing comic strips and spot illustrations for the Guerri Brothers studio. But in 1952 he moved to the competing Favelli Brothers agency, which had a contract with Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, allowing Fratini to work on a number of now iconic European film posters.

He continued doing a lot of film promotion work there and later for other studios throughout the fifties, while also expanding into paperback book cover art. That work led Fratini to London, where he dived into his most productive period, churning out popular film poster, magazine illustration and book cover art assignments in a unique mixed media combining acrylic underpainting layered with inks and gouache. Some bio’s wonder how the artist managed to produce so much work throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, notorious for living it up in the swinging sixties Rome and London party scenes. Sadly, his lifestyle caught up with him, and Renato Fratini passed away at the young age of 41 in 1973. 

Elsa Martinelli

Elsa Martinelli (1935 – 2017) born Elisa Tia in Tuscany, seen here as Russian agent Maria Kuzenov in a 1964 episode of NBC’s one-season series, The Rogues. Well-dressed and well-armed apparently do go together.

She Of The Sultry Voice…

What a missed opportunity: That ‘she of the sultry voice’ never played a traditional (even stereotypical) femme fatale or a wisecracking 60’s private eye. Oh, how she could’ve delivered some snappy noir-ish banter. Suzanne Pleshette (1937 – 2008) seen here in A Rage To Live (1965) and the Renato Fratini illustrated film poster below.

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.

Stephen Mooney.

It looks so clean and simple. And yet, they’re really quite perfect, aren’t they? Slick black & white artwork from Dublin, Ireland artist Stephen Mooney.

O’Neill’s Neo-Noir Style.

Peter O'Neill 1

Self-taught painter Peter O’Neill grabbed a Greyhound bus at New York City’s Port Authority in 1996 and never looked back, bound for Florida, where I believe he’s made his home since. In fact, many of his paintings seem to evoke that same South Florida sultriness lifted from a steamy neo-noir like Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 Body Heat.  More of O’Neill’s work follows in the next post…

Peter O'Neill 2Peter O'Neill 3Peter O'Neill 4

Three Out Of Five Ain’t Bad: Lansdale’s More Better Deals.

More Better Deals

The to-be-read pile on the writing lair’s endtable was five books-high when my first two choices turned out to be real stinkers, one a painfully indulgent bit of rambling and plotless literary fiction, the other presumably mis-shelved in a bookstore’s mystery section, revealing itself as a pretty distasteful bit of crime-free erotica (I swear, the cover art made it look like a neo-noir thriller).

But, as the post’s title says, three out of five ain’t bad, particularly when those three were welcome treats after back-to-back (but un-named here) disappointments. First up:

Think of a James M. Cain novel seething with adultery and deceit, but filtered through someone like Orrie Hitt. Then think of that being fully reimagined by expert storyteller and wordsmith Joe R. Lansdale, and that’s what his More Better Deals (2020 Mulholland/Hatchette) is. Oh sure, you’ve been down this road before. But, always remember that it’s about the journey, not the destination.

In a vaguely early 1960’s nameless East Texas locale, Ed Edwards unloads overpriced junkers at Smiling Dave’s used car lot, his boss, customers – everyone in town, actually – unaware he’s the light-skinned son of a long-gone African-American father and a white trailer-trash alcoholic mother. Half-heartedly trying to help his similarly light-skinned younger sister while pointlessly daydreaming about something better than his own humdrum life, Ed meets trouble in a short black dress and heels — aiming a twelve gauge his way — when he attempts to repossess her boorish and abusive husband’s Cadillac.

Mrs. Nancy Craig’s a classic femme fatale fashioned from the long literary and cinematic history of desirable but deadly women who’ve manipulated foolish men with sex and the promise of money to share, so it’s no surprise when Ed Edwards is soon in deep: Plotting murder ala Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice, reluctantly turned into a kidnapper when murder fails to pay off, and even stirring up trouble that puts years of ‘passing’ at risk.

Taking advantage of a slow Summer workday, I left the day job early this past Friday, started More Better Deals ‘round mid-afternoon and continued to devour this novel straight through dinner and deep into the wee hours, unable to put it down.  ‘It’s a real page-turner’ and all that…oh, that it is. With frustrating memories of that plotless bit of literary fiction still fresh in my head, it was pure joy to dive into a novel that took me by the hand right from page one and introduced engaging (if downright awful) characters descending deeper and deeper into a cesspool of lust laced with suspicion, double-dealing that leads to death. That Lansdale accomplishes this with an economy of words (yet never failing to paint a fully rendered picture of each locale) merely testifies to his skill. I challenge a reader to point out any paragraph, sentence, phrase or word that could be dispensed with. It’s the kind of writing I might aspire to but simply lack the talent to match (but I can keep on hoping…right?).

Call it “desert noir” or “rural noir” if you like, but More Better Deals is “Noir” at its purest, gifting readers with sizzle and violence, but ultimately grappling with much sadder, darker and woefully inevitable doom.

So, if I haven’t made my point yet, go get the damn book and read it.

(BTW: I’ve scanned my hardcover twice now, but it keeps showing up in red. The book’s really a two-color hot orange and brown design, in case you’re looking for it.) 

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