From Muskrat To Mink To Murder.

Howell Dodd 1953

This work week’s enough to drive me to drink. And it calls for a really large drink (and I’m not much of a buzzer, mind you).

Just like the gal down to her last few smokes in the Howell Dodd illustration from the June 1953 issue of True Fact Crime magazine, I could use a large one too. In fact, I’d be happy to pay more than thirty cents for it. But we all know that two bits and a nickel will only buy trouble, and in her case, will lead her down a bloody road “from muskrat, to mink, to murder” as the magazine’s lurid teaser lines stated.

You just gotta love those old pulp magazine copywriters.

Sometimes They Got It Right.

Startling Detective 1952

Given a choice, I’ll always go for illustration over photography when it comes to vintage pulp fiction and true crime magazines and paperback covers. Frankly, I’ve never really gotten into the whole true crime magazine arena anyway, finding the oldies a little ho-hum and most of the ‘modern era’ stuff really, really creepy. (Though that’s based on browsing only a few issues, to be fair.)

But, I’ll be the first to concede that the genre boasted its share of nifty covers, many of the artists working interchangeably between the mystery/crime fiction titles and true crime mags. The photographers? Well, they were usually a bargain-basement lot shooting on the cheap in low-rent set-ups with models who definitely hadn’t just come off Vogue assignments. Still, there are some good ones, and the March 1952 issue of Startling Detective magazine happens to be one of my favorites.  I may have no interest in reading about the “Murder Trail Of The Roving Rapist”, “Irma’s Night of Horror” or any of the other gruesome stories inside, but Fawcett art director and art editor Al Allard and Phil Cammarata got got it right for that issue.

Anybody Can.

1938

Originally from Drive In Theater Of The Mind (via Browse The Stacks) at Tumblr: Apparently no one had to wait for Kindles, Nooks, 99-cent eBooks or bargain-priced bundles to pen their deathless prose for every possible perversion. The “Famous Jack Woodford” already knew way back in 1938 that anybody can write a sex novel.

Damn, I think I’ve been wasting my time agonizing over these noir-ish hard-boiled crime manuscripts all along…

A Loura Nua.

Detective - Brazil - 1959

A Brazilian detective magazine (called, simply enough, Detective) from March 1959, the same year my own “Stiletto Gumshoe” projects are set in. In fact, since those commence in April of 1959, someone could be reading this very magazine. Uhm…well, if they were in Brazil, that is.

“A Loura Nua”? Apparently that would be “The Naked Blonde”, though this particular cover model’s prudently kept her black dress on. Well, more or less.

A Deadly Kiss.

n saunders mans story 1970 copy

Let’s hope that kiss was really, really worth it, since the revolver digging into that fellow’s chest seems likely to bring this embrace to a very abrupt end. It’s a spot interior B&W illustration by pulp maestro Norman Saunders for a 1970 issue of Man’s Story magazine.

And They’re All-True.

al rossi true advetures march 1957

The men’s adventure (or so-called ‘sweats’) mags were what they were and I can’t say I’m much of a fan. Heck, even pulp mag veteran Mort Kunstler did his cover illustration for the March 1957 issue of True Adventures magazine under a pen name (brush name?), which tells me it wasn’t considered a premier venue. But, the interesting art often lurked inside those publications, with some nifty mystery/crime fiction halftone and duotone spots and spreads from Bill Edwards, Charles Copland, Gil Cohen and others.

Now I’m not sure which of that issue’s “true” tales the Al Rossi B&W illustration shown above was done for. Was it “Woman’s Secret Shame” or “Die, Little Lovely”? I’m pretty certain it wouldn’t have been for “What Are Your Homosexual Tendencies?”, but then, those were very different times…

True Adventures March 1957

A Pulp Godfather.

Mort Kunstler Book

Mort Kunstler – The Godfather Of Pulp Fiction Illustrators by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle (and Mort Kunstler) was the first book to arrive as I replenish my woefully empty to-be-read spot on the writing lair’s endtable. Mind you, the actual reading went quick, this very handsome 130+ page 2019 hardcover being a little light on text. But the nine-page intro by Mort Kunstler himself (as told to Robert Deis) was an intriguing read nonetheless. As he explains right at the start, “The word Kunstler means artist in German”, his immigrant father (an amateur artist himself) kept the spelling, and the rest was probably destiny.

The book’s heavy on Mort Kunstler’s pulpy ‘men’s sweats’ and adventure magazine illustration work, filled with WWII combat scenes, Cold War era spies and exotic safaris, with only a few examples of the master’s crime pulp work included. But trust me, it’s worth it for that intro alone, even if you’ve already seen many of the illustrations included here at any of your favorite pulp, vintage illustration and retro-kitsch sites and blogs.

Penny-A-Word.

The Penny A Word Brigade

This book may be targeted to writers, but I’m certain any fan of the classic pulp magazine era would love it. Blood ‘N’ Thunder Presents: The Penny-A-Word Brigade – Pulp Fictioneers Discuss Their Craft edited by Ed Hulse is a 2017 200++ page oversize trade pb from Murania Press, the publishers of Blood ‘N’ Thunder. In addition to being the editor-in-chief and publisher of Blood ‘N’ Thunder (and the head-honcho at Murania, I think), Hulse is the author and editor of over 30 books (maybe many more) on vintage pulp magazines, cliffhanger serials and retro Hollywood stars.

Hulse collected 28 articles written by pulp magazine writers, editors and agents that originally appeared in Writer’s Digest, The Writer, Author & Journalist and other magazines between 1922 through 1949. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Pulp writers groused about one and two cents-per-word pay rates then, which writers today might be happy to get instead of payment-in-copies for chapbooks and zines or no-pay at all for online publications. The writers’ and editors’ how-to articles may use obsolete references and point to unknown authors long gone, but the info resonates today as well as it did eighty and ninety years ago.

If you’re a mystery/crime fiction reader (and obviously, if you’re a pulp fiction fan), you’ll get a kick out of this book. And if you’re a mystery/crime fiction writer or wannabe, there’s a lot of mighty useful info here.  And, take a moment to check out Murania Press’ site (link below) for a treasure trove of Blood ‘N’ Thunder back issues, books, collectibles, links and more.

Murania Press

www.muraniapress.com

“…A Silenced Roscoe In Her Trembling Mitt.”

Spicy Detective May 1941 Allen Anderson cover

This May 1941 Spicy Detective is another Adventure House reprint from 2008 (I assume they’re actually POD editions, my copy fresh from Monee, Illinois with a January 2020 date), includes the original pulp magazine’s full issue, ads, Allen Anderson cover art and all. There are stories from Luke Terry, Henri St. Amur, Max Neilson, Walton Grey, Stan Warner and Paul Hama, but the best would surely be Carl Lenox’ “Dressed To Kill” and a must for Spicy Detective, a Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective tale from Robert Leslie Bellem: “Future Book” opening at Hollywood Park Racetrack and dealing with an illegal betting operation, a dead race horse and murder. As always, it’s Bellem’s colorful wordsmithing that makes me enjoy these zany and often implausible yarns so much. Here, Turner follows one dame-in-danger into the track’s stables, only to find another woman there, already dead:

“A caterwauling scream tortured my eardrums like a bandsaw ripping through a hardwood knot. I said: “What the hell –!” and lanced my poundage inside the building. A minute later, I drew up short; felt my solar plexus turning handsprings. Mary Foster was standing there with a silenced roscoe in her trembling mitt. There was a stink of burned cordite in the air and a sprawled feminine form, ominously motionless, on the stable’s concrete floor.

That sprawled form was all that remained of Arlynne Quistan. She was as dead as the skull on a sinus doctor’s desk. Even defunct, the blonde Quistan bimbo was a copious kick in the optics. From the appearance of things, she must have put up a terrific brawl before getting chilled. Her dress was ripped to pennants and you could see practically everything she possessed in the way of she-male blandishments. Her sleekly tapered stems melted into flawless thighs as cream-smooth and tempting as the illustrations in a lingerie ad. Where the bodice of her costume was torn open, the lacy ruins of an uplift brassiere snuggled around curves as perfect as sculpture. It wasn’t until your glance came to her face that you got the horrors. The .38 slug had ripped diagonally northward from chin to temple, finally finding lodging in her think tank.”

too many women henri st. maur

If you’ve never actually read any 1930’s/40’s era crime pulps, Bellem’s way with words pretty much tells you all you need to know about the genre’s incredible, albeit squirm-worthy, writing. Mind you, there’s no shortage of florid, meandering and darn-near un-readable stuff tucked amongst the gems. But if you can compartmentalize all normal 2020 sensibilities long enough, there’s something to be learned from these pulp masters.

Sally The Sleuth

An Adolphe Barreaux Sally The Sleuth four-pager is included. “Crime On Campus” finds Sally going undercover as a college co-ed to trap a campus killer. Barreaux’ Sally The Sleuth stories weren’t really mystery comics so much as abbreviated damsel-in-distress shorties. Panel four from the tale’s opening page says it all: “Why, her undies are on backwards. It’s murder, chief!”  Sally manages to lounge about in her undies with some dorm mates before being snatched by a murderous med school maniac and rescued in the knick of time.

Kinky vintage kitsch at its best…pretty twisted at its worst…but I confess, I’m kind of hooked on these things.

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