Saturday, July 10, 2021

Circle of Sin by Ted Mark (Lancer Books)

Long ago, before collecting "vintage" books became such an in-thing, Ted Mark (nee Theodore Mark Gottfried [19 Oct 1928 – 7 Mar 2004]) books were perhaps some of the most common paperbacks you could find on the bookshelves of your local thrift shops, possibly only outnumbered by the books of the Australian pulp author Carter Brown (nee Alan Geoffrey Yates [1 August 1923 – 5 May 1985]), one of the most productive authors ever.* Today, books by either author are a rare and happy find at such shops, especially if they're in a half-way decent condition, though they remain easily available and overpriced at any given online bookshop.
A family documentary
that gets some facts wrong:

And so it was that, while traversing the book aisles at some Vegas mega-thriftstore prior to the Age of Covid, we quickly snatched up this 1967 Lancer Book of Circle of Sin, "The Long-Awaited Major Novel by Ted Mark [that] Sets A New Trend in Psychological Candor". Big words for a writer who, in his pulpy trash novels of the 60s and 70s, tended to specialize in (to simply quote what we wrote in an earlier review of one of his typical products, The Pussycat Transplant [Berkley Medallion, 1968]) "the same type of hippie humor that Terry Southern specialized in his books Candy and The Magic Christian, but [whose works] read more like cheap, badly written imitations penned by pubescent boys who giggle at the word sex. Hit or miss affairs, they can elicit an occasional chuckle, but generally they wear thin quickly and become annoying, the humor being as dated as it is childish."**
But to return to Circle of Sin, the book which, should one choose to believe the claims of the cover, is "more than a murder story" and reveals the serious side of Ted Mark. The first flaw of the concept is that one can hardly "long await" something that had already been published elsewhere: as revealed in small print two pages in, "This book was previously published under the same title with the author listed by the name Leslie Behan." Indeed, Circle of Sin was published by Domino Books, a subsidy of Lancer specializing in sleaze, and Leslie Behan is the first of Theodore Mark Gottfried's many pseudonyms, the one under which he published his first book ever, The Midway at Midnight (1964), and retired after In Love's Dark Corners (1965). Needless to say, and as the book's roots would indicate, Circle of Sin is hardly a "major novel" proving that Mark's "talent transcends pure entertainment". No, if anything, the book simply proves that he could write vintage-age, guilt-ladled masturbatory sleaze as well as any of the rest, possibly even slightly better than most.
There is nary a mention of "Detective Lieutenant Thomas Durango" — the short but (we learn at the end) well-hung detective of Maltese descent whose in-book description does not come close to the detective pictured on the cover of the Lancer edition*** — in the Domino back cover description, but the Lancer reprint corrects that deficit in their back-cover synopsis: "It had to happen! There were eight people in the therapy group. Eight people: male, female, and in-between.**** Eight people with strange obsessions and warped perspectives on life. It was inevitable that one of them would find murder the only outlet for frustrated passion. Finding a killer was nothing new for Detective Lieutenant Thomas Durango. But this was a unique problem, and in finding the solution he had to probe deeply into eight human souls. With him, you'll acquire new insights into things that really make people tick…"
If you're expecting any deep psychological insight into the minds of the characters great and small along the lines of, say, the psychological thrillers of Ruth Rendell aka Barbara Vine (17 Feb 1930 – 2 May 2015), well, we have a bridge to sell you. True, Mark delves into the psychological in his book when he details the sexual predilections and/problems of the various patents of the murdered Dr. Mavis Golden, but he generally reduces everything to "mother's fault" and never comes across as anything more than an armchair psychologist pontificating "facts" as believed in 1965 — eight years before 1973, when "the American Psychiatric Association made history by issuing a resolution stating that homosexuality was not a mental illness or sickness. [HRC]" But even the APA probably never reduced everything down to "it's the mother's fault" or prescribed to the idea that all patients hate their shrinks because the doctor is a figurehead for their mother. Worse, the violent-prone and blatantly misogynist rapist is not only presented as equally (if not less) perverse than the homosexual and diverse lesbians, but even gets a girl (and an alibi) by hooking up with the group's nympho (soon after she almost gets raped by a Great Dane, as in woof-woof not smørrebrød). But then, if you see alternative sexual preference as an illness, as was done at the time and in this book, it is perhaps not surprising that being a rapist is seen as no worse than being a lesbian, homosexual, nympho, a sexually inadequate Afro-American male or whatever. (Even today, a rapist can become a Republican Party president, so obviously enough being a rapist isn't something intrinsically bad, right?)
You ever read Naked Came the Stranger? (The cover above is to a British edition.) That 1969 best seller was a literary hoax in that it was not written by "Penelope Ashe" but, rather twenty-four journalists, each of whom wrote a separate chapter, each chapter being a sexual adventure of the revenge-driven, sex-obsessed heroine. That book comes to mind when reading Circle of Sin, if only because the structure of Mark's book is 100% aligned to the structure that Stranger mocks: almost every chapter has a sex scene (with most many sex scenes transcending chapters). Aside from the opening chapter(s)/scene between Dr Golden and Debbie the Hot Hooker, there are, of course, the eight chapters of the eight main suspects, followed by scenes involving an additional small cadre of other patients (not part of the therapy group) that get pulled into the plot towards the end when it becomes obvious that none of the group is guilty, regardless of any and all murderous intent they all had by the end of their various sexcapades that sent them all out into the same night intent on confronting/raping/beating-up/killing the good Dr. Golden — whose professionalism, we learn at one point, extends to masturbating to the sex stories her patients tell while on the couch.
For all the sex, however, there is still more detail and non-sex narrative and plot than typical of the almost plotless sex novels of that were soon to start hitting the market via firms like Greenleaf Classics. Is the sex hot? Dunno, but maybe back then people were easier to titillate than today, because for all the turgid prose and detail, the book cannot be described as exciting, much less as "hot" – if anything, the situations, grotesquery and language often instigate sniggers or laughter, and while laughter and sex can go together well, in Circle of Sin the laughter is not instigated by intention. Other times, some of the scenes almost make you feel dirty – the semi-kiddy sex scene in which the mom gets her son to give her a massage, for example, or whenever the rapist is around. 
For fans of Ted Mark's sex capers filled with his typically dated pubescent sex humor, Circle of Sin will be a disappointment. Ditto with fans of detective novels, for all the detecting done in this book is purely rote or questionable at best. As for the psychological insight of the novel, the book displays a depth that would leave an ant parched if it were water. #MeToo will probably find that Durango abuses his position when it comes to Debbie the Hot Hooker, but then there is little to nothing in this book that would in any way indicate any sort of enlightened attitude. Especially not when it comes to sex itself, for Circle of Sin is very true to its name in that for all the sex found in the narrative, the book is oddly anti-sex. On the plus side, Circle of Sin does display Mark's typically capable if not somewhat workmanlike writing capabilities and occasional odd choice of words*****, but that does little to truly save the book from occasionally being a real dirge that requires speed-reading to get to the resolution. 
Is Circle of Sin in any way worth a read? Not really, if you ask us, although it will definitely help you achieve a new and improved appreciation of his sex farces like the O.R.G.Y. books, the previously mentioned Pussycat Transplant, or his other "comic" novels like The Unhatched Egghead (Lancer Books, 1966). 
For an interesting if odd link between Ted Mark and Trump's dead former best buddy, Jeffrey Epstein — Trump: "[Epstein's] a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life." — let us suggest the final paragraphs of Mother Jones' article from 2020, I Called Everyone in Jeffrey Epstein's Little Black Book.

* Which isn't to say "Ted Mark" wasn't active, just under other names – including Lorayne Ashton, Ted Gottfried, Harry Gregory, Kathleen Fuller, Benjamin Kyle, Katherine Tobias and Leslie Behan. Mark was merely the most used pseudonym of New Yorker Theodore Mark Gottfried, a former Checker Cab driver (1952-55) who also wrote a yitload of "serious", non-fiction books for teens under his real name — and at times, according to the CV found online, supposedly worked as an editor on such fine publications as Dude and Gent (1963) and High Society (1976-77), although his supposed employment at the latter did not get him in the imprint or yet get noticed even in passing by the history-driven detectives of the Golden Age of Porn known as the Rialto Report.
** An opinion echoes by others. The New York Times, for example, wrote the following about the only movie ever made based on a Ted Mark book, James Hill's The Man from Orgy aka The Real Gone Girls: "A certain charming innocence pertains to all the low-level vulgarity, as it does to the plump, often pretty girls themselves, with their piled-up hairdo's, their freighted eyelids, and their brave little attempts to say their lines. [Wikipedia]" (The first book of the Man from Orgy series, the titular Man from Orgy, was published in 1965; The Real Gone Girls, from 1966, was — according to the cover numbering of the Lancer editions —  the fourth book of the series. Which was used for the film: dunno.) The advert above is to a double feature in which the comedy was screened with the "drama" Female Animal — the director listed in that film's credits, "Juan Carlo Grinella", is actually Jerry Gross (26 Jan 1940 – 20 Nov 2002) himself, a man fondly remembered for helping to bring such great stuff as Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971 / "Producer") and Zombie (1979 / "Presenter") to the grindhouse screens of the USA. 
Trailer to 
Female Animal (1970):
While we have had no luck in finding out who the curvaceous lass in the itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow [red] polka-dot bikini is, the hunk-a-hunk of a DILF — slim and muscular in a natural, non overly-ripped way that, much like the look of the sexy blonde holding his gun, has gone totally out of style — is no one less than the minor actor and book-cover model Steve Holland (8 Jan 1925 – 10 May 1997): "If you're a fan of vintage paperbacks and men's pulp mags, Holland should look familiar to you. He was highly popular as a male model in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He's best known as the model used for Doc Savage on the covers of the Bantam reprint series, most of which were painted by artist James Bama (who also did many covers and interior illos for men's adventure magazines). You'll also see Holland's manly image the covers of other paperbacks, including reprints of Kenneth Robeson's other series, The Avenger, Mack Bolan's Executioner series (featuring covers painted by men's adventure artist Gil Cohen) and many Westerns. [Men's Pulp Mags]"
**** Not quite true. There are men and women, straight & gay & bisexual & lesbian, but while one lesbian does a stage act as man and another is as butch as they come, there are actually no transgender individuals or anything that might be conceived as "in-between".
***** Italics ours: "Her hands moved downward, over the tiny waist to the flat belly. She massaged the belly for a long time, moving farther downward slowly to the trembling mound beneath it. And then her fingers were nearing their target, the tips becoming slippery with the dew of passion they found there. They caught the tiny polyp of flesh awaiting them and [began] stroking it."
Yet another extra:
From the Good Titles Never Die Department, we present the trailer to the first film ever entitled The Female Animal, from 1958, starring the amazingly beautiful, intelligent and tragic Hedy Lamaar (Sept. or 9 Nov. 1914 – 19 Jan 2000) and the then still-closeted DILF George Nader (19 Oct 1921 – 4 Feb 2002, of such classics as Robot Monster [1953 / trailer] and, with Maria Rohm, The House of 1,000 Dolls [1967 / trailer]) as the blameless stud who couldn't stop the women from throwing themselves at him.
Trailer to Harry Keller's
The Female Animal:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Film: Drums of Terror - Voodoo In The Cinema

Drums of Terror - Voodoo In The Cinema (Bryan Senn, Midnight Marquee Press, 1998)
Another top notch, entertaining and interesting publication from Midnight Marquee Press, who, after untold years of producing one of the all time best film publications — luckily for people like you and me — went into the production of decidedly interesting film books as well. In terms of research and writing style, Midnight Marquee Press publications usually tend to be miles above and beyond the typical Citadel Press publication, using a vocabulary and sentence structure that reveals that the authors might actually read books themselves. Regrettably, the cover prices are just as prohibitive as those of Citadel (at least for stingy book addicts like me).
Trailer to I Walk with a Zombie (1943):
Bryan Senn's Drums of Terror is no exception, complete with a cover price that takes at least 3 hours of minimum wages to earn and a literary quality that indicates a likely college education on part of the author. Senn's starting point in his study of Voodoo films is that although Voodoo gets a lot of bad press, it is actually a serious monotheist religion similar in structure to Christianity, "a legitimate religion born of genuine spirituality," which, because it is foreign and strange to the "civilised" western world, has an undeservedly bad rap and is seen by most (uninformed) people to be almost a form of demonic worship. Thus, most movies in which Voodoo is featured "take the form of a funhouse mirror," distorting the facts into something completely unrealistic, bizarre, horrific. Senn then proceeds to present and dissect 39 films in depth, ranging from the Bela Lugosi vehicle White Zombie (1932) to Val Newton's I Walked With A Zombie (1943) to Hammer's The Plague of the Zombies (1966) to the Blackpliotation classic Sugar Hill (1974) to Mickey Rourke's (for a long time) last good mainstream Hollywood film, Angel Heart (1987), discussing both the seriousness and truthfulness of the perspective film's presentation and use of the religion and how the film is or isn't successful in filmic terms. In addition to these essays, the book also includes two appendixes, one entitled Pseudo-Voodoo and the other Boob Toob Hoodoo, full of (not too short) short dissections of numerous other films not deemed as rating the Big Chapter Treatment.
Trailer to Sugar Hill (1974):
Needless to say, few films cut the mustard when it comes to the seriousness of their presentation of the religion. Many of the films relocate the religion to various nether regions of the world, or seem to mix in indiscriminate aspects of other unrelated religions and myths with Voodoo into one bubbling pot, or have the religion being headed (secretly and not) by some white person. Little can be said to refute Senn’s well researched and persuasive stance that "realism" in Voodoo films is pure doodoo.
Trailer to Angel Heart (1987):

In turn, when it comes to how the films succeed on a simply cinematic level, Senn comes across like everyone’s most feared high-school English teacher: a hard grader who tends to tread softly with his darlings. Still, his respect for the classics doesn't prevent him from pointing out the flaws of such classics as I Walked with a Zombie, and unlike most high-school English teachers, he admits that there are some forgotten treasures out there also worthy of respect, renown or at least a revised appreciation, such as The Vampire’s Ghost (1945) or Naked Evil (1966). But if Senn were only a tad less pedantic and had more of an understanding and recognition of the concept of "the guilty pleasure," he would probably be able to appreciate more of the films he denigrates — Zombies On Broadway (1945), for example, is far more enjoyable than he ever lets on, as is the laughable Voodoo Island (1957), even if they get a Double F Minus when it comes to how they represent the religion. (Going by some of the reproduced scene photos, there might be a lot of other unacknowledged guilty pleasures amongst those films Senn so seriously pans.)
Trailer to Voodoo Island (1957):
Senn's essays in Drums of Terror are always readable and informative, as entertaining as they are interesting and insightful. That the reader won't always agree with him is a give fact known in advance, but at least Senn presents his well informed arguments logically and understandably. He stands strongest when he concentrates on the Voodoo aspect, ably seeing and showing where and when the film goes far off into fantasy instead of any semblance of reality in regards to Voodoo as a religion. His other arguments sometimes seem to rely a bit too much on simple personal opinion — but then, that is what all critics do.
Trailer to The Plague of the Zombies (1966):

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Additions to My Book Collection – Dec 2012

Another overview of a select few of the dozens of recent additions to my paperback collection. As normal, most of the books were bought because of their cover art or their "sleaze" nature, though one or two were actually bought because I simply plan to read them – as if I'll ever find the time. Haven't read any of them below yet, so no personal opinions are given...
See something you like? Write and make an offer – but postage from Europe to foreign lands is prohibitive!
The Clue of the Forgotten Murder
by Erle Stanley Gardner
First Cardinal edition (C-307) Sept. 1958
Cover artist unknown
Back cover text: "Drunken Banker Picked Up With Girl Hitchhiker – The story began when a cop investigated a man and woman suspected of a gas station stick-up. The man turned out to be Frank B. Cathey, prominent banker on a binge. The girl disappeared. The story deepened when a private eye was shot on a downtown street, presumably by a gangster. The story got hot when Charles Morden, a reporter from The Blade investigating the case, was murdered. Immediately Dan Bleeker, publisher of The Blade, called in Sidney Griff, the famous criminologist. The story really boiled!"
The blogspot Rough Edges, which has read the book and says "This book is from the more hardboiled phase of Gardner's career and has some nice action in it," also reveals the possible story behind the book and the character Sidney Griff, who only ever made one appearance in a Gardner novel: "In 1933, Erle Stanley Gardner launched the Perry Mason series with the novel The Case of the Velvet Claws, and he was also still a prolific and highly successful pulp author at the time. A year later, under the pseudonym Carleton Kendrake, he published The Clew of the Forgotten Murder, which may have been intended as the start of another series featuring freelance criminologist Sidney Griff. Instead, this novel was Griff's only appearance, probably because Gardner was busy with the Mason novels, his pulp work, and then a few years later the great Donald Lam/Bertha Cool series under the name A.A. Fair. But The Clue of the Forgotten Murder, as it was retitled when it was reprinted under Gardner's name, is a good book on its own."
Good Reads gives the book 4 out of 5 possible stars.
Wild Town 
by Jim Thompson
ISBN 0-916870-95-2
First Black Lizard edition, 1986
Cover art by Kirwan
Plot, as the cover explains: "An ex-con is hired by an aging millionaire and his sexpot wife to do a job — but it's nothing compared to the job they do on him!" 
In regard to the cover art, like many of the early Black Lizard books it is by Kirwan — or, to be more exact, Michael Kirwan — an extremely productive producer of truly muculent and technically adept pornographic art, usually gay in nature but on occasion of the heterosexual variety. His website,, is well worth checking out if you're into erotic art (if not, avoid it). His erotic work drips body fluid from every orifice and might even make your root twitch...
As for Jim Thompson, born James Myers Thompson in 1906 in Anadarko, Oklahoma, today it is virtually impossible to conceive that when he died in 1977 in La-La Land, CA, he had no real career left to speak of: not one of his numerous books was still in print, and his last screen credit of note had been for Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957 / trailer), twenty years earlier. (The two most recent film adaptations of his works at the time — The Killer Inside Me (1976 / trailer) and The Getaway (1972 / trailer) — were made without his participation.)
Over at Brixpicks, they say: "Even a lesser work by Jim Thompson is great fun to read. It is with reluctance that I admit Wild Town falls into that category, especially with such a strong set up. Bugs is a life-time loser, in and out of jail with a temper and a lust for women. He wanders to an oil boomtown and in the employ of local rich man, Hanlon, as a hotel detective. Lou Ford is the deceptively hayseed sheriff capable of great violence. 
Of course, there are dames too: Hanlon's loose young wife whose got her eye on Bugs, the seemingly innocent hotel maid that can't resist a strong man, and the goodhearted school teacher that seems like the image of perfection to Bugs. The characters are colorful, they just are left in one of Thompson's most straight forward and least bleak plots. 
I can't give too much away without spoilers, but there's a murder, blackmail, some missing money and double crossing, it's just missing the bleak almost surrealism that brightens the best works by Thompson (see Hell of a Woman, The Killer Inside Me). Still, fans of noir could do much worse for quick and mostly satisfying summer reading." 

Inspector Maigret in New York's Underworld
by Georges Simenon
Signet Books (1338), first printing, Sept. 1956
Cover artist: Robert Maguire
Originally published (in French) in 1946 as Maigret à New York; adapted for TV in France in 1990, directed by Stéphane Bertin.
Front cover blurb: "A world-famous sleuth matches wits with brutal killers."
Back cover: "Inspector Maigret – Brilliant, imperturbable, the relentless crime sleuth who had put many of Europe's deadliest criminals behind bars. Tangles with tycoons, circus performers, newspapermen, and hoods in his first American case."
Full plot description in poor English from "M, at 56, in his first year of retirement at Meung-sur-Loire, is visited by young Jean Maura, the son of a wealthy businessman, John Maura of New York. With the help of his elderly lawyer, Maître d'Hoquélus, he convinces M to sail with him to New York, where he believes his father is in danger. But upon arrival Jean disappears. M goes to the Saint-Régis to see his father, but is greeted by the secretary, Jos MacGill, who says he's away, but he can talk to him. M refuses to talk to him, and John Maura comes out of the next room, but on hearing M's story isn't interested.
M checks into the hotel, and that night meets his old FBI friend Michael O'Brien who tells him that Maura, as a young immigrant, had lived in the Bronx, near Findlay and 169th St. M goes up there by cab to look around for where the tailor, Angelino Giacomi lived. The next day when he returns, he learns that Giacomi, an old man, had been run down by a car. Meanwhile M has hired a private detective, Ronald Dexter, to help him get background on Maura's past, when he was part of a comedy act J & J. He learns there'd been a partner, Joseph Daumale, and a girl Jessie Dewey. Meanwhile Jean Maura has reappeared, at his father's hotel, and apologizes to M saying it was all a mistake. Dexter comes to M and says he's told all to the gangsters, everything that M had learned so far. 
But by this time M has figured it out. He calls Maura and MacGill to his hotel room, where he's also brought Jim Parson, a drunken newsman who'd lived in France, and makes a long-distance call to Daumale confirm his ideas. Maura and Daumale, in their 20s, young musicians, had come to America. Maura and Jessie had fallen in love, and married just before Maura had to return to France where his father was dying. While he was gone his friend took advantage of the situation, and when a child was born he had it put in a home, as he believed it was Maura's. Maura returned, and on learning the story killed Jessie in a rage, witnessed by the old tailor, who said nothing. Grief-stricken at what he'd done, he eventually remarried and had a son, Jean. The past year, Parson had met Daumale in France, and Daumale had gotten drunk and told the story. He'd located Jos MacGill, who'd run around with the same bad crowd. MacGill had shown up at Maura's announcing that he was his son, but the gangsters had been blackmailing Maura ever since. They were eventually arrested for killing Angelino."
Cover art by Robert Maguire (August 3, 1921 – February 26, 2005), one of the great masters of paperback cover art. He had supposedly produced artwork for over 600 covers by the time of his death.

The Court of Last Resort
by Erle Stanley Gardner
Second Cardinal edition (C-126) June 1954
Wikipedia says: "[Erle Stanley] Gardner also devoted thousands of hours to a project called The Court of Last Resort, which he undertook with his many friends in the forensic, legal and investigative communities. The project sought to review and, if appropriate, to reverse, miscarriages of justice against possibly innocent criminal defendants who were originally convicted owing to poor legal representation; or to the inadequate, careless or malicious actions of police and prosecutors; or most especially, because of the abuse or misinterpretation of medical and other forensic evidence. The resulting 1952 book earned Gardner his only Edgar Award, in the Best Fact Crime category."
The first page introduces some of those chosen for The Court of Last Resort:
Vance Hardy – condemned for the murder of a man he'd never met. 
The Brite Brothers – mountain men who barely escaped lynching.
Clarence Boggie – an amazing lumberjack who was kind to old ladies and swore he hadn't smashed in the head of a recluse. The police didn't believe him. The Court of Last Resort did!
Bill Keys – son of the old West, who was convicted of manslaughter because a murderer wasn't as good a shot.
Louis Gross – framed on a murder charge, and then released after sixteen years of prison.
Lefty Fowler – whose case aroused the intense interest of the State Bar Association.
Silas Rogers – who was sentenced to death though the only relevant evidence against him was that he was a Negro wearing a white cap.

The Burning Flesh 
by Sylvia Sharon
Domino Books (pub. by Lancer Books) – first edition, 1965
Among other titles, "Sylvia Sharon" (whom the Chicago Tribune once called "America's most benighted voice of lesbianism" despite the fact that "Sylvia's heroines invariably needed only the right man to realign their sexual orientation") is also the author of books such as Deliver Her To Evil (1964), From Torment to Rapture (1964), Punishment for Passion (1965), The Murky Underground (1967), No Barriers (1965), Obey Me, My Love (1965), Playgirl For Hire (1966) and Rapture for Three (1966) – none of which were ever optioned for a movie adaptation.
They are also but a few of the titles written by "the man of a 1000 pseudonyms," Paul Hugo Little (nee Paul Hugo Litwinsky), the real person behind the name Sylvia Sharon. Little, born 1915 in Chicago, began writing pulp novels in 1964 and averaged a book a week, so by his death at the age of 72 in June 1987 he had written over 700 novels, most of the erotic nature. Other known pseudonyms, to name but a few, include Kenneth Harding, A. De Granamour, Dr. Guenter Klow, Dr. Gerda Mundinger, Paula Little, Paula Minton, Hugo Paul, Myron Kosloff, Olga Rich and Larry Preston. 
The back cover text: "FACADE FOR VICE. They called it the Val Morraine Dance Studios. But what it really was was a gigantic, ruthless trap. A trap for women — women of all ages, as long as they were still voluptuous, avid for companionship, and well-heeled. The main idea was the separate these misguided females from their hefty fortunes. But there was plenty of playola along with the payola as the 'dancing teachers' and their vicious boss introduced some erotic movements that have never been seen on the ballroom floor.
In fact, they were having a real ball — until they pushed one of their victims too far..." 
How Goes the Murder? 
by "Ellery Queen"
Popular Library, 1967
Cover artist unknown
Back cover text: "The banners waved; the crowd cheered; the reporters rushed towards the candidate as he made his way to the speaker's platform. And then a shot rang out, the candidate clutched at his chest, screamed and fell dead. It was a pretty kettle of fish for Tim Corrigan, the crime solver with the eye-patch and the stainless steel nervous system. The suspect included the candidate's voluptuous widow, his handsome bodyguard, and a breathtaking young thing with every reason to want the candidate dead. And pretty soon Corrigan himself was a candidate — for murder."
As so often when it comes to EQ paperbacks, the name "Ellery Queen" must be put in quotation marks because by the time this book was written, the cousins Daniel Nathan, alias Frederic Dannay (October 20, 1905 — September 3, 1982) and Manford (Emanuel) Lepofsky, alias Manfred Bennington Lee (January 11, 1905 — April 3, 1971), were no longer writing their Queen paperbacks themselves. This one here, for example, was ghost-written by Richard Deming (Apr 25, 1915 – Sept 5.1983), who also wrote the EQ titles Death Spins the Platter, Wife or Death, The Copper Frame, Shoot the Scene,   Losers, Weepers, Why So Dead?, Which way to Die?What's in the Dark and The Black Hearts Murder. The character in this novel, Tim Corrigan, a lean and mean Manhattan cop who sports an eye patch as a souvenir from Korea, was originally developed by Lepofsky/Lee and the writer Talmage Powell; Corrigen went on to appear in six EQ novels, with How Goes the Murder? as the third one in the series. At the Ellery Queen website they say: "If Corrigan was himself a candidate for murder, it must have been left on the cutting-room floor. Padded out with a lengthy investigation of neo-Nazis, one a little too archly named John Tower (the name of a real-life then-sitting US Senator from Texas). A few bits of dialogue and turns of phrase from Why So Dead? were re-used almost verbatim."
What's in the Dark?
by "Ellery Queen"
Popular Library, 1968
Cover artist unknown
Inside the front cover: "In one darkened corner of the office, a strait-laced spinster was giggling like a girl as an office Milquetoast made a grab for her. Across the room, two arch-enemies were drunkenly toasting their newborn friendship. And a sexy little secretary was passing out in the arms of a silver-haired executive. The power failure was erasing more inhibitions than all of the booze in Manhattan. Even the corpse in the next room wasn't dampening the high spirits. Suddenly a scream cut through the merriment. Tim Corrigan knew what it meant: a second corpse – and a secret madman who was fast becoming the death of the party." 
Back cover text: "This killer is an expert. He has climbed ten stories in the Manhattan blackout, found and dispatched his victim amidst the men and women trapped in the building. The night drags on. Nerves wear thin and inhibitions disappear. Anyone, including a beautiful secretary with a yen for eye-patched Tim Corrigan, could be the lurking killer. Suddenly, out of the dark, a deadly hand strikes at Corrigan...." 
At the Ellery Queen website they say: "Probably the best of the Corrigans, even though it uses the lazy, hoary cliché of the witness who knows all but doesn't want to tell over the phone... and in this case is calling from a room just down the hall! The padded plot is reasonably fair; the back-cover blurb is more misleading and inaccurate than usual."
This EQ novel, like the Corrigan book above, was ghost-written by Richard Deming – and though we know not who the cover artist is, it looks to be the same person as with How Goes the Murder?

After Many A Summer Dies the Swan
by Aldous Huxley
Avon Publications (T-75), 2nd printing 1954
Cover artist unknown
Filmed for British TV in 1967 by Douglas Camfield as After Many a Summer. 
Back cover text: "A million dollar mansion built of stone and greed and the false glitter of Hollywood are the backgrounds for this gripping novel of a man's desperate search for the secret that is forbidden to mankind. Huxley, famed author of Brave New World, probes deeply into turbulent emotions — man's need for love, a woman's need for security, and the burning urge to do that which is better left undone. The result is one of the most fascinating novels of our time."
To simply quote Wikipedia: "After Many a Summer (1939) is a novel by Aldous Huxley that tells the story of a Hollywood millionaire who fears his impending death; it was published in the United States as After Many a Summer Dies the Swan. Written soon after Huxley left England and settled in California, the novel is Huxley's examination of American culture, particularly what he saw as its narcissism, superficiality, and obsession with youth. [...] The novel's title is taken from Tennyson's poem Tithonus, about a figure in Greek mythology to whom Aurora gave eternal life but not eternal youth. The book was awarded the 1939 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction."
The first four lines of Tithonus:
"The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan."
Over at Amazon, Joanna Daneman says: "This is Huxley's 'American' novel, in which he manages to lampoon the more outrageous aspects of American popular culture — and in particular California culture — while still managing to get in a few digs at his own countrymen. It's hard to discuss in depth without disclosing too much, but suffice it to say that it's got plenty of Huxley's wit along with his social commentary and a hilarious ending. If you liked Waugh's The Loved One you'll find this much to your liking as well. [...] In this novel, Huxley plays on man's fear of death. He creates a somewhat W. R. Hearst-like rich businessman who wants to use his money and power to cheat Death, and a scientist who has no compunctions against using any means to lengthen life, without questioning what quality that extended life really has. The ending is a real surprise. This is one of Huxley's most enjoyable novels to read. It is also a timely one that can be read in the light of the new genetic research pushing the boundaries of science. As in Brave New World, Huxley was frighteningly accurate in his prophesies."
Trailer to the movie version of Waugh's The Loved One (1965):
The D.A. Holds A Candle
by Erle Stanley Gardner
Pocket Books (287), 10th printing 1949
Cover art by Harvey Kidder
Back cover text:
"A guy in one of the cabins is ready for a funeral."
District Attorney Doug Selby slammed down the receiver and ten minutes later was at the Keystone Auto Camp.
"Where is he?" Selby asked.
Sheriff Brandon moved the dresser. The corpse was slumped down in a grotesque sitting position. In his right hand he held a revolver and in his left a long pin such as florists give with corsages.
The clues indicated the Palm Thatch, a local roadhouse, as the starting point in the investigation. There Selby ran into Mr. Big of Madison City who told him, "Lay off!" But the D.A. ignores the warning and uncovers a set-up loaded with explosive action.
The New York University of Buffalo library explains the plot: "District Attorney Doug Selby speaks to young Ross Blaine who has forged a cheque. Blaine confesses it is to pay off a gambling debt at the local gambling parlor, run by Oscar Triggs. Selby and Sheriff Brandon pick up a vagrant and caution him. The vagrant is then found dead of carbon monoxide asphyxiation, but Selby suspects murder. As Selby follows up one clue after another, the vagrant's death eventually leads to the smashing of a Los Angeles gambling ring and the local industrialist's son being accused of manslaughter." 
The D.A. Holds A Candle is the follow-up Doug Selby novel to the first one, The D.A. Calls It Murder (1937); Selby appeared in a total of nine Gardner books, all of which – like this one – were originally serialized in magazines. Doug Selby was adapted for one television flick back in 1969; aired in 1972, They Call It Murder was based on the third Selby novel, The D.A. Draws a Circle, and directed by Walter Grauman, who started his directorial career with the laughable horror film The Disembodied (1957), starring the always memorable Allison Hayes. 
Allison Hayes' voodoo dance scene from The Disembodied:

The eye-catching cover artwork is by the American illustrator Harvey W. Kidder, born 1918, who we assume is still alive as we can find no info regarding otherwise. In fact, there is little info about the man on the web, but for The Art of the Print, which says: "Harvey Kidder: A twentieth century illustrator, painter and printmaker, Harvey Kidder studied under Lawrence Beal Smith and Arthur Lougee at the Child-Walker School of Design. He began his long and successful career as an illustrator for Houghton Mifflin in 1939. Since that time, Harvey Kidder's artwork has been commissioned for such national publications as The Saturday Evening Post, Argosy, Golf Digest and Reader's Digest. Harvey Kidder has also been a participant in both the U.S. Air Force Art Program and the National Parks Service Art Program. He is a full member of the Society of Illustrators, New York."

Summer and Smoke
by Tennessee Williams
Signet D2019, 1st printing 1961
Not a novel, but his two-part, thirteen-scene play originally from 1948; Tennessee Williams revised the play in 1964 as The Eccentricities of a Nightingale. The plot, from Wikipedia: "Summer and Smoke is set in Glorious Hill, Mississippi, from the 'turn of the century through 1916,' and centers on a high-strung, unmarried minister's daughter, Alma Winemiller, and the spiritual/sexual romance that nearly blossoms between her and the wild, undisciplined young doctor who grew up next door, John Buchanan, Jr. She, ineffably refined, identifies with the gothic cathedral, 'reaching up to something beyond attainment'; her name, as Williams makes clear during the play, means 'soul' in Spanish; whereas Buchanan, doctor and sensualist, defies her with the soulless anatomy chart. By play's end, however, Buchanan and Alma have traded places philosophically. She has been transformed beyond modesty. She throws herself at him, saying, ' I have changed my mind, or the girl who said "no,"— she doesn't exist any more, she died last summer— suffocated in smoke from something on fire inside her.' But he has changed, he's engaged to settle down with a respectable, younger girl; and, as he tries to convince Alma that what they had between them was indeed a 'spiritual bond,' she realizes, in any event, it is too late. In the final scene, Alma accosts a young travelling salesman at dusk in the town park; and, as the curtain falls, she follows him off to enjoy the 'after-dark entertainment' at Moon Lake Casino, where she'd resisted Buchanan's attempt to seduce her the summer before."
The Signet edition here was released to coincide with the film version that came out the same year. Directed by Peter Glenville (28 October 1913 – 3 June 1996), it was nominated for four Academy Awards.

Die Like A Man
by Michael Delving
Belmont (B95-2142), July 1971
Cover artist unknown
The third of Delving's Dave Cannon books.
Back cover: "Search for the Holy Grail. Dave Cannon, rare book dealer and amateur sleuth, skeptically agreed to buy an ancient wooden cup claimed to be the Holy Grail. Cannon had no idea that he would be betrayed, attacked, victimized before he could get the Grail out of Wales. It took a bizarre medieval ceremony to unravel the modern, explosive issue underlying the mystery of the Holy Grail."
"Michael Delving" is the pseudonym Jay Williams (May 31, 1914 – July 12, 1978), an American writer who had written around 80 books by the time of his death. Born in Buffalo, New York, he was the son of Max Jacobson, a vaudeville show producer, and Max's wife Lillian. Williams attended the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University between 1931 and 1934, followed by a stint as a Borscht Belt comedian during the depression. A Purple Heart recipient during WW2, he published his first book, The Stolen Oracle, while still serving. In 1953, he had a feature part as the Pony Ride Man in the influential film The Little Fugitive which was co-directed (with Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin) by "Ray Ashley" — or rather Raymond Abrashkin, with whom Williams co-wrote numerous young adult novels. He used the "Michael Delving" moniker for his adult crime fiction; Die Like A Man is one of his series that features Dave Cannon, an American book and rare manuscripts dealer and has nothing to do with sex changes (despite the title). It is set in Britain, like all the Cannon books.
Williams died from a heart attack in London, England on July 12, 1978.
The Little Fugitive, by the way, was not only nominated for an Academy Award but was praised by François Truffaut as an inspiration for the French New Wave movement: "Our New Wave would never have come into being if it hadn't been for the young American Morris Engel, who showed us the way to independent production with [this] fine movie."
Trailer to The Little Fugitive:

The Scarlet Letters
by Ellery Queen
Pocket Books (6076), 4th printing, May 1961
Cover artist unknown
Originally published in 1953, The Scarlet Letters was written by the duo and not ghost written by a contracted author.
Back cover text:
"Lovers' quarrel?" said a voice. Martha Lawrence quivered.
Ellery turned. Dirk Lawrence stood behind the bench. The reek of whisky surrounded him. "My little Martha," Dirk said dreamily. "My little nymph."
"Martha," Ellery said, "you'd better go."
"Yes Martha, my love, you do that," said Dirk. "On account of I'm doing to teach this dirty little feist to keep his paws off another man's wife...."
Dirk backhanded Martha's face across the bench and she disappeared. Involuntarily, Ellery stooped to look for her. He never reached his knees. The blow nearly tore his head off and he blacked out.

In general, most readers find the book to be a bit of a letdown, with little sleuthing and little suspense and the murder ¾ of the way through the book. The New York University of Buffalo offers the following plot description: "The story revolves around Dirk Lawrence, a drunk and insanely jealous novelist, and his wife Martha, a Broadway producer who inherited millions from her father. The Lawrence's marriage begins to crumble when Dirk starts accusing Martha of sleeping around. Martha turns to her friend Nikki Porter for support, and it's not very long until Ellery Queen finds himself enmeshed in the Lawrence's domestic woes. Ellery soon discovers that Dirk's accusations of adultery may be valid when he learns that Martha is making alphabetically coded meetings in restaurants, hotel rooms, etc. with an aging and once-famous Broadway star. In a fit of jealous rage, Dirk shoots both Martha and her lover; a murder trial ensues, but Ellery's investigations reveal not adultery but duplicity and blackmail."

Somebody Owes Me Money
by Donald E. Westlake
Signet Mystery (Q4800), 1st printing Sept 1971
For awhile this book was out of print, but currently it can be gotten as a Hard Case paperback. Donald Edwin Westlake (July 12, 1933 – December 31, 2008) is a writer that everyone seems to like.  The winner of three Edgar Awards and named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, Westlake even received an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay for The Grifters (1990 / trailer)... though we personally enjoyed the first version of The Stepfather (1987 / trailer), for which he wrote the original screenplay, a bit more than Stephen Frears' critical darling.
Westlake, with over a hundred novels and non-fiction books to his credit, specialized in crime fiction, especially comic capers, with an occasional foray into science fiction or other genres. He died of a heart attack on December 31, 2008 while on the way to a New Year's Eve dinner, while he and his wife were on vacation in Mexico. 
Back cover text: "You are Chester Conway, and you're down on your luck. But this time it's different – or so it seems. Your long shot has come in first, and all you have to do is pay a quick call on your friendly bookie to pick up the bundle that will solve all your problems.
There's no bundle waiting, though — just a bucket of blood. Your bookie has been murdered, a mob war is on, the cops want a decoy, a mini-skirted blonde menace from Las Vegas wants a fall guy, and everybody's off and running—including you, Chester, as you start out chasing your money, and find out you're running for your life...."
Over at The Mystery Site, Richard Lanoie raves: "[With Somebody Owes Me Money] Donald E. Westlake writes a tight, easy to read, and fascinating mystery novel. He also has a taste for the absurd which leads to some very comic moments and genuine Keystone Cops scenes. If you can't picture the escape from the bookie's apartment scene it's because you have never seen a silent movie or Bugs Bunny Cartoon. This mystery novel is a great balancing act between suspense and the absurdly funny. Westlake is one of the best crime fiction writers when it comes to economically drawing a mental picture a reader immediately assimilates. This makes for a really good read."

by Jim Thompson
Black Lizard, 1985
Cover art by Kirwan
Yet another early Black Lizard reprint with cover art by Michael Kirwan.
Cover blurb: "Her proposition was simple: be a con with a number—or a corpse with a name." gives more detail: "Pat Cosgrove was a convict in the state's vilest prison, and Doc Luther gave him his freedom. Cosgrove had never been loved, and Luther gave him two mistresses--one of them the beautiful Mrs. Luther. Cosgrove owed Luther his life . . . and now Luther was going to collect." Vintage Sleaze has read the book for us and says: "This isn’t Thompson’s best, this is no Grifters, Getaway or Killer Inside Me. However, even Thompson not at his best is better than many during the era. [...] But a fun read, more goofy than dark."

More to come next year!
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