Monday, March 22, 2010

Misc. New Additions to My Vintage Book Collection

A Killer among Us
(Lion Library, 1957)
Originally published as The Silver Forest, 1926.

Ben Ames William
Back cover
: A killer among us. Six people, a murderer among them, trapped in the Maine woods ...
The shock of sudden death, and the stress of fear, draw them ever tighter into a web of unbearable suspense ... as the world-famous novelist Ben Ames Williams unravels a masterful puzzle in the greatest mystery tradition of Gardner, Christie, Rinehart ...
Cover art by Robert Stanley (1918-1996).

From Dare to Judge This Book: Some More Great Paperback Cover Artists at Thrilling "By far the most prolific Dell artist — next to Gerald Gregg — was Robert Stanley. Stanley worked for Dell from 1950 to 1959 and his covers were a major component of the publisher's "look" of the fifties. Concentrating on mysteries and westerns, Stanley always produced covers with action [...]. Most of the men on his covers he patterned after himself; his men are serious, stern, and usually fully clothed. He patterned most of his women after his wife Rhoda; they are alluring, menacing, terrified, and occasionally semi-nude. Stanley's daughter and father-in-law also stood in as models from time to time."

From Ask Art. Com:
"Before his employment at Dell, he produced covers for paperback companies including Bantam, Lion and Signet. […] Stanley's wife, Rhoda, was a ballet dancer before her marriage. She and her husband worked as a team and lived in Westport, Connecticut. Designers at Dell Publishing provided Bob Stanley with a rough sketch of what they wanted, and from that he made a color sketch. If approved, Rhoda created a photograph, which her husband then used as the model for painting the final picture. If he was the model, she took the photo and vice versa. If they appeared together, they used a delayed-action shutter."

A Taste for Violence
(Dell D463, New Dell Edition First Printing, March 1962)

A Mike Shayne Mystery

Brett Halliday
Brett Halliday is the main pen name of Davis Dresser (July 31, 1904 - February 4, 1977), but also was used by the various writers that ghosted the Mike Shayne books after 1958.

Back cover
: 6th sense. Famed red-head Mike Shayne is notorious for possessing an uncanny instinct about women, a smell for murder — A Taste for Violence. Shayne steps into a ring of danger and packs the toughest wallop of his career in a fast, tense fight against mob rule, and unleashed violence.

Cover art by Robert McGinnis.

Beginning with his first book cover in 1958,
McGinnis became one of the most prolific book cover (and movie poster) illustrators active in the 60s and 70s, his work is always eye-catching. More information on him and examples of his fabulous work can be found here at Stainless Steel Droppings. Rich people might want to purchase a copy of The Paperback Covers of Robert McGinnis at Amazon.

The Bedroom Route
(Beacon Signal, 1963)

Sheldon Lord

Sheldon Lord
is a pen name shared by Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Milo Perichitich, or Hal Dresner, but this time around it’s Lawrence Block).
Early male-written Lezzie Lit. Most books by “Sheldon Lord” have a lesbian angle of some sort or another, this one included. The blog Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books was not impressed by The Bedroom Route, as revealed in this review.
Cover art: Name illegible.

Cast of Characters
(Cardinal Editions, 1st Printing, 1958)

Al Morgan

Front Cover
: A sizzling slam-bang, no-holds-barred novel about Hollywood.
Back cover: Al Morgan's crackling novel is jam-packed with people, action, satire, stories. It might have been titled Hollywood Confidential. You meet the celebrities—and get a startling look into the private lives of: Marla Van Dyke, the star whose best love scenes are played in her dressing room. Carl Miller, the writer who hates Hollywood but loves the money he makes there. Otto Freund, the ex-director who now runs a highly unusual school for starlets. Buddy Tyler, the Bronx-born crown prince of pictures who wants to own somebody. Mary Harwell, the film critic who gets an unforgettable sample from Reed Herald, "The Screen's Greatest Lover."Cover art by James Meese.
The blog Vintage Paperback Cover Art says: "James Meese was another of the unsung heroes of golden age paperback cover art; his style combined the glamor of Barye Phillips with the earthy realism of James Avati."

Don’t Say No
(Eagle Books/Popular Library, 1956)

Olga Rosmanith

An abridged reprint of her book Picture People from 1934, reviewed here at Reading California Fiction.

Back Cover
: Hollywood Hucksters. Dazzlingly beautiful and willful Josepha Schmidt came from the obscurity of Vienna to hit Hollywood with the force of a hydrogen bomb. This is the story of her rise to stardom, the director she drove mad with desire, the photographer she couldn’t win and the lives and homes she wrecked on her star-crossed way.

"A generous helping of romance and Hollywood atmosphere, done in primary colors." — New York Herald Tribune
Cover artist unknown.

The Ever-Loving Blues
(Signet, First Signet Printing, 1961)

(In the imprint: "First published in the English language, in a slightly different form, under the title Death of a Doll.")
Carter Brown

Back cover
: Requiem for a bikini. It was an itsy-bitsy white polka-dot bikini. She was a beautiful brunette, curvy, kissable, cuddly. Too bad they had to come together — in death. Danny Boyd, the private eye with the profile no gal can resist, accepts a movie mogul's bid to track down a wandering, wanton star. He winds up playing fast with a loose redhead ... and footsy with a couple of thugs on a fifteenth-century Spanish galleon in sunny Florida, where the climate is perfect for murder.

Cover artist unknown.

Bookgasm reviews the book here. Excerpt: "Yes, another Carter Brown novel for the simple reason that they are just so fun and breezy to read. As much as I’ve enjoyed Brown’s other books, this 1961 offering is cliché city…."

The Life of Davy Crockett
(Signet, First Signet Printing, 1955)

Davy Crockett

Back cover
: “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.” This was the motto of Davy Crockett, famous as scout, Indian fighter, frontiersman and Congressman, the credo that carried him through the most exciting period of the American frontier! Everyone — old and young — who has thrilled to Davy Crockett's colorful adventures will marvel at the supreme vigor, boldness and good humor of the hero’s wonderful story… as he himself tells it.

Kiss Me, Deadly
(Signet, 19th printing, 1958)

Mickey Spillane

Does anything need to be said about this book? I don’t think so. Don’t know who did the cover art of the book, but the gun-toting blonde babe is definitely modeled after the character as played in Robert Aldrich’s great 1955 film version of Kiss Me, Deadly. Doesn’t this trailer just make you want to see the film?

Long, Long Ago
(Bantam Books, 1946)

Alexander Woolcott

Mr Adam(Pocket Books, 8th Printing, 1955)
Pat Frank

According to Wikipedia, Mr. Adam is the first novel written by Pat Frank dealing with the effects of a nuclear mishap causing worldwide male infertility… the story was inspired by a 1924 silent film The Last Man on Earth, a comedy loosely based on Mary Shelley’s now mostly forgotten novel from 1826, The Last Man.
Front Cover: The hilarious story of a shy male who suddenly found he was the only man on the world who could be a father.
Back cover
: On the day of the big atomic explosion, Homer Adam was a mile underground exploring a lead mine. Result—he was the only man left in the world who could be a father. Overnight, Homer Adam became a National Asset! He was placed in charge of the National Re-fertilization Project and taken to Washington. The Army was alerted to guard him from designing females. Foreign countries demanded to share his wealth. The President himself headed the drawing to select the first group of A.I. (Artificial Insemination) mothers, and Senator Fay Sumner Knott held the first winning number. What happened to Mr Adam is “a comedy satire that borders on the classic.” — San Diego Sun

“A dilly, a howl!” — New Orleans Times Picayune
Cover art by Barye Phillips (died in 1969).
From Good Girl Art: “Barye Phillips started by working for Columbia Pictures' advertising department in the early 1940s and did training booklets and propaganda during WW II. Her (sic) began painting paperback covers around 1943 and was very prolific, working for several publishers in various styles. His best known work was probably for Gold Medal and other Fawcett imprints.”

Nothing More Than Murder
(Dell Book 738, no print history or date)

Jim Thompson

According to Quill&Brush, this is the "first paperback edition of this novel originally published by Harper in 1949." (Dell First Edition (1953). Dell Book 738. $75)
Front cover: “Wonderful suspense, a sense of the ugliness of crime and the horror clinging to real life criminals, make this a must. . . ." — Book-of-the-Month Club News
Cover art by George Geygan.
Mostly Crappy Books
notes that George Geygan was both a prolific and excellent cover artist of vintage books, but that there is no information on him to be found. Does anyone know anything about him?

(Signet, 1st Printing, 1960)

Samuel Hopkins Adams
(The book behind George Abbott’s and Jerome Weidman’s musical of the same name.)

Cover art by James Hill.
Life in Legacy (week of February 28, 2004) says: "The dean of Canadian illustrators, whose colorful and evocative artwork could be seen everywhere from the cover of Maclean's magazine to The Saturday Evening Post, who produced covers for more than 200 paperback novels, and who did several portraits including Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Pope John Paul II, died Feb. 3 at his Toronto studio of heart problems at age 73."

Victims of Lust
(Merit Books, First Printing, February 1961)

Jerry M. Goff, Jr.
Can’t find out much about Goff other than that he seems to have written regularly for Merit Books and that Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books claims he his fine if unknown writer of hard boiled fiction. He died in 1992 I Milwaukee, 7 years before his brother Harold Neil Goff. He also got in a lot of trouble for plagiarizing the author Richard Prather, an interesting story that is gone into great detail in this article on Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books.

Back Cover
: What could be in a stag film that’s worth $1,000,000? Here’s the shocking story that spells out the details of how the film was made, and how it lead to the break-up of a vicious circle of extortionists.

Cover artist: Front cover by “Sloan” (?), back cover by an artist familiar but unknown.

Visit to a Small Planet
(Signet, First Printing, 1960)

(A play by) Gore Vidal
Back cover: Interstellar Lunacy. The fun comes fast and furiously in this riotous frolic about a visiting spaceman who lands his flying saucer on earth … and almost wrecks the lives of two young lovers, a TV news analyst, and a pompous Pentagon general.
“A brilliant satire … done with great wit and humanity.”—Tennessee Williams

“A delightful lot of screwball humor and nonsense:”—John Chapman, NY Daily News

See the imdb entry on the film.

The Wayward Ones
(Signet, First Printing, October 1954)

Sara Harris

“Life in a girls’ reformatory”

Back cover
: Bad girls. Behind the high walls and the locked gates of a girls reformatory lies the little-known world of teenagers who have stumbled—and are seeking their way back to acceptability... This is the hard-hitting, unflinching story of the punishment society metes out to youth that has erred.

Cover artist unknown.

Who Knows Love?
(Lance Books, 1962)

Originally published as Strange Passions in 1953
Florence Stonebraker
More Lezzie Lit, this time from a married woman. (Not that means anything, actually, going by half the women I met through my sister in San Diego when I went back years ago to cremate my mom. So, gentlemen: Do you really know where your wife is right now?)

Back cover
: Strange passions. Can this woman, who is torn in two, face the truth? Twisted love—normal love—which did Kay really want? Which would she eventually accept? Here is a powerful, moving story of mixed emotions ... of a stormy love which violates the rules of society.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Film: The House of Horror — The Story of Hammer Films

The House of Horror — The Story of Hammer Films
(Ed. Allen Eyles, Robert Adkinson & Nicholas Fry, Lorrimer Publishing Ltd., 1973)
A rather pointless fluff piece, heavy on praise, light on insight and detail, redeemed only by both eight pages of color reproductions of absolutely fantastic film posters — some so full of bared, bloody boobs and violence that they probably never were meant for general distribution in the first place — and the numerous photographs, especially those included in a chapter entitled "Brides of Dracula — And Others," which is little more than a series of cheesecake shots of the various forgotten and not so forgotten babes to have graced Hammers’ productions. But even these features have lost their importance in the years since this book was published: what was once so hard to find but in an occasional book (i.e., cheesecake, film posters) can now be found without problem on the Internet.

The first chapter is a series of four interviews of Hammers most important players at the time: Managing Director Michael Carreras, director Terence Fisher and the immortal stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Dry and oh so polite, the sections about Lee, Cushing and Fisher are superficial to the point of being annoying, supplying enough information to act as filler but not enough as to be especially stimulating or of any importance. Michael Carreras’ section is a bit more interesting, if only because it offers an insight into the origins and development of the company, though the glowing presentation of Carreras tends to become highly ironical when one takes into account that it was under his management that the company finally went broke.
The next three chapters focus, respectively, first on Hammers early B&W pre-horror productions, then the various horror films for which the company is presently so fondly remembered for, and lastly, the numerous other non-horror productions they also made over the years. All three chapters are lavishly illustrated with a number of photos ranging from fantastic to abysmal, some of which suffer disastrous cropping. The descriptions tend to be short, self-serving narratives that offer little or no insight into the movies, reminiscent of the short synopsizes one finds in any given mass marketed TV movie guide. The book would have been much better served had it concentrated on fewer films and given deeper information, possibly even insightful criticism. As it is, the text in The House of Horror gets incredibly boring exceedingly fast.

But then, the film posters! The first one reproduced is to Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde, and it shows more breast than seen in the entire film; painted or not, even with a knife sticking bloodily between them, the mammaries featured look a lot better than those briefly flashed in the film by Martine Beswick. Oddly enough, five of the eight color reproductions are for films that seem never to have been produced, advertising such unsung, never to be made or seen would be classics like Zeppelin Verses Pterodactyls, Mistress of the Seas and When the Earth Cracked Open. (Especially the last mentioned poster seems so promising, showcasing—as can be seen here to the left) a babe from a future time when the women obviously wear topless spacesuits.)
As any fan can tell you and the chapter dedicated to "Hammer’s Leading Ladies" aptly proves, Hammer not only invented the wonder bra long before it was ever marketed to the masses, but the casting department definitely had a fine eye for the exotic and truly beautiful. (For sure, more than one man has wished to have owned Hammer’s casting couch.) For the most part, the cheesecake shots shown are relatively discreet, though the one or two love pillows that are indeed exposed. In general, the photos of Caroline Munro, Valerie Leon, Kate O’Mara, Veronica Carlson, the one-film wonder Carita, the now-deceased Julie Ege and still living Edina Ronay not only bring back memories of early erections, but also prove that there are a number of long forgotten starlets that deserve rediscovery and reappraisal just as much as such popular fanzine staples as Martine Beswick and the non-Hammer favorites Tura Satana or Barbara Steele.

All in all, were it not for the book’s photographs and the eight pages of film posters, The House of Horror would be a pretty pointless waste of trees. Even the filmography at the end of the volume, while of possible great help if done well, is an inconvenient mess, the films both being listed by chronological year rather than by title as well as lacking any reference to content or to what preceding page in the volume they might have been discussed. The House of Horror is definitely only for die-hard fans or completionists; that which is found in the book that would appeal to Joe or Jill Schmoe can be found more easily and cheaper on the Net.

True Crime: Evidence of Murder

Evidence of Murder
(Bill McClellan, Onyx Books, 1993)
An interesting book about a relatively uninteresting “murder,” for while McClellan never comes out and directly says it to be so, Evidence of Murder leaves the reader wondering if the slimebag, wife-beating asshole of a real estate agent presently sitting behind bars for killing his wife actually did so. In theory, one has to be found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a jury of one’s peers before justice has the right to strap one to Old Sparky or, as in Ed Post’s case, throw away any keys. McClellan presents more than enough facts that cast doubt upon the outcome of the twice-tried case to cast more than one long shadow of reasonable doubt, but then, he is allowed to include in his book many an interesting fact that the jurors were never permitted to see or hear.

That Ed is a scumbag—indeed, probably a likable scumbag—with a lot of hidden dirt behind his ears is true, as is made obvious in Evidence of Murder. It is also obvious that George Hollocher, one of the Saint Louis cops that set the ball rolling to pin Ed down, is either a habitual liar or a spinner of exceptionally tall tales, depending on how one looks at it. Likewise, “Dr. Death,” the New Orleans’ based police pathologist that helped turn the pin into a stake is obviously less than likely to ever say anything that would contradict a policeman’s findings, no matter how much the evidence might point the other way. While the events narrated in the book reveal an empty urban landscape of middle class pointlessness that turns into hell, nothing in the book shouts “Murder!” In fact, at most, if one weeds through all the conflicting “facts” and statements and then pretends to be Sherlock Holmes, the obvious “truth” seems to be more along the lines of, if anything, accidental manslaughter followed by a brazen attempt at insurance fraud.

All in all, Evidence of Murder paints a picture of a less than clean system of justice; a system in which a cop can say he knows a man is guilty by the size of his feet, in which jurors can party all night long with witnesses for the prosecution, in which a body bruised and cut up from having its inner organs and bones removed for donation can be shown as proof for the signs of a husband’s angry fists. By the end of the book, the reader is left with the feeling that not only one should never, ever go to a convention in St. Louis, but that one should definitely always have deceased family members cremated and keep those insurance policies low. (And I, for one, am never, ever going to admit to anyone that I also sometimes draw my wife's bathwater. Real husbands don't do that, you know.)
Images (from the web): Above, the book; below, the author.

Fiction: I Wake Up Screaming

I Wake Up Screaming
(Stephan Fisher, Black Lizard Press)
Amongst the numerous classics
both forgotten and not of the hardboiled school of detective and crime fiction of the 40s, 50s and 60s that Black Lizard Press re-released in the 1980s is this thin little volume, a book whose influence goes much beyond its mostly forgotten status. Originally written in the early 1940s, Black Lizard obviously reprinted a revamped version — Frank Loose states "the […] version starts with the Bantam book in 1960" — as the copyright date is not only 1960, but Marilyn Monroe, Gina Lollabrigida and Rock Hudson are referred to in passing within the book, though none of them were all that active when the book was first released (in 1941). Despite these small changes the basic story itself remains the same, as does the influence of both the author himself and the original film version of the novel, H. Bruce Humberstone's excellent I Wake Up Screaming from 1941, starring (amongst others) Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis and Laird Cregar.
Humberstone's film, almost titled Hot Spot upon its original release and, in fact, released for a time in the UK under the alternative title is, according to Bruce Eder of All Movie Guide, "generally regarded as Hollywood's first film noir." An arguable statement, but whether or not it is the first is irrelevant; what is relevant is that stylistically the film is probably one of the most influential of all the film noirs. Its startling, highly original and still amazing use of lighting, shadows, angles, depth and music (seen previously in the Expressionist silent films of UFA Germany but seldom in English-language productions) has been copied and imitated by virtually every director who has ever dabbled in the genre of film noir, if only due to the influence of the stylistic delineations (and expectations) the film created. Strange that both the film and its director are virtually forgotten today by all but the most hardcore fans of noir. (Although Humberstone does have a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1750 Vine Street, his is one of the stars which no one ever stops to look at—or, if so, then only to ask "Who the fuck is he?")
Actually, while it is arguable that there is no reason to remember Humberstone, since he never again made another movie half as influential — as mentioned in imdb, "[he had] no distinct directing style of his own" — it remains hard to understand why this film of his lacks its rightful fame amongst the coach-potato and retro-house masses. (More people seem to be familiar with Harry Horner's movie Vicki, an equally watchable but nonetheless inferior remake from 1953, which has the added attraction of featuring a young and unknown Aaron Spelling as the murderer.)
The book's author, Stephan Fisher, also has suffered unjustly to the hands of time, his name likewise relatively unknown despite being, during his heyday, a scriptwriter of similarly wide influence. Born Stephan Gould Fisher on 29th of August 1912, he died in Canoga Park, California on March 27th, 1980, paying off his mortgage by writing scripts for television shows such as Barnaby Jones, McMillan and Wife, Starsky and Hutch, Cannon, S.W.A.T. and Fantasy Island. He began his career, however, while serving in the U.S. Navy from 1928 to 1932 and soon had short stories in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Liberty. In 1935 he even created a since-forgotten but at the time popular "Pulp Hero" named Sheridan Doome, who appeared regularly in the magazine The Shadow and eventually found his way into 15 novels, some of which were written under the pseudonyms Grant Lane and Stephan Gould.
By 1940, however, Fisher was in Hollywood, eventually writing for such companies as Monogram, Paramount and Universal — he was even nominated for an Oscar in 1943 for his script to Destination Tokyo (trailer), which he didn't get. When I Wake Up Screaming was optioned by 20th Century Fox, Dwight Taylor wrote the script for the movie (amongst other things, Taylor moved the action from Hollywood to New York City), but it is Fisher himself who is seen as being as influential on the stylistic development of film noir scripts as the movie is to the cinematic style. His plots — rather unlike those of Chandler and Hammett and predating other masters such as Jim Thompson and Cornell Woolrich — feature characters moving through worlds and forces in which they cannot control, populated by people driven by twisted psychologies and self-centredness — the best example being the sexually obsessed (and, in the book, impotent) Inspector Ed Cornell of I Wake Up Screaming (a characterisation reportedly modelled after Fisher's friend, Cornell Woolrich).
During the 1940s, Fisher supplied the film scripts to many of the best and/or most interesting film noirs as well as other genre films of varying budgets, including Johnny Angel (1945 / trailer), Dead Reckoning (1947 / trailer), The Hunted (1947), the gimmicky Lady in the Lake (1947 / trailer), Song of the Thin Man (1947 / trailer), the swansong of the series, Tokyo Joe (1949) and Road Block (1951). The style of psychologically driven plotting that he and Thompson and Woolrich innovated could by then be found in dozens of films he had never touched — today it is a given — but by 1953, when he wrote the script for the low-budget western The Woman They Almost Lynched (the catfight scene), his star was beginning to fade as the style of crime movies he wrote best had begun to go out of fashion. In 1958 he could be found writing the movie adaptation of Joseph Hilton Smyth's novel for the Roger Corman quickie I Mobster, and by the 1960s he was writing for A. C. Lyles, a producer who at the time specialized in C-budget westerns starring has-been veterans of the genre deemed unemployable by then-contemporary Hollywood. In his twilight years, aside from the work he did for television, he also (for some strange reason) found the time to supply a couple of scripts and/or stories for Paul Hunt (a.k.a. H. P. Edwards), a one-time underground filmmaker and eternal surfer who went on to make a trash such as Machismo: 40 Graves for 40 Guns (1971 / trailer), The Harem Bunch (1968), and the abominable Twisted Nightmare (1987 / review). Of the three-odd projects Fisher was involved in with Hunt, the most interesting is the oddly schizophrenic The Clones (1974 / trailer), which could arguably be an inspiration for the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle The 6th Day (2000 / trailer).
Contrary to what the book's back flap says, the novel I Wake Up Screaming is not about "a down-o-his-luck sports promoter accused of murdering a young film starlet." In the novel itself, the man in trouble is a writer who, like Fisher in real life, has finally made it to a cushy Hollywood screenwriting job for the big studios. As he says on the first page, "Those first hard years were over. This was it…. this is the works." But his experiences as a screenwriter seem to be as surreally boring as those of Nathaniel West — a great novelist in real life whom you really should read — and, after falling in lust with and having some premarital sex with a beautiful, young secretary named Vicki Lynn, inspired by a mixture of boredom and guilt, he conspires with various industry colleagues to manufacture Vicki into a star. They are exactly as successful as they imagine they would be, but the final result of their endeavour is that Vicki is found strangled and dead in her apartment. Though there seems to be no lack of suspects, the sickly Inspector Ed Cornell seems convinced that our hero is to blame and sets out to prove it. As the book makes plainly clear, guilt lies less in who done it than what the evidence can prove – and Cornell finds more than enough evidence to send our man to the gas chamber. Assisted by Vicki's sister Jill, our hero escapes, and the two even manage to stay on the lam for some weeks before the net finally closes in and Jill is arrested. Feeling Cornell's breath on his neck, our guy finally follows up the leads by himself and not only discovers the real murderer, but finds out that someone else is out to use the law to murder him…
Needless to say, the overt sexual aspects of the novel were toned down for the film due to the ever present influence of the Hays Office.

True Crime: A Deadly Silence

A Deadly Silence
(Dena Kleiman, Signet, 1989)
Another masterpiece of true crime reporting, telling the oh-so-shocking tale of 16-year-old Cheryl Pierson who decided in 1986, once she saw her Daddy looking at her little sister "that way"—"that way" being the way he used to look at her before he started jumping her bones when she was 12—that the time had come to rid the world of her respectable, loving and fanatically possessive and overbearing Daddy, James Pierson. Using all the brains expected of a suburban Long Island high-school cheerleader, she not only hires a classmate named Sean Pica to do the dirty deed but just can’t do anything afterwards but act suspiciously. Needless to say, the crime rocked the community in which it happened, dividing it deeply into those who believed Cheryl and those who thought she was a conniving liar out for Daddy Pierson’s money. Still, more than one person had seemingly suspected that her Dad had long been loving his daughter the wrong way—but like good neighbors, they didn’t want to rock any boats.
In the end, Cheryl is caught lying so often that one can’t help but wonder if she wasn’t stretching the truth to get away with murder—considering that she only spent six months in jail in the end and could also still inherit, she did get away with it. That the dingbat she got to kill Daddy got 8-24 years seems more than unfair in light of how easily she got off—one can’t help but think that there must have been other options open to Cheryl to stop her father other than a contract.
If nothing else, this book does briefly reveal once again the inert baseness and deeply hidden moral rot and hypocrisy that are so much a part of the modern US middle and working class society.

Addendum: A Deadly Silence went on to become a TV movie in 1989. Sean Pica, the classmate who did Cheryl’s dirty work, was paroled in December 2002 after 16 years in prison, during which he studied and received his high school diploma, a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. In 2007 he was working as a counselor with tenants in an East Harlem housing project and working on a second master’s on social work. Cheryl Pierson went on to marry her intelligent boyfriend Cuccio; they have two daughters and are still happily married.
Photos: Trawled from the Web.
Top: the book.
Middle: The young Pica.
Bottom: An older and wiser Pica, proof that rehabilitation is possible.
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