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!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Additions to My Book Collection – June 2012

Once again, an overview of some of the 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 they sounded like interesting reads. 
Kill As Directed
by "Ellery Queen"
1st printing, August, 1963 (#6205)
Cover artist unknown
Back cover text:
The perfect weapon — King Gresham smiled again. "You were a sucker. You were the patsy in the middle. The expendable man. And they couldn't wait."
"What?" Harry asked blinking. "What did you say?"
"Don't you know? You mean you still don't see it?"
"See what?"
"That you'd been framed by may wife and her lover? Ah, she didn't tell you about Tony? Oh, yes, Tony and Karen. I've known about it since the day it started. What I didn't know was that theirs was no ordinary liaison. I didn't know they were planning my murder and were only waiting for the right weapon to come along. You!"
We put the name "Ellery Queen" in quotation marks above 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. Kill As Directed is a "house book" in other words "Ellery Queen" is the brand name to sell the book, in which the famed detective doesn't even appear. The book was written by the mostly forgotten crime fiction author Henry Kane, a lawyer that gave up law for the career of writer and eventually went on to publish a good 60 books, none of which are still in print (though some are available as ebooks). Born in 1918, date of death unknown, he invented and wrote 30 books featuring Peter Chambers, a PI as forgotten as the author. (According to The Thrilling Detective website: "Peter Chambers is a swingin' kinda guy, who started life referring to himself as a 'Private Richard' and ended his career in a handful of soft porn novels. What a dick!") 
Kane also did an occasional television script, usually for PI and police series, and worked on the films Gunman in the Streets (1950, dir. Frank Tuttle — review at Noir of the Week) and the Ed McBain 87th precinct films Cop Hater (1958) and The Mugger (1958), both of which were directed by the just as forgotten director William Berke. The August, 1963, 1st printing of this book is available with two numbers on the cover — 6205 and 4704 — so who knows which one is the "true" 1st edition (4704 originally cost 45 cents and 6205, 35 cents, so book number might have nothing to do with it).
Carny Kill
by Robert Edmond Alter
ISBN: 0-88739-008-0
Black Lizard Books — No edition information
Original copyright 1966; publication date 1986
Cover Art by Kirwan
Opening lines of Carny Kill: "It was one of those tourist traps that have turned the coast of Florida into a glittering facade. They hide the naked sights of the hundreds of thousands of voracious cash registers behind the tinsel. That way the innocent tourists won't be stampeded into running for cover in fear for their wallets." 
Independent Crime opinions that "Carny Kill is one of those now-clichéd tales of Florida weirdoes written in 1966 before Florida weirdoes were the most overexposed group of weirdoes on the planet." 
As to be expected with a Black Lizard reprint, Carny Kill is a fast and sleazy hard-boiled ride well worth reading. Originally printed by Gold Medal and reprinted twice by Black Lizard, the book is relatively easy to find. The Hard-Nosed Sleuth offers an excellent synopsis: "In a nutshell, the anti-hero of the book is a wise-cracking grifter who takes a job [at a third-rate amusement park] only to find out the owner has married the grifter's ex-wife. Not even a day later [the owner] Cochrane turns up dead on a small inlet of the jungle river ride with enough planted evidence to point the finger at the grifter's ex. Soon to enter the plot is a crusty police detective who on one hand likes the grifter for the crime [sic] and then on the other seems to be partnering up with him to solve the case. Pretty soon the grifter is hooking up with one of the burlesque dancers from one of the shows. This comes with its own set of baggage as she is being courted by another guy from the grifter's past, one who is out to enact vengeance against the grafter." 
The cover art of the first Black Lizard reprint 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). 
As for the forgotten author Robert Edmond Alter, he was born in San Francisco on 10 December 1925 and died of cancer 40 years later in Los Angeles on 26 May 1965, just before Carny Kill's first paperback printing in 1966; according to, he wrote a total of 18 novels but the number seems contested. His only science fiction novel, Path to Savagery, also appeared after his death, in 1969; it was filmed in 1979 as Ravagers, the last grindhouse feature of director Richard Compton before he moved to doing television series. (The mystery about the elusive Alter is that although his died in 1965, as The Mystery Files point out in their write-up on the author: "books and short stories by Alter continued appearing into 1970.")
The Sandancers
Jerome Jennings
All Star AS 123
Copyright 1967
Cover artist unknown.
As my scanner is busted, I downloaded the cover from that great website, the folks that brought you the eponymously titled fun book Strange Sisters. The great cover of The Sandancers is signed in the painting, but regrettably the signature is illegible; the author — or, at least, the pseudonym — "Jerome Jennings" seems to have been a one-shot, for no other publication can be found on-line graced with the name (and, in turn, no information about the name).
As it says on the cover, The Sandancers is "A novel of women who love women" but, as is common to lesbian literature of the time, the main babe finally finds happiness with man by the final lines of the book: "Ruth knew her passions were now honest feminine wants, the kind she always hoped for. As Nick rounded the car into the quiet cove she couldn't help wonder how soon she'd be filling out a maternity smock..." 
The inside cover has the following fine prose:
"Viola finished stripping the sweater and bra off the young girl's body. They were both naked to the navel. Bolts of raw lust captured Viola's senses; whimpering hoarsely, she cupped the pink-brown nipples and made love to them. Therese cries aloud with ecstasy. Her bare mounds quivered and trembled as they accepted Vi's hungry mouth and hands.
'Please don't tease me any more!'
'Come to me, baby.' Like a man, Viola continued the preliminaries with sincere words of praise and affection, petting the wonderful anatomy of this goddess. Clothes flew away briskly. The women wrestled, equally nude, Viola's olive-oil tan contrasting with Therese's fair, rippling gams that ended in a hub t the center of her very being..." 
The Thin Man
by Dashiell Hammett
Pocket Books Edition (#196)
Cover art by Hoffman
First published 1932 (Alfred A. Knopf).
15th Printing, July 1945
This book was bought less to be an addition to my collection than to actually read: not only is the 15th printing a bit too high to have any real value, but the paperback is in miserable condition. Still, Dashiell Hammett is one of my favorite authors — Red Harvest is the book to read — and, oddly enough, though I've seen all films of the Thin Man franchise (1934-47), I've never read the book that started them, the last novel of the five that Hammett wrote. 
The cover illustration is by "Hoffman", which is how the prolific but oddly overlooked cover artist H. Lawrence "Larry" Hoffman usually signed his work. According to Royal Books, Hoffman began his career drawing for Thrilling Mystery Novels magazine and, according to Wikipedia, continued illustrating into the 1970s. Little information about him can be found on the web, even at The Hoffman Collection, the website of his documentary filmmaker son David Hoffman. And while the website gives neither the date of birth nor death of H. Lawrence Hoffman, it reveals that the artist lived with his wife and son in Levittown, Long Island, and taught at Cooper Union and Pratt Institute. A productive man, when Pocket Books was first established in 1942, Hoffman supplied the first 125 paperbacks. (Seeing that the first Pocket Book printing of The Thin Man was in 1942, it stands to reason the cover here might be one of those 125.) To quote The Hoffman Collection: "[David] Hoffman was surprised to discover that his father's work was collectible. Unfortunately, Larry Hoffman gave most of it away long before he died. Hoffman's mother [...] was acting as her husband's 'business agent' and promoter. She thought it best to price his pictures by size. The larger they were, the more she charged. A four-foot painting cost the buyer about $400. Trouble was, Larry loved to do miniatures."
The same year that The Thin Man appeared in hardcover (1934), Hollywood produced the now classic feature film of the book, directed by W.S. Van Dyke and starring William Powell (as Nick Charles) and Myrna Loy (as Nora Charles).
The Thin Man trailer:
by Saul Cooper
Hillman Books, New York (#133)
Printed 1959, published 1960
Cover artist: Everett Raymond Kinstler.
The illegible signature at the lower right of the cover is that of Everett Raymond Kinstler. Kinstler, born in 1926, began his career at the age of 16 doing comic books, paperback book covers, and book and magazine illustrations. An in-demand portrait artist, in 1999 he received the Copley Medal from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. 
As for the book itself, it is a novel and not a biography so, as The Tommy Gun Times says, "Here's a typically sensational, short on facts and long on imagination Hillman paperback featuring our old pal Johnnie. It can be had at various places around the web for as little as three bucks." Bookscans reveals that Hillman Books was a paperback firm founded by one Alex Hillman (1900—1967) in 1957; Hillman "sold his entire publishing empire to Macfadden in 1961 and retired to the life of a wealthy philanthropist."
Aside from Dillinger, Saul Cooper also wrote the novelization of Melvin Frank's western film The Jayhawkers for Hillman Books which, like the film, came out in 1959. Other film novelizations Cooper wrote include that for My Geisha (1962, dir. Jack Cardiff) at Dell in 1961, It Started in Naples (1960, dir. Melville Shavelson — trailer) at Gold Medal in 1960, and All in a Night's Work (1960, dir. Joseph Anthony — trailer) for Popular Library in 1961; some on-line sources list Michael Milner and Richard Benson as pseudonyms of Cooper, which would make him responsible for a whole slew of other novelizations, too. In general, however, there is little information about the author Saul Cooper to be found on the web, though Bookscans does claim him to have been born in 1934. 
Where Town Begins
by Richard R. Werry
Signet, 1st Printing, May 1952 (#938)
Cover artist: Raymond Pease
As far as we can tell, author Richard R. Werry was not a productive writer. He followed his 1947 book of poetry, Frozen Tears, and other Poems, with two mysteries, Where Town Begins (1952) and Hammer Me Home (1956), and then seems to have lain low until the 1980s, when he suddenly wrote two more books, Casket for a Lying Lady (1985) and A Delicately Personal Matter (1987), featuring "J.D. Mulroy", a female PI from Michigan described at Thrilling Detective as "a sort of easy-going, grown-up version of Nancy Drew". 
His bio on the back cover of Where Town Begins reveals that he was born 1916 in Pittsburgh, he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, served as a pharmacist's mate in the Navy and Marine Corps, and that at the time when he published his first novel (Where Town Begins) he was a creative writing teacher at Wayne University in Detroit. Online, we discovered his exact date of birth to be March 22, 1916, and that he died at the age of 71 on December 12, 1987 in Birmingham, Oakland County, MI (Michigan), 48009. The plot of this "explosive thriller of human passions" is given on the back cover as follows:
"If Jeff Cravath, a respected married, small-town business man had not felt guilty about his wartime affair with a Navy nurse, he would never have paid blackmail to the man who claimed to be her husband...
If Jeff had not feared a showdown with this sinister, hard-boiled stranger, he would never have met Norma, the voluptuous, animal-like waitress who worked in a roadhouse on the outskirts of town...
If Jeff had not encountered Norma, he would never have been catapulted into the explosive events that erupted into shocking violence and ripped the lid off small-town scandals."
The cover painting is by Raymond Pease. According to, Pease, who was born in 1908 in northern Vermont, died of Alzheimer's Disease around 1991 in Prescott, Arizona, where he was living with his wife Harriett. Due to his illness, he had quit painting by 1989. "Pease attended Grand Art School, the National Academy of Design, and received a B.F.A. degree from Yale University, School of the Fine Arts. [...] He continued his studies at the Ecoles des Beaux Artes and the Academie Julian, as well as with private teachers in Paris, France." 
Below, a reproduction the original painting for the cover of Where Town Begins: Oil on board, 18.5 x 15.75 in. Formerly of the Estate of Charles Martignette.

Love in a Dry Season
by Shelby Foote
Signet, 1st printing, November 1952 (#970)
Cover art by James Avati
"Explosive emotions in a southern town"
According to Wikipedia, William Faulkner once told a University of Virginia class that Foote "shows promise, if he'll just stop trying to write Faulkner, and will write some Shelby Foote." Love in a Dry Season, which is set around the time of the Great Depression, was Foote's third novel and one for which he was known to have a special affection. 
In the September 1st, 1951 issue of Kirkus Reviews, the reviewer had the following to say about Love in a Dry Season: "Dirty and dull, but shrewdly contrived and skillfully executed so that while you loathe practically every character in the book, you believe in them. A sordid triangle — Amy, a nymphomaniac and a rotter, her blind husband, Jeff, who enjoys contriving reasons for display of jealousy and suspicion, and Drew, a traveling salesman on the make, who deliberately woos and wins the spinster daughter of the town's leading cotton merchant, only to be thrown out by the father, who knows what he is after. He stays on to await his antagonist's death, but Fate tricks him. It is the invalid sister who dies, thus freeing the credulous Amanda for an elopement, only to have her lover throw her over unceremoniously, and stay on for his pursuit of more attractive game in the insatiable Amy. Jeff lays his net and catches his erring pair in the act but his blindness tricks his aim, and he wounds but does not kill. Drew goes on to fresh pastures; Amanda gets queerer; Jeff and Amy stay linked in matrimony and hate. If this be Southern "love", make the most of it. I found it left a bad taste in my mouth."
Foote went on to write a total of six novels, a variety of non-fiction books and to gain a certain level of celebrity as a commentator on documentary films such as PBS's The Civil War (1990). Born November 17, 1916, in Greenville, Mississippi, he died in Memphis, Tenn., on June 27, 2005, at the age of 88.
The cover art is by the great James Avati (December 14, 1912, Bloomfield, NJ – February 27, 2005, Petaluma, CA); Grant Books, the publisher of The Paperback Art of James Avati, says that he "is regarded as the pre-eminent painter of paperback covers in the second half of the 20th century [and that] he was known in the business as the 'King of the Paperbacks'." On our own bookshelves, we have paperbacks by Faulkner, Caldwell and Moravia that display his cover artwork. 
Like so many vintage cover artists previously ignored, Avati's work now fetches prices he could never have dreamed of while alive and working. The father of nine children (between two marriages), he received a degree in architecture in Princeton University in 1935 and, after the war, began painting during his free time while working as a display window designer on 5th Avenue in NYC. In 1948, Avati's work caught the eye of Kurt Enoch, the co-founder of New American Library; Signet belonged to their imprint, and Avati's style proved both popular and influential. He stopped painting towards the end of his life due to his declining eyesight.
James Avati
on creating his cover for Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road:

James Avation creating his cover for James T. Farrell's No Star Is Lost:
Cherry Delight #21 – Mexican Standoff
by Glen Chase
Leisure Books, 1st printing, 1975 (#260ZK)
Cherry Delight — "The Sexecutioner", as she was called on the cover of the first nine books of the pulp series — lasted a total of 24 novels between 1972 and 75 and featured the eponymously named character, the best agent at the secret anti-mob organization N.Y.M.P.H.O. (New York Mafia Prosecution and Harassment Organization), who, as the blogsite Aggressors puts it, is "as good with a bazooka as she is with her bazoombas."
After the initial 24 novels, following a pause of two years she returned for another five novels (all in 1977) as the "All New Cherry Delight". This new series, going by the two books presented at the groovy blog Groovy Age of Horror, had Cherry fighting the supernatural instead of the mob. But in the guise of the "Old" Cherry, she is very much typical of the "sexpionage" subgenre once so popular (some nice covers of prime examples can be found here at the blog Bish's Beat).
"Glen Chase" was the house name at Leisure Books the Cherry Delight novels, a name shared by the prolific writer Gardner F Fox (May 20, 1911 – December 24, 1986) and Rochelle Larkin (possibly "Rochelle Larking") and Leonard Levinson; who knows which of the three wrote this installment — or who the model is on the cover. Gardner F Fox, whose other pen names included Jefferson Cooper, Bart Sommers, Simon Majors, Paul Dean, Ray Gardner and Lynna Cooper, is a familiar name to anyone who grew up during the Silver and Bronze Ages of Comics — according to Wikipedia, "Comic-book historians estimate that he wrote over 4,000 comics stories." 
The blurb on the back cover says: 
"The supply of heroin from Turkey had been cut down, but south of the Mexican border the Mafia was growing opium in the mountains. The Mob's local and imported gunmen kept the villagers in line, and anybody who talked to the federales died a horrible death. Cherry's assignment was to literally smoke them out. And that's what she did – burning up millions of dollars in H – but before she torched the poppy fields she had one hell of a time, because Cherry enjoys her work, in or out of bed."  
"Yellow Kid" Weil – Con Man
As told to W. T. Brannon
Pyramid Books, 1957 (#G280)
"An Authorized Abridgment" of the hardcover originally published in 1948 by Ziff-Davis Publishing. Pyramid Books, which founded in 1949 (and eventually became Jove Books before finally disappearing into Penguin in 1979), was always good for a fun publication (see: Men Behind Bars or A Girl Called Judith Strick). This "biography" here, long out of print, was reprinted (in its unabridged form) by AK Press in 2010, but it is also available for free at the Internet Archives
William T. Brannon, a forgotten true crime author — The Lady Killers [1951] seems to have been his only other book of note, though he did get nominated in 1951 for an Edgar Award "for general excellence in fact crime writing"  was born 3 March 1906 in Meridian, Mississippi; we were unable to locate a date of death, so he might still be out there. Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil, however, is not: Born 1 July 1875, he died a centurion on 26 February 1976. The photo of the man seen here comes from the Find A Grave website which, oddly enough, couldn't find his grave. (Weil, by the way, is also found in David W. Maurer's book The Big Con: The Story of Confidence Men, which was the inspirational source for George Roy Hill's classic movie, The Sting [1973].) 
The reviewer of the AK Press reprint at BoingBoing says "This is one of the most entertaining memoirs I've ever read," explaining "Weil's autobiography is really more of a memoir — it doesn't provide much of a coherent narrative of the man and his life. Rather, it is a series of unconnected but hugely entertaining anecdotes about the various scams he ran and the venal fools he took for thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. Weil is a virtuoso exploiter of human foibles, and each story serves as a miniature morality play in which someone who thinks he's getting something for nothing (usually at some innocent's expense) instead loses everything as payback for his venality."
The back cover of the Pyramid edition includes the following blurbs:
Erle Stanley Gardner "A must for every sucker in the United States and required reading for everyone who wants to keep from being a sucker."
Craig Rice "'Yellow Kid' Weil is a fascinating book. It definitely proves that facts are stranger than fiction. Wow! What a book!"
Brett Halliday "It is extremely difficult to put the book down once you have started it."
The first page blurb says:
"A fabulous rascal In his long and checkered career as a confidence man, "Yellow Kid" Weil mulcted the public of over $8,000,000 and established a reputation for connivery that has never been equaled.
A dapper rogue who managed somehow to stay one step ahead of the police, "Yellow Kid" used phoney oil deals, willing women, fixed races and countless other dodges to fleece a gullible public.
Now in his own words comes the unvarnished truth about his nefarious and knavish schemes — the famous "Spanish prisoner" fraud, the case of the doctored thoroughbred, and a hundred other intriguing swindles that made him an unparalleled menace to the pocketbook of suckers."
Trailer to The Sting (1973):
A Dandy in Aspic 
by Derek Marlowe
Dell, 1st Dell Printing, Aug 1967 (#1665)
Cover by Livoti
Derek [William Mario] Marlowe, who was born 21 May 1938 in Perivale, England, and died of leukemia on 14 November 1996, in Los Angeles, California, was an English playwright, screenwriter and novelist. A Dandy in Aspic was his first novel, and it was promptly made into a film. As the cover says: "A spellbinder about a spy who was ordered to assassinate himself."
The first page blurb goes in a bit more detail: "The Dandy — He was a double agent working both sides of the iron curtain, turning dangerous double-crosses into deadly triple plays, trying to avoid the one dual role from which there was no escape–that of both the murderer and victim"
The film version, for which Marlowe also supplied the screenplay, starred Laurence Harvey and Mia Farrow and was directed by Anthony Mann. Or at least Mann directed most of it:  he died during the filming and Harvey took over the directional chores.
The cover art of this edition was supplied by Victor ("Vic") Livoti, a once highly active cover and film poster artist who, like so many, seems relegated to obscurity. Our search of the web turned up little, but Obits for Life did supply the following: "Victor Livoti, of Norwalk, passed away on March 23, 2009, after a long illness. Born in New York City on April 1, 1923, he was the son of the late Francis A. and Mary Marinelli Livoti.
Mr. Livoti served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He studied at the National Academy and the Art Students League in New York City. He worked for many years as an illustrator and was an avid golfer.
Victor is survived by his wife of 30 years, Maria Castagnetti Livoti; and their daughter, Victoria Livoti of Norwalk. He is also survived by two children from a previous marriage; a daughter, Amanda E. Livoti of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and a son Victor M. Livoti of Norwalk; as well as three grandchildren." 
As the family requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the American Lung Association, one can surmise from what he died.
Credit sequence to A Dandy in Aspic:
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