Pulp Muse: Musing on Art from Nitro’s Pulp Bookshelf. I have read some of most of these and all of SOME of these… But first, I like to judge these books by their covers.
Fig. 66: The Beast Master
Nitro’s Note: This book by Andre Norton has nothing to do with the 80’s movie where Prehistoric Dar (Marc Singer) uses ESP with animals to save a slave girl (Tanya Roberts) from a sorcerer (Rip Torn). Pity. Andre Alice Norton, one of the foremost women SF authors, got her first book out in 1934, and only just died in 2005.
Fig. 65: The Martian Missile
Nitro’s Note: This picture is a metaphor for the whole male experience
Fig. 64: The Sioux Spaceman
Nitro’s Note: There was a time in SF when this kind of not-so-bad situation seemed like a plausible scenario. That bird dude is not formidable. Now, mostly SF is about everybody you know is dead and there’s wires and bugs in your brain and the robot dogs are coming for you and ALL THE WATER HAS TENTACLES
Fig 63: Space Plague
Nitro’s Note: Groovy. I appreciate the unnecessary silhouetting of a single nipple
Fig. 62: A Man Obsessed
Nitro’s Note: SHOWGIRL! SURGEON! SYRINGE! This is Masterful, even if she does look like she’s about to fall over backwards.
Fig 61: The Stars Are Ours!
Nitro’s Note: Nope, I don’t understand their relationship. So, these ACE TWO COMPLETE NOVEL books which I bought off some Kiwanis- you flip them over and reverse the book the read the second one. So once the text inside turns upside down, you know you’ve finished the first story. Awesome. 35 cents.
Fig. 60: We Who Survived
Nitro’s Note: This is a great cover! It reminds me of the winter of 2013
Fig. 59: The Last Planet
Nitro’s Note: If you’re going to make a robot, why not make him cute?
Fig. 58: Mankind on the Run
Nitro’s Note: Terrible cover. That poor woman has lost an arm and her nose and her dress fits really badly. The guy’s trying to console her but he’s overwhelmed because GIANT KEYS. Here’s the stated problem: NO PLACE ON EARTH TO LIE DOWN. That is not demonstrated by the graphic.
Fig. 57: Crashing Suns
Nitro’s Note: I’m sorry, but I do not believe that any sequence of situations could legitimately result in the evolution of the pink spheroid alien.
Fig 56: Adventures in the Far Future
Nitro’s Note: Lady, you go to all the trouble to wear that midriff -baring pink space vampire outfit, and that’s the best pose you can hit??
Fig.55: Year of Consent
Nitro’s Note: That’s a great cover! It’s a 1984y novel, but more advanced because it supposedly occurs in 1990. Plus! The Matrix totally stole that dude wired to the machine
Fig. 54: Bayou Girl
Nitro’s Note: They don’t teach this stuff in Louisiana Schools, obviously, but technically it’s “mating season all year round” for homo sapiens in general always
Fig. 53: Bamboo
Nitro’s Note: Nice ink, bro. This is a book written by a guy who was in the Regular Navy– not your Hollywood navy, see?
Fig 52: She’ll Get Hers
Fig. 51: The Citadel
Nitro’s Note: HOW COULD IT BE MORE OBVIOUS THAT THIS IS SERIOUS LITERATURE. I mean, it’s The Great Novel”. and it’s “A Great Novel” both. Plus there’s a tempted Doctor
Fig 50: The Dog Star
Nitro’s Note: This guy is just about to lose it if she keeps talking Captain Marvel while he’s writing a tone poem to Kerouac
Fig. 49: Killer in White
Nitro’s Note: This one is about the Capitalist American Health Care System and how it murders people and molests women. Well, it should be. Nice back cover too:
Fig. 48: Tribesmen of GOR
Nitro’s Note: You know I usually stop around the 1960’s with these pulp covers, but I do like this dancin’ girl art, and it reminded me of how horrible this misogynistic pervy slave-girl GOR series was for my teenage sex mind
Fig. 47: By Blood Alone
Fig. 46: Tales for Salesmen
Nitro’s Note: This is a tedious collection of groaners and B-Level Celebrity bon mots from people like, I don’t know, Lady Forsythe Pendergripe and Noted Hillbilly Representative “Corncob” Skeeterpoon. But this book was also where I found my very favorite joke of 2017, which appears in modified form here. I just had to dig hard to get it-
Fig 45: The King’s Lust
Nitro’s Note: This is actually a retelling of the Salome story. It’s Klassical Literature. I like the expressive type of the title! YAY LUST. Plus, I approve of ANYTHING set against a background of Roman Wickedness.
Fig. 44: Burial of the Fruit
Nitro’s Note: Wait, those are Teenage Brooklyn Gangsters? He looks like an aerospace engineer, and real Gangsters don’t have quilts. This one I can imagine a dialogue for, however:
Fig 43: Shell Scott: Gat Heat
Nitro’s Note: Shell Scott books are A-OK pulp, and “Gat Heat” is just a marvelous name for a book. This cover art could also be pressed into use to warn of the danger of slip-and-falls at your local municipal swimming pool
Fig. 42: Some Women Won’t Wait
Nitro’s Note: Ah, the seventies, half-naked in appropriated tribal patterns, smokin’ and drinkin’ on wicker.
Fig. 41: Death on the Rocks
Nitro’s Note: This tableau makes me happy but I do not believe those are real chinese characters
Fig. 40: Crows Can’t Count
Nitro’s Note: Nice feet! I envy people who can draw feet.
Fig. 39: Midsummer Passion
Nitro’s Note: I can’t for the life of me imagine the conversation that these two are having, from the visual cues and their blasé expressions. This cover is so amazing and wrong
Fig 38: I’ll Get You Yet
Nitro’s Note: This cover, with its lavish back cover illustrations, is a knockout. Nice foot!
I’m not very far into this book, but impressed by the detox method employed by the heroine: after being forcibly hooked on smack by mobsters, she strips herself naked (so her clothes will stay tidy) and locks herself in an abandoned stable out in the country, to suffer withdrawal for 4 days. Once the monkey’s off her back, she picks the lock with a broken spur, eats some stolen raw bait and drinks a quart of milk & bourbon. Then she pretty much feels OK apparently
Fig. 37: The Sex Machine
Nitro’s Note: 50 Million Men Can Totally Be Incorrect, if they were under the impression that this is a funny novel. It’s not. It certainly does not achieve “Zany.” It’s not barely prurient, either. Enough said.
Fig. 36: 13 French Street
Nitro’s Note: A cautionary tale: Don’t go hangin’ out with your wife’s friend where evil dwelt!
Fig. 35: Man for Hire
Nitro’s Note: A strange novel about an oddly hostile but unbeatable and frankly well-endowed veteran, picked up by an actress and brought to Hollywood where he has sex a lot, which makes him feel bad about himself until on the last 1/2 page he has a breakthrough and settles down with a totally hot screenwriter babe.
Fig 34: Me, Hood!
Fig. 33: The Awful Egg (Doc Savage)
“Dammit! I asked for SOFT-boiled! WAITRESS! Get your tail back over here!”
- The guy who sells Doc Savage his shirts is a MILLIONAIRE by now
- Especially if he also sources Bruce Banner his shirts
- If you saw someone in real life with a widow’s peak that descended to right between their eyebrows, it’d be startling! I have for many years been waiting for body-modifiers to do more with hair transplants. Imagine a mohawk that starts at the tip of your nose and goes to the base of your spine
- Really, Doc Savage’s style is distinctive! Jodhpurs?
- Only Iggy Pop has more neck musculature.
. 32: Balzan of the Cat People
- BALZAN! I see: like Tarzan, but ballzier.
- Question: Is there some kind of Fantasy-Action-Hero-Name-Generator? KARNOK! TOKNAN! BARFORK! HARSHO! KRUNKAN! RUBRIK! Because there should be.
- Seriously, what’s with the frolicking flat-tailed dragon? “Oh BALZAN! I wanna be your BESTEST FRIEND!” P.S. I hate dragons with insufficient wings.
- Let’s see if the back of the book gives us some insights:
- No, it just gets weirder. “Emblazon a path between hallucination and reality?” Like Tim Leary?
- I can’t help but wonder what technique “Orala” would employ to seduce BALZAN…
- Wait, so instead of a lame frolicking dragon, the artist could have painted a six-legged spider anthropoid? That’s a tragically squandered opportunity.
- I do like cats, but I have to say, “of the Cat People” just doesn’t deliver the formidable vs. “of the Apes.”
Fig. 31: Mexican Brown (The Penetrator)
Nitro’s notes: As literate as The LAMINATOR!
From 1978 comes The Penetrator: Mike Hardin (SUBTLE!).This book is really poorly written, but I had to get it- because between Mike Hardin’s extremely
tedious dangerous assignments he recuperates in a secret hideaway in a borax mine. Other observations:
- Boy, those guns are pointing everywhere. Not a sophisticated composition.
- The girl with the floppy neck in the trenchcoat and weird negligee has an itchy calf. Or she’s part flamingo.
- Lionel Derrick: Jeez, another implied erection? You got a problem, dude.
Fig. 30: Desire in the DUST
Nitro’s Note: I had to look up the movie: HOLY CRIPES it’s RAYMOND BURR gets the pailful o’ trouble, evidently
Fig. 29: Talk of the Town (Big Eyes)
Nitro’s Note: Man, that’s livin’.
Art by the amazing Earle Bergey. This came out in 1951, the year before he died, and pulp and magazine covers were worse ever after. He gets so much redneck into this picture: A corncob pipe, a tin cup, a little brown jug, a plaid shirt, suspenders and overalls both, a harmonica… and then why is the disaffected & oblivious cheerful Greek Goddess cavorting with those dudes?
. 28: Circle of Desire
- Do they really issue all sailors striped shirts? I have always wondered that.
- Q. Why doesn’t someone refill his glass? A. Because the bottle’s empty, too.
- Q. Do people really sit with hand in pocket? A. Not unless there’s something sneaky in the pocket.
- I like the color diagonal in this composition.Red, Blue, Yellow. Hot, Cool, Caution!
Fig. 27: The Burning Court
Nitro’s note: “She worshipped evil and made murder her religion” -they say that like it’s a BAD thing. I’m trying to imagine the other steps in the dance she’s doing, and I can’t. Also confused about the low skull shelf. Might be on the corner of a coffee table?
Fig. 26: Too Many Cooks (Rex Stout)
Nitro’s Notes: Nero Wolfe is not unduly startled when shot in the cheek in bed. It’s probably because of the lager he keeps handy on the nightstand.
P.S. is that a great keyhole logo or what?
Fig. 26: The Big Kill
Nitro’s notes: A first edition, no less. You know what’s great about Mickey Spillane?
1. His picture on the back of the book:
If I’d taken that picture, I’d label it “A Stewbum with a Gun.” He’s clearly toothless, The shirt is ill advised, he holds the gun without any real conviction.
2. His Signature.
3. Sometimes his titles are pretty good
4. That’s about it.
Fig. 25: Modesty Blaise
Nitro’s notes: Printed in 1966: She’s slightly younger than me. Merely $5.50 at Aunt Agatha’s. Peter O’Donnell was the writer of the Modesty Blaise comic strip, 1963-2001- This novelization follows O’Donnell’s script of the movie Modesty Blaise (1966), which script was heavily, heavily doctored to be campier and all 1960’s weird.
He ended up writing 11 Modesty Blaise novels, a couple short story collections, and over 10,000 strips. Would be awesome except, rapey.
Fig. 24: The Gods of Mars
Fig. 23: Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Fig. 22: The Monster Men
Fig. 21: The Iron Skull (The Avenger)
Fig. 20: The Monsters (Doc Savage)
James Bama cover. His Doc Savage never seems concerned, but probably constipated.
Fig. 19: The Monster Men
Nitro’s Notes: Amazing early Frazetta cover. Good book, too, (cough) Island of Dr. Moreau (cough).
In my humble opinion, Frank Frazetta did most of his best paintings for covers of Edgar Rice Burroughs books. Well, and some Conan. The later, more painterly ones for the Pellucidar and Warlord of Mars series are legendary- but I got this for just $3.50 the day before yesterday- the 1963 edition of The Monster Men. It makes me happy.
Fig. 18. The Case of the Brazen Beauty
- Q: How can you tell this is from 1973? A: CHIANTI
- From the Back Cover Blurb: “The D.O.A. Selby and Rayder found turned out to be a stab job.” OK, “STAB JOB” is NOT a real police term. Nice try, though.
- Awesome wicker hat echoes the Chianti Cozy
- What a fabulous window seat, to slouch against in your animal print bikini
Fig. 17. The Passionate Witch
Nitro’s Note:A lesser work by the dissolute 1930’sish author Thorne Smith, who also wrote “Topper” and “Night Life of the Gods” which are much better than this posthumously published (and “completed” by another writer) book.
It was kind of made into, or more, I would say, inspired, “I Married a Witch” with Veronica Lake. Which kind of led to “Bell Book and Candle” which kind of led to “Bewitched” and all of those are pretty awesome.
Fig. 16. He Wouldn’t Kill Patience or Murder in the Zoo
Nitro’s Note: “Murder in the Zoo” was a better title than “He Wouldn’t Kill Patience” and they knew that so they just left it the cover.
I can’t decide if she’s scared of the snake, or describing what she overheard Rhonda Perkins a-sayin’ to the Pastor down in the undercroft last shrove Thursday when Widder McFillips was a-lookin the other way
Fig. 15. The Transistor Girls
Nitro’s Note: The concept of “part-time prostitutes” just bothers me all over. Seriously, I appreciate the Art by Robert Maguire but I looked inside briefly and kind of wanted to glue all the pages together
Fig. 14. Big City Girl
Nitro’s Notes: Purchased for 50 cents at Honest Injun’s Trading Post, in the UP. I did some minor cosmetic surgery to get her face unlined. Actually, I fix flaws, distort things and pump the colors around frequently, full disc.
Fig 13. The Golden Sorrow
Nitro’s Note: Just look at this shameless cad, if you can even bear it. A pinky ring, really? YOU’RE GOING TO MEET THE SAME PEOPLE WHEN YOU’RE ON THE WAY BACK DOWN, you dog.
Fig. 12. Dolls Are Deadly
Nitro’s Note: Wait- LOOK OUT MIKE! Is that a VOODOO PIN STICKING OUT OF A LEMON MERINGUE PIE way down at the bottom, cut off by the cover crop?
DON’T EAT THE MERINGUE MIKE!!!
…seriously, they cropped out the titular Voodoo Doll, really? That’s how little the publishers cared about these pulp books in general and the cover art specifically.
Fig. 11. The Beach House
Nitro’s Note: “A reckless blonde in a wide-open town.” The vice versa is implied, I think. But she looks more anesthetized, or petrified, than reckless. I prefer the totally different, smirky reckless blonde with the weird right arm on the back of the book. Totally not the same blonde though. Nice try, Popular GIANT.
Fig. 10. The April Robin Murders
Nitro’s Note: That is “April Robin” depicted. She’s outstanding in her field.
Really, a splendid and hilarious book, with the unwitting detectives Bingo Riggs and Handsome Kusak, stumbling through Hollywood and over bodies. Handsome Kusak has a photographic memory for things he’s read in magazines and is otherwise apparently dimmer than his easily-duped, entrepreneurial associate Bingo.
The bookseller admonished me to make sure to read this one because she knew I was buying it for the cover. She was right. I’m really enjoying it.
You totally can tell a book by its cover if you’re just interested in the cover itself alone though
Fig. 9. The Case of the Daring Decoy
Nitro’s Note: Two highball glasses? This is what happens when you fall down the 12 steps.
Fig 8. Stranger in Town
Nitro’s Note: Not a TERRIBLE Mike Shayne Mystery, although, spoiler, evil abortionists.
Mike Shayne, Miami P.I., has red hair and is therefore short-tempered, and he drinks cognac, which gives you differentiation in the bar scene. The broad depicted on the cover is described inside as having blonde ringlets, so it’s not a PERFECT representation for this book, but a pretty perfect cover for something.
Sample simile: “Hands the size of picnic hams” -bothers me because of ham/hand is slant-homonymous, but I appreciate how it doesn’t overshoot to Dinner-Ham-Sized Hands, which would be ridiculous.
Fig. 7. Slab Happy
Nitro’s Note: Sample simile: “He had a size 20 neck, fists like large beef roasts, and arms like legs.”
Shell Scott, L.A. P.I., sure gets beat up a lot, acts like an haplessly oversexed Bichon Frise around beautiful Hollywood Starlets and engages in some Spillane-Level messy violence, but he’s a delightful cut-up:
Doctor Clark said, smiling, “Oh, you’re a doctor?”
“Not exactly.” I grinned. “Sometimes I patch up problems. But my operations are usually, well, sort of unusual. You might call me one of the unorthodocs.”
I haven’t yet come to the scene where the 70’s girl in the bikini perches on the coffin with a machine gun, but I am looking forward to it. That kind of iconic scene is what sells 40 million books
Fig. 6. The Case of the Sun Bather’s Diary
Nitro’s Note: Pretty dark for sunbathing, isn’t it? Lost in the 1950’s collage-style forest, nude but for a red book (Jungian reference). Great Cardinal logo, too.
I wish they hadn’t kneecapped her with the byline.
Fig 5. The Life and Times of the Shmoo
Nitro’s Note: This book was pressed repeatedly into service (This edition is like the seventh printing within 2 years) when the Great Shmoo Craze of the late 1940’s was at its apex, and before my friend Laurel’s Grandfather was left with hundreds of unsaleable plaster Shmoos, which he abandoned in an attic in Royal Oak, MI. I like to think they’re still standing there…
Al Capp was the evil genius behind the Shmoo, who live to serve mankind, to serve mankind joyfully of their own delicious little bodies, which when flambéed taste like fugu and when spatchcocked taste like heritage ptarmigan.
This specific book is a cynical, horrible pastiche of excerpted drawings ripped from the strip, thinly linked with a halfassed written narrative. featuring distracting construction-paper colored margins and backgrounds. Frank Frazetta was Al Capp’s ghost artist, so there’s that, sometimes. And the cover itself is delightful.
Fig 4.The case of the Cautious Coquette
Nitro’s Note: I liked this cover so much I had to fotoshoppe out the text, frame & hang it in the (gun) powder room.
Fig. 3: Ashenden the British Agent
Nitro’s Note: 60 cents. (sigh) In 1970 the minimum wage was $1.60 and you could buy this and a dozen eggs and a gallon of gas with that.
The minimum wage today is $7.25, and the average paperback retails around $13.95
That having been said, Ashenden is an exceedingly unimpressive Agent: It’s all haw-haw and jolly good fun having cocktails with Nazis, and I don’t think there’s a shark or a fistfight in the whole novel.
Here’s the great thing about the above art: It’s a spiced up version of the below composition, which I found on the interwebs- targeted to better entice the the American audience, where women wear purple swimsuits with cummerbunds more often than in Britain.
Fig. 2: Death of a Citizen
Resort Girls- Nitro’s Note: Yes, I buy them for the cover art, primarily. I have to confess that I can rarely read books like this particular one because they’re too chock full o’ full of repressed and ugly sexuality, but it is delightful the way that erogenous zones are sharply demarcated by the censors: This 1964 novel, wherein you are forbidden to describe or imply any genitalia, has a sex scene every 3.2 pages, and therefore has an exhaustive approximate 2,734,045 adjectives and verbs for breasts.