Tag Archives: pulp fiction

Whom Gods Destroy – Clifton Adams

Whom Gods Destroy – Clifton Adams (1953) (PlanetMonk Pulps Book 13) . PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.  It wasn’t bad… in some way I wish that it was because then I could just put it back on the dust bin of history, write up the reasons why you shouldn’t waste your time with it and be done. I could go on with the rest of my happy life and go on to read a much better book. But no, this book wasn’t bad… unfortunately for me it was mediocre. Not bad enough to put it down quickly but also not worth the investment of time and effort it took to read it.

The plot… what there is of it… poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks, Roy, meets pretty good girl from the good side of town, Lola. Boy becomes high school football star… confesses love for girl near the end of their senior year. Girl laughs at boy. Boy runs away, scarred for life, for fourteen years (well it is the early 1950’s).

Upon returning to town due to the death of his father, Roy finds that his father was buried by a charity that’s headed by Lola who is now married to the prominent county attorney. He has become driven by rage over the laughter of Lola and his not being able to make something of himself. One of his old high school buddies is not a bootleg booze retailer in town. Roy finds this bootlegging business may be his own path to riches and power… and then he’ll show Lola, yeah, he’ll have his revenge! Then he’ll be able to stop the perpetual laughter that drives his rage and turmoil. Well all his schemes keep backfiring… and this sad cautionary tale of blind rage and complete inability to move on with ones own life leads to its inevitable conclusion…

Seriously, you see the ending coming from chapter one and the wreckage that accumulates within the rest of this story is just not worth the trip through, unless you’re one of those who love to rubber-neck car wrecks in the opposite lane, then this sad, hopeless Wyle E Coyote tail is for you…

I had seen Lola, I’d had my hands on her, but it was Vida beside me now. She had her arms around me, pressing my face to her breasts, and she was crooning something softly. It had a soothing, pleasant sound in the darkness. “Lie still,” she crooned. “Lie still … ”

But it scared me – whatever had happened in my brain. I had to figure it out, and I couldn’t do it my myself. “I went crazy,” I said. “As crazy as a whole carload of loons. I saw her, right here in this room. She started laughing and I – God, Vida, I’m sorry.”

“I’m not. It had to happen sometime, and I guess I’ve been hoping it would happen. I’m not made like some women. I can’t keep holding on and on forever. And a lush is no husband, Roy. It happened and I’m glad – even if you thought I was someone else.”

Dead End – Ed Lacy

Dead End – Ed Lacy (PlanetMonk Pulps Book 16) (p. 73). PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.

 I enjoyed this pulp despite its disconnected voice. It’s the story of a young guy who joins the police department after coming home from serving in the Korean War.  His war bride wife, whom he married to spite the man who raised him before he shipped out, keeps pushing the young man to make more and more money.

Soon he’s taking a little grate here, a touch of a freebie there… but nothing serious… at least not until he lucks into making a collar that lands him a promotion, a modest bump in pay, but most importantly puts him in with an older detective… whose got a real money making side deal going. But this is still nickel and dime to what a huge payday may await them, if they can wait it out and play their cards right… why, it could be a million…

It’s a nice story well told in a first person point of view. And that I think is where it was a bit of an issue for me because where you can see in the story that this is a young guy not yet thirty… and there are several examples of where his immaturity can get the better of him… reading the narrative, the voice that’s speaking through it seems older somehow… I feel like the narrator is somewhere in his forties… I really can’t put my finger on why I get this impression. I suppose it’s just from the overall language being used… but the narrator of the story doesn’t sound like some twenty nine year old… kid…

I GUESS the first week I worked with Doc I learned more about police work – the right and the wrong kind – than I did in the entire previous year or so I’d been working at it. Doc was very good, as a cop and as a crooked cop. He was smart, had an explanation for everything. In fact, he could talk you to death about anything. He seemed to have solid connections behind him way up to City Hall. Most times we’d be assigned to the Commissioner’s roving squad, and whenever there was a shake-up in sight, we would be sent to some precinct detective squad, for a while. I guess Doc could have got us both some office jobs, but we worked hard, put in long hours on the streets – where there was money to be made. Right from the first day I made money. We never made a fortune, you understand (up till a few days ago, that is), but I managed to about double my salary. At first I was a little uneasy about the shakedowns, but as Doc told me, “Kid, you get what you pay for in this world. And a city only gets the police force it pays for. You weren’t getting an extra dime for working on your vacation, risking your life by going after Johnson. We take chances every minute. Then it’s up to us to increase our pay whenever we can.”

A Bullet For Cinderella – John D. MacDonald

A Bullet for Cinderella – John D. MacDonald, published in 1955 I read the PlanetMonk Pulps Book  (#12) Kindle Edition published in 2013, 192 pages.

Tal Howard returns home from the Korean war having been held captive in a POW camp. He finds himself somewhat changed by his war experience. His ‘old life’ doesn’t seem to fit him any more. He’s dissatisfied with both his clerical work at an insurance company, and his domesticated married life. He doesn’t know exactly what he wants… he’s just certain that what he has, isn’t it.

About this time Tal remembers a friend of his who died in the camp. This friend of his confessed to him an embezzlement he did before being drafted. The ill gotten gains where stashed back in his home town. Another prisoner in the camp “a Texan and a Marine”, known for his strength and his callousness, evidently overhead this confession because when Tal goes in search of this nest egg, private Fitzmartin is already in town.

The friend who left this stolen loot never lived long enough to tell Tal exactly where it was stashed. But what Tal does have, that Fitzmartin doesn’t, is a clue… a clue that can only be deciphered by ‘Cinderella’. As Tal works to solve this mystery he is quite aware that Fitzmartin will be stalking him… and will stop at nothing to seize the spoils!

It was quite a good story. Its a stand alone pulp written before John D. MacDonald would create the Travis McGee series of adventure stories.  I found it very interesting that issues like gentrification of cities and towns, as well as cultural stagnification from mass media were issues brought up within the story. Issues we are still addressing today. But at the heart of it, the story is really about man’s search for meaning… and what constitutes ‘treasure’.

I drove back out to the motel. It no longer seemed important about meeting Antoinette in the morning. It didn’t matter any more. I had come here to Hillston to find treasure. I had thought I would find it buried in the ground. I had found it walking around, with dark red hair, with gray eyes, with a look of pride. And I hadn’t recognized it. I had acted like a fool. I had tried to play the role of thief. But it didn’t fit. It never would fit. The money meant nothing. Ruth meant everything. I had had a chance and I had lost it. They don’t give you two chances.

Red-headed Sinners – Jonathan Craig

Red-Headed Sinners – Jonathan Craig (1953) (PlanetMonk Pulps Book 6) . PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.

What can I say about this work of pulp prose… it’s like a 1950s men’s graphic novel without the pictures. It’s not meant to be funny, at least I don’t think that this story is to be farcical,  though it might be tongue in cheek. It’s a story of a disturbed alcoholic who’s underlying trigger happens to fire… for reasons revealed rather late in the story, about childhood trauma and sexual abuse… I would offer a spoiler alert, but seriously, if you can’t see the end of this train wreck straight from the gate, then brother you’ve got to read more pulp…

Well as it happens the story starts with, a senior police lieutenant gets kicked off the force for roughing up and nearly choking to death a fugitive jewel thief’s moll… as it happens, the lieutenant probably had a few drinks in him and the moll in question was a flaming redhead. Now disgraced Jeff stoner seeks redemption, by finished the jewel thief and recovering the jewels… but to do that, he has to find out where he’s hiding… so he goes to talk to that redhead… but he should probably have a few drinks the settle his nerves, and a couple more to take the edge off, and just go and … talk to her…

And thus begins the tale and trail of bodies leading to the demise of Jeff Stoner… a cautionary tale tis true, a story ripped from the headlines of yesteryear. .. dangerously damaged people should not be given badges and bourbon.

What had happened to the three hours? He tried, painfully, to think back over his actions. He’d stopped at the liquor store, he remembered. He’d had a couple of healthy ones in the car … maybe more than a couple. He bent and lifted the fifth of whiskey. Almost half gone. It didn’t seem possible. He stared at the bottle for a moment. One more couldn’t hurt. He had to pull himself together, didn’t he? He unscrewed the cap and tilted the bottle and shuddered as the whiskey scalded down his throat. There! That was more like it!

The Double Take – Roy Huggins

The Double Take – Roy Huggins – originally published in 1946, I read the kindle edition (2015) from NightHawk Books (188 pages).

Set in the mid nineteen thirties Los Angeles where shamus Stuart Bailey gets a job to investigate a news wife’s past for a city planning commissioner. The case itself seems somewhat suspicious,  but he agrees to take. And sets off for Portland, where she’s from as far as her college transcript says. I had to look us ‘shamus’ on a blog of slang terms. I thought it might be a term for a generic irishman, but nope, it’s an old slang term given to private detectives like gum-shoe or dick.

Well, the case takes Bailey from Portland back to LA and seems he’s picked up a couple of tails along the way. Well, mobsters and along casino, a marine biologist and him luscious young Brazilian wife and her chauffeur,  a vaudeville performer or two and this case gets a bit crowded round the middle.

But it’s all sorted out in the end… what’s a dead body or two along the way. Huggins didn’t write too many books but rather went on to fame and fortune in producing! Shows like 77 sunset strip… and … draw upon the images you can see in this book…

  The mouth stayed hard and drew apart into a tight smile, a smile to carve diamonds with. She made a sharp noise in her throat and turned suddenly and ran down the four steps to the sidewalk. She looked back at me.
“You cheap gumshoe,” she rasped quietly. “I finally figured you out. You’re yellow.” Cold laughter. “You’re too yellow to even live up to your own manhood.” She turned and jumped into the car. The motor ground and roared, and then she leaned out the open window and screamed, “I’ll send my houseboy around to see you. He’s just your type.” The car jerked and jumped away from the curb and raced toward Wilshire in an agony of grinding gears.

  

The Woman Aroused – Ed Lacey

The Woman Aroused – Ed Lacey Published in 1951 I read the PlanetMonk Pulps Book 8 Kindle Edition. This is the first novel by Ed Lacy who, up to this point was mostly a short story writer, and this does read a lot like an extended short story. Although a death by mysterious circumstance does take place in this novel, I wouldn’t consider it a mystery… nothing about the death is really investigated, and questions about the death are not formally resolved. However, like the protagonist George, we do have a strong circumstantial case against one of the other characters.

And that is really what this story has going for it, characters. Characters up the Wahoo as we would say; distinctive, quirky and varied. Though not a mystery its more a slice of life story told in a tight first person narrative that has a short story feel to it. You can almost hear George sitting across from you telling you this account about his fall from grace and possible redemption by means of a young woman, the widow of a childhood friend from the neighborhood just returned from overseas Army duty.

And its this friend who has George hold some money for him so that his wife wont get it should they divorce as he anticipates. However, he falls out of the window of his fifth story apartment before he can divorce his wife. Now, George finds himself entangled with this wild foreign woman.

I really did enjoy this story particularly for the realistic sense of New York City in the post world war two late forties with the experiences of the veterans, those who served during the war, The character Eddie (whose political views seem very autobiographical to Mr. Lacy) who is George’s ex-brother-in-law, and the experiences of those who served in the time just after the war Walt, the son of George’s friend and co-worker Joe.

And then of course, there are those classic ‘pulp’ descriptions peppered throughout the book:

   I went into the kitchen and I heard them kissing, then Joe told her,

“I’d best go in and help Georgie boy.” He came in and put a heavy arm around my shoulder, turned on the water in the sink so she couldn’t hear, said, “Jeez, what a night. I tied a big one on. Hey what do you think of Stella? Some sex-boat.”

“Not bad,” I said, pouring the beer. I knew all about Stella – all the Stellas: with a husband someplace in the background, maybe a kid or two, a busted marriage, a routine job during the week, and the frantic week-ends with any guy who treated her “nicely,” as she tried to regain her illusions of bright romance and youth over some bar; a dozen drinks fogging reality.

Blonde Bait – Ed Lacy

Blonde Bait – Ed Lacy Published in 1959 I read the PlanetMonk Pulps Book 8 Kindle Edition published in 2013.

A brief pulp book coming in at 147 pages it’s a novella written in a first person narrative style , that really has an authenticity to its voice. A pulp from the late fifties, a guy meets a buxom blonde bombshell, with a suitcase full of cash and not big on telling us the wheres and whys of having it, not to mention a gun, out sitting on a deserted Florida key. The story has a lot of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ but the clipped nature of the story still has a good bit of action and fisticuffs leading to its climax. I look forward to spending a little more time with this author… and of course, being Ed Lacy, the reason for the mystery behind the money… yeah, its political…

It’s a story about a vagabond guy living on a boat who comes across a woman apparently stranded on a deserted spit of an island. This woman it seems had baggage in more than one way, apparently she doesn’t want to talk about the suitcase full of cash she has, nor why she needs the gun in her hand bag. Eventually, as these two characters interact and get to tell each other their life’s story they forge a relationship and appear to live a rather idyllic life on a small island in the Bahamas. But although they are accepting of each other, there is this wall between them.

Micky has a yearning to return to the US, not permanently just an excursion to see the sights but Rose is on the run from people trying to kill her. As she begins to tell Micky more of her story and how she came to have the money. Micky thinks that, since its been two years, perhaps the people looking for her have giving up. So they set sail for Jacksonville and work their way up to Atlantic city. But it seems that while they were out and about, the people looking for Rose haven’t given up yet. She’s more on the radar than ever, and while Micky and Rose as having diner at a club, a person who claims to be a federal agent notices her. Rose is able to slip the agent as Micky creates a distraction. Now he’s become the ‘person of interest’ facilitating her escape!

The Keys were full of boats , big and small yachts , so I crossed over to the Bahamas , found myself a quiet little island . A hunk of sand and a couple of ragged bushes . No place to live and no way of getting there without a boat – a sea boat . I anchored late in the afternoon , about thirty or forty feet offshore . I didn’t do much of anything but fish for my supper , put in sack time . In the morning I saw this girl on the beach . I’d never seen anything like her before , except in the movies . A tall platinum – blonde , with a face and shape … well , you see the snap . She was calmly sitting on a suitcase , peeling off her stockings and a ritzy summer dress . There was a bathing suit under the dress . I went down into the cabin and put my little telescope on her – through a port hole . Up close she looked even better . She also had a cloth – bag pocketbook , and I could see the heavy outline of a . 45 automatic in the bag .

My Gun Is Quick – Mickey Spillane

My Gun Is Quick – Written in 1950, I’m reading from the New American Library edition published in 2001, 190 pages.

As the novel opens we find Mike stopping at a diner in the wee hours of the morning where he chats up a red head whose currently prostituting to make ends meet. He sees something honorable in the kid and invests some of the profit he’s just made on a case. He gives her some dough to get a new outfit, get a new job and a new lease on life. The next day she’s found dead, apparently by an accident but Mike sees it otherwise. He takes to the streets uncovering a city wide prostitution ring and dispensing cold hard justice along the way to finding her killer.

This novel tells a story whose central theme appears to be the potential for redemption in a gritty city pulled out from under you at the last second. Nancy, the redhead could have made it if crime hadn’t caught up with her. Lola, another central character who Mike encounters seems well on the way to redemption until her young life was snuffed out too. Even Ann who was going to take the cash a blow town, got herself whacked before she could cash the check.

Following up on leads, Mike encounters a wealthy elderly gentleman, the last survivor of his line, erecting a memorial to himself. While Mike explains what information he needs and the nature of the case, the gentleman is moved by Mike’s story feels a renewal of faith in human kindness… and insists on financing Mike mission to find the identity of the redhead, as its unknown to us at the start…

It’s here as the old man discusses the futility of wealthy the Mike offers his insight on what makes a detective.

I nodded, blowing a streamer of smoke at the ceiling, ‘Money is great. Mr. Berin, but sometimes a guy gets pretty damn sore and money doesn’t matter any more. A guy can get just plain curious, too… and money doesn’t matter then either.’

What follows Mike all through the story, like a dog with the sent of a fox, snapping at his heels is this indignation. He isn’t concerned with the ‘big picture’ prostitution ring that his investigation appears to be unearthing. He leaves that to the press and the police to clean up. No, his mission is a personal vendetta… He took up a cause, to give a young deserving lady a chance at redemption and some one… some scum, stole that from her just as it was about to bear fruit.
It’s this feeling of ‘making it personal’ that builds an intimacy with this reader… I feel for these guys and dolls of the noir city.