Category Archives: Pulp Fiction Thursday

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Williwaw

I was doing another search when I stumbled into an alternate title for Gore Vidal’s 1946 war novel, Williwaw. I suspect Signet thought Dangerous Voyage was a pulpier title than Williwaw.

Here’s a thumbnail description of the book from Harry Kloman’s definitive Vidal site:

Vidal’s first novel – written when he was 19 and recovering from rheumatoid arthritis that flared up during his military service – takes place aboard an Army FS boat in the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. The title is an Indian word for a big wind, peculiar to that region of the world, which sweeps suddenly down from the mountains toward the sea. Such a wind occurs during the dramatic climax of the novel, which explore its milieu in lean, taut style. It’s a swift read, with well-constructed characters, and it coolly captures the daily routines of men on the fringe of war. And like many books of men at war, it has a moral ambiguity, although in Vidal’s nascent fictional world, there is ultimately no moral reckoning. More than 50 years after its publication, the book remains in print. In the 1950s, the paperback first edition was published under the title Dangerous Voyage, presumably because the word “williwaw” was too off-putting for general audiences.

Thanks, Harry. I’m just wild about your site.

Here are the dueling covers:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Crossfire

Hollywood was emboldened by the war against the Fascist powers to make more socially aware movies. There were two anti-anti-Semitism movies released in 1947: Gentleman’s Agreement and Crossfire. The former was a prestige picture directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Gregory Peck and John Garfield. It could be called a “Gentile savior” film as journalist Peck goes “undercover” and poses as a Jew. It won the best picture Oscar but has not held up that well. It’s a good but not great movie.

Crossfire was a noirish genre film that told the story of an anti-Semitic soldier played by the great Robert Ryan. It’s a tight, compact thriller with a fabulous cast: Robert Mitchum, Gloria Grahame, Sam Levene, and a pipe smoking Robert Young. It’s a 4 star classic and a much more effective tool against anti-Semitism than the more genteel Gentleman’s Agreement.

Here’s the poster. It has one of the best tag lines ever:

Let’s all go to the lobby and check out this lobby card:

Crossfire was adapted from a novel by Richard Brooks who was the writer-director of such classics as Elmer Gantry and In Cold Blood.

Hollywood improved on Brooks’ title. You can see for yourself:

I was mildly chagrined to lean that I  used Crossfire for PFT 6 years ago. I missed the Brooks book so this post is better. It’s what happens when you’re prolific and occasionally prolix.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Fortunate Pilgrim

Mario Puzo is best known for The Godfather and other books about the Mafia. Before that, he wrote literary fiction. The Fortunate Pilgrim is based on his mother’s experience as an Italian-American immigrant. It’s Puzo’s favorite among his own books.

The Fortunate Pilgrim became a teevee mini-series after Puzo became a famous writer:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: All Quiet On The Western Front

The Armistice Day remembrances in France made me think of one of the greatest anti-war novels of all-time, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet On The Western Front. It is not genre and/or pulp fiction but it has had many paperback incarnations over the years.

The 1930 film starring Lew Ayres won Best Picture and Director Oscars, It also had a swell poster:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Blue Mascara Tears

This is another search driven post. I asked Mr. Google to show me paperback covers with blue in them. Nice job, virtual sir.

One reason I like Blue Mascara Tears is that it reminds me of one of my favorite Richard Thompson songs:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Devil In A Blue Dress

I was green with envy upon learning that Athenae had met the great crime fiction writer Walter Mosly. It inspired me to bend the rules of my pulp fiction universe and do a more recent book: 1991 in this instance. I love me some Easy Rawlins, y’all.

Mosley’s terrific tome was made into a swell movie starring Denzel Washington:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: We Have Always Lived In The Castle

I’ve had Shirley Jackson on my mind because Dr. A and I are watching The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix. It’s a radical reconstruction of that cerebral horror classic, which I should object to, but it works so bloody well that I don’t. I never claimed to be a purist.

Let’s move from a house to a castle:

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Vanishing American

The Vanishing American was an atypical work for Zane Gray. He was best known as the author of cowboy oriented Western novels. But he always had a soft spot for Native Americans. Here’s how Goodreads describes this book:

 Considered one of Zane Grey’s best novels, The Vanishing American was originally published in serialized form in the Ladies Home Journal in 1922. It reveals Grey’s empathy for the Native American and his deep concern for the future survival of that culture.

It is the story of Nophaie, a young Navajo, who is picked up by a party of whites at the age of seven. White parents bring the child up as though he were their own, eventually sending him to a prestigious Eastern college where he distinguishes himself by his outstanding athletic skill. The Vanishing American is about Nophaie’s struggle to find a place in society. On a larger scale it is about all Native Americans and their future in America.

Without further adieu, here are two covers:

Baseball historian John Thorn wrote a piece about the book because the main character seems to be based on Jim Thorpe.

Finally, the two film versions of the novel treat it like your basic Zane Grey oater.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Skeleton In The Clock

I’ve heard of having a skeleton in one’s closet but in a clock? Is that grandfather in that long case clock? As always, I have more questions than answers.

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Vintage Hippie Paperbacks

This is first time I’ve used a search term as a post title. It was a helluva search. Dig those crazy taglines, fellow babies.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Cape Fear

Hurricane Florence has me thinking of North Carolina. When I heard a reference to Cape Fear on teevee, I knew what to select for this feature.

John D. MacDonald was among the best hard-boiled crime fiction writers of his era. The book was originally titled The Executioners. It was renamed Cape Fear in Hollywood because that’s where the story’s climax takes place.  It’s one of the few times that movie people improved upon a book title. Subsequent editions of The Executioners all bore the title Cape Fear.

One of the few movie remakes that’s worth a damn is Martin Scorsese’s 1991 version of the original 1962 Peck-Mitchum film. Here’s the poster for Marty’s movie:

 

Pulp Fiction Thursday: If Death Ever Slept

I tried a new method in selecting this week’s, uh, selection. I looked at the bookcase in my study and picked the first crime fiction title that caught my eye. That’s how Nero Wolfe’s If Death Ever Slept wound up on First Draft. It beats the hell out of a lottery.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Coffin Corner

I’m not quite sure what inspired this week’s theme but I don’t think it was Della or Paul coffin up a hairball.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: Edgar Wallace

Edgar Wallace was a prolific English writer who is best known as one of the screenwriters of the original King Kong, He could also be dubbed one of the founders of pulp fiction.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: I, The Jury

All the talk about the Manafort jury got me thinking of this Mike Hammer tome. It was one of Mickey’s most popular books. If it had flopped, he would have had some Spillane-ing to do…

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Glitter and the Greed

This book is NOT about the Trump administration but someone should use the title for a book that is.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Last Hurrah

The Last Hurrah is the story of Frank Skeffington an Irish pol based on Massachusetts legend, James Michael Curley. It’s about his last campaign, which took place in the teevee era thereby dooming a dinosaur like Skeffington. It was made into a helluva movie by John Ford who knew from Irish-American politicians.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The Deadly Mermaid

This book has nothing to with either the movie Splash or my friend Charlotte’s post-K blog, Traveling Mermaid.

Pulp Fiction Thursday: The High Window

I’m in a Marlowe mood this week: Philip, not Christopher.

The High Window was Raymond Chandler’s third book featuring Marlowe. It’s been published with a wide array of covers over the last 76 years. Here are two representative ones: