Saturday, April 7, 2012

Soft Taco Supreme

Sometimes the clouds open when I least expect them to, making way for the soft and cold sun to peak through, and bring my mug of tea from its scalding attitude to an acceptable pleasantry. The phone rings and the voice happens to be that of an antiquarian and rare book dealer in Florida. He happens to have good news pertaining to a collection of books possibly obtainable at a good price and, the content of this material is home-run, all-ten-pins, skipping-the-surface hole-in-one, from a reputable source. "Oh yeah, what's that?" "Some books I think you might be interested in." Right away I feel warm because this dude thought of me when he thought of or came across this particular collector's stash. That young lad needs a sword, I know just the smith to do it! I imagine him saying. This post is dedicated to that rare Floridian: one who, in a state nearly surrounded by water, opts for the dream to operate a business dependent on paper. It's called balls, and I think he's got some to spare.
He turned me on to some books with a lesbian theme, and this post will retain that theme with sleaze, discovery, and hidden reality. My collection is not Lesbian-heavy, and to sift through it for titles and covers I THOUGHT to be in the right was relatively easy, and quick. Easy and quick=the motto for all the characters involved in the titles inhabiting my shelves. They lead easy lives, and when life comes round to rear its greasy mug, they seem to care only for their chances at shagging next. They lead quick lives, and when the wording slows down the lucidity of their perversion, it is inevitable they are only pausing to inhale big and deep before returning to their post. Lesbian titles always seem to lean more towards shock, seriousness, and thought posing. The cover art generally has a woman or two (or five as in the example below) with a look of denial, uncertainty, or subtle intrigue, and hence invoke more imagination than say, nearly every early sleaze title (that period when the market shifted from "Lit to Clit"). Here are a few that have me scratching my head, and thus at the chance to feel the ashamed dykes, the confident 3rd sex, through dimly-lit night reading, the side of the coin upon which it stands upright.
$35 - Very Good
Crest Books number s336, 1959
Barye Phillips, ca. (cover art)

Here are two novels by writers who began in the smut business and have gone on to pen some fantastic, literary crime novels, ranking with the best. Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake are synonymous with early sleaze, roughly before the 1970s when both careers would hail-mary in another direction, a direction quickly becoming a good market for quickly earning money (it seems they never left their eagerness to fill their pockets either, from slime to crime. Block's first novel came in 1958, after a stint of studying lesbian novels and venturing his own take on such (then) taboo topics. Whether he chose "Lesley Evans" at the suggestion of his editor, or due to a lack of confidence in the first go, I dare not speculate. I know that Block wrote under a squadron of pseudonyms, like so many during this time, so the surprise that he chose to pen this one behind the curtain is softened. This novel came at at time when, I deduct, publishers were wondering how to market a Lesbian novel: legit or kitsch? Barye Phillips lent his skill for the cover, however timid (Crest-equals-timid), and the colors and light sources at elegant. The woman in the foreground in pink is dreadfully cute, and her little bob bouffant gives it way. That and the women behind her clutching her shoulders. It warms my heart to know that Block was not as paranoid as Salinger. He kept writing even when the cover art to his books was, maybe, not great. I enjoy the confused gentleman Mike in the background, doing what I do when I discovered Block's baby in my booty. As with many stories in this guise, the plot deals with forbidden sexual preferences and coming into them (and coming out!). Girl moves to the big city, finds a man, then a woman, in a bar (likely Greenwich Village, where a lovely homeless dude pointed my way one day to a small little Jock Joint, to my surprise). I actually bought this from another collector and blogger (Wordpresser). 
$ 75 - Very Good
Monarch Books number 232, 1962
Harry Schaare, ca.
Along the slime tunnels in strange and outcaste lands, tunnels leading eventually to worlds of crime and violence, blood and guts, psychological thrillers and demonic killers, Donald E. Westlake put his words where they would do the most damage, like Lawrence Block a year before him, in 1959. He first penned as Alan Marshall, and the Edwin West name came a bit later. The two writers even published a few novels written in cooperation. This one right away admits that the content contained within its Harry Schaare muralist covers is not condoned by society, and those kinds of headlines really boosted the market (as well as other key phrases, like "First Publication Anywhere"). Again the gals have short, wavy hair, and softer features with gentler costuming and makeup. Is that Marilyn Monroe in the background? One could hope only so much as when confronted with a Robert Maguire cover. Realism is not stressed and instead the impact is reliant upon composition. Schaare has a way with a woman's hair much like Rader, but more in the line of varied colors, less effectively using black levels and more effectively implementing the natural hues hair might presume after a lifetime of sun and fun; witness the blond with a beach towel (it could be a bath towel, I suppose). Both cover artists are, like Maguire, proud of their work in the field, and display thick black lines somewhere subtle yet prominent enough, almost as if to say "For a good time, call Schaare" or "Rader was Here". This novel takes place in and around New York, Greenwich Village a staple.

$30 - Very Good
Midwood Books number F-142, 1962
Paul Rader, ca.
Ever the wizard behind the curtain, an editor at Midwood wrote some novels under the name Sloane Britain. She wrote a book for Beacon Books called "The Needle" about a bi-sexual woman, and a heroin addict at that. Talk about killing two birds! Or, the more modern, double-fisting the world of smut. Erika Hathaway is a psychiatrist (which is good for sleaze, as opposed to psychologist, because it introduces yet another "tag" like so much fodder for alt-paperback publishers of the era: drugs), and women come to her with their confusion...and pent-up sexual frustration. Determining their problems only exasperate her inner turmoil, and she falls headlong like Alice down the rabbit's hole. At hand, Paul Rader's take on the stereotyped short hairdo of from the isle of Lesbos couldn't be better. And, I love Rader hair. His approach to contour is unmatched in the pit of depravity. Being an advocate of cleavage, I couldn't be happier with this cover. Double the fun, as the patient in white gives us the best of both worlds. T and A have never been better represented in one specimen. The scale of our two ladies might be slightly unbalanced, but the interest shown by the butch in the foreground satisfies the bruise taken by our hearts at the despair of the blond in the hindground. Britain struggled with her own sexuality, and her family's denial drove her to suicide. This title was later in her career, towards the end of her life, and was not as poignant as some of her earlier lesbian novels.

$ 75 - Very Good plus
Leisure Books number LB-1195
Robert Bonfils, ca.
To bring this to its knees, and kill this post, I've included this little number, a brilliant contender with wonderful, yet again, Robert Bonfils cover art. Mechanisms abound and, ever the satirist, he denotes the lovelies with perky tits, pouty lips, and vivid wigs. Bonfils could handle scale, and keeps all our honeys well balanced. The nipple on a vintage paperback always arouses more than the penis.  It awakens the passion to discover America and the disappearance of Puritanism. Perhaps none better than Bonfils (maybe Bilbrew) to help that pachyderm across the sky, at once opening a mountain of clouds, and dispelling sun and eyeshadow and lipstick on Dumbo's flapping ears! The nipple made it's first paperback appearance, I believe, on a book called "Helen of Troy," but doesn't receive its full glory until the middle of sleaze production, just about the time hardcore material ran rampant. This represents another tone to lesbian sex, and more hardcore. Vaginas are more aptly described, "cock" is seen on more than one occasion, as well as "stroke," "snug," and "spurts," with threesomes enough to fill a boat, a tugboat. That machine, and the only publication from this era I have seen so blatantly portraying sex aids, this being a penatrative example, has more than one setting, and even seems to have an audio track (see the tape spool extreme left), and entices more than just its operator. A cult of experiments surround the first victim, ready to whet that whistle. I will always love Bonfils and his attentive use of humor, light, bright colors, and curves. These gals, like Bilbrew, have winding contours that make my knees tremble, and plug in my passion for smut. A curse and a blessing.

Here's to that rabid Floridian, taking a cue from that beacon bright in the night sky on the sea of smut, and sending a Land-ho! my way: Make ready, the isle of Lesbos at the bow! Hoist your topgallant mast!