Tag Archives: Pulps

Noir Art | Robert Maguire

Robert Maguire Noir Art

(via littlebunnysunshine.tumblr.com)

Robert Maguire is an easy addition to noirwhale.com’s noir artist gallery– the guy created over 600 amazing covers for pulps since 1950.

He was born in 1921, and only died recently in 2005. He studied at Duke University until he joined the war effort in WWII, and when he returned he quickly joined the Art Students League. During that time, He was the pupil of the relatively famous Frank Reilly. His career was immensely successful, and he produced art for dozens of publishing firms.

He’s known for his mastery of the female form, particularly his emphasis on the femme fatale archetype (the beautiful yet deadly siren of the noir genre). A softness exists in his work which renders it alluring and atmospheric, a window into the colorful pages of the novel beyond. I find his art to be extremely seductive, an ode to the manipulative women who spur the plotlines and control our anti-heroes. Looking at his covers, it’s easy to see why he has become a prized piece of any collectors’ library.

Cover for "Dame in Danger" by Robert Maguire

Cover for “Dame in Danger” by Robert Maguire (via bookpalace.com)

Here are a couple of great anecdotes from Robert that I found in the American Art Archives:

“My first wife was a model, but for the most part, I didn’t go near models. They were too fast living. I used one model quite a bit and she invited my wife and I down to see her dancing around ’53, ’54, and she was dancing in a mafia club. The Copacabana, in fact.

“The models were very ‘active.’ They weren’t real. A lot of them were on drugs. I had one girl posing against a backdrop. She put her arms over her head and slowly slumped to the floor. I had to go over and shake her awake in order to finish the shoot. We had deadlines.”

Unfortunately, the first marriage didn’t last, though his second did, thanks to an introduction to a lovely woman by his friend, Leone. “I was divorced and John introduced me to an available lady whose husband died. That was over 20 years ago when I met Janice.” They’ve been happily married ever since.

“My friends and I were mostly in paperback books. The magazines were dying, mostly due to the advent of television. But we couldn’t wait to get the magazine copies and see what guys like Coby Whitmore were doing. All these great artists, Whitcomb, Al Parker, Bob Peak, Joe DeMers. We weren’t allowed to be that sophisticated. They could do this intricate design work. We tried to do use some sophisticated design and the paperback guys would say, ‘Why don’t you just show the girls with the big boobs.’ I used to work with a very crude individual — he shall be nameless — he was an art director — but one painting he wanted the gown lowered on the woman, ‘show more cleavage.’ So I’d lower it and he’d want it lowered some more. Well, another quarter of an inch and I’d be showing the nipples. That’s anatomy! But still, ‘Well, make it a little lower.’ Any lower and her breasts were down around her stomach. And then he wondered why the girl didn’t look quite right. But you couldn’t argue with some of these people (though of course, I did).”

Slice of Hell by Mike Roscoe Cover by Robert Maguire

Slice of Hell by Mike Roscoe, Cover by Robert Maguire(via pulpcovers.com)

The Last Kill by Charlie Wells Cover by Robert Maguire

The Last Kill by Charlie Wells, Cover by Robert Maguire (via pulpcovers.com)

Hell's Angels by Hank Janson Cover by Robert Maguire

Hell’s Angels by Hank Janson, Cover by Robert Maguire(via pulpcovers.com)

Morals Squad by Samuel A. Krasney Cover by Robert Maguire

Morals Squad by Samuel A. Krasney, Cover by Robert Maguire(via pulpcovers.com)

The Brass Halo by Jack Webb Cover by Robert Maguire

The Brass Halo by Jack Webb, Cover by Robert Maguire(via thatgirlupstairs.tumblr .com)

Dead Man Dead by David Alexander Cover by Robert Maguire

Dead, Man, Dead by David Alexander, Cover by Robert Maguire(via thatgirlupstairs.tumblr.com)

The Night is for Screaming by Robert Turner Cover by Robert Maguire

The Night is for Screaming by Robert Turner, Cover by Robert Maguire (via pulpcovers.com)

Wild to Possess by Gil Brewer Cover by Robert Maguire

Wild to Possess by Gil Brewer, Cover by Robert Maguire(via brudesworld.tumblr.com)

Stone Cold Blonde by Adam Knight Cover by Robert Maguire

Stone Cold Blonde by Adam Knight, Cover by Robert Maguire(via illustrationgallery.com)

Kiss Me Quick by Karl Kramer Cover by Robert Maguire

Kiss Me Quick by Karl Kramer, Cover by Robert Maguire(via killercoversoftheweek.blogspot.com)

Pulp Art Robert Maguire

Cover art by Robert Maguire (via littlebunnysunshine.tumblr.com)

Prelude to Murder by Sterling Noel Cover by Robert Maguire

Prelude to Murder by Sterling Noel, Cover by Robert Maguire (via mudwerks.tumblr.com)

(His most famous book cover is ‘Black Opium’-- I’ve only provided a link to it because it does feature mild nudity)

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Noir Art | Victor Kalin

Noir Art Victor Kalin

Victor Kalin (this reminds me so much of Parker) (via mudwerks.tumblr.com)

Victor Kalin is a remarkably obscure noir artist. Although he has garnered an impressive amount of acclaim in recent years, there is relatively little data about his life available. He was born in Belleville in 1919 and died in 1991. He attended the University of Kansas during the ’40s. Throughout his professional career, he was an illustrator, a painter, and a teacher. Walt Reed (Illustrator in America) said of Victor:

“[Kalin's] first illustrations were done for The American Weekly but for many years the majority of his pictures were painted for paperback book covers.Unlike many artists who develop a strong, easily identifiable technique, he was so interested in experimentation that his work looked continually new.”

Victor was extremely skilled at composing a cover, each element dramatically sized and spaced to create continually fascinating results. His strength appears to be his fluidity– easily transitioning from realism to abstract stylings when a fresh approach serves the piece. Kalin doesn’t seem to have a definable style, as his strokes, textures, and contrasts vary continually; affording his work a freshness that sets him apart from his contemporaries. In the competitive world that was pulp cover illustration, Victor’s flexibility granted him innumerable victories and contracts. I love his work– it has always struck me as brilliantly wrought, a narrative style of illustration that begs the viewer to look deeper.

Victor Kalin Pulp

Deadly Beloved by Willaim Ard, Cover by Victor Kalin (via flickr.com)

Pulp Covers Victor Kalin

The Great Mistake by Mary Roberts Rinehart, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Noir Artist Victor Kalin

The Lineup by Frank Kane, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Illustration Victor Kalin

Assignment: Murder by Donald Hamilton, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Victor Kalin Illustrator

Suddenly A Corpse by Hal Masur, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Victor Kalin Paintings

Hang by Your Neck by Henry Kane, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Victor Kalin Noir Art

The Five Pennies by Grady Johnson, Cover by Victor Kalin

Victor Kalin Noir Artist

Murder on Broadway by Hal Masur, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Noir Fiction Victor Kalin

Green Light for Death by Frank Kane, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Noir Crime Fiction Victor Kalin

Grave Danger by Frank Kane, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Noir Artist Victor Kalin

The Murder Room by Paul E. Walsh, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Victor Kalin Pinup

Have Nude, Will Travel by Clyde Allison, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Pin-up Victor Kalin

Blackmail, Inc. by Robert Kyle, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Femme Fatale Victor Kalin

Trigger Mortis by Frank Kane, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Victor Kalin Femme Fatales

Slay Ride by Frank Kane, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

Noir Art Victor Kalin

A Real Gone Guy by Frank Kane, Cover by Victor Kalin (via pulpcovers.com)

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Noir Art | Glen Orbik

The Colorado Kid Stephen King Glen Orbik

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, Cover by Glen Orbik

Glen Orbik is a noir artist whose original intention was to draw superheros. He’s an American Illustrator who studied at the California Art Institute under the great Fred Fixler, eventually taking over several of the retiring master’s classes.

“Fred was a highly skilled illustrator best known for painting movie posters ( Comedy of Terrors, Pit and the Pendulum, Man with the X-ray Eyes, Burn Witch Burn, House of Usher, Hercules- Unchained, Where the Boys Are, etc…). and elegant pretty girls.”

Glen has had a major presence in the pulp art world for nearly twenty years, doing several covers for Hard Case Crime (currently) and famous authors like Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. Glen says,

“I’ve been lucky enough to work on everything from book covers to movie posters, collectable lithographs and plates, to video games and comic books.”

Mr. Orbik’s work has been compared to Alex Ross and Robert McGinnis. He currently resides in Van Nuys, California and teaches figure drawing. He’s a very popular teacher among fine art, comic book, and video game artists.

I first took note of Glen’s work while perusing books on Amazon. I noticed that his soft-edged style was perfectly suited to the foggy morality of noir and pulp capers. Since then, I’ve taken great interest in his work and consider myself a dedicated fan. His femme fatales hover on the dangerous brink of passion, the beautiful bait concealing the deadly hook. The difference between a good noir artist and a great noir artist is narrative. Those artists that can weave a story with acrylic are the masters; Glen Orbik is a master.

Batman Poison Ivy Commissioner Gordon Glen Orbik

Commissioner Gordon, Poison Ivy, and Batman

Noir Art Glen Orbik Branded Woman

Branded Woman

Noir Art Glen Orbik Fifty-to-One

Fifty-to-One

Noir Art Glen Orbik American Century 11

American Century #11

Noir Art Glen Orbik Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris

Noir Art Glen Orbik Blackmailer

Blackmailer

Noir Art Glen Orbik Choke Hold

Choke Hold

Noir Art Glen Orbik American Century 15

American Century #15

*All biographical details were obtained from:

http://www.orbikart.com/gallery/biography_g.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glen_Orbik

*All images were obtained from:

http://www.orbikart.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=3

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Noir Art | Niagara Detroit

Noir Art Lips Niagara Detroit

Lips by Niagara Detroit

Each week I spend a few hours cruising tumblr blogs and the various gritty reaches of the internet in search of images for the noirWHALE.tumblr.com site. This exercise has taught me quite a bit about film noir and the other noir genres, but ultimately it has taught me that I need to expand noirWHALE by adding a new category: “Noir Art“. For example: A week ago, I published a post about Noir T-Shirt Designs, and I put it in the Noir Comics category because I didn’t really have any idea where it should go; That post was the spiritual predecessor to this category, and now I expand upon it by adding the second “Noir Art” post titled: Niagara Detroit

Niagara was born August 23rd, 1956. I have no idea if that’s her real name (and neither does wikipedia). She was a lead singer of the punk rock bands Destroy All Monsters and Dark Carnival. Her bio says that she attended the University of Michigan in the 70’s, and that she has some art school experience which led her to design album covers for the various rock groups she was singing with. Eventually she started to do small galleries and displays in coffee shops in Detroit, and overnight she became a pop art sensation. Her local fame garnered her the title, “Queen of Detroit” and thus it has become her surname. Her noir art style seems to revolve entirely around the femme fatale archetype, with an especially brutal take on gender issues. Sharply contrasting colors and sarcastic/elegiac captions array these dames with venom aimed at misogyny. They simultaneously seduce and kill, with each image hanging on a potent moment in time. I’m no art critic, but it seems that the unseen narratives behind these paintings grant them life. Ultimately, I feel that Niagara Detroit’s work is some of the very best noir art I’ve ever seen. You be the judge:

Noir Art Baby Doll (Double Trouble) Niagara Detroit

Baby Doll (Double Trouble)

Noir Art Double In A Black Dress Niagara Detroit

Double In A Black Dress

Noir Art Got Guts Niagara Detroit

Got Guts?

Noir Art I'm Pretty When I'm Angry Niagara Detroit

I'm Pretty When I'm Angry

Noir Art I'm Waiting For My Man Niagara Detroit

I'm Waiting For My Man (Rita Hayworth Reference)

Noir Art I Lied Niagara Detroit

I Lied

Noir Art Kill Him Niagara Detroit

Kill Him

Noir Art Lipstick Traces Niagara Detroit

Lipstick Traces

Noir Art Or Are You Just Happy To See Me Niagara Detroit

Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Noir Art Run (Blonde) Niagara Detroit

Run (Blonde)

Noir Art Silencer (A Long Shot) Niagara Detroit

Silencer (A Long Shot)

There are literally DOZENS of prints that I didn’t list here, visit niagaradetroit.com for the full gallery.

Niagara has a clothing line for sale at pinkpump.com and prints for sale at niagaradetroit.com

Here is a picture of Niagara: (looks a bit like Lady Gaga no?)

Niagara Detroit Pop Art

Niagara Detroit

by Chad de Lisle

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Noir Crime Fiction | Fiction Noir: Thirteen Stories

Noir Crime Fiction Fiction Noir Thirteen Stories

Fiction Noir: Thirteen Stories is a collection of noir crime fiction brought to the teeming public by Hen House Press in New York State. It’s currently available in ebook format with a paperback release anticipated this October. And as an avid supporter of the printed word, I will definitely be adding this to my bookshelf when it is released in glorious physical format (sorry digital ebook readers, I’ m not a fan).

Fiction Noir: Thirteen Stories is a beautiful homage to crime fiction and the film noir genres. Its strength is in its accessibility; both noir neophytes and indoctrinated disciples will find satisfaction in the wide varieties of plot, theme, and character. Playful story-lines laden with pineapple cake, dark humor, and charming hit-men are counterpointed perfectly by tales of redemption, suicide, and bizarre erotic behaviors. Needless to say, each point of my noir definition was satisfied by the many brilliant authors who contributed their works to this collection. As a work of noir crime fiction, the book seemed to relentlessly gather momentum as each successive story delivered its punchline. By the final three stories I was fully rapt by their escalating intensity; It was as if I was spiraling into a dark void. VERY noir.

A short story is like a seed, and just when it begins to sprout and break soil it’s stepped upon by its own conclusion. So it is with Fiction Noir. Within its pages germinate the seeds of great novels, stories that have the potential to scrape through the high boughs of the literary canopy and soak up the light of critical applause, but only saplings remain.  Plainly stated, my only peeve was that I wished the stories were longer.

The greatest of the thirteen is called “When the Man Comes Around” by Bernard Schaffer, and is centered on a good Irish cop bent on redeeming his family. Jimmy O’Leary learns from his incarcerated brother that his nephew is due for an extreme neurological surgery (ice-pick lobotomy). As Jimmy investigates his brother’s ex-wife and her severe new husband, we learn that loyalty to his family is stronger than loyalty to his badge.  Such stories weave beautifully into the canon of noir crime fiction, and the genre is better for it.

The appearance of Fiction Noir: Thirteen Stories is a witness that the noir genre is alive and well.

Get the ebook now at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.

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Noir Comics | Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Noir comics have recently found even wider audiences on the clothing of its connoisseurs. The reason that these images make great t-shirt designs is because of their dramatic and artistic nature (which the noir genre and the pulps have in spades).  I’m in love with the noir t-shirts available at Threadless.com and am using this post as an excuse to share them. Being the owner of several of these shirts, (I’m actually wearing “The Time Has Come” as I write this) I couldn’t be happier with their quality and comfort.

PLEASE NOTE: I only display the close-up, high-quality, detailed images of these noir t-shirt designs. If you would like to see these shirts on a model, or if you would like to see how much scratch ($) they’ll set you back, click on the images below. Enjoy:

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sorry, Babe... Issue 1, Vol. 2 by Eduardo Risso

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sorry, Babe... Issue 1, Vol. 2 (back) by Eduardo Risso

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sorry, Babe... Issue 2, Vol. 2 by Lee Bermejo

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sorry, Babe... Issue 2, Vol. 2 (back) by Lee Bermejo

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sorry, Babe... Issue 3, Vol. 2 by Matheus Lopes

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sorry, Babe... Issue 3, Vol. 2 (back) by Matheus Lopes

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sorry, Babe... Issue 4, Vol. 2 by Dave Johnson

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sorry, Babe... Issue 4, Vol. 2 (back) by Dave Johnson

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

The Time Has Come by Francis Minoza and Laurence Minoza

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Suspense by Matheus Lopes

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

A Study in Scarlet by Alice X. Zhang

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Rose Marry by Adrindra Prakoso

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Doin My Best by Thomas Chosson

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Judith + Holofernes by Frank Barbara

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Raven Haired by Matheus Lopes Castro

Noir Comics Noir Inspired T-Shirt Designs

Sin City by Andy Farrell

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Film Noir | Pulp Fiction (1994)

I had never seen the film noir Pulp Fiction until this week and let me just say that I am blown away. Truth be told, the hype level for this film has been through the roof for the last several years, but I had never gotten around to watching it. Now I feel like a fool. Quentin Tarantino’s snappy dialogue and witty banter is as hilarious as it is entertaining, and he seems to break cleanly with the cliches of film noir history. I don’t wish to do a typical review where I dissect the plot-line and events of the film because there is already such a wealth of reviews out there. Instead, I will just highlight some of the features of this film noir that stuck out to me in phenomenal ways.

1) No Cops
One aspect of Pulp Fiction that was most refreshing to me was the fact that a police officer never makes an appearance. This may seem small, but it seems that in every crime film noir there is always a bevy of cops to thwart the robbers, and this is a tapped-out plot device. By removing the police from the plot, a host of different issues crop up and keep the action fully centered on the characters of the criminal underworld and how they relate to one another.

Film Noir Pulp Fiction Vincent and Jules

Text Book Anti-Heroes from our noir definition

2) Jules and Vincent
The banter between Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) is nearly perfect in its execution. There is a chemistry between the two that is akin to a buddy cop film gone wrong. I couldn’t stop laughing at their argumentative debates and harrowing scenarios. Royale Burgers, foot massages, and cleaning up bits of brain matter, three cheers for their dialogue; it was the slow burning diesel that lit up this film noir.

3) What cliche?
I sensed a purposeful rebellion against the cliches of film noir in Pulp Fiction. One the the most obvious has already been mentioned: No Cops. But another that sharply stands out is during Vincent’s play-date with his boss’ wife Mia (Uma Thurman). During their entire date, I fully expected them to sleep together. The drama and tension between the two seems to build steadily in that direction to the point that we find Vincent in Mia’s bathroom giving himself a pep talk to just leave and not have sex with her. And then the lightning fast plot-shift when she overdoses on some drugs that she finds in his coat. Their night changes from untapped sexual tension to desperation and preservation as Vincent rushes to save her life. Potent film noir drama.

Film Noir Pulp Fiction Poster

perfect femme fatale for this film noir

4) Humor
“The Bonnie Situation” was one of the funniest sequences in any film noir that I have ever seen. Simply because the whole plot revolved around a bloody mishap and helping a friend avoid a divorce. It was a great change of pace in the film, and it injected an element of humor in an otherwise grim scenario. I also thought that the very first scene was magical, simply because it went so quickly from pledges of love and devotion between a couple to a violent language dripping robbery. It’s in the contrasts that this film becomes a classic.

5) Dislikes
Yuck. There were only two parts of the film that I didn’t enjoy. Although no nudity is shown, the rape scene was really hard to stomach. I think this is because the scene was so dark and depraved, and the whole time you want so badly to deny that any human being could do such a thing. Also, this is really minor, but Quentin Tarantino actually plays a role in the film, and I felt that his character was the least believable. I mean, there was a scene where he was yelling the “N-word” dozens of times at Samuel L. Jackson and I had a hard time believing that Jules would put up with that. I don’t know, maybe I’m being nit-picky but the scene felt strange.

All in all, this film noir was amazing. Easily in my top five favorite crime films. Everything was so stylized and dramatic from the camera angles to the soundtrack. And any film that can pull off extended dance scenes in a natural and memorable way is solid. Cheers to the cast and crew. Pulp Fiction will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest films ever made.

Won the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Quentin Taratino & Roger Avary)

Rotten Tomatoes gives it: 94%

264 “F” words.

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Noir Crime Fiction | Spicy Detective: “Senorita Bluebeard”

Noir Crime Fiction Spicy Detective September 1938

If you look closely, That man is holding a whip and wearing white clown lipstick...terrifying.

In the September 1938 issue of the pulp magazine Spicy Detective, N. Wooten Poge’s sleazy noir crime fiction/whodunit “Senorita Bluebeard” debuted. I purchased this issue out of pure curiosity, mostly because I wanted a replica of the pulps that were so popular in the early part of the last century and because I wanted to read some lesser known authors. Now I can say with authority that there is a reason that they are “lesser known.” Tame by today’s standards, this sleaze rag pulp is merely masquerading as noir crime fiction while it attempts to satisfy the lusty eagerness of its readership.

Noir Crime Fiction Spicy Detective Senorita Bluebeard

The Title Page of "Senorita Bluebeard"- love that he is tearing her dress off as he's falling.

Billie Carter is the anti-hero character, a man who is a self proclaimed “playboy” and self-congratulating puke. A “yellow” journalist by day and a womanizer by night, he says that he would have made a great policeman if he could have stomached the idea. The plot of “Senorita Bluebeard” hinges on the disappearance of 8 of Billie’s pals (all of like mind and status mind you), and he feels that if anyone can solve the case, its himself. His best friend and fellow hound-dog John Logeron was the last of the 8 men to disappear, and as a result Billie believes that he has an inside scoop that the police would never imagine.

Noir Crime Fiction Spicy Detective N. Wooten Poge

Scantily clad femme fatale in the foreground? Check.

Mr. Carter explains that his buddy John would always brand the women he claimed with a cigarette in a special location on their upper thigh. Seeing that each of the 8 men that had disappeared were all successful playboys, Billie believes that the culprit had to be a woman. Additionally, now that John Logeron had disappeared she would have to have been branded (for how could a man not succeed with a woman?= noir misogyny). Mr. Carter knows that all he must do to locate the femme fatale killer is seduce as many local women as possible and keep an eye out for a fresh cigarette burn. The remainder of the story is Billie Carter using himself as bait and undressing all of the women who fall for his sexual advances. The only crime in this noir crime fiction is the plot.

You see, I knew John Logeron pretty well… and all his cute little tricks. Trust us caballeros for that! This Logeron had a crazy streak in him, and he bragged that he always branded his women–with a cigarette burn on their legs! Not a bad burn; and not pretty, I’ll admit, but it gave the old maestro just the sort of clue he loves to run down–or up. If this Spanish senorita was cigarette-branded on the leg, it wouldn’t be hard to crack the case wide open…But first I had to get her to a safe spot. –pg. 10

Noir Crime Fiction Spicy Detective Ruin That Pretty Face

"I need to choke the sass right out of you!" -Misogyny

“Senorita Bluebeard” was a forgettable piece of early America’s cheap pulp literature. Fraught with an unimaginable plot, various femme fatales in a state of undress, and an irritating chauvinist leading man, this noir crime fiction is a disgrace to the noir genre. The misogyny was so over the top it was nauseating, and the “edginess” of the content was PG at best (Billie never actually has sex with any of the women he seduces). N. Wooten Poge basically created a horny male jedi who would use his mind tricks to shred the paper fragile clothing of the women around him. If this is our noir heritage, we should be ashamed.

For your delight, here is a magazine advertisement from the back of Spicy Detective September 1938:

Noir Crime Fiction Spicy Detective Advertisement

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Noir Crime Fiction | Angel Face

***CORRECTION*** The author image I posted for Cornell Woolrich is actually David Goodis! Oops! Thank you Nicolas for the correction. Head over and check out his site: Mugre Y Sangre

 

Last week I made an excellent purchase in the noir crime fiction realm;. I bought a huge 1000+ page book called “The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulp.” Within are dozens of the very best noir crime fiction short stories from the pulp magazines of the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Needless to say I was very eager to get reading and writing reviews. After diligently scanning the table of contents I settled on Angel Face by Cornell Woolrich (also reworked many times by the author under various titles including Face Work and The Black Angel).

Noir Crime Fiction The Black Angel Pulp Cover

Cornell Woolrich expanded "Angel Face" into a novel called "The Black Angel"

The coolest thing about the noir crime fiction Angel Face is that the anti-hero is a dame! She doubles as both the main character and the femme fatale, and the result is explosive. Her name is Jerry Wheeler and her brother is named Chick. The driving plot revolves around a grand jury finding Chick guilty of murdering his girlfriend Ruby Reading (even though he didn’t do it, just wrong place at the wrong time). He is sentenced to the death by electric chair within three weeks, and Jerry is torn apart by this verdict. She decides that she is going to prove that Chick is innocent, no matter what it takes. She goes from suspect to suspect and relies on her gut to take her all the way to the top of the criminal food chain, right to the man who set her brother up. Its a fast paced whodunit and a feather in the cap of the noir crime fiction genre.

“Why?” I said cynically.  “Why this sudden yearning to undo the damage you’ve already done?”

He opened the door to go. “Look in the mirror sometime and find out,” was all he said.

Noir Crime Fiction Author David Goodis

"I'm David Goodis you bastard!"

I was most fascinated by the gender roles being played with in this story. Jerry is the strong and driven hero while her brother Chick is the helpless damsel in distress. Even their names denote the switch of roles being portrayed, with “Jerry” being a man’s name and “Chick” being undoubtedly feminine. Jerry represents a combination of all the aspects of a typical noir anti-hero with those of a femme fatale and becomes a potent dynamo as a result. One of the most noteworthy results of this chemistry is her self-awareness. She is extremely aware of her beauty and sexuality and the effect that the two have on the men around her. She even refers to her make-up as “war paint,” openly acknowledging that her looks are a weapon. And the ends to which she is willing to go to save her brother are astounding. Once Jerry determined the identity of the mob boss that has set up her brother, a greek man named Milton, she auditions for a singing role at one of the many clubs which he owns within the city. Her whole motive in doing so is to seduce him into allowing her close enough to gain irrefutable evidence that Chick is innocent. Grade “A” noir crime fiction.

“A little higher,” the manager said. “Don’t be afraid. We’ve seen it all before.”

I took another hitch in my hoisted skirt, gave him a look. “If it’s my appendix you want to size up, say so. It’s easier to uncover the other way around, from up to down. I just sing and dance. I don’t bathe for the customers.”

“I like ‘em like that,” he nodded approvingly to his yes-man. “Give her a chord, Mike,” he said to his pianist. pg. 779

There was little misogyny in Angel Face from any character other than the Greek villain Milton, who uses a hot iron to brand the women he deems

Noir Crime Fiction Author Cornell Woolrich

"Ya got the wrong guy, see? I'm Cornell Woolrich"

are worthy of being “his.” I really liked the fact that there was so little women hating in the story. My only concern is that Jerry may only be admirable because she exhibits traits that are typically reserved for males. And the only times she uses her female traits they are portrayed in a way that men would find pleasing (aka cobwebby negligee, a silky silver gown so tight it’s painted on, a dolled up face, etc). If we only like women when they behave as men (or as men please) then we are no better than the misogynists.

The silver dress fitted me like a wet compress. It was one of those things that break up homes. pg. 780

I highly recommend reading Angel Face because it stands alone as an extremely unique noir crime fiction. My copy is from Amazon.com.

the pulp cover image is from : http://people.uncw.edu/smithms/mystery_singles.html.

the David Goodis image is from : BackAlleyNoir.com

the Cornell Woolrich image is from : FantasticFiction.co.uk

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