Moseby Confidential: Arthur Penn’s Night Moves and the Rise of Neo-Noir

To paraphrase Crocket, the cop character in Michael Mann’s 2006 movie, Miami Vice, I am a fiend for late 1960s/early 1970s American crime cinema. And Matthew Asprey Gear’s Moseby Confidential: Arthur Penn’s Nightmoves and the Rise Neo- Noir, reminded me exactly why.

Moseby Confidential is a monograph about the 1975 neo-noir, Night Moves, starring Gene Hackman as Harry Moseby. Moseby is a confused, disillusioned, deeply insecure, ex-professional footballer turned bottom feeding Los Angeles private investigator. As much to take his mind off suspicions his wife (Susan Clark) is having an affair as the need to turn a dollar, Moseby takes the job of finding the 16-year old tearaway daughter (a very young Melanie Griffiths in her first major screen role) of a washed up Hollywood star.

The case brushes up against the world of professional Hollywood stuntmen before taking Moseby to Key West, Florida, where the young girl is living her stepfather and his hardscrabble girlfriend, Paula (a terrific performance by Jennifer Warren, who Asprey Gear interviews for the book).

Like Asprey Gear, I am a big fan of Night Moves, which was reviewed on this site here back in 2013. I love its strange, discursive narrative and existentially bleak worldview, and its refusal to present its story in a nice, neat package. … Read more

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Book review: Murder on Easy Street

Back in 2014, I wrote a piece for the Wheeler Centre site about what I described as the ‘new wave’ of true crime works. These books differed from the earlier style of true crime work, which, with a few exceptions, were liable to be by the numbers, often quickly written books about sensational crimes – serial killers being a favourite – put together from various second hand sources, with a bit of local colour thrown into the mix.

The new wave of true crime books I was referring to, were more literary, focused on the political processes around the crime in question and, indeed, had a much broader definition of what ‘crime’ was. More often than not, they also seemed to be written by individuals that were either directly involved in the crime in question or somehow managed to shoe horn their own life experience into what they are writing about, so they become as much about the author as whatever crime they are writing about. When these kind of true crime books work, they can work big time. But they don’t always work.

If I had to classify it, I would say Helen Thomas’s Murder on Easy has more of the former type of book in it than the latter.… Read more

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Pulp Friday: Pollen’s Action

Regular Pulp Curry readers will be aware I am a big fan of Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle’s Men’s Adventure Library (MAL) series. These books showcase the wonderful, lurid, at times, completely bizarre material that featured in the genre of men’s adventure pulp magazines that flourished on American newsstands from the 1950s to the 1970s. I have written about the important work they have done archiving and showcasing the efforts of the one of the most prolific illustrators working for the men’s adventure magazines, Samson Pollen. I reviewed their first book about Pollen, Pollen’s Women, some months ago on this site. They have now produced a second edition on the artist, Pollen’s Action.

Pollen was one of the many people who managed to make a living as illustrators in the post war period, a time when there was plenty of work for individuals who could quickly produce attention grabbing, ready made art to order for pulp magazines, book covers, comics, advertisements and movie posters. As Deis discusses in his introduction to Pollen’s Action, Pollen started out painting paperback covers. But when this market started began to dry up in the late 1960s, as photographic book covers came into vogue, he began working for Magazine Management, one of the largest American publishers of men’s adventure magazines.… Read more

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Farewell to Victor J. Banis, pioneer of gay pulp & popular fiction

Victor Banis, sometime in the 1960s

I am a bit late to the sad news that Victor J. Banis, a long time writer, who some have called ‘the godfather of modern popular gay fiction’, died on February 22, after finally succumbing to cancer.

I didn’t know Banis personally, but I was very aware of his work. He published his first short story in 1963 in the Swiss gay journal, Der Kreis. He went on to write heterosexual, bisexual and gay erotic and pulp fiction for Brandon House, Greenleaf Press and Sherburne Press.

Of particular note, from 1966 to 1968, he wrote eight pulp fiction titles in his ‘Man From C.A.M.P.’ series, a overtly queer takeoff of the television spy series, Man From UNCLE. The central protagonist of the successful series, was the openly gay undercover agent, Jackie Holmes, who did battle with BUTCH (Brothers United To Crush Homosexuality). The series helped establish that gay audiences were particularly hungry for stories which portrayed characters in a fun and positive light. In doing so, Banis saw himself as playing a consciously activist role.

In all, Banis wrote over 160 books – pulp, porn, queer and straight fiction and non-fiction, under his own name and pseudonyms such as Victor Jay, Don Halliday, Jan Alexander and Lyn Benedict.Read more

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Street Players: Black Pulp Fiction and the Making of a Literary Underground

While many Pulp Curry readers will be familiar with names such as Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, I’d wager far fewer know very much about them. Fewer still would be across the details of how they came to be published and their enormous influence. Filling in the gaps in this relatively little known but important aspect of mid-20th century pulp history is Kinohi Nishikawa’s Street Players: Black Pulp Fiction and the Making of a Literary Underground.

Street Players is the story of the now defunct Los Angeles based publishing company, Holloway House. Founded by two white men, Bentley Morriss and Ralph Weinstock, throughout the 1960s it published run of the mill smut paperbacks, mainly sexology and spicy confessional stories, as well as the pin-up magazines Adam and Knight, all written by white writers and aimed at white readers.

The company’s trajectory radically changed with the release of Pimp in 1967. It appeared under the by-line, Iceberg Slim, the street name of a former Black hustler, prisoner and pimp called Robert Beck. Pimp was a huge hit. White readers enjoyed the voyeuristic peek it offered into the subterranean world of pimping. Despite the fact the Beck’s story was heavily fictionalised, Black readers saw in it a genuine slice of their urban ghetto experience.… Read more

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