Monday, July 11, 2005

Wailing it up

And here we have the front cover (click on it to get a better view) of the 1956 novel The Wailing Frail by Richard S. Prather, one of his many best-selling pulp crime novels in the Shell Scott detective series.

And of course, you will want to see the back cover in all its readable glory here.

I'm making such a big deal over the cover because the cover, after all, is why I bought the book at the Literacy Austin booksale a few months back. [As an aside, check out this slightly different and yet remarkably the same cover of The Wailing Frail as well as the covers of Prather's other books, many of which were painted by pulp and pin-up artist Robert McGinnis.]

I read this baby between lunch and bedtime yesterday -- its pretty goofy, but in an entertaining way, and it has a neat twist at the end. It involves our hero, the Private Eye Shell Scott, as well as a trio of beautiful women that he keeps almost sleeping with, but not quite. It also involves corruption in the California government, lots of shooting and punching, and some old fashioned detective work.

And naturally, there are also a lot of nice over-the-top metaphors, here's a little sample:

First, the obligatory "woman comes into the Private Eye's office scene" -- "I was going through accumulated mail, throwing away advertising, when I noticed that somebody was outside my office. I knew it was a woman, too, because of the shadow she cast on the window. I've seen lots of shadows on that frosted-glass window, but this was the first one that threatened to defrost it...."

And later, of course, they kiss: "A steel statue would have kissed her, and I am no steel statue....It was a kiss that melted on my mouth like liquid velvet, warm and infinitely smooth. It was a kiss in a class by itself. After this, kissing other women would never be the same. It would be as if other women kissed with their ears."

I find it funny that this dime-store pulp novel is now available as a Microsoft Reader eBook -- I suppose the two markets really would intersect.

Finally, none of the women in this novel ever really wail (although maybe they do metaphorically), and Shell Scott never picks a woman up and carries her the way he is on the cover. Maybe they had a title and cover all ready to go, and the text was just slid in there....

1 comment:

Joolie said...

I never heard the term "frail" to describe a woman before. I think I like it better than "broad" and "dame." None of those are nearly as cool as "twist," though.