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Our books on Amazon: the MEN'S ADVENTURE LIBRARY series...
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Q&A with Fanzine Publisher Justin Marriott...

PAPERBACK FANATIC, Issue 1 wm
EDITOR’S NOTE: I first learned about vintage paperback fanzine publisher Justin Marriott from my friend writer, editor and action/adventure media maven Paul Bishop (whose latest book is 52 WEEKS • 52 WESTERN NOVELS, a cool, lushly-illustrated guide to classic and new Western novels).

Paul posted an interview he did with Justin on his wide-ranging blog. He also posted news about the availability of Justin’s newest fanzines in two of my favorite Facebook groups, the Men's Adventure Paperbacks of the 70s & 80s group and the Men's Adventure Magazines & Books group.

Justin, who lives in the UK, began publishing his flagship fanzine THE PAPERBACK FANATIC in 2007. In the years some them he has added THE SLEAZY READER, PULP HORROR and my new favorite, MEN OF VIOLENCE, which focuses on men’s action/adventure novels, from the best-known, like Don Pendleton’s EXECUTIONER series, to obscure titles that I, for one, probably would not have heard of if not for Justin’s MOV fanzine.

Ironically, earlier this year, Justin had learned about my MensPulpMags.com blog and the anthologies of men’s adventure books I publish with Wyatt Doyle thanks to interviews Paul had done with us and posted on his blog.

Justin and I eventually linked up via email and discovered we had a mutual admiration for each other’s publications and research into the related realms of vintage paperbacks and men’s adventure magazines.

Justin’s fanzines are chock full of fascinating facts about authors and publishers. They include  insightful overviews of books that can lead you to new reading adventures – or save you time by making you aware that some are not your cuppa. Each issue is also nicely illustrated with cover scans and other photos, originally published in black-and-white in older issues, now in glorious full color in newer ones.

Justin Marriott, UK fanzine publisherIn Issue 36 of THE PAPERBACK FANATIC, Justin reprinted an interview Paul had done with Wyatt and I about our book BARBARIANS ON BIKES, a visual archive of men’s adventure magazine covers and interior illustrations that feature bikers and motorcycle gangs.

This past summer, when Justin asked if he could reprint a post I’d done about the late, great men’s adventure mag writer Walter Kaylin in MEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 8, I was honored and happy to agree. (That issue also includes an excellent article by Paul Bishop about the gritty FARGO book series written by Ben Haas, under the pseudonym John Benteen.)
 
In the next issue of MEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 9, Justin posted a very nice review of our collection of “killer creature” stories from MAMs, I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE. He also reprinted a blog post I’d done about the first issue of the men’s adventure mag BATTLE CRY.

Reading Justin’s fanzines has made me more aware than ever of the many connections between vintage men’s adventure magazines (MAMs) and men’s adventure paperbacks (MAPs). Those connections include more than just types of stories.

Men’s adventure magazines published hundreds of “Book Bonus” versions or excerpts of popular action, adventure, mystery and thriller paperbacks. And, many writers who wrote stories for or edited men’s adventure magazines also wrote action/adventure paperback books.

I ran across one example in MEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 4. In that issue, Justin wrote about the Nick Carter novels penned by Martin Cruz Smith in the early 1970s, before GORKY PARK boosted him into the ranks of top-selling novelists in 1981.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Cruz Smith wrote stories for and worked as an Editor for several of Martin Goodman’s Diamond/Atlas MAMs. He used the name Bill Smith as an editor on mastheads of FOR MEN ONLY and ACTION FOR MEN. He wrote stories for those and other Mag Mgt. mags under the names Martin Cruz and Tom Irish.

Another article in MOV 4, also by Justin, is about one of the great pulp fictioneers, Lou Cameron. Cameron was a regular contributor of stories to men’s adventure magazines. He also wrote scores of action/adventure paperbacks under his own name and under various pseudonyms (Tabor Evans for the LONGARM adult Western series and Ramsay Thorne for the “Captain Gringo” RENEGADE adult Westerns).

Most of the top men’s adventure magazine artists, such Mort Kunstler, James Bama, Gil Cohen, Bruce Minney, Samson Pollen and many others, also did cover paintings for paperbacks in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. 

MAMs and paperbacks are also connected by publishers and editors. Some day, Justin, Paul, Wyatt and I should work together on an article about those various connections.

I recently emailed Justin some questions about his fanzines and his future plans for them.

I was intrigued by the fact that he’d started selling print copies of them on Amazon, which is very good news for his readers in the US and elsewhere.

SLEAZY READER, Issue 4 wmPULP HORROR, issue 5 frontMen of Violence Issue 2 wm

Previously, he published limited runs of each issue and shipped them by mail from the UK. Most issues sold out quickly. You had to be on your toes, and a bit lucky, to even get copies. Now, using CreateSpace, Justin has made his fanzines accessible as Print on Demand publications worldwide.

Below is my Q&A with Justin, illuminated with scans from his fanzines. For an even more in-depth interview with him, click this link to Paul Bishop’s blog.

BOB DEIS: What made you decide to start publishing your fanzines via POD on Amazon and what has been the reaction from readers?

JUSTIN MARRIOTT: Although I had been resisting POD for a number of years, because it just seemed at odds with the fanzine culture I was most familiar with (horror film zines from the 90s in which you sent off coins sellotaped to a card and a SAE and then waited to see what, if anything at all, come back), in my heart of hearts, I knew it was a case of when rather than if. The price of international postage was a key driver – it was costing nearly five times more to post MEN OF VIOLENCE from the UK to the USA than it was to print it – which was making it more and more difficult to offer the zine at an accessible price. Lack of time on my part to be promoting the zines and then fulfilling them was also becoming a greater obstacle.

But the kicker for me was the low numbers of copies I was selling relative to the quality of the material I was publishing (I’m talking about pieces and articles from contributors, rather than boasting about my own workman-like writing) and I felt I owed it to the contributors who were evidently putting a lot of time and effort into their pieces, to present their works to a wider audience than I was currently achieving. To an extent this limited audience was a self-fulfilling prophecy due to me not having sufficient time to effectively promote the zines. I knew I needed to evolve.

PAPERBACK FANATIC, Issue 34 wmPAPERBACK FANATIC, Issue 36 - Dark Angel wm

My road to Damascus moment was courtesy of Paul Bishop, who is both an author and a leading voice in on-line forums dedicated to vintage paperbacks. Paul encouraged me in a positive way to explore POD. Prior to that, various on-line posters had lambasted me for not using POD and making the zines available to suit them when they fancied dipping in and out, typically spouting tosh about business models and commercial benefits. My day job is all about business models and commercial benefits, so this “advice” wasn’t really needed or relevant. I don’t self-publish zines in my spare time for the financial benefits (I don’t think anyone does, or soon realizes there are none). It’s just something that I’ve always done. My parents used to have a folder of all of the comics and fanzines I produced when still living at home – and I think it’s something I will always do. Unlike others dispensing their pearls of wisdom via social media, Paul had the right combination of being able to talk from experience and being able to relate to me why POD could fit in with my own philosophy when it came to self-publishing.

Once I tried it, I soon went from dipping my toe in the POD water with a reprint of an out-of-print issue of MEN OF VIOLENCE, into diving in head-first, and from now on all of my zines will be exclusively through POD. I do have some concerns that the quality is not the same as traditional print, but the simplicity of Amazon fulfilling all orders compensates for this, as I now have more time to focus on the quality of the writing and design.

MEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 9 wmMEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 9 p2&3 wm

US readers have responded positively, whether that is existing readers appreciating the reduction in cost and increase in convenience, or new readers who would have never ordered a zine directly from me but trust the Amazon brand. UK readers are less enthusiastic at this stage, but I’m guessing the barriers POD has removed were mainly for overseas readers.  Certainly keeping titles in print is seen as a positive thing by new readers who can pick them up whenever they hop on.

One thing that is interesting to me, is that I receive much less correspondence from Amazon customers despite listing my e-mail in the zines and asking for correspondence. I theorize that ordering through Amazon rather than from me as an individual brings a different dimension to the editor/reader relationship. The pre-POD readership of the FANATIC have been on board for many, many years now, so I felt like we were a collective of some sort and I kind of knew who my readers were. Now I have no idea for the most part!  I’ve also noticed that people are more likely to post a picture of the mag on social media and comment there, putting it on public display, rather than writing to me directly. I think I like it as it spreads the word, but it strikes me that ten years ago fanzine editors would have been saying no one sends them handwritten letters anymore and it’s all email. It just shows how trends in communications and interactions are evolving all the time.

BOB: Are you planning to eventually reprint all of your past issues in POD format? There are so many fascinating articles in them that I know would be interest to fans of the books Wyatt and I publish. By the way, I’m always amazed at how many overlapping interests you and I have. For example, you wrote an article for Issue 35 of THE PAPERBACK FANATIC that focuses on vintage paperbacks about Sasquatch, Bigfoot and other legendary manlike monsters. That’s one of my favorite topics, as you know from our book collecting classic monster stories and artwork from men’s adventure magazines, the CRYPTOZOOLOGY ANTHOLOGY. And, in PULP HORROR, Issue 5 you’ve got an article about the Italian fumetti adult comic books, which have wild bondage and torture covers that are similar to the men’s adventure “sweat magazine” subgenre.

JUSTIN: I think I will redo all of the issues of MEN OF VIOLENCE eventually, and am currently starting to dig books out my shelves at the moment to start rereading and scanning for a reprint of issue two. But in total I’ve published nearly 60 fanzines dedicated to vintage paperbacks over the last decade, so it’s unlikely I’ll bring them all back, mainly because it would take so much time to move them into the POD formats I wouldn’t get a chance to work on new stuff.

PAPERBACK FANATIC, Issue 35 wmPAPERBACK FANATIC, Issue 35, Bigfoot wm

Also, I am not a natural “completer/finisher” which means I have to be very disciplined about finishing the last 10% of any issue (this is why the mags contain more typos and SNAFUS than they should – I just lose the mojo at the final stages of production) and as a result, normally hate an issue by the time it is published and never want to see it again. I’m all about the buzz of prepping the next issue. So the thought of having to face them again, is not an appealing one to me.

And as my writing has changed hopefully for the better over the years, I couldn’t just republish the older material as it was and would feel compelled to rework it. That would gobble up time I would rather spend looking forward at new material and projects.

BOB: Will all of your future issues be in POD only, or will you also continue to sell print copies directly via your website?

JUSTIN: My four current zines – THE PAPERBACK FANATIC, THE SLEAZY READER, PULP HORROR and MEN OF VIOLENCE – are all POD only from here on in!

BOB: In the past year, you seem to have shown an increasing interest in men's adventure magazines. What views and observations do you have about them and their connections to the vintage paperbacks you feature in your fanzines?

A few years ago I started to run a regular feature in THE PAPERBACK FANATIC entitled “Artists Assemble” which focused on artists that although known for their paperback covers, also worked in other medium such as comics and magazines. It soon became apparent there was a material crossover into the men’s adventure magazine field, with some of my favorite paperback artists such as Earl Norem, Mel Crair, John Duillo and Bob Larkin, also doing their stuff for the MAMs.  From there I also started to look at authors that worked in more than just paperbacks, and again was surprised at the crossover into the MAMs. Dean Ballenger, author of one of my favorite men’s adventure series, is a great example as he was prolific in the MAMs. The thought of all that undocumented material, as most MAM coverage is focused on the cover art, is an exciting one. I feel that way about the interior art, with snippets I’ve seen in magazine ADAM, admittedly more a girlie mag rather than MAM, also deserving of more coverage and analysis. 

PULP HORROR, issue 5 WMPULP HORROR, issue 5, Fumetti

I have a blurred picture in my mind of the 1960/70s paperbacks that I adored from lower-rung publishers being the successors to the MAMs with their lurid packaging and near-to-the-knuckle themes. The picture is blurred as I know little about the MAMs, but this is where your blog and books are like pixelated slices of heaven for me. The examples you’ve run of dummy paperback covers on MAMs and the extracts of books they ran, often retitled to fit in with the MAMs, strike me as a potentially fascinating chapter of paperback culture that deserves greater coverage. I’ve got no intention of treading on your toes Bob, nor can I match your collection and knowledge, so I hope I can lure you into contributing more to my zines on the subject. 
  
BOB: Absolutely! I’m in! By the way, who are some of your favorite writers and artists in the realm of action/adventure paperbacks and men's adventure mags?

JUSTIN: I’m always reticent about offering my recommendations as I tend to be slightly skewed in my view of their worth. I read so many paperbacks as research for the zines that I can get a bit jaded and therefore the more outrageous and whacked-out stuff tends to grab my attention, rather than well-crafted and slick material. And also, I take notice of technical accuracy at all.  I never understand why fans of men’s adventure or western fiction can get so hot under the collar about trigger actions on guns or bullet velocities. If you want challenge lack of reality in your fiction, why not also pick up on the fact the hero manages to survive endless shoot-outs, escapes any situation not matter how tricky, is a hugely-endowed stud with an endless array of beautiful women throwing themselves at him, never goes to the toilet or eats, and so on. I never quite get why it’s the weapons that is the sole focus in terms of the need for accuracy.

I think I can recommend without hesitation the works of two British thriller writers – Desmond Bagley and Jack Higgins. Anything by Bagley, but suggest RUNNING BLIND or HIGH CITADEL as high-points, and any early Higgins before he started repeating himself.

MEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 4 wmMEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 6 bd wm

In the men’s adventure category, it’s definitely the more outrageous stuff I gravitate towards: the GANNON trilogy by Dean Ballenger [wonderfully reviewed by paperback maven Joe Kenny on his great Glorious Trash blog]. In the GANNON series, Ballenger channels Mickey Spillane for a trilogy containing bizarre slang and brutal violence perpetrated by a psychotic Robin Hood type. I also like the gritty and nihilistic Keller books by Nelson de Mille in which the suburbs of New York City are the major characters; and the TNT series by Doug Masters at Pinnacle, which were translations of an O.T.T. French pulp series which is comic-book in tone.

For westerns, I would call out the FARGO and RENEGADE series, which I think transcend their genre roots, although RENEGADE in particular may be too cynical and explicit for some tastes. And as a UK citizen, I need to call out one of the western series from these islands, and choose HERNE THE HUNTER, which was never published in print format in the US to the best of my knowledge. One of the later entries riffs on THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE! [EDITOR’S NOTE: The Herne series is now available in Kindle format.]

BOB: I’m also a fan of the FARGO series, which Paul Bishop turned me on to. By the way, Samson Pollen, one of the great men’s adventure magazine artists, did cover paintings for the RENEGADE paperbacks. Are there certain websites and reference books you use regularly to do your research on vintage paperbacks?

JUSTIN: Oh yes! And they are very useful in making me look far more knowledgeable than I really am, so not sure if I should reveal them… but seeing as it’s you Bob….

Online resources I typically refer to include Bookscans.com, Pulpcovers.com, Lynn Munroe’s website and book catalogs and the Vault of Evil: Brit Horror Pulps forum.

Fanzine-wise there is Gary Lovisi’s PAPERBACK PARADE which is fast-approaching is 100th issue, the out-of-print BOOKS ARE EVERYTHING [published by R.C. & Elwanda Holland], COLLECTING PAPERBACKS [published by Lance Casebeer] and the PAPERBACK QUARTERLY.

MEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 8 wmMEN OF VIOLENCE, Issue 8 - Walter Kaylin obit

Books include Graham Holroyd’s PAPERBACK PRICES guide and HAWK’S GUIDE TO PSEUDONYMS.  For inspiration I turn to XEROX FEROX, which includes a block of interviews with editors of 1990s horror film fanzines.

I have been caught out in the past by believing everything that is listed on Google, so I now tend to ensure any information can be verified by two separate sources, although even recently I stated something about Harry Whittington’s career and when asked about it, have struggled to locate my original source. So I’m still a work-in-progress. 

BOB: I'm amazed at and envious of your output. Do you still have a regular job full time? How do you find time to do all the research, scanning and layouts for your fanzines, and how long does it take you to put together an issue?

JUSTIN: Thanks for the kind words. To be honest, I can’t think of any words to describe it other than an obsession. Hopefully on the healthy side of obsession, but still a burning, irresistible, all-consuming compulsive obsession. Hopefully I’ve painted a picture for you?

I do have a full-time job, working as a project manager in the Digital division for one of the UK’s largest companies. I’ve worked at the same company since I left school! And I also have a young family, which is my absolute priority. So zine-time is limited and I try to be disciplined in my approach to pulling together an issue.

Basically I spend a couple of hours each night working on the zines – all elements from research, writing, scanning, editing and correspondence. I have music on in the background, but otherwise I totally focus on the job in hand. In my day job I am used to pressure and tight deadlines, so I just carry that focus and work ethic over into my fanzines. Whereas I guess normal people spend the evening watching Netflix or funny cat videos on You Tube, I spend it putting together small-press zines. It’s something that is part of who I am. The main downside is that when I do occasionally have a night where I do watch funny cat videos on You Tube, I feel extremely guilty and frustrated that I’ve wasted a few hours that I could have spent preparing a new issue.

SLEAZY READER, Issue 5 wmPAPERBACK FANATIC 36, BARBARIANS ON BIKES

I am always quite surprised at how quickly I can pull an issue of MEN OF VIOLENCE together. The writing style is looser than my other zines, and is often rawer and more irreverent, which I think reflects the books I cover. Whenever I get writer’s block, I just move onto a different article and so on. So typically, I have five articles on the go simultaneously and flit between them as the mood takes. This is why I don’t have a publishing schedule. I just put out whatever title just happens to come together at a particular point. I’ve also developed a bit of a shorthand for the layouts which takes me less and less time these days. I still think it’s the area in which I can make the most progress, but don’t ever want my zines to ever resemble an over-designed coffee-table book.   

I have also had to be sensible in reducing some burdens by inviting more contributors on-board so there is a ‘team’ that I know I can rely on and accepting help from Jim O’Brien who as Assistant Editor for most of my zines does a lot of unsung grunt-work in proof-reading the zine and copy-editing my articles. There are others who do their bit with promotion and supplying of imagery, and I am often humbled by how helpful people are and willing to share their knowledge. The zines wouldn’t be as regular if not for them.

BOB: In the interview you did a while back with writer Paul Bishop, you mentioned you might start a new fanzine about vintage Western paperbacks. Is that on your to do list for 2018?

JUSTIN: I have been promising myself for a few years that I would publish a zine dedicated to Westerns, but my normal sounding-boards have all advised me it would be a disaster. This has only increased my determination to do it, but HOT LEAD (as it is provisionally titled) has never got to the top of my to-do list.  However, with Paul on board as a contributor who is both knowledgeable and an excellent writer, I now feel as if I have a co-conspirator and hope to be able to publish a first issue in 2018. The western genre fascinates me, as it’s never been critically acclaimed but has out-lasted pretty much any other category of genre-fiction. When I visit used book stores (not as often as I would like due to lack of time and used book stores) these books are becoming thinner on the ground, so someone out there is buying them. But not many are prepared to ‘fess up. So the whole concept of a fanzine dedicated to this maligned yet enduring genre of books is hugely appealing to me.

BOB: Wow! A Western fanzine with you and Paul at the helm will definitely be cool! I look forward to it and have many examples of Western stories and artwork in men’s adventure magazines you could tap if you want. Thanks again for talking with me, Justin – and for your great zines.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Weasels Ripped My Book Facebook Page, email them to me,
or join the
Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group and post them there.

RELATED READING…

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Funny text and image juxtapositions on “stripped” men’s adventure magazine covers…

WORLD-OF-MEN-Oct-1964.-Cover-by-Walt[2]
I’d planned to take a few weeks off in September, but when Hurricane Irma hit the island where I live in the Florida Keys, it led to a much longer hiatus in posts on this blog than I expected.

I had no internet connection for weeks and, as I write this, I’m still living in a temporary rental home on the mainland. The good news is that my wife and I, and our three dogs and four cats are all OK. The damage to our house is fixable and my MAM collection is intact.

This week, my brain started to get back to aby-normal. Enough so that I’m ready to post here again, using a laptop I bought during my exile from the Keys.

I’ll start with a post I’d been planning to do about “stripped” men’s adventure mag covers, meaning covers that had the top quarter to third cut off. This was the standard way for newsstands and stores to indicate unsold copies of an issue.

Publishers offered refunds on any unsold copies to encourage newsstands and stores to carry their magazines. The cut-off tops of the covers were returned to the distributors and then sent back to the publishers for refunds. (The same system was used for comics.)

Magazines that had their covers stripped for refunds, sometimes called “3/4 covers,” were supposed to be thrown away or destroyed so they couldn’t be sold.

However, some sellers made a few extra bucks by selling them at a discount. I suspect they were also occasionally liberated from dumpsters by fans. At any rate, for one reason or another, copies of some stripped issues survived and show up on eBay every once in a while.

When I run across an example that make me chuckle, I copy the JPEG from the eBay listing. Over the years, I’ve collected quite a few.

Sometimes the juxtaposition of the text on the page that can be seen where the top of cover was cut off and what’s left of the cover create funny juxtapositions. In most cases, the text that’s revealed is from a full page print ad on the first page, a placement coveted by advertisers.

I’ve long thought that featuring some of my favorite stripped covers, accompanied by the scans of the original covers, would make a good post on my blog. So, here it is. (Finally.)

The first example, at top left, provides a side by side view of a stripped cover of WORLD OF MEN, October 1964 and an uncut cover.

BATTLE-CRY-Sept-1964-art-by-Syd-ShorThe cover painting, by Walter Popp, is one of many MAM covers showing Nazis threatening or tormenting scantily-clad babes.

Popp’s illustration shows two distressed damsels apparently being captured and being bound by several Nazis. The headline on the first page, revealed by having the top third of the cover cut off, shows the headline “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST.”

That headline and the subhead under it indicate the revealed page is an ad for a correspondence school course that supposedly prepares you for a law enforcement-related career.

The subhead entices readers by telling them “There's a Thrill in Bringing a Crook to Justice Through Scientific CRIME DETECTION!”

That juxtaposition of ad text and cover image struck me as pretty funny. Of course, as my wife often tells me, I’m easily amused. If you are, too, you might get a chuckle out of some of the other stripped cover reveals in this post. They include…

BATTLE CRY, September 1964 – The stripped cover shows an ad featuring Arthur Godfrey pitching the I.C.S. correspondence school. Its courses “made the impossible easy.” The juxtaposition suggests one of those things might be dangling distressed damsels over a huge tank of ice water. The cover art is by Sydney “Syd” Shores.

BLUEBOOK, February 1970 – This one has a terrific Vietnam War cover painting by Mel Crair showing a wounded, somewhat crazed-looking American soldier firing a machine gun and presumably mowing down enemy Viet Cong. The stripped cover reveals a headline for another correspondence school ad that says, a bit ironically given the cover image, “Look who’s smiling now!”

CHAMPION FOR MEN, August 1959 – In the stripped copy of this one, the gal who’s tied up seems to be wistfully thinking about a better career with a “GOOD SALARY” and a “FINE CAR. The cover painting is by Clarence Doore, one the artists featured in our latest anthology of men’s adventure magazine stories and artwork, I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE.

BLUEBOOK-Feb-1970-cover-by-Mel-CrairCHAMPION-FOR-MEN-Aug-1959-cover-by-C

MAN’S ADVENTURE, September 1958 – I can imagine the alligator thinking the ad headline revealed on the stripped cover applies to him: “Just Pick the Kind of Body YOU Want.” Does he prefer to eat the body of guy or the gal in the cover painting by Ted Lewin?

MAN'S EPIC, March 1970 – The ad text in the stripped cover says that you can get details on some interesting correspondence courses. If you imagine the headlines on the cover itself are among the courses offered, “trafficking in white slaves” sounds, er, interesting. The cover painting, which might be depicting the course in how to mistreat a “Maquis maiden,” was done by Mel Crair.

MANS-ADVENTURE-Sept-1958-Cover-by-TeMANS-EPIC-March-1970-cover-by-Mel-Cr[2]  

MAN’S LIFE, March 1970 – So, how do you “pass as a genius” anyway? You could try letting yourself be captured and tied up by a beautiful, barely-clothed femme fatale, as shown in this cover painting by Vic Prezio. OK, it’s not likely to indicate that you have a high IQ. But it might have other benefits, assuming you survive.

MAN'S STORY, August 1966 – “WE CHALLENGE YOU TO TOP THIS JOB!” … Obviously that doesn’t refer to being bound and tortured by Nazis. But in my imagination the headline revealed on this stripped cover could refer to the job of modeling for men’s adventure magazine artist Norm Eastman, who created the cover painting for this issue. Top men’s adventure magazine models like Steve Holland and my friend Eva Lynd, the model Eastman used for the distressed damsels in this and many other MAM cover paintings, actually made decent money for the times. And, Eva told me Norm was a sweet guy she always enjoyed posing for. (You can read more about Eva and Steve in the posts at this link.)

MAN’S LIFE, March 1970, cover by Vic PrezioMAN'S STORY, August 1966, cover by Norm Eastman

If you’ve seen an example of a “stripped” men’s adventure magazine covers that made you chuckle, send me a photo or scan via email and I’ll feature it in an upcoming post.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Weasels Ripped My Book Facebook Page, email them to me,
or join the
Men’s Adventure Magazines & Books Facebook Group and post them there.

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I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE:

Killer Creatures in Men’s Adventure Magazines

I WATCHED THEM EAT ME ALIVE, w contents

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The John Whitlatch enigma solved: a guest post by writer & pulp maven Paul Bishop…

Paul Bishop blog post about John Whitlatch
EDITOR’S NOTE: A while back, I posted an interview here with a writer I’m a huge fan of and proud to call a friend: Paul Bishop. As I noted in that interview, Paul is an excellent and prolific novelist. His most recent novel is LIE CATCHERS, a highly-acclaimed police procedural with a special twist. Paul is also a veteran police detective, an editor and an indie publisher. On top of all that, he’s a serious action/adventure media maven who posts regularly about books, magazines, movies, TV shows, and people in the men’s adventure, Western, spy, mystery, and noir genres on his own blog, other sites, and in various men’s adventure-related Facebook groups, like the one associated with this blog and The Men's Adventure Paperbacks of the 70s & 80s group.

One of Paul’s recent blog posts focused on the novels of a mysterious writer named John Whitlatch. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Whitlatch wrote a series of gritty action/adventure novels that have gained a cult following, partly because they feature terrific cover paintings by two artists who did hundreds of illustrations for men’s adventure magazines and novels, Norm Eastman and Mel Crair, and partly because they are bloody good reads.

Exactly who John Whitlatch was remained an enigma to those of us who are his fans — until recently. After doing some initial research and a post about Whitlatch on his blog, Paul was contacted by someone who knew Whitlatch and gave Paul more information than existed anywhere online. Armed with that info, Paul wrote a new, in-depth post summarizing what he’d learned. I immediately asked him if I could repost it here, along with higher resolution scans of the covers than I’ve seen online (using my own copies of the Whitlatch novels) and an interesting review of his first two books I found using my Newspapers.com subscription. Paul said “yes.” So, here it is. Thanks, amigo! And, thanks again for the great Afterword you wrote for our book collecting men’s adventure magazine artwork featuring bikers and motorcycle gangs, BARBARIANS ON BIKES.

WHITLATCH’S ENIGMA: BY PAUL BISHOP

Jon Whitlatch is an author whose name pops up regularly within men’s adventure series genre circles. Between 1969 and 1976, Whitlatch wrote eleven action novels, the first ten of which were published with a series of stunning covers. Lurid and garish, featuring outlaw bikers, big breasted babe in jeopardy, and tough heroes out for revenge, the covers of Whitlatch’s novels could just as easily have graced the covers of any of the titillating Men’s Adventure Magazines of the day.

In actuality, the stunning covers of Whitlatch’s books first ten books were painted by top Men’s Adventure Magazine artists Norm Eastman (Gannon’s Vendetta, Lafitte's Legacy, Tanner's Lemming, Frank T’s Plan, The Judas Goat), and Mel Crair (Morgan's Rebellion, Morgan's Assassin, Stunt Man's Holiday, Cory’s Losers. Men’s Adventure Magazine top model Steve HollandThe Face That Launched A Thousand Paperbacks—appears on several of the covers, adding to their collectability.

Unfortunately, Whitlatch’s last novel, Gannon’s Line, did not receive a similar instantly collectible cover. Instead, even though the small central illustration was by the great Robert Maguire, the cover design itself was generic and instantly forgettable.

While the covers of Whitlatch’s books are often the catalyst for men’s adventure readers to buy and collect them, the writing between the covers is uniformly terrific. While definitely in sync with the attitudes and mores of the time period in which they were written, Whitlatch’s tales of every day guys caught up in deadly circumstances never failed to thrill.

A Whitlatch hero is a man pushed beyond the reasonable boundaries of civilization and is forced to find a core of inner strength to overcome overwhelming odds—in other words, a guy who you can unabashedly root for as he takes on outlaw motorcycle gangs, voodoo cults, tin-pot Latin dictators, sadistic Japanese troops in the Pacific Theater, Renegade Indians, and other megalomaniac villains.

Paul-Bishop pic in libraryWhitlatch’s books are straightforward contemporary actioneers. Even when writing a Western (Iron Shirt) or a WWII Dirty Dozen style tale (The Judas Goat), the narratives are straight out of the men’s adventure genre. This is not to say they are cookie cutter or by the numbers plots. Whitlatch’s writing elevates the tropes of the genre with excellent action scenes. His heroes are not supermen, but rugged individuals who face their fears and have the courage to not lay down and die.

For many years Whitlatch himself remained an total enigma. When asked about Whitlatch, regular genre resources and gurus were forced to shrug their shoulders and admit to their mystification at the lack of information.

Usually, this little information about an author would indicate the use of a house owned pseudonym, with a number of authors penning the tales. But, this doesn’t appear to be the case with Whitlatch. Having read all eleven novels, the distinctive tempo and sentence structure make it clear they were written by the same person.

About twenty years or more ago, I tried tracking Whitlatch through his publisher. I was put in touch with Whitlatch’s agent who informed me Whitlatch was deceased. He did, however, provide me with a contact number for his family, warning me they would probably not want to be interviewed.

I eventually made contact with Whitlatch’s sister in Arizona, but while polite, she refused to impart any information. A strange situation, especially coupled with a tid-bit from mystery historian Al Hubin, which noted there had been no copyright renewals on Whitlatch’s titles. This raised the odd possibility of Whitlatch or his work being seen as an embarrassment to his family.

My introduction to Whitlatch originally came through his second published title, Morgan’s Rebellion. This was a great adventure tale. The all-American everyman Jamey Morgan finds himself falsely imprisoned in Central America. Desperate and alone, he takes it upon himself to escape, rally the scattered rebel forces, and overthrow the corrupt regime in order to get his life back and revenge on his wife and business partner.

This was great stuff! Morgan was a cool character with his archery background and his righteous American indignation. Whitlatch is hardly politically correct and he wears the Mad Man style male chauvinist label proudly—definitely a product of his time—but the guy could write a rousing adventure

Norm Eastman - GANNON'S VENDETTA, John Whitlatch (1969) MPMNorm Eastman - MORGAN'S REBELLION, John Whitlatch (1969) MPMNorm Eastman - TANNER'S LEMMING, John Whitlatch (1970) MPM

In 2009, I wrote about Whitlatch in a Forgotten Books post for my blog. At the time, in response to a blog post of his own, my buddy and prolific writer James Reasoner said, “You have to love the Internet.” In James’ case, his own blog post regarding a specific hardboiled author generated unexpected contact from one of the author’s surviving relatives.

In my case, several months after my post bemoaning the complete lack of information about John Whitlatch—beyond his novels and those lurid covers—I received a surprise email. It was from Bob Miller, a friend and former co-worker of Whitlatch’s who had somehow come across my original Whitlatch post. He offered to share information about the elusive author, whom he stated was a down-to-earth nice guy with a good sense of humor. I immediately scrambled to dial the provided phone and quickly found myself chatting with my informant.

Bob Miller told me he worked with Whitlatch in the 1960s when they were both claims adjusters for an insurance company working out of an office on Gower Street in Hollywood. Bob remained friends with Whitlatch, and was an ardent reader of his novels, until Whitlatch died in the late 1970s.

Apparently, Whitlatch was a force in the insurance business. He eventually became the head claims adjuster for All-State Insurance, working out of the company’s headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in LA. Reportedly, he had a large, framed, picture of the All-State HQ building in Chicago hung on the wall behind his desk. The picture had a hand-drawn arrow pointing to one specific window in the building, which Whitlatch claimed was the office of the idiot I work for.

While working as a claims adjuster, Whitlatch also attempted to branch out into private business. For several years, he operated a self-service laundry on Ventura Boulevard—in the San Fernando Valley—with his wife, Geraldine. However, the business was forced into bankruptcy when long-term street repairs closed down easy access to the building.

Norm Eastman (I think), THE IRON SHIRT, John Whitlatch (1970) MPMNorm Eastman - THE JUDAS GOAT, John Whitlatch ( 1971) MPMNorm Eastman - LAFITTE'S LEGACY, John Whitlatch (1971) MPM

Crippled with a bad limp, Whitlatch didn’t let his physical infirmities keep him down. Miller remembers Whitlatch’s visits to the ranch where Miller’s father-in-law trained and bred horses. Whitlatch always managed to get around and showed an interest in everything.

During the time of his visits to the stables, Whitlatch began writing spec movie scripts. Miller’s father-in-law had contacts in the movie industry via several of the horse owners for whom he bred and trained. He allowed Whitlatch access to those contacts and, while Whitlatch never sold a script, he received encouragement and praise for his writing.

On one stable visit, Whitlatch witnessed Miller’s father-in-law putting Vicks Vapor Rub in a mare’s nose in order to get her to accept a foal that wasn’t hers. The Vicks worked to distort the mare’s olfactory senses so she couldn’t tell the foal wasn’t her own. Whitlatch was to later use the scene in one of his novels.

A perfectionist when it came to insurance work, Whitlatch was a taskmaster—never letting correspondence or reports leave the office until they were letter perfect. But while he found insurance work financially rewarding, he longed to quit and write full time.

Miller remembers the day Whitlatch called him full of excitement. He had just sold his first two novels. Pocket Books had given him a contract for two of his completed manuscripts and planned to publish both novels simultaneously—a first for the publishing house.

Norm Eastman - FRANK T'S PLAN, John Whitlatch (1972) MPMMel Crair - MORGAN'S ASSASSIN, John Whitlatch (1973) MPMMel Crair - STUNT MAN'S HOLIDAY, John Whitlatch (1973) MPM

Whitlatch eventually quit All-State to pursue his writing career. He had a handful of other novels published, but there was bad news on the horizon. Two years later, Miller received a phone call from his friend. Whitlatch told Miller he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and had been given six month to two years to live.

Whitlatch’s final book, Shoot-Out At Dawn, was a non-fiction account of the deadly events at a remote Southern Arizona cabin in 1918. The book was written with Tom Power, one of the survivors of the clash. Whitlatch died shortly after it was published by Phoenix Books in 1981.

From other sources , it appears Whitlatch’s wife died sometime after 2005. The couple had no children. Clearly, Whitlatch will remain an enigma, but thanks to Bob Miller, those of us who have admired Whitlatch’s novels were finally given a glimpse into his background.

Usually, this little information about an author would indicate the use of a house owned pseudonym, with a number of authors penning the tales. But, this doesn’t appear to be the case with Whitlatch. Having read all eleven novels, the distinctive tempo and sentence structure make it clear they were written by the same person.

About twenty years or more ago, I tried tracking Whitlatch through his publisher. I was put in touch with Whitlatch’s agent who informed me Whitlatch was deceased. He did, however, provide me with a contact number for his family, warning me they would probably not want to be interviewed.

Mel Crair - CORY'S LOSERS, John Whitlatch (1973) MPMRobert Maguire - GANNON'S LINE, John Whitlatch (1976) MPMJohn Whitlatch & Tom Power, SHOOT OUT AT DAWN (1981) MPM

I eventually made contact with Whitlatch’s sister in Arizona, but while polite, she refused to impart any information. A strange situation, especially coupled with a tid-bit from mystery historian Al Hubin, which noted there had been no copyright renewals on Whitlatch’s titles. This raised the odd possibility of Whitlatch or his work being seen as an embarrassment to his family.

My introduction to Whitlatch originally came through his second published title, Morgan’s Rebellion. This was a great adventure tale. The all-American everyman Jamey Morgan finds himself falsely imprisoned in Central America. Desperate and alone, he takes it upon himself to escape, rally the scattered rebel forces, and overthrow the corrupt regime in order to get his life back and revenge on his wife and business partner.

Steve Holland & Eva Lynd art and photoThis was great stuff! Morgan was a cool character with his archery background and his righteous American indignation. Whitlatch is hardly politically correct and he wears the Mad Man style male chauvinist label proudly—definitely a product of his time—but the guy could write a rousing adventure

In 2009, I blogged about Whitlatch. At the time, in response to a blog post of his own, my buddy and prolific writer James Reasoner said, “You have to love the Internet.” In James’ case, his own blog post regarding a specific hardboiled author generated unexpected contact from one of the author’s surviving relatives.

In my case, several months after my post bemoaning the complete lack of information about John Whitlatch—beyond his novels and those lurid covers—I received a surprise email. It was from Bob Miller, a friend and former co-worker of Whitlatch’s who had somehow come across my original Whitlatch post. He offered to share information about the elusive author, whom he stated was a down-to-earth nice guy with a good sense of humor.

I immediately scrambled to dial the provided phone and quickly found myself chatting with my informant.

Bob Miller told me he worked with Whitlatch in the 1960s when they were both claims adjusters for an insurance company working out of an office on Gower Street in Hollywood. Bob remained friends with Whitlatch, and was an ardent reader of his novels, until Whitlatch died in the late 1970s.

Apparently, Whitlatch was a force in the insurance business. He eventually became the head claims adjuster for All-State Insurance, working out of the company’s headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard in LA.

Reportedly, he had a large, framed, picture of the All-State HQ building in Chicago hung on the wall behind his desk. The picture had a hand-drawn arrow pointing to one specific window in the building, which Whitlatch claimed was the office of the idiot I work for.

While working as a claims adjuster, Whitlatch also attempted to branch out into private business. For several years, he operated a self-service laundry on Ventura Boulevard—in the San Fernando Valley—with his wife, Geraldine. However, the business was forced into bankruptcy when long-term street repairs closed down easy access to the building.

Crippled with a bad limp, Whitlatch didn’t let his physical infirmities keep him down. Miller remembers Whitlatch’s visits to the ranch where Miller’s father-in-law trained and bred horses. Whitlatch always managed to get around and showed an interest in everything.

During the time of his visits to the stables, Whitlatch began writing spec movie scripts. Miller’s father-in-law had contacts in the movie industry via several of the horse owners for whom he bred and trained. He allowed Whitlatch access to those contacts and, while Whitlatch never sold a script, he received encouragement and praise for his writing.

On one stable visit, Whitlatch witnessed Miller’s father-in-law putting Vicks Vapor Rub in a mare’s nose in order to get her to accept a foal that wasn’t hers. The Vicks worked to distort the mare’s olfactory senses so she couldn’t tell the foal wasn’t her own. Whitlatch was to later use the scene in one of his novels.

A perfectionist when it came to insurance work, Whitlatch was a taskmaster—never letting correspondence or reports leave the office until they were letter perfect. But while he found insurance work financially rewarding, he longed to quit and write full time.

Miller remembers the day Whitlatch called him full of excitement. He had just sold his first two novels. Pocket Books had given him a contract for two of his completed manuscripts and planned to publish both novels simultaneously—a first for the publishing house.

Whitlatch eventually quit All-State to pursue his writing career. He had a handful of other novels published, but there was bad news on the horizon. Two years later, Miller received a phone call from his friend. Whitlatch told Miller he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and had been given six month to two years to live.

John Whitlatch Review, Green Bay Press Gazette 1969 MPMWhitlatch’s final book, Shoot-Out At Dawn, was a non-fiction account of the deadly events at a remote Southern Arizona cabin in 1918. The book was written with Tom Power, one of the survivors of the clash. Whitlatch died shortly after it was published by Phoenix Books in 1981.

From other sources , it appears Whitlatch’s wife died sometime after 2005. The couple had no children. Clearly, Whitlatch will remain an enigma, but thanks to Bob Miller, those of us who have admired Whitlatch’s novels were finally given a glimpse into his background.

Here’s a brief look at what his men’s adventure novels are about, taken from the descriptions on the back covers…

GANNON'S VENDETTA (1969) “Do not forget, gentlemen—violence is the only thing they understand. If in doubt, kill.” … Recalling with hatred all the blood and pain these cycle creeps had caused him, Gannon described his enemy to the men who had come to help him. The animals on the hopped-up Harleys had raped Gannon's wife, torched his house, and then—after working him over—dumped him in the desert to die. They never expected Gannon to come out alive. This was the end of the long hunt--high noon at midnight. Gannon had followed the rat pack deep into Mexico. And now he was ready to do battle—their style.

MORGAN’S REBELLION (1969) “Prison made a man of Morgan. And the man became a legend.” … Jamey Morgan—a quiet California citizen—was arrested on a business trip to Central America. Accused of aiding a revolution he knew nothing about, Morgan was deprived of all diplomatic rights, branded an international renegade, and sentenced to hard labor. And so, the only way he could return to the United States was to overthrow the government that imprisoned him. He made the revolution his own. After escaping from prison, Morgan fled into the hills and joined the rebel forces. An experienced bowman, he trained and organized an extraordinary guerrilla troop—Los Arqueros, the Archers—fifty rugged men on horseback, armed with bows and explosive arrows. The exploits of this daring commando unit help bring a ruthless dictatorship to its knees—and brought fame, love, and fortune to Captain Jamey Morgan.

TANNER'S LEMMING (1970) TANNER—the man who single-fistedly quashed a student takeover and tongue-lashed its leaders into silence at a turbulent school-board showdown. TANNER—the man who had never flown a plane, yet took the stick when a pilot died in midair and landed safely. TANNER—the man whose blunt business sense had won him a place in a Senator's inner circle. TANNER—had he blown a hole in the heart of the man millions of Americans revered? Had he killed Senator Stanton? Could he have been the assassin?

THE IRON SHIRT (1970) Vengeance! Jonathan Fontaine swore it...in the smoking remains of his homestead, over the charred, mutilated body of his young daughter. He had gone East but now was back in Arizona with a specially equipped rifle. And he had a fresh lead on the Indian—the one who had worn a necklace of human fingers and The Iron Shirt...

LAFITTE'S LEGACY (1971) Jean Larue returns the newspaper said...The last of the Latittes had come back from Arizona to visit his dying grandfather. But enemies lay in wait, blocking his way with fallen trees, terrorizing his wife with poisonous snakes, signaling their malice with voodoo dolls. Someone wanted the old treasure map that was his legacy. But his adversaries had not reckoned with the pirate blood that was also part of Lafitte's legacy. He would tight with all the guile and guts, tenacity and ingenuity that had made his legendary ancestor the terror of the bayou.

Paul Bishop, writer editor publisherTHE JUDAS GOAT (1971) Life had made them hard...The army made them mean! The attack squad...Hand-nicked from the entire U.S. World War II army, they were a unique company. Twelve men led by a lieutenant, as able as he was arrogant, and a sharp, seasoned sergeant who was militantly silent about his past. Twelve fighters. among them an ugly man, a black man, an old World War I scout, a southern redneck, and a mountain climber. They were a strange assortment, but they had several things in common—They were tough and tenacious...and they didn't care too much about living. To the General they were the army's answer to the marines. To the Colonel they were a crack team...the best he could assemble. To the lieutenant they were animals. And by the time their brutal training had ended they were killers.

FRANK T’S PLAN (1972) Frank T. Dodge had a plan for revenge and it called for more than seeing a man dead… His daughter had been murdered...Frank T. had a painful score to settle. And his chance came when a jury freed the accused man, Martin Ballard. Lusting for vengeance, Frank T set out on a daring hunt to bring his prey back alive. But there was another group of desperate men who wanted Ballard dead. To get his man, Frank T would face death and terror with only his guts to get him through.

MORGAN'S ASSASSIN (1973) They called him “El Arquero”... The history books said bows and arrows had gone out years ago. But nobody had told James Morgan. Armed only with his great longbow, he had led a revolution that freed a Central American nation from tyranny. His men were all arqueros, or archers, but he was the only one called “El Arquero.” Now, back in the States, Morgan received another call for help—from the F.B.I. This time it was to foil an assassination attempt that everyone else seemed powerless to stop. But then he discovered that he was next on the assassin's list. It was kill or be killed—and as Morgan stalked his man, he discovered he was up against the most diabolical political conspiracy America had ever seen. To defeat it, the arqueros would have to march again...

STUNT MAN'S HOLIDAY (1973)  Max Besh was one tough apache. They shouldn't have gotten him mad. Max Besh, movie stunt man arid full-blooded Apache, was having quite a vacation in Las Vegas. He'd wan six grand at the crap tables and he'd gotten himself a curvy young dancer for companionship. Next thing he knew, he was looking down the barrel of a .38 and somebody was riding off with the cash and the girl. What the kidnappers didn't realize was nobody pulls that kind of trick on Max Besh. They eluded police and crossed the Mexican border, but they couldn't shake the angry Indian on their trail. Even if it took a shootout, Max Besh was going to get his money and his woman back—in that order.

CORY'S LOSERS (1973) When Cory had been stuck with that had murder rap, some of the town's solid citizens had moved in and taken everything he had. Now it was seven years later, and Cory was back with a score to settle. Meanwhile, his enemies had become the most powerful, ruthless men in town. They knew Cory was coming, and they were ready for him. But Cory had friends—the losers who, like him, had been taken by the big honchos. Together, they were going to make things pretty hot for those crooked bastards...

GANNON'S LINE (1976) John Gannon had settled into the life he wanted as foreman of the Holguin Rancho, south of Sonora. But powerful people in Washington had singled him out to lead a band of men and horses into the scorching Baja desert. His mission: to locate in that inferno of sand and sun the secret base of an espionage ring—and to crush the sadistic genius who masterminded it.

EDITOR’S POSTSCRIPT: When I scanned the paperback covers for this post, I noticed a connection between the John Whitlatch novels and men’s adventure magazines that I hadn’t noticed before. As Paul Bishop noted in his post, most of the novel covers were done by two top MAM artists, Norm Eastman and Mel Crair. Eastman and Crair both used the great male model Steve Holland as main characters for their Whitlatch covers, as they often did for their men’s adventure mag illustrations. When I scanned the cover of LAFITTE'S LEGACY, painted by Norm Eastman, it struck me that the gal getting nuzzled in the bottom left corner of the cover looked a lot like my friend Eva Lynd, who was both an artist’s model and pinup photo model back in the day. In fact, she was one of Eastman’s favorite female models for his men’s adventure art. I emailed a scan of the LAFITTE'S LEGACY cover to Eva and she confirmed that Norm had used a reference photo of her for the nuzzled gal. As I’ve discussed in other posts on this blog, Eva often posed together with Holland for reference photos taken by Eastman and another artist who did many MAM and paperback illustrations, Al Rossi. To read and see more about Eva Lynd and Steve Holland together, click this link.

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John Whitlatch novels on Amazon