lines from the pulps: james gunn’s deadlier than the male

"She had a full-breasted figure in the Biblical style, the kind that suggests camels and water-jars."


There’s sex-talk!

Mrs. Krantz perked up. "About the new one?" she asked avidly.

Mrs. Pollicker nodded. "He smells," she said. "All the time. Like an animal."

Mrs. Krantz opened her mouth with a wet smack of ecstasy. "Oh, my, ain’t you human!”

Mrs. Pollicker stood up straight. "I rather think it is primitive," she said, pleased.

Plus there’s violence! 

Danny took his knife out of his pocket. He had something to say and he meant to move quickly, but his reactions were slow. The red-headed man struck him full in his open mouth, so hard that he smashed his jaw and teeth, and Danny’s mind was full of flashes and darkness. His head hit against the wall, and the red-headed man hit him again. Danny fell forward with his arms around the man’s legs, and the red-headed man brought his arm up in almost an incidental gesture to the side of Danny’s head. After that Danny did not think any more at all, not just because he was unconscious, but because he was dead.

—from James Gunn, Deadlier Than The Male (1950), the source for the legendary 1947 Robert Wise film noir Born to Kill, starring Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney.

lines from the pulps: “i’d like to see you naked with a rose in your teeth”

A Taste for Sin

Gil Brewer

A Berkley Original

Bookseller Photo


I stopped the Volks in front of the house on Grove.

It was a small place, white with gray trim, set on a green
lawn among elms and pines.

I took the bill and the two bottles of Martell’s cognac, and
moved up the walk. There were three antiquated red brick
steps and a small stoop with wrought iron rails. I used the
brass knocker; a clown’s head. Appropriate?


I’d waited a long time to get this close to Felice Anderson. I
wondered what would happen. There was something going
between us. She had a husband, George, who was the
assistant cashier at the Allayne City Trust Bank. So far that
hadn’t mattered, the way we’d looked at each other when she
came to the store to order booze.

The door opened.

“Well, Mr. Phalen. You finally got here.”


She smiled. “If I call you Jim, you’ll have to call me Felice.”

Neither of us was fooling the other with this crap.

“A deal.”

She was in smooth soft white belted tightly at the waist. A
slim waist. George Anderson was maybe forty-five, Felice
maybe eighteen. One of those things. She could balance your
libido with her eyes.

“Come in,” she said. “I’ll pay you for that.”

She had a curiously flat, unassuming voice, with a faint lisp.

I went in.

I got a whiff of her perfume. I’d had it before, at the store. It
was something. I’d done a lot of hard thinking about. Felice
Anderson. We just plain weren’t strangers, and we both knew
it. But there was a glass wall between us.

We were in the living room. She smiled again, broad lips
parting, revealing perfect white teeth. She closed the door.
Smooth velvet black hair tumbled down the middle of her
back, to between her shoulder blades. It was wild looking,
brushed to a sheen. Maybe she licked it like a cat. I wanted to
sink my fingers into it. She had Spanish in her, you could tell.
Probably both her mother and father. The look was all through
her. I got an ache. She was the complete opposite of Jinny; the
old nightmare I couldn’t rid myself of.

“Good to see you, Jim.”

All right, I thought. Hit her with it.

“I’d like to see you naked with a rose in your teeth.”

Somewhere a clock ticked.

She gave a short laugh.

“Be right with you, Jim.”

She walked down a hallway, white high heels ringing. She
wore sheer black nylons. Her behind was a round personal

“Take those bottles into the kitchen,” she called.

The front room took in the front of the house, maybe twenty-five
feet. It was furnished with heavy dark rattan, thick, soggy
cushions with a flower design on them. There were a couple of
bad prints on the walls, some monk’s cloth draperies, and
thick red rag rugs on the hardwood floor.

In the same house with her, alone, it was something.
I went down the hall, glanced to the left. She was in a
bedroom. I saw her face in the mirror of a dressing table, as
she opened a purse. She smiled at me in the mirror. Her face
was heart-shaped, with high round cheek bones. Her eyes
were black.

“The kitchen, Jim.”

I went into the kitchen; modern with lots of stainless steel,
cream paint, red curtains. I put the bottles on the table and
wiped my hands on my pants. I wanted a cigarette.

Oh, you bitch, I thought. You Spanish bitch.

She came into the kitchen.

“How much?”

I looked at the bill and told her.

“Here you go, on the button.”

You bitch, I thought. I pocketed the money. We stood there.

“Let’s have a drink,” she said.

“All right”

It was a goddamned game. That sheet of glass was still

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