August 13, 2021

I Went To San Francisco And Portland And All I Got Was Four Groceries Bags Full Of Books

Last month, I mentioned a much-anticipated stop during our vacation would be the legendary Kayo Books on Post Street in San Francisco. As promised, here is my report.

On July 30, I met longtime friend-of-JoS zenslinger at a nearby cafe and chatted for an hour or so (ending, to no one's surprise, with some pointed criticisms of Game-Ruiner Commissioner Manfred) before heading over to Kayo, where I was greeted by one of the owners and their handsome dog Pip (pictured here as a puppy in 2016). After expressing extreme interest in the scents of Kai and Cookie on my pants, he relaxed in a spot of sun by the front door.

My appointment was for three hours and I used every minute, save for a brief interlude when I stepped outside to get some water while the owner moved her car. It's my understanding that Kayo's stock was much bigger before they switched to an appointment-only schedule; they may have had a second floor of merchandise. (As with everything else, the store was no doubt better years before I came along.) It is still very impressive. Not knowing exactly what I would find, I had no fixed agenda, though I did bring my small notebook listing books I already own.

In the mid-1960s, various court cases regarding obscenity led to paperbacks becoming much more explicit. I prefer the more soft-core books published before that time, a genre often referred to as "sleaze". Many of the super-explicit books have minimal or no cover art, but the sleaze books boast the wonderful art work also used for mysteries and crime novels of the period. Robert McGinnis (still working at age 95!) is one of the masters and although I do not own a copy, this is one of my favorites of his work.

I also love the laughably low budget artwork on these slim paperbacks. I already owned a few of these books and was glad to get more, at prices well below what you'll find on eBay. Most of them have two-word titles, with "Sin" and "Lust" being popular choices. (They are also truly "pocket books", measuring only 6 5/16" tall by 4 1/4" across.)

The back covers are sometimes more creatively written than the actual books, though there is always a risk that the contents inside do not quite match either the front or back covers. (Regardless, you don't read these for their literary merit, though some talented writers, such as Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, and Ed McBain, wrote some of them under house names.) A few back-cover examples (back when "wanton" was the word du jour):
Sally, the hobo-wanton who could step in where the sisters left off and make any man's life a moral wreck . . .

He learned the evil hangovers of violent orgies, and the dangerous, desperate, passion-crazed use of the whip and knife . . .

Lust wife, suburban matron, gutter sinner, she blazed a trail of sin through the flesh jungle . . . 

From coast to coast, the tireless lover plied his passion trade for all the bedtime profits the traffic would bear . . .

He found that the wanton, lustful woman who dangled her enticing charms before him was a temptress from the hells of hate . . .

So he went on his orgy round, day and night as the sin-game reached its evil heights . . .

Grinding along the sex circuit, where the dirty little smoke-filled night clubs play host to the pop-eyed sin-suckers. . . .

It was fate, playing his lust game for him, fate that now made him a part of every sin-game in the state. He did his job well, whatever evil thing was demanded of him, and in return they paid him off with all the wanton tricks he could use, while he foraged for fresh flesh to fill the vice factories.

$10 Orgy!

[I learned several years ago that the New York City agent I had in 1999-2000 wrote at least eight of these books under a variety of names. I have yet to find any of them. However, I do own a complete set of the four-book series ("The Pro", 1974-75) he wrote under his own name, centering on sports agent Dave Bolt (and which are still in print!).]
Lesbians (in big cities and jails), suburbia (lonely housewives host daytime orgies behind drawn curtains while their oblivious husbands toil away at the office), wild teenagers (gangs, drugs, ignoring authority), farms (daughters in shorts, shirtless men with muscles, hay lofts) and insatiable women (anywhere, everywhere, all of the time) are popular topics:

I was happy to find the classic "Women's Barracks" . . . Banned in Canada!

In addition to floor-to-ceiling shelves of paperbacks, Kayo had stacks of men's magazines from the 1950s and 1960s. These magazines had titles such as Man's Action, Man's Life, Man's Illustrated, Man's Exploits, Man's Conquest, Man's Epic, Man's Prime, Man-to-Man, All Man, New Man, Adventure, Big Adventure, Real Adventure, Adventure for Men, Men and Adventure, Men in Adventure, Man's Adventure, Action For Men, True Action, True Men, True, True Danger, Real, Men, Real Men, Men Today, For Men Only, Male . . . you get the idea. Also: Spur, Rage, Stag, Climax, Peril, and Fury. A lot of these sound like gay porn magazines. (Of which Kayo also had plenty, from slick glossies to what looked like homemade fanzines.)

These men's magazines were "[d]esigned to snare the attention of the Average G.I. Joe settling back into humdrum civilian life after World War II, their gorgeously lurid cover illustrations routinely depicted buxom beauties in shredded tatters of clothes, writhing under the slathering jaws of savage beasts, wild savages or sadistic Nazis". The 1960s added rampaging bikers and sex-crazed beatnik chicks to the mix. These magazines are not cheap, but I found a few from 1966 priced at $6 apiece.

A further sampling of articles from variety of men's magazines, from a quick look online:
Rugged Working Men Make Inadequate Lovers

The American Male Is A Momma's Boy

Bashful Brides Have Ruined The American Male

Masculine Inadequacies Drive Women Nuts!

The American Male Is Losing His Virility - Why Men Are Becoming Assembly Line Robots

Love-Starved Women Are Lousing Up College Towns

Wild Vacationing Wives Are Ruining Palm Beach

Women Are Lousing Up Sports

Trapped In A Sea Of Giant Crabs

Chewed To Bits By Giant Turtles

Eaten Alive By Killer Pigs

The Island Of Man-Eating Rats

The Ants Ate Us Alive!

Weasels Ripped My Flesh!

Savages Made Me Eat My Wife!

I Watched Myself Being Eaten Alive!

New England's Passion Paradise: Shocking P-Town - Hot-Bed Of Thrill-Seeking Girls [nowhere near Burlington, Vermont, I can assure you]

Lowdown On The Girls Of Greenwich Village

Love-Cabin Girls Of Alaska

"Sex Wanted" Newspaper Ads! - The Secret Nation-Wide Sin Code For Oddball Love-Thrill Seekers

"Big Lie" Credit Bureau Terror Files That May Rate You "Neurotic", "Trouble Maker", "Bum Risk", " Pervert"

Those Undersea U.F.O.'s May Start W.W.III - More Facts Behind Our Latest 'Saucer' Scare

Baseball Doesn't Deserve Support
Okay, I really want to read that last one.

I also wanted to learn about the cross-country "rich widow racket". And although we already have two copies of "1984", I grabbed this 1954 edition for its pulpy cover. Repacking books by Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Conrad, Joyce, and others with pulpy covers was not uncommon at one time.

I bought three reference works that feature hundreds of old covers, as well as interviews with relevant writers and publishers:

True Crime Detective Magazines: 1924-1969, by Eric Godtland and Dian Hanson

Cyanide and Sin: Visualizing Crime in 50s America, by Will Straw

Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980, edited by Iain McIntyre and Andrew Nette:


I also had a fulfilling day at Powells in Portland, though five hours left me nowhere near seeing everything in the store. A bit of that haul, something to balance out the sleaze:

1 comment:

wallythe24 said...

I've been waiting patiently for this post.
Fascinating stuff.
That has to be Steve McQueen on that mag cover.