Showing posts with label Charles Boeckman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Boeckman. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Change Partners

Celebrated jazz musician Charles Boeckman (1920-2015) authored crime-fiction novels, westerns, and short stories for the pulps and digests in the mid 20th century. Using the pseudonym Alex Carter, Boeckman authored racy sleaze novels for Beacon Books. I read, enjoyed, and reviewed two of these novels, Boy-Lover (1963) and Traded Wives (1964). I thought I would try another one, Change Partners, originally published in 1963.

In 1960, Ernest Evans, known as the famous singer and dancer Chubby Checker, released a cover of Hank Ballard's song “The Twist”. The song, and Checker's dance move, lit up the club floors and had incredible success on radio. But, “The Twist” dance was considered pretty provocative for 1960. 

In Change Partners, Les Kennedy arrives home from his photography studio to find his suburban housewife Vicki doing the Twist dance in his living room. The way her hips and buttocks twist and shake puts Les into an immediate sexual surrender. After the two make love, they agree to head to the local country club to dance the night away. It is here that Les gets drunk and Vicki gyrates with a used car salesman. Spotting his wife's sexy dance moves on the floor with a stranger, Les makes a club spectacle by dragging her to the car and back home. Things aren't looking good for the Kennedys.

Pretty soon, the club incident spills over into marital disharmony when Vicki begins an affair with the used car salesman from the dance. In retaliation – you know where this is going by the title – Les strikes up an affair with the couple's friend and dance instructor Sybil. The married couple's sexual encounters with other people makes up the bulk of the narrative.

Before you start thinking this story seems tepid and dull, let me remind you that this sort of novel isn't a far stretch from what Gil Brewer and Orrie Hitt were doing with their own sexy crime-fiction. Arguably, those authors created crime stories with the real focus being the tumultuous affairs and sexy flirting to propel the plot. Boeckman is just missing the crime element in his books, but to be clear there is a crime committed in Change Partners that provokes some jail time for the main character. But, it isn't anything exceptional. Instead, the author pursues the hot chemistry and sex (never graphic) that the characters experience as their marriage deteriorates. The emotional baggage, insecurities, guilt, and motivation to adultery is what makes the narrative twist and turn to the literary music.

Like Boy-Lover and Traded Wives, Boeckman pens another gem with this portrait of suburban marital Hell. If you enjoy the riches-to-rags fall from grace noir that stems from crime-fiction, then you'll love this book. Recommended.

Buy a copy of this book HERE. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Traded Wives

Celebrated jazz musician and author Charles Boeckman authored crime-fiction short stories and novels using his own name through the mid 20th century. However, using the pseudonym of Alex Carter, he authored racy, sexually-charged romance paperbacks for publishing houses like Beacon. I've enjoyed his writing, especially his Alex Carter novel Boy-Lover (1963). I recently purchased another Carter novel, Traded Wives. The book was published in both the US and Canada simultaneously in 1964. The American version was published through Beacon (8711X, cover artist unknown). The Canadian version by Softcover Library (S95157) recycled Clement Micarelli's painting from Orrie Hitt's 1962 novel Love Thief.

The novel presents three couples and a single woman living in a new housing community called Garden Acres. Each of the couples is struggling in various ways that revolve around intimacy. Boeckman depicts each marriage through revolving chapters that explain each character's backstory, the evolution into marriage, and the physical wants, desires, and jealous rage within this sexual suburbia. 

Debbie and Bobby have just moved into Garden Acres after graduating from high school and becoming pregnant. Their parents are wealthy, respectable contributors to the community that can't afford any negative influences. They immediately force the two kids to become married and quickly convert the couple into expecting, stereotypical middle-class suburbanites. The problem is that Bobby is still running around with the town's young hotties and Debbie isn't thrilled to be settling down after bedding down the senior class's male students. That's a real problem.

Charles is an alcohol distributor and sales rep that travels the back roads of America selling booze. He smokes cigars, drives a Cadillac, and has a loud-mouth that mostly spews dirty jokes. After meeting backwoods country girl (and virgin) Barbara Lee, he talks her into marriage and they quickly move into  the thriving sexual landscape of Garden Acres. Barbara Lee wants to pursue a college education and learn more about the modern world. After conquering Barbara Lee, Charles sets his eyes on his neighbor Cheryl. 

Tony is a white-collar guy living the American dream – playing golf on the weekends, mowing green grass, and relaxing in the shade with his newlywed wife Cheryl. The problem is that Cheryl isn't into sex, thus creating a physical barrier between the two. Tony is sexually frustrated with Cheryl and she is equally angered with his insistence on intimacy. 

Boeckman was just such a great storyteller of these noir novels. Despite the titles and covers, these novels aren't any different from a Nora Roberts novel today. There are no graphic sex scenes or much (if any) profanity. In cinematic ratings, these are probably PG-13. But, that doesn't make them any less intriguing or enjoyable. 

The story-lines are detailed with plot and character development that's simply superb. The narrative thrusts these unhappy couples into a wild mix of sex, fantasy, and appeasement. Debbie with Tony and Bobby, Cheryl with Tony, Charles with Cheryl, and Bobby with a divorced, sexually starved woman named April. It's a mingling of affairs and it's fantastic. I also enjoyed the “crime-noir” aspect of Tony, Charles, and Cheryl's love-triangle. It becomes violent and engaging and is probably the real highlight of the novel. The end result is that Traded Wives is highly, highly recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Boy-Lover

Charles Boeckman (1920-2015), a celebrated jazz musician, authored short stories for the pulps and digests through the mid 20th century. He also wrote paperbacks including mystery, western and suspense. In his autobiography, Pulp Jazz: The Charles Boeckman Story, Boeckman elaborates on the name Alex Carter, a pseudonym that he used to author a number of racy romance novels. In the book, he says he didn't want readers to connect these novels directly to him. He learned of Robert Turner, an author for the publisher Beacon, spending a night in jail for writing “pornography.” He didn't want to experience the same fate. It's a real shame that readers couldn't connect Boy-Lover to Boeckman considering its quality. It was published by Beacon in 1963 with a painted cover by Clement Micarelli.

Babs is in her late 20s, has a ravenous sexual appetite, and is mired in the suburbs with her tired, complacent husband Art. Instead of providing Babs hours of ecstasy, Art's idea of a good time is hosting tame neighborhood parties, discussing mechanical issues concerning  the couple's car, or just sleeping like a log. Babs is craving the sins of the flesh and has horny housewife eyes on a young mechanic named Jack.

Jack recently graduated high school and is now working at the local garage. When he delivers Bab's repaired car to her house, he is shocked to find her sunbathing in the nude while Art is at work. Babs slaps the seduction on thick as the experience increases from lemonade to dancing to bedroom antics as Jack loses his virginity to this gorgeous married woman in grand style. But, as you can imagine, Babs and Jack aren't fulfilled with just one encounter. Soon, they are sneaking out to do the nasty in abandoned parking lots, the closed mechanic's shop, and eventually into an apartment outside of town. It's here that Babs and Jack are shocked when their affair is revealed.

Boy-Lover isn't explicit by any stretch of the imagination. It's all PG-13 if it was released today. Boeckman's novel works exceptionally well as a character study – Jack as the inexperienced youth experiencing an accelerated maturity and Babs as the frustrated housewife that feels no purpose. The two need something from each other, but it isn't an emotional connection. Their responses to changes in their lives is met by sex – simply sex, nothing more and nothing less.

Boeckman takes readers through the rocky relationship that Jack and Babs feel. We feel Jack's frustration as a mechanic in a new town - the low wages, the impending poverty, the scorching cement – and sympathize. In many ways, this 1963 glimpse at the lower-class hasn't changed. It's timeless as these problems are eternal for generations of Americans. Jack contemplates the money left over on payday and has to decide if his last savings should be spent on a movie and popcorn. Alternatively, the upper middle-class Babs realizes what blue-collar money is worth. She is used to expensive cars, fine dining, and the ability to shop for high-quality wine and clothes. She faces a new awakening under Jack's small, but hard-earned, salary.

Boy-Lover is way better than it ever has a right to be. The cover is gorgeous, but it doesn't do the author or the publisher any real justice. This is just a fantastic novel that makes you feel a responsibility to the characters. On the last page I felt the impact of these two lovers and the impromptu life they led. I felt their emotional connection, their financial struggle, and the challenges they faced in an unconventional relationship. In a way, this is Boeckman's take on youth, the end of innocence, and the daunting threat of impending adulthood. I really enjoyed it and I think you will too. Recommended! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, June 11, 2021

Strictly Poison and Other Stories

Charles Boeckman (1920-2015) learned to play clarinet and saxophone through listening to records and studying fingering boards. His musical talent made it possible for him to play and write New Orleans jazz for 70 years. However, it was not his only occupation. Boeckman sold his first short story in 1945 and contributed regularly to Alfred Hitchcok's Mystery Magazine, Manhunt and pulps like Detective Tales, All-Story Detective and Dime Mystery. In the 1980's, he partnered with his wife Patti to write 25 love novels. 

In 2015, Bold Venture Press of Florida captured 24 short stories from the author in a massive volume entitled Strictly Poison and Other Stories. The book consists of four pages of commentaries by Boeckman shortly before he died. In addition, the publisher includes small cover pictures of many digest magazines and pulps that these stories are harvested from. I listed some capsule reviews from some of my favorite stories:

"Should a Tear Be Shed?" was originally published in 1954 by Malcolm's. It is a success story that focuses on the rise of a tap dancer named Lawrence Terrace Jr., a young man that suffered a brain injury when a truck ran him over. When a shyster named Jess Norvell catches Lawrence dancing by a bar jukebox, he puts together a scheme. First, he befriends Lawrence, then has an insurance policy placed on the young man for $50,000 (double indemnity for an accident) with himself as beneficiary. The next logical step is to get Lawrence accidentally killed. However, Jess' girlfriend, Candy, does not endorse the scheme and repeatedly tries to warn Lawrence that Jess is using him for financial purposes. Like any good story of suspense, Boeckman intensifies the tension with multiple attempts at murder. It's an explosive, though not surprising, climax. I loved the story and read it twice.

"I'll Make the Arrest" was one of Boeckman's most successful stories. It appeared in the very first issue of Manhunt (Jan 1953), one of the most highly-regarded digest magazines. The story was also adapted to the television program Celebrity Playhouse in 1956. This is an unusual story involving a police detective named Mike O'Shean tracking down the killer of a beautiful female celebrity. O'Shean has a particular need to locate the killer and, despite the title of the story, has no intention of arresting him. I love how Boeckman, in first person narrative, advises readers of O' Shean's motives: "I went down into the night and where it was dark and alone; I checked my gun because I was going to kill this boy who had strangled Pat." But, the author throws the obligatory curveball and it was a twist I didn't see coming. This was so unique and Boeckman delivered it perfectly with a smooth prose.

Boeckman's musical career contributed to "Run, Cat, Run", a 1949 story initially published in Dime Mystery. The story is about a trumpeter named Johnny Nickle fleeing a murderer. It's a suspensive tale about the musicians who appeared on a hit record called Jazz Date. Unfortunately, all the musicians on the album died mysteriously but Johnny. While frantically jumping from one town to another, Johnny manages to make ends meet by performing dive bars and jukes. But his luck runs out in Texas when a lady with a gun walks into his hotel room. Is she the killer? Or is she also running from a murderer? The story comes to a close on the shore of Corpus Christi Bay. I have always enjoyed novels and stories in the music industry and Boeckman used this aspect well. "Run, Cat, Run" was a real high point to me.

I wouldn't have the blog space to write spacious reviews on all of the high-quality stories included in this volume. Fantastic entries like "Ybor City" (1953 Manhunt), a gritty revenge story set on Florida's Gulf Coast or the wickedly humorous "Strictly Poison" (1945 Detective Tales) is worth mentioning. Even Jacksonville, Florida, otherwise known as the Paperback Warrior headquarters, plays host to the murderous terror of "Class Reunion" (1973 Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine). 

In the early 1950s, renowned writers such as Day Keene, Gil Brewer, Harry Whittington and Talmage Powell moved to Florida's Gulf Coast. Boeckman spent several weeks getting together with his colleagues at Day Keene's house to talk about the industry. I feel that Boeckman deserved to be there with crime-noir royalty. He was just a fantastic storyteller and had a knack for portraying broken and financially strapped characters in his story. Whether they were avenged, killed, successful or simply unlucky was in the imagination. Thankfully, Boeckman had it in spades.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Monday, May 17, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 89

On Episode 89 of the Paperback Warrior podcast, Eric takes the reigns for an action-packed 45-mins of vintage paperback discussion. The show hits the road to visit an exciting pulp convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Also, a feature on the life and work of author and jazz great Charles Boeckman. Plus: shopping, Bold Venture Press, Theodore Pratt and a surprise visit! Listen on any podcast app, paperbackwarrior.com or download directly HERE

Donate to the show HERE 

Listen to "Episode 89: Charles Boeckman" on Spreaker.