Showing posts with label John B. Thompson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label John B. Thompson. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Nude in the Sand

The 1950s and 1960s publishing industry experienced a trend of authors and readers embracing swamp-noir, a concept that features the average man being tempted by a seductress in the backwoods of a rural southern town. Charles Williams and Harry Whittington both excelled in this type of storytelling, which led countless other low to mid-echelon authors to try their hand. Louisiana author and WW2 veteran John Burton Thompson (1911-1994) authored these types of novels. As expensive collectors items now, these vintage paperbacks demand a hefty dollar. 

Thankfully, Cutting Edge Books have gained the rights to Thompson's literary work and have made a number of his novels into new editions for an affordable price. After enjoying his 1962 novels Kiss or Kill and Swamp Nymph, I decided to take another swig with Nude in the Sand. It was originally published by Beacon in 1959. 

The most entertaining aspect of Nude in the Sand is that there isn't a main character. Instead, Thompson uses the novel to tell many different stories about the backwoods shenanigans of several different characters that have merely six degrees of separation. By the book's end it all wraps together cohesively in a satisfying conclusion that crosses these mini-stories over (and under) each other. 

Lecia is a 20 year old vixen living with her mother on a run-down farm. Hope and aspiration are shooting stars rarely glimpsed and never caught. In a bid for money, Lecia's mother sells her off to a wealthy man named Alex who takes the two to his sprawling estate. Lecia is destined to be the despondent, pregnant housewife pushing out babies to create Alex's dynasty. The problem is that Lecia despises Alex due to his violent sexual craving and his affairs with a black slave.

Across the fields is Abe, a retired wealthy man of nobility that has a young black lover named Charline. Readers learn Abe's history with Charline, how he funded her college education, cared for her needs, and is now secretly engaged in a relationship with her. Abe and Charline frequent a hunting cabin where the two intimately share their love. But, Abe understands the age difference and the fact that the town will be thrown in a violent upheaval if their interracial love affair were to be exposed. 

Abe's nephew Merrit is a college graduate and artist that hasn't quite found his footing yet. Abe allows Merrit to live on his estate and find himself. Instead, Merrit finds an imprint in the sand made by the nude Lecia. Over time, Merrit becomes obsessed with the imprints and starts to make a bronze statue of this unknown woman. Lecia doesn't realize that her daily visits to this jungle swimming hole are being captured by the imprints she makes in the sand. Eventually, Merrit and Lecia learn of one another and are connected through Abe. When Lecia's husband Alex begins making moves on Charline, the narrative becomes more complex and enticing – Abe vs Alex over Charline. Merrit lusting for Lecia despite her marriage to Alex. There's also another side story of a male slave that hates Alex for raping other slaves. 

With this many moving parts, it would be hard for any author to excel at all of these concepts and designs. But, Thompson is such a great writer and purposefully develops this plot into a burning bed of affairs, relationships, violence, and raging sex. The novel certainly possesses enough tropes to make it a swamp-noir, but at the same time it also works as a plantation novel, or what some refer to as a “slave gothic”. Alex's violent encounters with the strong, more domineering slave named Bruce makes for a humorous, albeit savage, thread in the story's web of self-pursuit and sexual gratification. Abe's relationship with Charline is nurturing, but is laced with strong dialogue that reflects the civil unrest of a country at war with itself in the mid 20th century. 

Nude in the Sand is a riveting, hot-blooded account of sexual affairs running rampant in the Deep South. With colorful characters and multi-faceted, interlocking storylines, John B. Thompson creates a whirlwind suspenseful romance novel ripe with violence and racial unrest. Fans of Charles Williams, Harry Whittington, and Erskine Caldwell should find plenty to like. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of the book HERE.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Swamp Nymph

Swamp noir was a popular American sub-genre of the 1950s and 1960s born from the idea that the rural backwoods was teeming with sexy, duplicitous babes seeking to take advantage of city slickers who crossed their paths. In 1962, sleaze-fiction maven John Burton Thompson (1911-1994) got into the act with Swamp Nymph, a short novel that has recently been reprinted by Cutting Edge Books

Charles Carraway III is a 30 year-old wealthy scion of a chemical company who just caught his wife showering with her tennis partner in his mansion filled with servants. He responds in kind by forming a sexual relationship with his Swedish maid - a coupling that, for various reasons, can never be more than a fling. To escape all the problems of the world, he heads south to Louisiana in his private plane for a much-needed vacation. 

The Swamp Nymph in question isn’t introduced until well into the paperback. Her name is Shayne, and she’s a 19 year-old beguiling beauty living near the Amite River in rural Louisiana. She was sexually assaulted at a young age and has avoided the company of men ever since despite a desire for love and intimacy. Thompson does a nice job of making Shayne sympathetic and attractive to male readers who will want to rescue this girl from her own past. 

For nearly the whole novel, the plot toggles between the Charles story and the Shayne story. The book is really not about their romance because they don’t even meet until 85% into the novel. The entire plot is just a series of life events and romantic near-misses that eventually bring them to the same swamp community at the same time. 

It’s hard to tell from the cover of these swamp paperbacks if a particular book is a crime-noir novel in disguise (like Harry Whittington’s Backwoods Tramp) or just a standard soft-core sex story. Swamp Nymph is definitely not a crime novel, and the sex scenes are so tepid that they’d hardly raise an eyebrow today. It’s really the story of When Charles Met Shayne and it takes a pretty basic, rather lengthy and mostly unremarkable route to get there. 

Thompson was a better writer than his genre deserved, but his plotting in Swamp Nymph was a slow road to nowhere. I didn’t hate the book, but life is short. You deserve to be reading better books than this one.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Kiss or Kill

Between 1950 and 1969, Louisiana native and WW2 veteran John Burton Thompson (1911-1994) authored and sold around 75 books. His paperbacks were considered to be so racy at the time that NYPD raided city bookstores and seized over a thousand copies of paperbacks written by Thompson and others. Thereafter, much of his writing was done using pseudonyms to remain marketable to skittish booksellers. By today’s cultural standards, the sex in Thompson’s work wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, and Lee Goldberg’s new publishing imprint, Cutting Edge Books recently put that to the test by reintroducing Thompson’s 1962 paperback “Kiss or Kill” back into print.

Our narrator is Jack McKnight looking back on his adolescent years when he was raised by his evil mother and his wicked half brothers from his mom’s previous relationship. His mother and siblings are bitter that dad left half the estate to Jack, his only biological heir, before dad’s early demise. His teen years are filled with disdain from mom and savage beatings from the brothers.

Young Jack has an ally in his late father’s best friend, Mr. Palmer, who explains the birds and the bees to Jack and seems genuinely invested in the young man’s well-being. As Jack pursues a variety of romances while moving into adulthood, there’s a lot of great fatherly advice that Mr. Palmer bestows upon Jack about life and women. I can’t remember a more satisfying “young man and adult mentor” relationship in any book I’ve read in ages.

However, there’s an real air of menace lurking in the background of this paperback. Jack’s mother and half-brothers become increasingly unhinged, and Jack worries with good reason that they are plotting to murder him to take over his half of his father’s estate. The violence - real and threatened - escalates throughout the novel building to a bloodbath of a climax.

“Kiss or Kill” is a really odd book. There are scenes of shocking violence, but it’s not an action novel. There are hot scenes of seduction, but it never felt like a graphic sleaze novel. There are a few genuinely romantic storylines, but it’s certainly not a romance novel. And so on. It’s really a fictional autobiography of a compelling character overcoming a difficult upbringing and becoming a man. In that sense, it’s a very mainstream novel masquerading as a tawdry 50-cent paperback.

Although this is pretty far afield from the classic crime-adventure novels we normally cover here at Paperback Warrior, I can enthusiastically recommend “Kiss or Kill” to anyone who enjoys a good vintage coming-of-age tale. Thompson is a way better writer and storyteller than either iteration of the novel’s packaging would lead you to believe, and I look forward to exploring his body of work in greater depth. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE