“She Tried to Be Good”: Pulp Fiction Covers & Contest

September 7, 2011

Every writer has their inspiration. For some it may be the work of Dickens. For others, a particularly well-crafted work of macaroni art. But a select few, through no fault of their own, seem to find all manner of inspiration in 1950’s pulp fiction novel covers.

I happen to be one of those writers.

In fact, at the moment I am typing away under a large picture entitled “The Original Pulp Fiction Collection.” It is a framed photo of 5 Pulp Fiction covers titled Love & Marriage. It brings me no end of joy.

Perhaps you don’t know what Pulp Fiction is. Let me enlighten you.

Pulp Fiction refers to a collection of literature that spanned the first half of the 20th century. This was cheap and dirty literature, called “pulp” because of the inexpensive wood pulp paper the novels were printed on. A good one cost you 10 cents. A really good one could be as much as 25 cents. They multiplied like ants in American newsstands and were soon hidden under mattresses all across the country. They were dramatic, racy, shocking, and all around delicious.

I must admit I’ve never read one.

But that really doesn’t hinder my enjoyment. Because what I really love about these novels are their covers. They are bright, cheap looking, racy, colorful, and downright delicious. In fact, the covers were so important that it became common practice for an artist to create a cover then ask a writer to come up with a story to go with it. Their titles make me laugh. Their descriptions make me laugh harder, and their pricing make me absolutely giddy. Let me give you a sampling.

This one is my absolute favorites and hangs on my wall for all to see. There are so many things I love about it that I’m not sure where to start. Here we have the typical Tall Dark & Handsome (alternately known as black-haired Ken doll) hoisting a buxom blonde whose blouse seems to be coming undone. There’s even a hint of a bed which suggests hanky panky. But not too luridly. This novel screams “sexy with a moral.” And who doesn’t like their morals sexy.

This one is a close second. I love the delicate pink blossoms and whimsical daisies that suggest vitality, youth and spring. I love that she is pink-cheeked with love while Tall Dark & Handsome is completely out of place in their pastoral haven, decked out in a jacket and tie. I also find the pipe to be a nice touch that brings a touch of class to the scene. I try to model my own love affair after this image.

First off, the title is a homerun. Because if there’s one time in your life that should be downright shameless it’s your honeymoon. Obviously this author gets that. I love her gigantic lacy boobs, the placement of her left hand, and the way Tall Dark & Handsome stands shaving in the background in a wife beater and high waisted trousers. Please, let us never be parted.

This cover and I have a history. But I just saw the book’s subtitle for the first time and immediately started howling. In fact, David just asked why I was “cackling” and after I showed him made several remarks over the next twenty minutes or so along the lines of “Where did I find you? You’re perfect for me.”


I made the mistake of taking a journal with this cover on my study abroad to London with a very conservative Christian school. I made a bigger mistake when I accidentally left it out in the common area of our house’s living room.  Unfortunately, it was found and deemed trash. If only they could have read all the sultry details inside.


(Guaranteed to up the sauciness factor of your life by at least 17%).

To enter, post a comment to this post. To enter multiple times subscribe to my  blog via twitter, facebook, email or RSS feed (located under “Subscription Options.”

Oh I love you Green Lemon readers. I will announce the winner on Friday.

Now here’s a title I can work with. It’s more like a challenge. I also love the diversity of our characters. We have a blonde AND a brunette. And, I’m not sure, but one of the Tall Dark & Handsome’s appears to be a redhead. This is obviously a very progressive novel

You have no idea how badly I want a copy of this. First off, the dress is fabulous. So is her dreamy, faraway look. And the brilliance of the three ghosty heads (are they triplets?) adds all kinds of mystery. And what is she writing? So many questions and so few answers.

This one speaks for itself. Please notice the authorship.

Men didn’t marry her kind. The mirror affect is positively alluring. I can hardly tear my gaze away. And look at the drama captured in that one claw-like hand. How does she destroy everything she loves? And why is that man so angry?

There are 38 words on this cover. That’s longer than a dissertation I once wrote on the aspirations of potato bugs. Please notice that this one had not just 3 printings, but 3 LARGE printings.

And finally:

Ohy, the irony. This girl is clearly no bar of Ivory Soap. And what horrific tragedy affected her hair but missed her brows entirely?

I’m sorry I’m not more sophisticated. Some of you may be thinking along with my husband “Where did I find her?” And to that, I would respond 7th grade gym class and www.thegreenlemon.com respectively.

Don’t forget to enter the contest!


19 thoughts on ““She Tried to Be Good”: Pulp Fiction Covers & Contest

  1. Andrea Ballotta

    Another whimsical post that makes me smile & giggle. You are my perfect read during a much needed break in my work day. Keep doing what you do. It is fully enjoyed.

  2. Nancy

    OMG this one is your absolute best! I was hysterical looking at these book covers. I can just envision the women back in the day…..hurrying to get the hubby off to work, the kids off to school. She runs into the bedroom and pulls out her saucy little book from under the mattress. There she is…sitting on the divan in her formal sitting room, in her dress and pearl necklace with her heels kicked off and her legs curled up on the divan…can you picture this? :-)

  3. shari

    I love the way you look at the covers deeper than most of us would…lol. There is definitely a story in each one before you even open the book. Thanks for this, you are as talented as your Dad. :)

  4. Jean Taua

    I remember these types of books from my teenage years. I usually got them from friends at school and after spending delicious hours reading them, quickly passed them on to the next girl before mom would find out. Thanks for the memories!

  5. itsjustme

    I always enjoy reading your blog!! I have to say that I also like how your Dad slips the rating in there. He is such a hoot! Keep posting and we will keep reading!

  6. Mam

    That’s my girl…where did you come from anyway! The book covers are magnificent. I think we should start a collection of these books.

  7. little Fife

    Thank goodness for seventh grade gym class. I just have to say that I have been waiting for this post. Oh and by the way the virtuous girl scares me.

  8. Pingback: Changes Are Coming… | The Green Lemon

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