Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Finds: “The Halfbreed”

Another in our growing line of vintage book covers we love.

The Halfbreed, by Al James (Midwood, 1961).
Illustration by Robert Maguire.

When I first saw this paperback front, I presumed that—based on the young woman’s dark hair and braids, and the vibrantly hued blanket draped across her hip—she must be this story’s titular “halfbreed.” But I was wrong, as evidenced by the back-jacket copy:
Sin—Southern Style!

They entered the water together, wading in until the warm surf swirled around their knees. Wanda raised her face to his, her gentle features contorted with passion.

Frank kissed the open mouth and felt her pleasure vibrate through his body. His hand slid around her waist and she trembled as he moved the palm, slowly, softly. She thought of her husband, Ben, her worn-out, rich old man, and suddenly it didn’t matter that he could give her nothing but money. Frank, her handsome halfbreed, was here now, and he was all man!!!

She broke the kiss. “We were going swimming,” she reminded. Her panting was audible.

“We are swimming,” Frank answered.

“I don’t want to swim, anyhow,” she moaned, twisting in his arms. “You know what I want.”

“Yes, I know,” Frank said, and he leaned her downward, down toward the sand …


Turning the Florida Everglades into a Jungle of Sensuality!!!
Yuck! (Or, more appropriately in this case, Yuck!!!) That’s terrible writing, even for publisher Midwood Books, almost too dreadful to retype here. And not all that illuminating. Since I don’t own a copy of The Halfbreed, I can only assume that the mixed-blood Florida male who makes young Wanda’s blood race must be part Native American (rather than half-black, as was the case with other sleaze paperbacks that intended to shock mid-20th-century Americans). The South has a long history of interracial sexual consorting—not always acknowledged—and in the humid environs of the Sunshine State, those temptations might only be heightened.

Or at least that’s what “Al James” would have you believe. As I mentioned in a post from two years ago, which focused on a cover boasting no fewer curvaceous charms than this one, James was one of several pseudonyms behind which labored Albert James Hjertstedt, the son of seemingly inexhaustible fictionist Gunnar Hjerstedt, better known under the byline “Day Keene” (To Kiss or Kill, Dead in Bed, Too Hot to Hold, etc.). The younger Hjertstedt never surpassed his father in terms of literary output, but as Al James he racked up plenty of credits in crime-fiction periodicals (everything from Trapped Detective Story Magazine and Sure-Fire Detective Stories to the higher-prestige Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Manhunt), and copies of his novels—including Child Bride (1961), The Lover (1961), and The Shameful Breed (1973)—can still be unearthed from the dustier corners of well-stocked used bookstores.

I, myself, would love to find a copy of The Halfbreed in good condition, though I’d be buying it for the Robert Maguire cover alone. The chances of my actually reading it? Unlikely!!!

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