Thursday, September 22, 2022

My Kind of Book: “Judge Not My Sins”

Judge Not My Sins, by Stuart James (Midwood, 1961).

I’ve had this eye-catching cover in my computer files for the last eight years, during which time I have tried unsuccessfully to determine who, exactly, was responsible for the artwork. I decided finally to go ahead and post it here. No doubt, the moment this front appears in the blog, somebody I forgot to ask will e-mail me with the answer. At least, let’s hope that happens.

As Paperback Warrior explained just last month in a critique of Judge Not My Sins, “Stuart James was a staff writer for True and Popular Mechanics as well as a sports reporter for the Delaware Valley Advance [in Pennsylvania]. He authored original paperbacks for lowly publishing houses like Tower and Monarch.” An earlier review, in the wonderfully named (but now apparently defunct) blog Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books, noted that James also made rent and food money as an editor at Midwood Books, an imprint owned by New York City-based Tower Publications. From 1957 to 1968, Midwood produced R-rated men’s fiction, competing with paperback publishers such as Beacon Books (which printed early, pseudonymous yarns by the likes of Donald E. Westlake and Lawrence Block). Among James’ other novels are Frisco Flat (1960), Carnival Girl (1960, published as by “Max Gareth”), and Bucks County Report (1961).

Paperback Warrior describes the forlorn and confused protagonist of Judge Not My Sins, David Markham, as “a 34-year-old pulp writer living in New York City. He wants to write the great American novel, but his agent encourages him to grow as a writer and take the necessary stepping stones to achieve greatness. He puts David through the paces, first with newspapers, then on to writing for the pulps, and then articles as he moves into a better market. But, readers are introduced to David as he navigates the world of pulp fiction, the middle rungs on the tall literary ladder.

“David’s life is at a crossroads. He’s become complacent with writing pulp fiction, a problem he analyzes by suggesting he has already ‘written the same damned story fifty times’ and to write another will simply require changing the characters. His agent says the writing is very good, it isn’t literary garbage, and that ‘blood ’n guts’ sells. Money is the reason David clicks the typewriter keys. He’s married, although separated. He has two kids, but he only sees them once a month. His paychecks mostly go to his wife and their mortgage. All of these headaches catapult David into the arms of a mentally deranged woman named Leslie.”

As you might well be able to guess, trouble ensues …

While vintage copies of this novel can still be acquired online, publisher Cutting Edge (a brainchild of author Lee Goldberg) released a new edition of Judge Not My Sins back in December 2020. Its cover—shown above, on the right—isn’t nearly as captivating as the one displayed atop this post, but it does strike a racy note.

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