THE INFORMATION #972
DECEMBER 22, 2017
Copyright 2017 FRANCIS DIMENNO
The conscious water saw its God and blushed.–Milton
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER ELEVEN: PART FIFTY-SIX: DAYS OF WRATH
It was a week before the official beginning of winter but the sky was already filled with flakes of drifting snow and skirling seagulls which wheeled and churned through the arctic chill, despondently screeching as low as ten feet above the cobblestoned streets. Horse-drawn wagons trailed steaming horse apples which froze almost instantaneously on the brick streets. On the cobblestoned sidewalks, puddles left over from a recent big rain formed sheets of impenetrable ice, which Cadger Tandy could not break with his heel even if he wanted to. He refrained because he thought such a childish action to be undignified for a fourteen-year-old. He no longer wished to be seen as a capricious child.
The weather made him miserably uncomfortable. Wind blasted through the holes in his shoes. Wind and cold froze his fingers. The smell of burning wood filled the air, and thick skirls of oily black smoke slowly emerged from the thin rooftop pipes of the tenements and warehouses of Noxtown. He looked through eyes blurred with tears and cold at a horse-drawn trolley car nearly frozen to the tracks and heard the snorting and wheezing of the shivering trolley-car horse, clad only in a thin blanket, its eyes popping as it struggled to extricate the full car. The trolley-man signaled for the passengers to debark, and they did so, although some of the men grumbled and cursed. At last the struggling horse was able to pull the car free of the iced-up rails. The trolley-man then rode the vacated car back to the trolley-yard and the stables, and Cadger Tandy decided that his youthful dream of being a trolley-car conductor was very likely a misguided fancy.
It was so cold that the very act of breathing induced a painful chill in the chest. The wind shistled. His gloveless fingers began tingling, then quickly numbed. When, at high noon, Cadger Tandy met Count Victor Justin in the business district of central Noxtown, the Count suggested they walk past the canyons of business establishments housed in four-story buildings with facades of worn orange, dull blue, and powder grey, and repair to the nearby Cokey’s Arcade, where they could perambulate in a space somewhat removed from the worst effects of the near-winter cold. The arcade numbered among its shops a stationer, an art supply store, newsstands, gift shops, a department store, a nickelodeon and a barber shop. Roving gangs of ragged youth slightly older than Tandy had formulated the same plan of seeking indoor comfort and were pushing their way through crowds of Yuletide shoppers with loud hoots and cries. “That there’s the Alley Mob, from the War Side,” said Cadger Tandy. “They’ve come from the other side of the river. They’re probably looking for the Raiders, from the Hoodtown Section.”
“Gangs. T’was ever thus,” said Count Victor Justin. “From the cavemen to today. Young men will go a rovin’ and a-rovin’ till rovin’ proves their ru-i-in. ‘In Amsterdam there lived a maid….’ Are you familiar with that fine old song? ‘Her eyes are like two stars so bright…”? No? No, well the upshot is you’re wise to avoid jealous boyfriends, and, in general, to steer clear of gangs who control a certain territory that ain’t your own. Do ye ken? Chumps will fight and die over a few square blocks. Happens every week. Or you’ll see two dumb brutes fighting over a zook. Isn’t nature grand? No better than animals, they are. Look you that you don’t join them. You may think that if you get in with a tough mob, you’ll be on Easy Street for keeps, but a gang like that is only as strong as its weakest link, and in every herd of would-be lions there’s always one chicken-hearted chirping canary who will sell you down the Salt River quicker’n you can say ‘By der Neddy Jingo’–you can bank on it.
“The way to keep gangs from bothering you is to keep your head up, your eyes looking away, your pose confident, and yourself well-armed. The threat of violence is an excellent stand-in for the real thing. Let ’em know you’re already mobbed up with some heavy-hitters who would no likee if their number one boy cried foul, and they’ll give you a wide berth. Tell ’em about your mad-eyed Uncle Hector, who burned Flips alive in their huts in the South Pacific and who sees blackened dead bodies in his sleep. Hint around that you’re his favorite nephew, and that he wouldn’t take kindly to anybody who manhandled his kin. Speak softly, and carry around a load of grade-A number one bullshit. Yob. When dealing with yekkmen like that, you’ve got to be cold. Cold as an arctic breeze. Most of them are hopped up on sniffing powder anyway. You don’t want to be the victim of their mania for persecuting strangers. There’s also a lot of that sort of thing in Old Europe, you know, only over there the slums are called ghettos and gang violence is called a pogrom. Woe betide the Yiddle with his fiddle who tangles assholes with that trusty crew! Hereabouts, at least, the gangs have got a more egalitarian policy–they’ll stomp you into a blood puddle regardless of race or creed, though if you’re a Cat’lick among Protties, or vice versa, you’re in for an even more monumental beating.
“I guess what I’m saying is that there’s gangs and there’s gangs. In certain neighborhoods, it’s a war of all against all. Unless you travel in a pack, you’re subject to be beaten and robbed at any time. But in some of the other enclaves, there are eyes on the street. If you manage to make yourself fit in and dispense a few favors, you can use your influence with the local badmen to avoid a beating. Naturally, you want to settle in the latter such place, if you have to live in the slums at all. I could tell you stories about some notorious buildings that even the police wouldn’t enter. Don’t you know that when they finally tore down one of the most notorious panel-houses on Columbia Avenue, they found the bones of twenty babies buried in what used to be the cellar? And the bones of a dozen men secreted in the walls? Murder will out. Only, in this instance, none of the perpetrators were ever caught. In some precincts, murder most foul is a hanging offense. In others, it’s just the cost of doing business, business as usual, an everyday sort of thing. That’s why the military draft should be made compulsory. Get them young hoodlums off the street and learn ’em a trade. Once they’ve been through basic training, they become detached from flights of fancy and devote their lives to living the way the factory bosses like ’em–apt to follow orders and do as they’re told, and no two words about it. Aye, the Army will either break you or make you–usually the former. Don’t take my word for it–look at any former gob or bummer or greyback–look into their eyes and you’ll see their empty, hollow stare. Just make damned sure whatever else you do that you don’t end up that way–that is all.”
THE RED KRAYOLA
HURRICANE FIGHTER PLANE
WHY YOU SHOULD SURROUND YOURSELF WITH MORE BOOKS THAN YOU’LL EVER READ
THE COMIC STRIP CHRISTMAS PARTY
JB’S WAREHOUSE & CURIO EMPORIUM
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
STARVING POLAR BEAR ON ICELESS LAND
6* DAILY UTILITY
THE PERIODIC TABLE OF IRRATIONAL NONSENSE
THE GALLERY OF THE ABSURD
THE TEN WORST THINGS HANNA-BARBERA EVER MADE
9* RUMOR PATROL
Linda i Świetliki
Las Putas Melancolicas
11*DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
CRIME DOES NOT PAY COMICS
I am learning interesting things by reading Crime Does Not Pay Comics in sequential order.
The covers were extraordinarily gruesome from the outset. The cover of #24 (actually, the third issue) is hard to top, even today.
After the war, a stable of better artists (George Tuska, et al.) was recruited, and the magazine’s popularity exploded.
It glorified criminal enterprises and provided lurid, and frequently highly inaccurate biographies of noted criminals. For instance, see this issue (#58, DEC 1947, one of my favorites):
(“I’d like to sharpen my nails on that fat face!”)
In 1948, sales of each issue peaked at one million. There were so many imitators that Lev Gleason introduced a second title, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.
Dark Horse halted its series of reprints with Volume ten, ending with #61 (MAR 1948). (Too bad. #11 and #12 would also have been worthwhile, and would have ended the run before the comics started to get preachy.)
It diverged, within a matter of two years, from contents which glorified the criminal to stories which glorified policemen.
Certainly by 1950, as Nicky Wright observes, the crime comics had been “toned down”.
All due to the fuss made by critics of the comic book.
I just bought this from Abebooks.
Blackjacked and Pistol-Whipped: A Crime Does Not Pay Primer
Only $6.68, including shipping.
Mostly for the cover, and so I can read the introductory matter.
12* CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE
MAMIE VAN DOREN ON BOB HOPE
Does anyone remember Bob Hope? I was just the right age for Mr Hope….16. Because I turned him down he would never invite me to work with him.
Bob Hope made millions of dollars off entertaining the troops. Those tours were sold to NBC. He never did anything for the good of anyone else. He had side pieces tucked away in bungalows all over L.A. He once told Barbara Peyton that she needed a new mattress, and if she didn’t get one he wouldn’t fuck her anymore. Miraculously, he paid for it. That said, he was the most tightfisted asshole in Hollywood. Delores was complicit too. She knew what he was doing and looked the other way. It saved wear and tear on her.
Worst of all, he wasn’t funny. He was surrounded by writers all the time, and couldn’t be funny without them.
Can you tell I didn’t like him?–mamie