Monday, November 15, 2021

Women Without Morals


Women Without Morals, by Richard F. Gallagher
No month stated, 1962  Avon Books

Check it out, an entire book devoted to my favorite kind of women! Seriously though, Women Without Morals is yet another vintage men’s adventure magazine anthology, this one featuring stories by Richard Gallagher, whose men’s mag work I’ve reviewed here over the years. Interestingly, the book is copyright Gallagher, implying that at least some of the authors who worked for the men’s magazines retained the copyrights on their work; I was under the impression that all of the stories would be copyright the various publishers (with those copyrights now having expired). 

Gallagher is a good writer, and like the better writers in the field he worked for the so-called Diamond Line of magazines, ie Male and Stag and the like, which is of course where the stories collected here are taken from. Another note: the copyright page lists which issues the stories came from, however as it turns out they are not listed in order. Thus I had to do a bit of research to determine which stories came from which magazines, and I’ve noted this below, as well as their original titles. Also worth noting is that Women Without Morals did well enough to receive a second printing, the cover of which I’ll place below; I prefer the cover of this first edition, with the Nazi She-Devil-esque topless babe wielding a whip…a scene that sort of occurs in the first story collected here. 

And in fact, this first story is the closest we get to a Nazi She-Devil tale in the entire book. This I found perplexing; the Nazi She-Devils were the epitome of “women without morals” in the world of men’s adventure magazines, yet I’m assuming Gallagher didn’t write too many stories in the subgenre. At least, so far I’ve only read one story by him that nearly fits in the category: “G.I. On The Ship Of Lost Frauleins.” The story in this book, though, “Hanne Jaegermann, The Sweatered Fraulein,” is actually more of a Nazi She-Devil yarn than that later one, even though the titular Hanne is not specifically stated as being a Nazi. But really it’s just splitting hairs, as gradually we learn that Hanne has attained her position of power thanks to her casual affair with none other than Goebbels. So I’d say she’s a Nazi She-Devil by default. 

The story first appeared in the February 1959 Stag, where it was titled “Fraulein Barracks.” As with the other stories collected here, it’s fairly long, running to around 40 pages of small, dense print, and it was labelled a “True Book Bonus” in the original magazine edition. Those Diamond Line mags didn’t short-change their readers, that’s for sure. Also, this story, like the others collected in Women Without Morals, is written in third-person. (As usual though the illustrations that graced the original magazine editions are not featured here.) Taking place in the last months of the European theater of WWII, “The Sweatered Fraulein” concerns Sgt. John Leonard, an injured airman who, along with other Allied prisoners, is taken to a prisoner of war camp in an old fortress called Alpenhaus, in the Bavarian Alps. 

Alpenhaus, Leonard soon discovers, now serves as a “cat house,” a rather beaten-down one at that, reserved for Nazi VIPs. It’s patrolled by old guards, most of them vets of the First World War who have little interest in Hitler but are “doing their duty” for Germany. But most importantly it’s overseen by Hanne Jaegermann, a young, beautiful, and built blonde (her hair so blonde it’s almost white, we’re informed) who likes to wear tight sweaters that are always either white or black. And in true “Nazi chic” fashion her apartment in the fortress is decorated solely in black and white. There’s an old vet here who is officially the commandant, but Hanne is clearly in charge, and this puzzles Leonard. He soon runs afoul of the woman, though; when he’s called into her presence because he speaks fluent German, Hanne demands that Leonard act as her official translator for the American prisoners. When Leonard refuses, he soon understands he’s made a powerful enemy, one who will enjoy toying with him. 

So begins a twisted sort of psycho-sexual tale in which Hanne constantly abuses and humiliates Leonard – making him scrub the floor and then dumping the bleach-filled water on his face, having him beaten up by her sadistic henchman, punishing (and killing) other prisoners as a warning to him, and etc. While Hanne toys with Leonard, saving him “for a rainy day,” she is even more brutal with the other prisoners; she has a few people taken down by her Dobermans (one of the victims a young prostitute who refuses to sleep with a certain Nazi official), orders some other people shot, and in the most harrowing example she has one guy stripped and then beats him to death by smashing him in the groin with a sharpened belt buckle! This is his punishment for trying to kiss one of the hookers in the establishment. 

With her ground rules set that this will be the treatment for any prisoner who tries to touch one of the women, Hanne then sets upon toying with Leonard. In another memorable bit she calls him to her apartment, strips nude, and has him read Faust to her – but as Leonard soon learns, she’s really trying to arouse his lust so that he can try to touch her…and then be beaten to death for it. In another bit she calls Leonard once again and both she and some of the establishment girls are all nude or half-nude, and again Leonard does his best to avoid them. Suprisingly though, Leonard never does have his way with Hanne; Gallagher I’ve noticed tries to be relatively realistic in his stories, all things considered. While Hanne is certainly a smokin’ hot babe, Leonard is more concerned about his safety and thus never falls into her trap. 

Overall this was a very good, very fast-moving story, coming off like a twisted take on Hogan’s Heroes. It doesn’t get as wild as you’d like, though, save for the parts where Hanne is dispensing her twisted brand of justice. Even the parts where the Nazi elite come over for an orgy or two are relatively tame, Gallagher focused more on Leonard’s broiling anger than the sleazy fun. Speaking of which the finale is very memorable, as the Americans arrive in April 1945 and Leonard takes the opportunity to get his hands on Hanne and beat the living shit out of her. Certainly one of the few stories I’ve ever read that ended with a male character beating a female character unmerciful, up to and including slamming her face into a brick wall several times. However Hanne manages to live, and in the epilogue we’re told she was sent to prison, then later to a sanitarium for the violently insane. 

Next up is “Meiko Homma, The Japanese Iwasaki Maiden,” which originally appeared as “Imprisoned For Six Months In Japan’s Secret Female Garrison” in the June 1960 Stag. It also appeared in the first Male annual, in 1963, and I reviewed it a few years ago here. This one also stays relatively realistic throughout, despite the giant birdcage the American soldier is kept prisoner in, but a big difference between this story and “The Sweatered Fraulein” is that the hero of this tale scores with the villainous babe. 

The third story is “Bandana Husseini, The Lebanese Guerrilla Girl,” which originally appeared as “Nude Girl Raiders Of Beirut” in the January 1959 Men. This one’s notable in that it’s shorter than the other stories in Women Without Morals, is the only story in the book that doesn’t take place in WWII, and also features a female protagonist. This would be the titular Bandana, a “beautiful Arabic-looking girl” with “hair in pigtails” and “sport clothes from Paris.” It’s early 1957, and Bandana has made waves in Lebanon for her bandit activities – plus the rumor that she carries “a tommygun with a rose-colored cartridge clip.” This is another one that would’ve fit in the Women With Guns anthology, but Gallagher already had another story in that one. At any rate, “The Lebanese Guerrilla Girl” also has a different tone than the other stories here, almost coming off like a fable; there’s no real peek into the mind of Bandana Husseini, as there is with say John Leonard in “The Sweatered Fraulein;” instead the focus is on her wild deeds, with the anti-heroine coming off like a mythical figure at times. 

Bandana is in her early 20s, the daughter of a wealthy Lebanese man and a graduate of an American university, but when we meet her she’s in jail for having stolen to give to the poor. She escapes, finds safe passage with an old merchant who ends up raping her (his two drivers also getting in on the act), and then ultimately falls in with a group of rebels led by a guy named Hulim. From here she gets her own tommygun, painting it red, and begins a series of brazen acts against the establishment. Per the original men’s mag story title, she often does so in the nude, her and her two female accomplices in the group stripping down for their various commando missions. The story’s most memorable scene has Bandana getting revenge on the old rapist, orchestrating his fall off a bridge and waiting patiently for two days for him to die. Otherwise “The Lebanese Guerrilla Girl” doesn’t have the “meat” that the other stories here do, coming off more like a quick, action-packed tale with a wild child protagonist. 

Next is “Claire Molyneaux, The Commandant’s Wife,” which originally appeared as “Madame Penal” in the June 1959 Male. This is the longest story in the anthology, coming in at almost 50 pages. It’s another prisoner of war yarn, and a bit too similar to “The Sweatered Fraulein.” While it’s a fine story, I think it was a mistake including this one in Women Without Morals, as it’s inferior to that previous story, mostly because this one lacks the twisted psycho-sexual subtext of “The Sweatered Fraulein,” coming off more like your typical prison camp yarn. But given the theme of the anthology, the sadistic commandant is of course a woman, in this case Claire Molyneaux, young wife of the official commandant of a French prison camp in Latakia, Syria (Latakia being one of the places where Nick Carter gets the tobacco for his special cigarettes, at least in the volumes by Manning Lee Stokes – random factoid alert!). 

It’s 1939, and the brief intro informs us that merchant seaman Joseph Kolinsky, of Chicago, has been arrested in French territory on false chages of being an Axis ally, this being shortly after France and Germany have declared war. Along with other falsely-accused prisoners he’s hauled off to this prison camp in the middle of the desert. Soon enough he encounters Claire Molyneaux, the hotstuff commandant’s wife who is given to wearing a military tunic, shorts, and high boots; curiously though we’re informed she isn’t that hotstuff, but still pretty enough to attract attention. Her husband, the supposed Commandant Molyneaux, is old and enfeebled (we’re informed he married Claire just a few years ago and is desperate to keep her), and Claire runs roughshod over the camp, ruling the soldiers and brutalizing the prisoners. But the focus this time is much more on the hardscrabble life of Kolinsky in the prison, losing all the pulpy nature of “The Sweatered Fraulein.” 

At least, Kolinsky is a bit more of a rugged hero than John Leonard, and spends most of the novel fighting back, whereas Leonard didn’t put up as much of an effort. It’s become clear after reading several stories by Richard Gallagher that his protagonists are for the most part normal guys…perhaps a bit too normal, as they lack the square-jawed, ass-kicking virility one might expect from men’s adventure magazine protagonists. Thus, instead of swinging into action, Gallagher’s characters are more introspective and, while they will initially put up a fight against their tormentors, ultimately they will decide that life is more important than dignity. Indeed there’s a part in “The Sweatered Fraulein” where John Leonard suddenly understands why millions of cowed German Jews obediently allowed the Nazis to cart them off to the death camps: because there was always the promise of living another day. The parallels to today were quite strong, here – the hope that someday, as we continue to give up one individual right after another (all for “our safety,” of course), things will get better…despite the grim certainty that things will only get worse. For, as the stories collected in this book demonstrate, once tyrants get a taste of power they will never give it up. 

And Claire Molyneaux is certainly a tyrant, lacking even the wanton charm of Hanne Jaegermann. Her custom outfitt, you’ll note, is almost identical to the one Sergeant Homma wore in the earlier story, but unlike the previous gals in the anthology Claire doesn’t seem to have much interest in men…other than torturing them. So begins an overly long but still suspenseful tale in which Claire brutalizes Kolinsky in various ways, often humiliating him. She also often has other prisoners shot, and enjoys making them toil endlessly on the construction of a pointless road in the desert. The focus though is on the lot of the prisoners, and the villainess disappears from the narrative too often. But as mentioned Kolinsky has a bit more backbone than the protagonists in the other prison camp stories here, and at one point tries to kill Claire, but of course he fails and is tortured more. Also at one point she strips and offers herself to him – the story’s sole concession to the sleaze men’s mag readers demand – but Kolinsky won’t play because he knows he’ll suffer. Luckily Claire is drunk and passes out, seemingly forgetting her sexual proposition. 

Gallagher takes an interesting direction in the finale, in which the Germans liberate the camp, France having declared defeat and the Nazis move in. Claire Molyneaux is placed under arrest and put on a kangaroo trial for her transgressions against the prisoners. Suddenly the sadistic harlot looks like a scared little girl, and the story ends with her being pulled in front of a firing squad and strapped to a stake. She’s crying and desolate and Gallagher has it that you start to feel sorry for her. Even Kolinsky, who has finally been granted his freedom, seems to be moved by the spectacle. Claire sees him as he is leaving the compound and screams for his help, pleading with him to stop them from shooting her. Kolinsky goes over to her…and then slaps her in the face and leaves her for her execution! This unexpected gutting of the maudlin sap was the highlight of the story, but truth be told “The Commandant’s Wife” was my least favorite story here. 

Last up is “Colette Le Gros, The French Blonde,” which appeared as “The Castaway Fraulein And Her Strange Partners” in the September 1960 Male. Even though this story also features an American prisoner of war as the protagonist, it departs from the prison camp setup of the other stories, featuring the unusual plot of four men and one woman escaping across the Atlantic in a 30-foot whaleboat. It’s November of 1944 and as the story opens Robert Corti, a downed airman who served as navigator on a bomber, is held at gunpoint as he boards a boat on the coast of France. With Corti are SS Captain Wolfgang Klausewitz, Klausewitz’s bookish aid Leitner, a mysterious Frenchman known only as Pierre (I kept picturing him as the Danger 5 guy), and finally Colette Le Gros, a stacked French beauty (the most beautiful woman Corti’s ever seen in person, in fact) who is Klausewitz’s mistress. 

The shaky setup has it that Klausewitz, knowing Germany is about to fall to the Americans, wants to escape to Nazi-friendly Argentina. The commandant of a war camp, he knows he’ll hang from a noose for the brutalities he’s carried out on his prisoners. He’s plotted out his seaborne escape, but has been waiting “months” for a navigator to be shot down. Corti, finally, is that navigator, and thus he’s been drafted into this escape attempt. Leitner is coming along because he too is a Nazi, and Colette is going along because the French natives will cut her hair off and brand her as a Nazi-loving whore. As for Pierre, his background and motives are mysterious; a former member of the Maquis resistance fighters, he’s only here due to Colette, who has insisted Klausewitz bring him along. Colette also has the thoughtful insistence that Corti, Leitner, and Pierre “have a woman” before boarding the boat, to slake their needs before beginning the voyage – she’s not bound to get on a boat with four horny men, even if she does “love to be loved.” 

It’s kind of goofy…I mean they’ve stocked the boat with crates of food and gallons of water, and lots of liquor and all, but someone’s constantly holding a gun on Corti so he won’t try to escape. But you’d think that he’d get a chance at some point during the 50-day voyage to Argentina. However Corti is another Gallagher protagonist in that he’s not super willing to risk his skin. About the only difference is that he dishes out a lot of passive-aggressive backtalk; Klausewitz, for example, he takes to calling “schmuck,” explaining to the buzzcutted Nazi sadist that the word is American slang for “boss.” Gallagher seems to have more fun with this tale than the others in the book, giving each character a memorable personality; Leitner, for example, bides his time reading from a book of quotations, always trying to find the right quote for the right occasion. 

Given the setting, the lurid angle isn’t as much exploited. Corti’s early tumble with the native French gal Colette finds for him, before leaving on the voyage, is so vaguely-described that you wonder if anything even happened. But once the voyage starts the only shenangians that occur feature Klausewitz and Colette…who enjoy going off in the whaleboat’s sole cabin for a little loud lovin,’ even leaving the door open so the others can see. Colette later informs Corti that exhibitionism turns her on. And, true to the vibe of these stories, she’s often sporting a bikini during the voyage. She’s more along the lines of Bandana Husseini than the other three villainesses in Women Without Morals; she’s not a sadistic commandant, but does enjoy a nice killing or two, most notably demonstrated when a Spanish gunship stops them and Claire frags them – hiding a “potato masher” in a bag and passing it over as if it were their papers of transport. 

But what starts out as a promising suspense yarn turns into a sea survival yarn. I mean it’s good and all, with a lot of cool survival tips – like eating plankton, or a part where a hapless albatross lands on the boat and Corti catches it and they cook it (after drinking the blood and eating the uncooked liver for all the iron). But it turns out that this is the story, not the interesting opening material like who Pierre really is, or what Klausewitz hopes to do once they reach Argentina. Rather, it becomes a sea story, with all the expected tropes: a massive storm knocks out their provisions, including Corti’s navigational equipment, followed by a hardscrabble existence as they try to figure out where the hell in the Atlantic they are. And all the while someone keeps holding a damn gun on Corti, even though he’s literally the only one on the boat who knows how to survive at sea. 

Suprisingly, Gallagher finds the opportunity to include some sleaze; one night Colette comes to Corti and offers herself to him. But once again Gallagher delivers zero in the way of lurid details; indeed, he informs us that, because of the roughness of the wooden deck and the fact that they’re afraid Klausewitz will discover them, the act is “not pleasant.” Furthermore, Gallagher is not an author who tells us much about the ample charms of his female characters. The word “breasts” rarely appears in this book, in fact. For the most part, Gallagher will tell us a woman is pretty, with a nice build, and leave it at that. Even in the supposedly risque scenes – like when Colette strips down, or wears a bikini – he yields no juicy details, just stating the bare fact that the chick’s now in her bra and panties, without any word painting. Perhaps he assumed the artist would handle the T&A and figured his words would just be redundant. 

As I read “The French Blonde” I started to experience déjà vu, and realized that it was similar to another Gallagher story I’d read – “Buried Alive: A Jap Lieutenant, Three Pleasure Girls, An American G.I.” The two stories are pretty similar, despite that one being set underground and this one being set on the sea. Again Gallagher takes a plot rife with exploitative potential – I mean a hot and horny blonde stuck on a boat with five randy guys (one of ‘em a friggin’ SS officer!!) – but ignores the exploitative stuff and goes for a reserved, “realistic” tone. As I say, the writing is fine, and the character touches are great, but the issue is that this “survival” stuff takes over the story and all the promise is ultimately jettisoned. For that matter, the finale is a harried postscript in which we learn that, upon reaching Portugal (once Corti takes the helm…after the others have been incapacitated by the DTs, a shark attack, and a salt water-jammed Luger), Corti split away from the group, recovered for a few months, and returned to England to continue fighting in the war…and he has no idea what happened to Klausewitz, Colette, Leitner, or Pierre! 

And that’s all there is to Women Without Morals, which I picked up some years ago and intended to read at the time. I’m surprised it took me this long to get to it, as it seemed to promise all I could want from a men’s adventure magazine anthology. But as it turns out, Gallagher’s stories are a little too conservative for the men’s mag genre…I mean these particular “women without morals” seem positively saintly when compared to some of the women in, say, Soft Brides For The Beast Of Blood. But on the other hand, as mentioned Gallagher is a very competent writer, providing a lot more character and narrative depth than you’d ever encounter in “the sweats.” Yet personally, if we’re talking of Diamond Line authors, I much prefer the work of Mario Puzo and Emile Schurmacher.

Here is the cover of the second edition:

3 comments:

Matthew said...

So in one of the stories the protagonists is rescued by Nazi's?

Robert Deis (aka "SubtropicBob") said...

Very cool! I wasn't aware of that one. Thanks, Joe!

Joe Kenney said...

Thanks for the comments! And Matthew, yes -- I forgot to elaborate in the review, but Nazis free Kolinsky at the end of "The Commandant's Wife." This is before the US and Germany are at war, though the Nazi officer confirms that "Kolinsky" isn't a Jewish name! (It's Polish.)