This is a story about American teen-agers—high school rebels, frantic dolls, hot-rod hipsters and jive-talking cool cats—and the terror that stalks their young lives.

It is also the story of a youth who takes his life in his hands to smash the fearful trap of the world’s dirtiest racket – narcotics!

-- Teaser text from the back of Morton Cooper's High School Confidential (1958)

High School Confidential is the tie-in paperback to one of the greatest B-movies ever made: HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL! (1958). It concerns a cop, Tony Baker, who goes undercover at a high school to bust a narcotics ring. In order to blend in with the kids, Baker speaks an extreme form of mid-century jive. The book is based on an earlier draft of the screenplay than the final shooting script, so it offers a few interesting deviations from the released film.

Most notably, the poem that the poetess character reads is completely different from the one Phillipa Fallon so memorably reads in the movie. There is also an introduction to the poetess character with a physical description of her that is interesting to read. In the film Fallon just takes to the stage without any MC introduction.

For all those obsessives out there, here is the entire passage:

Mr. A stood at the microphone and croaked: “And now for only the hip—all others may cut out: We got that eminent poetess of Pokeyville, reading her latest masterpiece, “The Big Swich.’” The book describes the poetess character as “horsy, oddly unhealthy looking.” “The applause was ear-shattering as she waddled to the mike and nodded conspiratorially to Mr. A. The combo began to play rhythmically behind her, and she read melodramatically from a paper she plumbed from her overripe bodice:

The world was a world of Kings and men—
And we like hooded falcons.
Don’t dig it anymore—don’t dig
Such fancy tales.

Don’t dig that old music without a fix.
But dig that crucifix…

Ever been cold on a summer’s night—
And coughed the blood of dawn?
Then you’re hip to the big switch, friend

The world’s a world of dollar smokes
And where you find the loot?
The kings, they all pushin’ weed—
I take me off my hood.
The grass is green, no more—
Crazy, man, it’s red.
The lights grow narrow, doll
You tune me in?

The streets are wet—I got no shoes
You think there’s a way to run…
Sure there is—the curve of the big
Switch, friend.

The performance was over and the poetess waddled off, apparently too overcome with emotion to respond to the applause.

When HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL! was released in 1958, producer Albert Zugsmith published the “High School Confidential! DIGtionary” to be used in the publicity campaign. The DIGtionary was a short slang dictionary booklet that included the hep jargon used in the film. Mel Welles, who has a small role in the film as Mamie Van Doren’s drunk date, provided Zugsmith with most of the hipsterisms used in the film as well as the beat poem (“High School Drag”) Phillipa Fallon performs. Welles earned a “Special Material” credit on the film for his writing contributions.

Since it is next to impossible to find a copy of the DIGtionary today, one of the major selling points of the novel tie-in for High School Confidential is the fact that the slang dictionary is included in the back of the book. It is listed under the title of “The New Dictionary of American Slang compiled by Albert Zugsmith.”

Here are a few sample entries:

COOL IT, CATS!: Stop the noise, kids!

DO YOU HAVE ANY WEED TO TORCH UP ON?: Do you have any marijuana cigarettes to be lit?

DRAG AND EAT PAD: Restaurant

GIVE ME AN INTRO TO THIS SNAKE, AND I’LL HITCH UP THE REINDEERS FOR YOU: Introduce me to despicable person, and I’ll get the marihuana cigarettes for you to smoke.

MAKES ME FRANTIC: Gives me a laugh



Morton Cooper’s novelization is recommended for those die-hard fans of the film who cannot “kick the habit” and need another “fix.”

Also recommended for cats and kittens who crave more Beatsploitation is the movie tie-in for another Zugsmith production, The Beat Generation.

By Morton Cooper
Based on a screenplay by Lewis Meltzer and Robert Blees; Screen story by Robert Blees
Copyright 1958; Published by Avon Publications, Inc. / New York
143 Pages

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