Monday, April 24, 2017

Because I Needed a Gardner Fix …

The Case of the Hesitant Hostess, by Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket, 1959). Illustration by Charles Binger.

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!!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Because I Needed a Christie Fix …

The Mystery of the Blue Train, by Agatha Christie (Pocket, 1963).
Illustration by Harry Bennett.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Because I Needed a Chandler Fix …

The Simple Art of Murder, by Raymond Chandler (Pocket, 1964).
Illustration by Jack Thurston.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sites for Sore Eyes

• When Michael Callahan remarks, in Vanity Fair, that “Much of the public doesn’t know Robert McGinnis,” he is certainly not talking about yours truly. In Killer Covers I’ve frequently highlighted the work of that now 91-year-old Connecticut book and magazine artist, including in a series of posts last year timed to McGinnis’ 90th birthday. In addition, I wrote about his more than half-century-long career for the Kirkus Reviews Web site, and followed that piece up with a longer one in The Rap Sheet. It’s actually Callahan who seems a bit late in showcasing McGinnis and his talents. Nonetheless, his new Vanity Fair feature is welcome, recapping the painter’s years spent building his reputation, noting the artist’s “pathological modesty,” and winning some rare face time with the man who gave us “the McGinnis Woman.” Give the piece a read.

• Although I’ve never watched the 1978 grindhouse flick Mardi Gras Massacre—which Every ’70s Movie blogger Peter Hanson describes as “a sexed-up horror picture with so much nasty gore that it received an X-rating during its original release”—I have periodically come across the promotional poster displayed on the right. Inspired by Hanson’s brutal recent takedown of the movie (“Mardi Gras Massacre offers crappy filmmaking, exploitive nude scenes, and rotten acting”), I scouted the Web in search of an artist’s credit for this stunning work, only to come across it here on Southern California bookseller and books historian Lynn Monroe’s site. It seems responsibility for that poster image belongs to Charles Copeland (1924-1979), a prolific magazine and book-cover illustrator during the 20th century about whom I have written, well, not nearly enough on this page.

• During the mid-20th century, it seems that Australia-based Horowitz Publications was in the “habit of using celebrities on its Carter Brown paperback covers.” Pulp International has slowly but quite surely been racking up a collection of those, including this appearance by U.S. actress Mamie Van Doren on Strictly for Felony (1956) and this showing by Lili St. Cyr on Homicide Harem (1965), along with sightings of Elke Sommer, Joan Collins, and Senta Berger.

• “A lusty novel about Florida crackers”?

• Illustration Press is readying the release, in July, of The Life and Art of Bernie Fuchs, by David Apatoff, a 240-page, full-color book containing more than 300 illustrations, all devoted to the life and artistic skills of Bernie Fuchs (1932-2009). Selections of his advertising and magazine work are featured, along with his portraiture. (He did a variety of TV Guide covers.) You can page through a low-resolution version of the book here.

• Back in 2008, Penguin UK released fresh editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy novels, all with beautiful covers by Michael Gillette. Since then, Gillette has also created new fronts for German publisher Cross Cult of John Gardner’s 14 original Bond continuation tales. A number of those can be enjoyed here, with the latest—for Gardner’s 1991 novel, The Man from Barbarossashown here.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bloch Party

The Will to Kill (Ace, 1954). Cover art by Rafael de Soto.

Today marks 100 years since the birth, on April 5, 1917, of Robert Bloch, the American novelist and inveterate punster remembered for penning The Scarf (1947), The Will to Kill (1954), Psycho (1959), Star Stalker (1968), and further works of crime, suspense, and science fiction. To commemorate this occasion, bloggers across the Web have been paying tribute all week to his more than half-century-long career. Todd Mason offers his own and other fine retrospectives on Bloch’s literary efforts, with additional salutes coming from Jerry House, James Reasoner, Patti Abbott, and Bill Crider (here and here). You have your work cut out for you, if you hope to read this wide range of articles, so you’d better get started right away.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tow-Headed Teases and Troublemakers

The Black-Eyed Blonde, 1944. Illustration by Reginald Heade.

My recent post on this page about the 1963 paperback edition of Atomic Blonde, by Monte Steele, reminded me that I have long thought to update a piece I put together back in 2010, focusing on assorted book fronts featuring blondes—particularly of the more nefarious female sort. When I originally assembled that gallery, I had 38 covers in my files to showcase, but since then, I have come across many more, painted by such familiar talents as Robert Bonfils, Ernest Chiriacka (aka Darcy), Robert Maguire, Denis McLoughlin, Mort Engel, Reginald Heade, Barye Phillips, Victor Kalin, Robert Stanley, Paul Rader, Robert K. Abbett, and Rudy Nappi.

Over the last few years, I’ve gone back to enlarge this blog’s collections of “kiss covers” and “leggy covers,” as well as those highlighting summer, suburban sin, and nymphs. It’s been a real treat to revisit themes from Killer Covers’ past, and to bring the formatting of older posts into accordance with my present preferences. Today, I am rolling out a much-expanded selection of books that include the word “blonde” in their titles. From the 38 such façades I called attention to in 2010, I have now boosted the offerings to 90 works, all of which you can enjoy by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bodies, Bombshells, and Berlin

When I learned recently that lovely South African actress Charlize Theron would be starring in a movie titled Atomic Blonde, I was, well, more than a bit perplexed. After all, I associated that playful title with the notably racy 1963 paperback shown above, credited to author Monte Steele (which may or may not have been a pseudonym). As Michael Hemmingson explains in his blog, Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books, Steele’s yarn—which carries cover art by Robert Bonfils—focuses around a “tongue-in-cheek tough guy, murder, and lots of sex.” He goes on to offer this plot brief:
The narrator of Atomic Blonde is Johnny Stone, an insurance fraud investigator in Desert City, Nevada, who happens upon a platinum blonde bombshell with a flat tire and a pink Caddy. He offers to help fix the flat but she keeps telling him no; but, being the ladies’ man and gentleman he is, with the possibility of getting some blonde pussy, Johnny doesn’t listen to her—and when he opens her trunk to get the jack, he finds the … dead body of a man and a diamond head rattlesnake.

The blonde takes off in his car.

Then two thugs try to kill him—they keep trying to kill him throughout the book, which takes place in 48 hours.

In that 48 hours, Johnny has sex with half a dozen women, from maids to whores to the blonde and his own girlfriend, Carol, who has no idea what a pussyhound he is—or does she? She does get him to marry her in the end.
As you might have surmised by this point, Steele’s “mindless entertainment” of a novel was not the inspiration for Theron’s Atomic Blonde. Instead, the screenplay was inspired by a 2012 graphic novel, The Coldest City, by Antony Johnston. Wikipedia says “the film takes place in Berlin, 1989, on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the shifting of superpower alliances. Lorraine Broughton [Theron], a top-level spy for MI6, is dispatched to Berlin to take down a ruthless espionage ring that has just killed an undercover agent for reasons unknown. She is ordered to cooperate with Berlin station chief David Percival [James McAvoy], and the two form an uneasy alliance, unleashing their full arsenal of skills in pursuing a threat that jeopardizes the West’s entire intelligence operation.”

This action-oriented spy picture also stars John Goodman, Toby Jones, and Sofia Boutella. It’s set for a July 28 U.S. release. (You can watch a trailer here.) The only things it may have in common with Steele’s 54-year-old softcover tale are what Hemmingson defines as “prolonged sex scenes and moments of hard-boiled violence”—two elements that are much in demand by today’s film-goers.

READ MORE:The Coldest City Warms Up to Atomic Blonde, and Charlize Keeps Spying,” by Matthew Bradford (Double O Section).

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Finds: “Be Still My Love”

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

Be Still, My Love, by June Truesdell (Dodd, Mead, 1947).
Illustration by Denis McLoughlin.

What a brilliantly evocative dust jacket this is, with its vintage sedan stopped at night along a sheer coastline, the beams from its headlights leaping far beyond the land’s end and reflected in the water. This could have been the poster artwork promoting any number of mid-20th-century noir films. Indeed, author June Truesdell’s suspense yarn became the basis for a 1949 Paramount motion picture retitled The Accused, which Variety said offered “high grade melodrama,” and starred Loretta Young, Robert Cummings, Wendell Corey, and Sam Jaffe. First, however, Be Still, My Love appeared in print in 1947, one of at least three crime novels attributed to Truesdell (1918-1996), the others being The Morgue the Merrier (1945) and Burden of Proof (1951).

In his excellent blog, Reading California, retired historian Don Napoli opines that Be Still, My Love “manages to be bad and fascinating at the same time.” Here’s his summation of Truesdell’s plot:
Wilma Tuttle, thirty-year-old psychology professor at a Los Angeles college, lives in terror of the real world. Small, frugal and constrained, she’s experienced none of the joys of everyday life. One day an arrogant and maliciously flirtatious student, Frank Parry, asks her out to dinner. They drive up the coast, where eventually Frank tries to rape Wilma. She kills him then tries to make the death look like an accident. Back home she soon must lie to Frank’s wannabe girlfriend, Connie Bradlet, who wonders why he’s broken a date. Meanwhile, a police investigation is underway. Tad Gowan, head of the LAPD homicide division, tricks the coroner’s jury into declaring the death an accident, hoping to put the killer off guard. Helping him build a case for murder is Warren Ford, tall and ruggedly handsome lawyer for the Parry family. When they ask Wilma, who’s teaching criminal psych that semester, to join them, she sees a chance to solidify her deception.
One brief online review of Hollywood’s adaptation of this tale makes clearer the inspiration for the dramatic cover illustration shown above: “When Perry* tries to rape Tuttle, she beats him to death with a tire iron. She covers up her crime by making it seem as though Perry was killed while diving into the sea from a precipitous cliff.” Unfortunately for the naïve Miss Tuttle, in the end her conscience—as well as her “burgeoning romance” with attorney Ford—undermine her desperate efforts to escape a murder conviction.

If the artistic style of this book front appears familiar, it’s likely because the painting was done by Denis McLoughlin (1918-2002), one of the most prolific and now revered British illustrators of the 20th century. David Ashford, who put together a handsome 2012 volume called The Art of Denis McLoughlin (Book Palace), declared that “In the history of British Illustration there is no one who can be reasonably compared to him.” McLoughlin’s contributions to comic books, pulp magazines, and especially hard-boiled crime novels have won him a worldwide following, though his name is rather less familiar than the art he left behind.

Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, and asthmatic as a child, McLoughlin won a scholarship to a local art school at age 14. Yet soon afterward, he took a job drawing for a Manchester-based mail-order company. In 1940, near the start of World War II, McLoughlin was called up to military service as a gunner with the Royal Artillery Depot at Woolwich (near London). “However,” explains this informative Web biography, “because of his safe posting and his skills with a brush, he soon found himself painting murals on canteen walls, and making a bob or two by sketching officers’ portraits. More importantly, his billet also gave him an unwarranted freedom to go up to London and show his artwork to various publishers.” After first wielding his paints and pens on behalf of publisher Wells Gardner, Darton & Company, in the mid-1940s McLoughlin made the commercial contact that would eventually bring him renown, with UK publisher T.V. Boardman Ltd. (aka Boardman Books). It was for Boardman that he developed three-color rotogravure comic series starring private investigator Roy Carson and science-fiction hero Swift Morgan, plus a best-selling succession of Buffalo Bill Annuals that drew on McLoughlin’s great interest in the American West. For the same house, he also became a fast but inventive painter of novel fronts.

The Guardian’s 2002 obituary of this artist notes that “During 20 years with T.V. Boardman, then the fifth largest British publisher, McLoughlin produced 700 dust jackets, scores of paperback and magazine covers, strips and illustrations … It was McLoughlin who designed the pipe-smoking, deerstalker-wearing Bloodhound emblem”—shown on the left—“that graced the Boardman Bloodhound Mystery series, and a total of some 600 crime novels alone, most of them featuring his distinctive, lower-case signature.”

That same obit says that McLoughlin’s early books “featured fully air-brushed art (around 1957, the color was reduced to save money) … Later books were pen and ink drawings, another cost-cutting decision, but McLoughlin was able to get the maximum potential from each medium. Over the years, his work ranged from fully painted action illustrations to minimalist designs. He was not frightened to experiment with layouts, incorporate photographs, or mix realism and metaphor. With his brother Colin, he often acted out scenes for reference photographs, and both starred in more than one cover.”

There are so many McLoughlin dust jackets from which to choose, it would take a book-length study such as David Ashford’s to do his portfolio justice. But I can at least offer here a few other examples of his talent—books by authors such as Henry Kane, Thomas B. Dewey,  Richard Deming, Ed McBain, and yes, one other by June Truesdell.

(Enjoy more of McLoughlin’s artistry here, here, and here.)

Wikipedia’s McLoughlin page points out that the artist’s career “spanned eight decades” but concluded sadly:
Like many others who devoted their life to commercial art in the first half of the 20th century, Denis McLoughlin was never paid a great deal for his work. Many pieces of his artwork, the Boardman book covers in particular, which Denis had been promised would be returned to him, were either lost or ended up in private collections. While he made a living, Denis never accumulated much money. Although he had a pension from the British government, he was forced to augment his income by working long past retirement age. He once commented that he never particularly liked illustrating military topics and yet that is what he found himself doing for the last 20 years of his life. Perhaps, had he been given cowboy stories to illustrate, he might have been happier.
According to this piece in Nick Jones’ blog, Existential Ennui, Denis McLoughlin committed suicide at age 84, “shooting himself … with ‘the only non-replica gun that he possessed and for which he had only the one bullet’ … because he was ‘worried about the loss of feeling in his right arm and feared that he wouldn't be able to draw again.”

* There seems to have been a change in the spelling of student Frank Parry’s last name. The novel apparently gives it as Parry with an “a,” while reviews of the movie spell it “Perry.” The things Hollywood does—go figure.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!

After posting my most recent “Two-fer Tuesdays” feature, which included Will Cook’s 1959 racing-themed novel, We Burn Like Fire, I realized I had several other examples of speedway fiction in my book-cover files. Being the generous sort, allow me to share my three favorites. The artists responsible for these are not identified.

The Young Racers, by Harold Calin (Lancer, 1963). The novel’s story was evidently rooted in the script for Roger Corman’s film of the same name. You’ll find the back cover here.

Love Me Quick, by Wayne Hunter (Beacon, 1964)

The Speed Set, by S.R. Fontaine (Midwood, 1966). You can enjoy a gander at the back cover by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Two-fer Tuesdays: Heated Rivalry

A twice-monthly pairing of book covers that just seem to go together. Click on any of these images to open up an enlargement.

Will Everett Cook was only 43 years old when he died, yet he left behind a fairly rich trove of novels and short stories, most of which fit within either the Western or adventure genre. According to a short biographical sketch prepared by the University of Oregon Libraries, in Eugene, where many of his papers are now housed, Cook “was born in Richmond, Indiana, in 1922 and died in [July] 1964. He began writing for publication in 1952 for Popular Library. During his short life Cook was a soldier, commercial aviator, deep-sea diver, logger, [and] peace officer … His hobbies included sports-car racing, sailing, judo, and barbershop singing. His pseudonyms include … James Keene, Frank Peace, and William Richards.” Together with Giles A. Lutz, an author who counted erotic novels among his credits, Cook penned additional Westerns under the joint pseudonym Wade Everett. Several of his yarns were adapted for television and film.

It’s not hard to see that the story told in Cook’s 1959 Monarch release, We Burn Like Fire, derives from his interest in what used to be called hot rods. The back-cover copy sets up the plot:
To Wendel Garland, sports-car racing was an intimate and personal thing—like making love to his sensation-starved secretary, Alice Lavery.

He lavished love and money on his Porsche Carrera and she repaid him with quick response and blazing speed—as Alice responded ecstatically to the caressing ministrations of his lips and hands.

Every time he got on the track, Wendel risked his neck to win. He knew the car could be the instrument of his death, yet there was poetry in danger—as there was poetry and danger in Alice’s dedicated depravity.
(As an aside, one commenter on this novel wrote: “‘Dedicated depravity’! I knew there had to be more to the allure of racing than just the cars!”)

In his cover painting for We Burn Like Fire, Harry Barton managed to integrate the abundant thrills of the speed track with the uplifting passions of driver Garland’s downtime. Combined with the front-cover come-on line (“He Was Obsessed with Speed—She Was Ruled by Desire”), this was a paperback guaranteed to draw the eyes of even normally jaded observers.

The same can be said, I think, for the other façade under consideration this week, from Bernice Kavinoky’s We Burn Like Candles (Popular Library, 1954). Unfortunately, its cover illustration is not credited, though one authority on such matters suggests it resembles the work of Lou Marchetti. The art certainly supports the promise, given in a blurb from the New York Herald Tribune, that this is “a story of love in all its sensual yearning and anguished frustration.”

(Right) The back cover from Kavinoky’s We Burn Like Candles.

We Burn Like Candles was originally published in hardcover by Bobbs-Merrill back in 1963 under the title All the Young Summer Days. It was the first novel by poet-playwright Kavinoky, who had apparently won a pair of Hopwood Awards from the University of Michigan, but about whom I have learned little else. Writing in the December 1952 edition of the Michigan Alumnus Quarterly Review, Donald Hill noted that All the Young Summer Days “is seriously intended and has been solemnly praised in some big newspapers. Nevertheless it is a trivial and mawkish work only masquerading as something worth your time.”

Ouch! Hill then goes on to describe the story line:
The characters with their psychological burdens are without exception the crudest soap-opera types. They are moved by their compulsions into strange and fitful errors; they wander out into the night (in their bathing suits) and on the beach, amazed, they meet their lovers and their dooms. We all know now that our psychological devils are more than a match for us. Michael Heller should never have married Marion Adler—that was his big mistake—but she threatened to kill herself and in fact made one good try, so what could he do? He could only remember his father (who had deserted his mother long ago and gone to live in Paris with the wrong sort of women entirely) and submit. But Bea, her beautiful, impulsive, well-developed sister was the one he loved (“She looked more grown-up in her black one-piece bathing suit than she had sprawled in the field”), and she loved him. As you might expect, things get worse and worse, until finally Bea is drowned in the lake by her adoptive brother, who had always loved Marion and hated Bea for reasons that—naturally—go back to his early childhood.
If this critique had not so far discouraged readers from investing in Kavinoky’s story, its conclusion may have done the trick:
As one would expect of a Hopwood winner, Miss Kavinoky uses some of the poetic resources of modern fiction, but she is the victim of perhaps the most treacherous taste I ever encountered in print.
After undergoing such editorial evisceration, it’s amazing that Kavinoky went on to pen anything at all. However, she managed to produce at least two more novels, 1957’s Honey from a Dark Hive and 1958’s The Mother (republished a year after that as So Strong a Flame—again, the fire references!—with cover art by Robert McGinnis), plus a 1966 memoir, Voyage and Return, which related the author’s “experience with cancer.” It’s unlikely she sent any of those to reviewer Donald Hill for his consideration.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cop Talk

Although he’s now better recognized for painting dusty cowboys and nude women (a few of the latter collected here), Howard Rogers—born in San Diego, California, in 1932—also built up an impressive portfolio of paperback book fronts during the mid- to late-20th century. That turn in his professional path was not inevitable.

As one online biography explains,
Howard’s career began in 1959. He emerged from the Art Center of Los Angeles and began a decade of work in Detroit illustrating for the auto industry. He didn’t illustrate cars, but instead he illustrated the people who went into the cars. As the auto industry moved towards photography instead of illustrations for their advertisements, Howard headed to New York to work for publishing houses, advertising agencies, and magazines. He did illustrations for McCall’s, Good Housekeeping, Harlequin Romance novels, and W.S. George.
Another of his clients was Bantam Books, for which he created the artwork atop this post. That cover comes from the 1972 paperback edition of The Law Unto Themselves (originally released in hardback two years earlier), written by Peter R. Runkel, then the chief psychologist at the Winston Churchill Clinic in Harlow, Essex, not far outside London, England. As the cover lines explain, this volume contains “eleven psychiatric case studies which reveal the turbulent drives, the inner torment, [and] the secret sex life of the cop on the beat.” Runkel writes in the opening pages that “over a period of ten years I have taped several hundred conversations held between myself and American policemen who came to talk with me about matters communally sacred and privately profane.” Those therapeutic exchanges—often ripe with what used to be called “dirty words”—can be a tad dry at times, but they’re also revealing of how police officers see their responsibilities, hardships, and anxieties. Of at least, how they saw them during the Vietnam War era.

I hadn’t realized until recently that Rogers also provided the illustrations for a succession of 1970s Bantam reprints of Earl Derr Biggers’ Charlie Chan yarns, most of which I inherited a decade or so ago, following my father-in-law’s unexpected demise. (Like me, he was an enthusiastic reader of crime fiction, though we didn’t have many years together to discuss the subject.) Since I also own a newer uniform line of the half-dozen Chan novels, put out in 2008 and 2009 by Academy Chicago Publishers (and featuring cover paintings by Chris Rahn), I haven’t had reason to dig up those older Bantam Chans for a while. However, as further examples of Rogers’ painterly expertise, I did so this morning, and am embedding their images below. In addition to five of Biggers’ books, I’m including here the front from Charlie Chan Returns (1974), described as “a novelization of a script by Ed Spielman and Howard Friedlander that was never produced.” It was composed by Dennis Lynds, aka Michael Collins, author of the Dan Fortune detective series.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fashionable but Fatal

It’s not an exact theft, but pretty damn close.

The (sadly uncredited) artwork fronting this premiere issue of Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, published in August 1964, looks remarkably like the illustration Ernest “Darcy” Chiriacka created for the cover of the 1958 short-story collection The Best of Manhunt, right down to the woman’s clingy red dress (one shoulder strap fallen) and trailing fur stole. Don’t you agree?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Two-fer Tuesdays: Shape Shifting

A twice-monthly pairing of book covers that just seem to go together. Click on any of these images to open up an enlargement.

As I’ve mentioned on this page before, it was quite common during America’s paperback heyday of the mid-20th century for publishers to recycle cover illustrations from one book to the next, figuring that readers wouldn’t recognize such budget-saving thievery ... or at least wouldn’t care overly much about it. Less frequently, artists were commissioned to refashion their original paintings for a second (or even third) use. That was the case, for instance, with Ernest Chiriacka’s artwork for 1961’s By Love Depraved and Lou Marchetti’s cover image for 1955’s The Wanton Hour.

It was apparently also what Robert Maguire did in order to supply the two attention-grabbing paperback fronts showcased above.

The façade on the left comes from the 1960 Pyramid edition of Ed Spingarn’s Perfect 36, a novel said to offer “a revealing and riotous story of the bosom business.” I don’t have a scan of the back cover from that issue of Spingarn’s yarn; but the verso of the original, 1957 version (from Pyramid, as well) supplies this slightly more ample description of his plot:
How much is a girl’s virtue worth?

A mink coat? A two-carat diamond ring, with husband attached?

A fling with an intellectual?

A career as a model?

Or a flat $100,000 in cash?

It was up to Rosalie to choose—it was her virtue at stake.
Perfect 36 is the rowdy story of Rosalie—and her figure—and the startling emotions it roused in every male she met! It takes you behind the scenes and screens of the fabulous brassiere trade for the funniest, fastest, most titillating novel of the year!
“Titillating,” get it? Yeah, I don’t think the guy who concocted that suggestive copy received (or deserved) a bonus in his paycheck that week. Nonetheless, given the straightforward goal of drawing as many male readers to Perfect 36 as possible, by whatever creative schemes were available, I’m sure he won at least some appreciation from his bosses, and was invited to practice his teaser-penning talents on other novels.

(Left) Lou Marchetti’s art for the 1957 edition of Perfect 36.

Maguire’s artwork for Perfect 36 was exceptional, yet only slightly less provocative than that façade text, with its beautiful young brunette wrapped in a sparkly, curve-clinging dress, striking poses before an audience of leering gents who you just know aren’t whispering among themselves about her intellectual prowess. Pay special attention to that first guy on the left, the bald-headed one twiddling his cigar … because you’ll find that he, along with a version of the woman holding the limelight on Perfect 36, also appear on this week’s second “two-fer” front, shown above and on the right.

Released in 1966, this “Midwood Double Novel” comprises—as the cover line promises—“two stories about the kind of woman around whom no man is safe”: Test in Temptation, by Laura Duchamp; and Cool and Collected, by Blake Randall. It isn’t hard to recognize that the fetching femme Maguire imagined as that “kind of woman” is essentially the same one he’d pictured half a dozen years before on Spingarn’s novel. In this case, however, she’s clad in white, rather than iridescent red; her black tresses are more tossed than before, evidently as a result of her dancing; and her left arm has finally migrated out from behind her back, but the similarities are greater than those differences. And though the scene around her is more lively and colorful than on the earlier book, the gent (in the lower left corner) most obviously moved by her movements is the same grinning stogie-chomper we saw on Perfect 36, now wearing a light blue shirt and black necktie, rather than a dark blue shirt and a yellow tie.

If you recognize the byline “Laura Duchamp,” it may be because I mentioned it a few times last fall, when Killer Covers celebrated the 110th anniversary of artist Paul Rader’s birth. Duchamp was among the pseudonyms employed by author Sally Singer, who composed a variety of soft-porn novels (including Wild and Wicked, Model Mistress, A Weakness for Men, and The Sunday Lovers) for Midwood Books and—as Pulp International recalls—was “one of the few sleaze writers who was actually female. She was also prolific as ‘March Hastings.’” According to a backside blurb, Test in Temptation focused on a woman by the name of Celeste, who “was ready to violate every rule of house and home, ready to chuck it all, husband, family, the works, in order to get the kind of love she wanted from the kind of man she wanted it from.” Meanwhile, its companion volume—Cool and Collected, by Randall (one of several pen names used by science-fictionist Robert Silverberg)—features a protagonist with broader desires: “There’s a man for every woman, but Rebecca was a woman for every man. She knew she could make men or break them. She knew all she had to do was crook her little finger and they’d fall to their knees in humility.”

With these protagonists to work from, it’s no wonder Maguire’s Midwood cover coquette looks like somebody capable of handling her own affairs—in more ways than one.