Monday, November 28, 2022

Because I Needed a Latimer Fix ...

Red Gardenias, by Jonathan Latimer (Methuen, 1939). This was the fifth and final novel to star Latimer’s “booze-soaked and possibly inept” New York detective, Bill Crane.
Cover illustration by C.W. Bacon.

Dark Memory, by Jonathan Latimer (Permabooks, 1953).
Cover art by Carl Bobertz.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Turkey Day, Everybody!

Super-Detective, February 1942. Cover art by Hugh Joseph Ward.

As I understand it, the pulp magazine Super-Detective began in the 1930s as Super-Detective Stories, but failed after only 15 issues. It was revived in October 1940, with each edition containing “a book-length novel” about Jim Anthony. The Thrilling Detective Web Site’s Kevin Burton Smith describes Anthony as “part super-hero and part super-detective,” whose “gadget-filled exploits full of derring-do and buxom damsels in distress appeared off and on until his last story in October 1943.” The Anthony yarns were credited to “John Grange,” but that was only a house name under which authors such as Victor Rousseau, Robert Leslie Bellem, and W.T. Ballard wrote.

Friday, November 4, 2022

Another Look: “The African Queen”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.

Left: The African Queen, by C.S. Forester (Bantam, 1949); cover illustration by Ken Riley. Right: The African Queen, by C.S. Forester (Bantam, 1960); cover art by James Avati.

Cairo, Egypt-born British author Cecil Louis Troughton Smith (1899-1966) is best remembered by his nom de plume, Cecil Scott “C.S.” Forester. He penned the 12-volume Horatio Hornblower series, set onboard naval ships during Europe’s Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), in addition to non-fiction books and more than 20 standalone novels. The African Queen, which takes place in German East Africa during World War I, was originally published in 1935. In 1951, it was adapted—with a variety of changes—into a big-screen film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Subsequently, two different pilots were shot in hopes of bringing this story to television: one that showed in 1962 as an episode of NBC’s Dick Powell Theatre, starring James Coburn and Glynis Johns; and another, on CBS in 1977, featuring Warren Oates and Mariette Hartley. Neither spawned a weekly contribution to the boob-tube schedule.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Because I Needed a Slesar Fix ...

The Gray Flannel Shroud, by Henry Slesar (Zenith, 1959).
Cover illustrator unidentified.

READ MORE:Henry Slesar,” by Russell Atwood (Ellery Queen
Mystery Magazine

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Another Look: “The Longest Second”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.

Left: The Longest Second, by Bill S. Ballinger (Signet, 1959); cover illustration by Robert Schulz. Right: The Longest Second, by Bill S. Balllinger (Corgi, 1960); cover art credited to John Richards.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Front to Back: Just a Matter of Crime

Part III of a series spotlighting wraparound paperback art.

The Red Lamp, by Mary Roberts Rinehart (Dell, 1961).
Cover illustration by Victor Kalin.

What’s that saying about there being no accounting for taste? While this series has already brought you abundant examples of knockout painted artwork for the wraparound covers of science-fiction and historical novels, many of the specimens I find in the crime and thriller genre feature photographs, instead. Most of them are pretty cheesy, such as those fronting the 1970s James Hadley Chase releases displayed below. Only rarely does a mystery or detective yarn boasting a front-to-back camera shot rise to the level of being memorable—an example being the Signet softcover edition of Mickey Spillane’s 1972 standalone novel, The Erection Set, which captured the author’s second wife, actress Sherri Malinou, in the buff.

Nonetheless, this literary field is not without its handsome wraparound covers. Two of the best actually appeared on hardcover editions of James Bond espionage adventures, brought to market by British publisher Jonathan Cape: the 1965 version of Ian Fleming’s The Man with the Golden Gun, with an illustration by Richard Chopping; and the first 007 continuation novel, 1968’s Colonel Sun, by “Robert Markham” (aka Kingsley Amis), which features a painting by Tom Adams. American artist Robert McGinnis took multiple opportunities to create elongated cover art. Of the paperbacks you’ll see by scrolling down this post, he was behind the fronts of The Girl Who Was Possessed, The Bump and Grind Murders, and A Corpse for Christmas (all entries in Alan Geoffrey Yates’ long-running Carter Brown series), as well as Brooks Wilson, Ltd. and Virgin Cay.

I’m sorry to say that my collection contains none of the crime, mystery, and thriller books with painted fronts that are showcased below. I can only share scans of them borrowed from other sources. Among the artists whose work is to be found here are Arthur Sarnoff (Driven), Richard M. Powers (Blood on the Desert), Tom Adams again (Hickory Dickory Death and Mrs. McGinty’s Dead), Barye Phillips (Death Is a Lovely Dame), Victor Kalin (The Red Lamp, Episode of the Wandering Knife, The Confession and Sight Unseen, The Dry and Lawless Years, and Hillside Strangler), Michael Codd (First Blood), Charles Moll (Cocaine Blues), Mitchell Hooks (The Ranch Cat), Gordon Johnson (Devil’s Gamble), and Tom Simmonds (Jaws).

Click on any of the images here to open an enlargement.

Should things work out as planned, I shall produce one final post about wraparound book fronts before wrapping up this latest series. It’s likely to show up in Killer Covers sometime in November.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Because I Needed a Pearce Fix …

The Mark of the Pasha, by Michael Pearce (‎Poisoned Pen Press; 2010). Sudan-born English novelist Pearce, who died earlier this year, penned 19 mysteries built around Gareth Cadwallader Owen, a Welsh army captain who has gone to serve as the head (or “Mamur Zapt”) of Cairo, Egypt’s secret police in the early 20th century. This congenial series began in 1988 with The Mamur Zapt and the Return of the Carpet and concluded in 2016 with The Women of the Souk. The Mark of the Pasha was the 16th installment. Pearce’s 1992 tale, The Mamur Zapt and the Spoils of Egypt, won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Last Laugh Award for funniest crime novel of the year.

Cover illustration by John Dawson.

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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Bits and Bytes

• Having already written about artists Tom Adams and Mara McAfee, both of whom painted elegant covers for paperback editions of Agatha Christie’s novels, Passing Tramp blogger Curtis J. Evans today provides an assortment of other mid-1900s Christie fronts. Among them are works by William Teason (1922-2003).

• The Paperback Palette’s Jeff Christoffersen has a new post out this month about “consummate illustrator” Gordon Johnson (1924-1989), who created artwork for books by David Morrell, Helen MacInnes, Jack Higgins, Donald Hamilton, and many other authors. “Johnson’s forte was realism,” explains Christoffersen, “starting with the illustrations he produced for various magazines in the 1950s, such as The American Weekly. It would seem that his first book commissions, or those that I’ve been able to discover, adhere from about the mid-1960s, and constitute mostly teen titles from publishers like Grosset & Dunlap and Whitman. From that point on though, Johnson did what all ‘consummate’ illustrators did when the great Silver Age of Mass-Market Paperbacks got heralded in, he began producing cover art for nearly every major paperback house in New York City. Along the way he mastered each and every genre that stood before him, the ‘fantastics being perhaps the only omission.”

• Finally, prolific author-blogger James Reasoner has more than a few nice things to say about George Gross: Covered (New Texture), the latest book-length study of a classic magazine and paperback artist by Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle. “This is one of the most beautiful books you’ll ever see,’ he writes, “reproducing in vivid detail many of those MAM [men’s adventure magazine] covers Gross painted. I’d post some scans of those issues, but they wouldn’t come close to equaling the reproduction in this book. In addition, Deis and Doyle provide an informative introduction, David Saunders contributes a fine biographical essay about Gross and his work, and fellow artist Mort Kűntsler, who was mentored by Gross, reminisces about their friendship and offers expert comments about Gross’s work.” Although I’ve not yet ordered a copy of this book, it’s definitely on my must-have list. And based solely on its cover art, I shall plunk down for the paperback edition.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Front to Back: Future Tense

Part II of a series spotlighting wraparound paperback art.

Beyond Tomorrow, edited by Damon Knight (Pan UK, 1973). Cover illustration by Ian Miller, with an unusual title typeface dating back to the early 20th century.

OK, so it’s now been a couple of weeks since I began posting my multipart look at wraparound paperback fronts. We finally turn to the science fiction and fantasy genres, which have left us with more examples of this extended artwork than any other category of book. Many more examples. And some beauts, to boot.

I was a big reader of SF during my teenage years, and I own some of the specimens displayed below (most of which are softcovers, with a couple of hardbacks thrown in). Others I can only wish to have found and collected when they we still available for their modest cover prices. Among the artists represented below are Dean Ellis (Protector, The Lost Continent), Peter Andrew Jones (A World Out of Time, The Patchwork Girl), Michael Whelan (The Smoke Ring), Brad Holland (Cities in Flight), Ken Laidlaw (Doctor Rat), Gervasio Gallardo (Fungi from Yuggoth & Other Poems), the remarkably prolific Bruce Pennington (Satan’s World, Dune Messiah, Lost Worlds), Ian Miller (Guardians of Time, Long After Midnight, I Sing the Body Electric!, S Is for Space, R Is for Rocket, The Golden Apples of the Sun, The Time Machine), Richard Powers (Brain Wave, Expedition to Earth, Indoctrinaire), Bob Pepper (A Voyage to Arcturus, The Mask of Circe, The Omega Point), Louis Glanzman (Tales of Neverÿon), Chris Moore (The Fountains of Paradise), David McCall Johnston (Orlando Furioso, The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders), Leo and Diane Dillon (Strange Wine), Paul Slater (The Space Machine), Jeff Jones (The Dying Wizard, The Vultures of Whapeton), Tony Roberts (Double Star), Patrick Woodroffe (Waldo & Magic, Inc., Seven Footprints to Satan), Alan Lee (The Lost World), Ian Pollock (Profundis), Chris Foss (Orbit 4), Ray Cruz (The Shaving of Shagpat), Chris Yates (Rogue Moon), Josh Kirby (Wooden Centauri), Don Maitz (The Virgin & the Wheels), and Robert LoGrippo (The Boats of the Glen Carrig).

Also well-remembered for his wraparounds is Tim Gill, who created beautiful fronts for Brian Aldiss’ Helliconia trilogy in the 1980s.

Click on any of the images here to open an enlargement.