Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two-fer Tuesdays: Get Me Rewrite!

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

My interest in journalism goes back to my college years. I had been given the chance to join the newspaper staff in high school, but since I was attending that Catholic institution solely for its educational opportunities (yes, I was a very serious young student), extracurricular activities had no place in my schedule. Not until I reached college and began living away from home did I allow myself to do things other than study. Joining the staff of that school’s weekly paper proved to be an excellent decision, not only because it showed me that I could make a living writing (the only thing I really dreamed of doing), but introduced me to a lively, intelligent bunch of co-workers and put me in the position of interviewing such famous visitors to the college as Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, singer Sarah Vaughan, and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

In the decades since, I’ve made some mistakes in my career and been disappointed at times with what the field offers, but I have mostly enjoyed the challenges. The two books under consideration here today, however, make me think I have lived an altogether sheltered and tame journalistic existence.

The Roving Eye, by Michel Wells (Ace, 1957), is described on its back cover as “an intimate peep into the plush jungle that is the hunting ground of the world’s highly paid foreign correspondents.
Men like Robert Adams, whose sensational stories might sell out an issue of a magazine, yet whose private life was a cauldron of secret ambitions and thwarted desires. Women like the gorgeous Natalie Connors, envied queen of magazine feature writers, who used her sex like a precision tool for personal advantage.

What happened when those two dynamic personalities clashed over a scandalous story that could blast the lid off a certain publisher is a tension-taut novel of the resorts of Mexico, the luxury towers of Manhattan, and the sensual byways of Paris.
The Roving Eye’s jaded protagonist, explained John Maxwell Hamilton in his similarly titled non-fiction work, Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting (2009), “travels with ‘guts, wits, and typewriter in hand.’ On the book’s cover a dark-haired beauty massages the correspondent’s back while he drinks wine and hammers out a story on his typewriter in a Paris hotel room. ‘Robert Adams’ adventures as he hunts down the real story--and the real truth--make a sensationally thrilling novel of one of the world’s most exciting professions,’ proclaims a promotional blurb.”

It’s an eye-catching cover, indeed, even though I can’t for the life of me figure out who painted it. Unfortunately, when digital publisher Singularity & Co. acquired the rights to The Roving Eye, it chose not to use the original book front, opting instead for a design that employs a rather famous photo of actress Ava Gardner.

Now let’s turn out attention to the second façade featured atop this post, from the 1962 Beacon Books release The Thrill Makers, by Brad Hart. The artwork in this case is credited to the prolific Stanley Borack. His illustration shows a youngish gent grinning in obvious satisfaction as he straightens his tie after what we can only presume was a sexual liaison with the underwear-clad woman on the bed. That man looks an awful lot like actor-model Steve Holland, who later provided Borack with inspiration when he painted the fronts of Ted Mark’s “Man from O.R.G.Y.” espionage yarns.

According to its cover teasers, The Thrill Makers is all about “what takes place behind the scenes at those Sexy Magazine editorial offices” where “cynical editors and photographers … will go to any lengths to satisfy thrill-seeking readers.” I was much too young to ever work for one of those Mad Men-era Sexy Magazines (don’t forget to capitalize both of those words!), but the back-jacket copy makes it sound like a wild time was had by one and all:
What is behind the tremendous success of today’s crop of Girlie Magazines? … Are such magazines deliberately being edited to stimulate and inflame senses to the point where anything can happen--and often does?

Here is the long suppressed story of such a magazine and the people who make it tick--you’ll meet …

Brad Carlton, who edited the magazine and insisted upon doing his own research.

Maureen Casey, the beauty who took strange delight in photographing other beauty--in the nude!

Ivory Black, who was a model of the art of cheese-cake and an avid student of other forms of art.

Sheila Tatum, who had some remarkable connections … and vices.

--Together they made
Satyrus into a tremendous success!
Maybe more of a success than The Thrill Makers itself. As one Amazon reader-reviewer opines: “The Thrill Makers doesn’t really deliver on its promises, although if you want to get technical, it does in a way. What I mean is that, yes, you learn about the types of things that go on behind the scenes at a girlie magazine--business-type things, though, not sexy-time things. That isn’t to say this book is devoid of making the love, it’s just not in the context I was expecting it to be. The last half of the book is taken up almost wholly with legal issues. About as exciting as watching paint dry. Actually, I’d rather watch the paint. Two good things: Goat People and a Reasonable Person can be found within these pages. That makes it not as bad as it could be.”

Brad Hart is not a familiar author to me, but it turns out he penned at least one more novel, an equally male-oriented tale called Bella Vista’s Wives (1963). Perhaps that does a better job of delivering the sexy goods. Not that I’m anxious to track down a copy …

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sinning on the City’s Edge

Love in Suburbia (1964); cover art by Raymond Johnson.

Well, I’ve done it again, folks. So pleased was I with last week’s expansion of my summertime book covers gallery, that I decided to update and add to another post from around that same time. In May 2009, I cobbled together an assortment of “suburban sin fiction” fronts from the mid-20th century, which included works such as Adultery in Suburbia, Sexurbia County, Split-Level Love, and Shopping Center Sex. In the years since, however, I’ve found many more examples of that genre, and have now added to my gallery--boosting the number of paperbacks on display from 16 to a whopping 76.

Click here to enjoy the whole set.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer Stock

Blood on Biscayne Bay, 1960. Illustration by Robert McGinnis.

Longtime Killer Covers readers know I occasionally go back and update or expand older posts. I have learned a great deal about blog design since I began working in this medium back in the summer of 2005, so periodically I want to fix things. Often that means resizing artwork to fit my changing preferences, or sprucing up galleries of book covers I feel are in need of better or additional artwork. For instance, it wasn’t that long ago that I expanded my collection of “kiss covers” from 2012 as well as an assortment of “leggy covers” from 2010. In both cases, I think, those posts are now even more fun.

Half a dozen years ago, in June 2009, I got the brilliant idea to assemble an array of book fronts celebrating the pleasures and intrigues of summer. For Killer Covers, I put together a selection of 27 such façades and thought that was enough. But last July I decided to revisit what I have come to realize is a remarkably expansive field of summer-related paperback fronts, creating what I thought was a beautiful mini-series of posts called “The Heat Is On.” Again, I figured I was done with the theme. But ever since then, I have been filing away more examples of such works. And as this first week of 2015 got into gear, bringing with it record temperatures here in Seattle, I decided the time was right to compile the full results of my Web research on this subject.

So click right here to enjoy the new and improved post, “Summertime, and the Dying Is Easy.” I haven’t made significant changes in the text of that blog entry, but you’ll discover that the gallery is now more than three times the size it was, boasting 89 covers, with contributions from Harry Bennett, Robert McGinnis, Barye Phillips, Charles Copeland, Paul Rader, Ernest Chiriacka (“Darcy”), Mitchell Hooks, and others.

Finally, f you think I’ve overlooked any prize examples of summertime covers, please don’t hesitate to tell us all about them in the Comments section of this post.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chew on This

I don’t want to spend much more time on the subject of shark covers, but after Saturday’s post in The Rap Sheet about Roger Kastel and his illustration for the 1975 paperback release of Jaws, I came across the hardly less hair-raising book front featured below and on the left.

Killer Sharks: The Real Story, by Brad Matthews, was published in 1976 by Manor Books. As one customer review on Amazon says, it “purports to be the story of a survivor of the U.S.S. Indianapolis … who mounts a one-man crusade to kill a thousand sharks in his lifetime as revenge for the carnage following the sinking of the Indianapolis.”

Indeed, the U.S. Navy heavy cruiser Indianapolis was sunk in the South Pacific in July 1945, during World War II, following a torpedo assault by a Japanese submarine. Some 300 of the ship’s 1,196 crewmen went down with the vessel, while the rest were cast adrift on the ocean, dependent on whatever supplies they could collect from among the debris. More than three days passed before rescuers reached the site, and by then only 321 of the sailors remained alive; three more died soon after. Most of the deceased had succumbed to hypothermia, starvation, and dementia, but others were reportedly attacked by oceanic whitetip sharks or tiger sharks.

A boilerplate description of Killer Sharks’ story reads:
During WWII, Brad Matthews watched in horror as hundreds of his comrades on the torpedoed Indianapolis were torn to shreds by ravenous killer sharks. From then on, the young oceanographer vowed to devote his life to the study of nature's most perfect killing machine. His adventures span three decades of bloody encounters with the gaping jaws of death. He has witnessed sharks gorging themselves on human flesh, heard the cries of terrified victims he could not help, and barely escaped the savage attack of a great white. This is the real story--a saga written in the blood of countless men and women.
That all sounds good … except that “Brad Matthews” was a pseudonym of American thriller novelist Nelson DeMille, who was born in August 1943. At the time of the Indianapolis disaster, he’d have been approaching his second birthday. The story goes that DeMille was asked by his then publisher to compose a book capable of cashing in on the Jaws frenzy, and Killer Sharks was the result.

Despite the dubious veracity of its contents, the cover of Killer Sharks remains a grabber. Its painting is credited to Ken Barr, who was born in Scotland in 1933 and has also created movie posters and done a great deal of work for comic-book publishers. A small selection of Barr’s other book fronts can be enjoyed here.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Just When You Thought It Was Safe …

Today marks 40 years since the cinematic debut of Steven Speilberg’s 1975 summer blockbuster horror yarn, Jaws. To commemorate this occasion, I have posted in The Rap Sheet a gallery of book and magazine covers by Roger Kastel, the artist responsible for the 1975 paperback front of Peter Benchley’s novel as well as the iconic poster advertising Spielberg’s box-office hit. Check it out here.

READ MORE:So What Else Is on the Menu?” by J. Kingston
Pierce (Limbo).

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Finds: “The Pledge”

Another in our growing line of context-free covers we love.

The Pledge, by Friedrich Dürrenmatt (Signet, 1960).
Illustration by Sanford Kossin.

Originally published in 1958, The Pledge--or using its German title, Das Versprechen--is a “spellbinding” crime-fiction novella (only 176 pages long in one easily available paperback edition) by Swiss author and dramatist Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990). As a 2006 write-up in The Guardian explains, Dürrenmatt “was a prolific writer of detective novels with a low regard for detective fiction. ‘You set up your stories logically, like a chess game: all the detective needs to know is the rules, he replays the moves of the game, and checkmate, the criminal is caught and justice has triumphed. This fantasy drives me crazy.” The Pledge was designed to express his criticism of the genre, and as a result carries the subtitle Requiem for the Detective Novel (or in German, Requiem auf den Kriminalroman). The University of Chicago Press Web site offers this brief plot synopsis:
Set in a small town in Switzerland, The Pledge centers around the murder of a young girl and the detective who promises the victim’s mother he will find the perpetrator. After deciding the wrong man has been arrested for the crime, the detective lays a trap for the real killer--with all the patience of a master fisherman. But cruel turns of plot conspire to make him pay dearly for his pledge.
Guardian critic Alfred Hickling says this of The Pledge:
Dürrenmatt’s tale doesn’t so much alter the rules as sweep all the figures to the floor. Three young girls, each with blonde braids and red dresses, are found dismembered in the woods. A pattern seems to emerge, yet the attempt to catch the killer develops into a fruitless obsession which drives the head of the investigation insane. Dürrenmatt incorporates fairy-tale archetypes to distort the typical conventions of a psychological thriller--when little girls in red dresses skip off into the woods, should the investigation team focus their enquiries on a big, bad wolf? Not a book for anyone who likes a tidy conclusion, but as Dürrenmatt says: “The only way to avoid getting crushed by absurdity, is to humbly include the absurd in our calculations.”
If all of this reminds you of a Jack Nicholson film, there’s good reason. He starred in a 2001 movie based quite loosely on Dürrenmatt’s story, shot largely in British Columbia, Canada, and directed by Sean Penn. An earlier cinematic version of Dürrenmatt’s suspense tale, the 1958 Spanish-Swiss-German motion picture It Happened in Broad Daylight, actually provided the jumping-off point for The Pledge. Unhappy with that movie’s resolution, the author decided to write the novella from his original screenplay.

The particular edition of The Pledge shown above features a painting by Sanford “Sandy” Kossin. Born in Los Angeles in 1926, and apparently still living in New York City, Kossin is often mentioned in relation to his “Bay of Pigs” illustration, which made the cover of Life magazine’s May 10, 1963, issue. According to this online biography, “After World War II, Kossin went to [the] Jepson Art Institute in California to study drawing and design before he moved to New York City.” He taught at both Manhattan’s Parsons School of Design and the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and contributed his considerable talents as an illustrator to science-fiction magazines and publications for children. Kossin created artwork (sometimes with a humorous edge) for Boy’s Life, Reader’s Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, and others. In addition, he created book covers and movie posters. A selection of Kossin’s work can be enjoyed here.

I wasn’t aware of Kossin’s artistry until recently, but you can bet that I’ll be dipping further into his extensive portfolio soon.

Reasoner on Relationships

Here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know: Harry Reasoner (1923-1991), the Iowa native who spent many years as a television reporter and news anchor for the ABC and CBS networks, penned several non-fiction books (including 1966’s The Reasoner Report and 1981’s Before the Colors Fade) … but only a single novel.

A partly autobiographical work originally published in 1946, it was titled Tell Me About Women. According to Pulp International, “Reasoner described the book”--about a noticeably fading marriage--“as warmly received, but joked about its poor sales, and after a time admitted he cringed over the prose, perhaps because he never really knew anything about women until he fathered five daughters.” Regardless, the 1950 Dell edition of Tell Me About Women boasted a smart-looking cover by Harry Barton.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Two-fer Tuesdays: We’re Goin’ Deep

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

Maybe it’s because I watched far too much of Lloyd Bridges’ Sea Hunt TV adventure series when I was still a little tyke, but I have always thought scuba diving was a subject to be taken with great seriousness. Certainly, I have friends who take it seriously. And on those occasions when I’ve been traveling through the Caribbean or to Hawaii, and have been offered the opportunity to learn to scuba dive, the instructors have stressed the seriousness of learning proper diving procedures. Which may be why I haven’t yet tried scubaing, but have been quite content snorkeling, instead.

There’s nothing serious about the two scuba-related covers shown above, though. The one on the left comes from a 1961 Epic Book release, The Case of the Naked Diver. Its byline reads “Olin Ross,” but that was one of many pseudonyms used by W.E.D. Ross (1912-1995), a playwright, performer, and prolific author born in New Brunswick, Canada. During his fiction-writing career (which began with short stories in the 1950s, but expanded into novels in the ’60s), Ross penned works of romance, Gothic and Western fiction, and erotic narratives. Most of his noms de plume seemed to be female, but as “Olin Ross” he produced at least two soft-porn works, The Case of the Naked Diver and 1962’s Lust Planet (the front of which could have been included with my recent gallery of “wanton” fronts). I haven’t been able to find much on the Web about Naked Diver’s plot, but it’s cover line offers what’s probably a concise explanation of the book’s titillating contents: “They found passion at the bottom of the sea … but the trail led to sunken treasure and murder!!”

Why the pair portrayed on the front of this book are swimming au naturel, save for their diving gear, isn’t clear. Neither are the parameters of the “case” involving their aquatic antics. (I love this comment made by the author of the Airport Books Tumblr page: “Whoever had naked underwater homicide under their purview? I pity them and the very silly-seeming paperwork they must’ve had to fill out.”) I can tell you, however, that the artist responsible for that eye-catching cover painting was Darrel Millsap, who took on quite a bit of work during the mid-20th century for male-appeal sleaze publishers such as Greenleaf Books. (Examples of his paintings can be seen here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Compared with some of what he did on Greeleaf’s behalf, his effort on Naked Diver is a masterpiece.) Millsap is also credited with having painted covers for Barry Sadler’s Casca series of historical/fantasy novels. I’m not absolutely sure that the Darrel Millsap associated with The Case of the Naked Diver is the same one who died in San Diego, California, in April 2012, but Web sources lead me to believe it is.

Sadly, the illustrator behind our second cover this week--from a paperback titled The Scuba Set, by John Carver (Beacon, 1964)--remains a mystery. I don’t spot a credit given anywhere on the front or back of this book. But the cover line provides adequate distraction from such a deficiency. “For the first time,” it declares, “a scathing novel unmasking the sensual excesses of today’s aqualung elite!” (Sleaze-fiction publishers just loved exclamation points, didn’t they?) And the back-jacket copy gives some plot details:
Can the body beautiful hide lack of morals?

CHARLIE CROWN, spark plug of the fast-buck scuba crowd, definitely thinks so. So does his niece …

PAMELA CROWN, whose seductive figure and predatory sexual habits blend perfectly with Charlie’s scheme of things. But …

LAURA INGSTROM, realizing the game is stacked, acquires an aqualung kit--and playmates--of her own. They include …

DWIGHT O’FARRELL, the irresistible health-seeker. And after he finishes with Laura, his lesbian wife Betty moves in …

Hotly cultivating money, muscles and no-limit pleasures, how long could they get away with it? In the climax of this wholly frank, wholly different novel, you will find answers both astonishing and shocking!

A spellbinding glimpse into the private lives of scuba divers--stimulated by underwater dangers and fanatic body worship into frenzied amoral adventure.
Hell! There are enough badly suggestive terms in that short write-up to bring out flop-sweat on a priest.

“John Carver,” by the way, was one of several pen names employed by American author Richard M. Gardiner; he also wrote as “Clifford Anderson” and “Richard Orth.” Under the Carver moniker, he published such literary non-classics as The Shame of Jenny (1963), Campus Nymphs (1964), and Suburban Hotbed (1967).

Your Number’s Up

Pulp International has posted a delightful selection of vintage paperback fronts featuring roulette wheels. Who knew there were so many? I’m especially fond of the examples culled from the oeuvres of John D. MacDonald, Erle Stanley Gardner, and W.T. Ballard.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sibling Ribaldry

I’m almost ashamed of myself for associating with the inarguably squalid tale of 27-year-old Josh Duggar, the right-wing “family values” lobbyist, friend of 2016 Republican presidential candidates, and part of the TLC-TV reality show 19 Kids and Counting. As we are all aware by now, Duggar has been accused of molesting five girls when he was a teenager--four of whom were his own sisters. Although his parents dismiss these molestations as “very bad mistakes” (really, you think?), the revelations compelled Duggar to resign his position with the conservative Family Research Council. And TLC is said to be re-evaluating its commitment to 19 Kids.

I wouldn’t touch this controversy with a 10-foot pole, were it not for the fact that Duggar’s incestuous behavior reminded me of a long-ago-released paperback, an image of which I found tucked deep into my computer files. The cover above comes from the 1961 novel Brother and Sister, credited to “Edwin West.” Its author was actually Donald E. Westlake, and Brother and Sister was one of several sleazy paperbacks he wrote for Monarch Books in the 1960s.

The Violent World of Parker, a blog dedicated to Westlake’s writing, observes that Brother and Sister “is incredibly rare, probably because most people were too embarrassed to buy it and those who did were too embarrassed to keep it or sell it.” Its plot, if I understand it correctly (since I don’t own a copy either), centers around a “gorgeous and self centered teenager” by the name of Angie, whose parents were recently killed in a car crash, and who’s uncomfortable with her boyfriend’s determination to take their relationship in a more sexual direction. Meanwhile, her brother, Paul, has returned to the States from his previous stationing with the Air Force in Germany. He’s hoping to reconnect with his idealized childhood and get past the fact that his Austrian wife had cheated on him. Two confused and lonely siblings … a big empty home … can you see where this is heading?

A poster on the Goodreads site gives us this preview:
So after a very strange bit of role play in the car after a night out (in which they smooch) and a night when he comes home drunk after celebrating his honorable discharge (a bit of groping), they greet the morning by going at it like minks and spend the next few weeks in banging abandon, most likely in every room and on every floor in the house.

Of course the guilt and recrimination start clobbering them over the head and it all ends in tears, death and madness.
Brother and Sister isn’t exactly Great Literature. It may not even be great soft porn. Noting again that Paul is a member of the Air Force, Pulp International quips about that being “appropriate, because Westlake must have written this on autopilot.”

Sleazy as it is, this “tender, compassionate novel of incestuous love” boasts a handsome cover illustration by Harry Schaare (not his first foray into decorating a questionable work of fiction). Only one problem: it makes Paul appear more mature and less of a 21-year-old jackass than Westlake portrays him in the book.

“Jackass.” That fits Duggar, too.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Finds: “The Search for Tabatha Carr”

Another in our growing line of context-free covers we love.

The Search for Tabatha Carr, by Richard Martin Stern (McFadden, 1964). Illustration by Charles McVicker.

Born in Fresno, California, in 1915, Richard Martin Stern “wrote more than 20 mystery and suspense novels as well as short stories for Collier’s and The Saturday Evening Post magazines,” according to The New York Times. His 1958 novel, The Bright Road to Fear, won him the 1959 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Novel, beating out Harry Olesker’s Now Will You Try for Murder? and two other nominated works. Stern went on to pen half a dozen novels, including Interloper (1990), about New Mexico policeman Johnny Ortiz, “a half-breed Apache Indian who has the uncanny ability to solve homicides using his own instincts.” More importantly, perhaps, he composed The Tower, a 1973 thriller in which a huge fire consumes a new metal-and-glass skyscraper in New York City. Movie rights to that novel were snapped up quickly, and screenwriter Stirling Silliphant was hired to weave its plot elements together with those of a rather similar work, The Glass Inferno (1974), by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson, in order to produce the script for the 1974 blockbuster disaster film, The Towering Inferno. Sixteen years later, Stern returned to the subject of big blazes in Wildfire, about a mammoth scorcher in a New Mexico national forest. One fan of that novel says it will “scare the pants off” you.

The author had no such grand storytelling scope in mind when he sat down to produce The Search for Tabatha Carr, an espionage adventure that was originally published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1960. Kirkus Reviews offers this plot synopsis:
Tabatha Carr, if she can be located within two months, will inherit a million and a half dollars, and Willard Robbins, a young lawyer, is sent to find her … [Yet] before long he has every reason to believe she is working for Communist agents. Her brother and his wife prove to be unsuspected enemies of Tabatha’s--along with those [who] would keep him from finding her and murder in order to do so. But the trail, an attractive itinerary, leads from Paris to Vienna to the Tyrol for the final identification.
That same critique told readers to “look to sensuous touches for suspense,” and summed up the novel as “not too devious a diversion.” Rather faint praise, I think.

Stern died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 31, 2001, following his battle with a “prolonged illness.” He was 86 years old.

Round, Round, Get Around, I Get Around*

• One of the great ones, gone. The New York Times reports that “Paul Bacon, the influential designer known for creating radical, eye-catching book jackets for major literary works like Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch-22’ and Philip Roth’s ‘Portnoy’s Complaint,’ died on Monday, died on Monday [June 8] in Fishkill, N.Y. He was 91.” The Times offers a slideshow of Bacon’s best-known works, but others can be found here. And before Bacon achieved fame designing books by Heller, E.L. Doctorow, and others, he put his stamp on crime fiction; here are two Bacon-designed paperbacks from the late 1950s.

• Ontario illustrator and instructor Leif Peng, who put together the Today’s Inspiration blog, before moving his efforts over to Facebook, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $21,680 in order to produce a new hardcover book celebrating the art of Will Davies, “Canada’s premier illustrator of the Mad Men era.” So far, $16,103 has been pledged by 160 backers. There are only 19 days left in the campaign. If you can pitch in a few bucks, please do so here.

• I love the artwork fronting this German edition of Murder Wears a Mantilla, Carter Brown’s fourth novel featuring the “ravishingly beautiful” Los Angeles private eye, Mavis Seidlitz. The male cover model here has to be Steve Holland. And in all likelihood, the illustration was borrowed from some other book, but I can’t figure out which one. If you have any clues, please pass them my way. (A 1962 Signet version of Murder Wears a Mantilla can be seen here.)

• I’ve read all but two or three of Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Toby Peters private eye novels, and took the opportunity in 2002 to interview the author. So I was pleased to see Evan Lewis post this gallery of the early Peters novels. He promises more. I say, bring ’em on!

• Speaking of Lewis, he also recently put up three dramatic covers from the magazine Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective. I must admit, I am partial to the “Headlines from Hell” front.

• Want to judge a book by its cover? Here are some tips. And here’s a collection of links to articles, available online, “about the art and business of book cover design.”

More William S. Burroughs covers than you can stand!

• British publisher T.V. Boardman’s Bloodhound Mystery imprint was once very popular, though most folks have forgotten about them over recent decades. I say most people, because obviously not everyone has. Here’s an excellent compilation of Boardman releases from the 1950s and ’60s. And Nick Jones has put together a series of posts for Existential Ennui about Boardman titles, accessible here.

• Finally, I cannot sign off without highlighting a post from Pulp International, one of my favorite sources for provocative old paperback façades. Check out this “highly collectible” cover from Sheila’s Daughter, by William Arnold (Original Novels, 1952).

* Courtesy of The Beach Boys, of course.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tropical Treat

Wouldn’t you know it? No sooner did I post my extensive gallery of “wanton” covers on this page, than I discovered yet another paperback that uses the word in its cover blurb. The illustration fronting this 1966 Signet edition of Pleasure Island, a historical novel by Adam Shaw, was painted by the great Ron Lesser.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Most Wanton

Being a longtime follower of crime fiction, I’m accustomed to the same words popping up frequently in book titles. How many times, for instance, have I seen dead, death, deadly, dying, murder, kill, killer, blood, darkness, and other such terms--all dog-whistle calls for genre fans like me--decorating covers in the Mystery & Thriller aisles of bookstores? But I wouldn’t have thought that wanton would receive anywhere near so much exposure. Pulling down my copy of The American Heritage Dictionary, I find the word has more than a few meanings, among them “immoral or chaste; lewd,” “gratuitously cruel; merciless,” “frolicsome; playful,” and “undisciplined, spoiled.” Perhaps because the term wanton covers such a wide range of behaviors, it has featured on many more books than I would have imagined before researching this subject.

I’m posting here a variety of covers employing wanton. The beautiful yellow one above is from 1955’s The Wanton Hour, by Lewis Clay. Sadly, I don’t find an artist’s name given on the back cover or anywhere online. Several of the novels below, though, carry art by prominent illustrators.

The two fronts from editions of Brett Halliday’s Murder and the Wanton Bride, for instance, were both executed by Robert McGinnis, as was the first of two covers shown here for Carter Brown’s The Wanton. (The façade of Richard S. Prather’s Way of a Wanton and the second Brown/The Wanton image are credited to Barye Phillips.) The first, green-backdropped, 1959 front of Peter Cheyney’s Dark Wanton below (the one with the young woman on a bed who, oddly, smiles while observing two men battle each other) was done by Sam “Peff” Peffer. Rudy Nappi created the cover of Weep for a Wanton, by Lawrence Treat. Harry Schaare executed the dark artwork for Michael Gillian’s Warrant for a Wanton. And Robert Bonfils is admirably represented by his work below on The Wanton One, by James Rubel, and Sweet, Young & Wanton, by Don Holliday.

Click on any of these images to open an enlargement.

Additionally, I came across a number of vintage paperback books--in the crime-fiction genre and others--that use wanton in their cover teaser lines. Roswell Keller illustrated the front shown here of Patrick Quentin’s Slay the Loose Ladies (originally titled A Puzzle for Wantons). Rudolph Belarski created the artwork fronting Never Walk Alone, by Rufus King. Bonfils was again the ribald genius behind the provocative façade of No Holds Barred. Maurice Thomas was responsible for the painting on the 1952 Signet edition shown here of Cleve F. Adams’ Sabotage. And Harry Schaare gave us the lovely artwork for Crime Cop, by Larry Holden.

Suggestions of more covers for this gallery, anyone?