Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Finds: “Cruise to the Sun”

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

Cruise to the Sun (Dell, 1962), by Robert Carroll.
Illustration by Howard Terpning.

“Robert Carroll” was a pseudonym used by American film reviewer Hollis Alpert (1916-2007). In addition to penning biographies of show-business figures, books of movie criticism, and even a golf-humor work (How to Play Double Bogey Golf: The Art of Being Bad at a Great Game, 1975), Alpert published several novels. Some, such as The Summer Lovers (1958) and The People Eaters (1971), were brought out under his real byline, but others, including Champagne at Dawn (1961) and A Disappearance (1975), were--like Cruise to the Sun--released under the Carroll nom de plume.

READ MORE:The World of Hollis Alpert,” by Philip K. Jason (Phil Jason’s Web Site).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two-fer Tuesdays: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall ...

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

By this point, I’ve spent so many pleasant hours studying the covers of vintage paperback novels, that a buzzer goes off in my brain whenever I spot one that resembles another. However, the front of Hank Janson’s It’s Bedtime, Baby! (Gold Star, 1964) had been filed away on my computer for some while before I realized what it reminded me of. That goodness I finally got it!

The painter responsible for this most captivating façade of It’s Bedtime, Baby! was Harry Barton (1908-2001), a Seattle, Washington-born artist who--like Rudy Nappi, Sam Cherry, Ernest “Darcy” Chiriacka, and Rafael DeSoto--attended the Art Students League of New York. With the help of those last three individuals, Barton received the training and contacts he needed to break into the worlds of freelance magazine illustration and book-cover creation. He went on to paint covers for novels by Ellery Queen, James Hadley Chase, Day Keene, Gil Brewer, and other crime-fictionists, as well as the fronts for soft-core publishers such as Monarch and Midwood. Later, he specialized in fine-art paintings of the Old West.

It’s Bedtime, Baby! was one of more than a dozen Janson novels published over the years by Gold Star, though by the time it hit the newsstands in ’64, the Brit who had for so long been writing under the Janson pseudonym--Stephen Daniel Frances--had turned the reins of that “pseudo-American” thriller series over to other scribblers. Writing not long ago in his blog, Dispatches from the Last Outlaw, author Thomas McNulty opined:
The Hank Janson paperbacks are part of that forever distant past that so many of us recall with fondness. Those were the days when a spinning rack of paperbacks or comic books offered up treasures beyond comprehension. It was the era of five-and-dime stores and Route 66 and the Sinclair green dinosaur outside of gas stations. Hank Janson originated in England. The set-up being he’s a Chicago reporter and these books are his first-person account of his adventures. There are always beautiful women, usually in dire straits, and Janson, being a man that knows what he likes, decides to get involved. He’s in like Flynn, in the grandest of male traditions, and as hard-boiled as an egg but a lot tougher. In It’s Bedtime, Baby! eleven college women get caught up in a weird sorority called The Virgin Club, and Janson discovers one of these gals is behind a string of brutal kidnappings. In order to unravel the mystery, Janson needs to get close to these ladies, real close. Hot and saucy action ensues, along with murder, punctuated by droll he-man dialogue. It’s fun to read, and the pages flip past rather quickly.
Now shift your attention to the cover above and on the right, taken from the 1962 Signet edition of Murder Wears a Mantilla, by Carter Brown (aka Alan G. Yates). It’s immediately recognizable as the work of Robert McGinnis, whose artistry I have showcased many times on this page. As with the fetching blonde in Barton’s cover, the raven-tressed lovely in McGinnis’ painting is nude, playing with her hair, and seated before a mirror (only McGinnis’ subject is actually looking at herself). In keeping with the novel’s title, she’s wearing a mantilla--a lace veil worn by women in Spain and Central America.

Murder Wears a Mantilla, first published in 1957, was the fourth novel in Yates/Brown’s series starring Mavis Seidlitz, the “ravishingly beautiful” Los Angeles private eye “who plays hard and fast with men … money … and murder.” The Nick Carter & Carter Brown blog offers this brief about the story told between its covers:
Mavis Seidlitz … is the dizziest blonde who ever ended up in the Tunnel of Love after buying tickets for the Big Dipper. When she is not trying to fix her clothing, either a brazier, stockings, or chemise, she is a partner in Rio Investigations. As the story goes, Mavis is South of the border on vacation. She meets one bull fighter who she thinks is the dreamiest. The next bullfighter has a knife stuck in his back. So she starts investigating up until things get out of hand. The Black Death, 40 million pesos, The Golden Inca, people with guns. So she sends a cable to her boss, Johnny Rio. HELP.
Mavis Seidlitz (what a moniker!) wasn’t the brightest bulb on the streets of L.A. As chemist-turned-book-art collector Art Scott recalls, she was pretty much a “burlesque caricature with a semi-plausible character voice.” It’s been said as well that her “pulchritudinous assets far outweigh[ed] her mental equipment.” Yet from her first appearance, in Honey, Here’s Your Hearse (1955), until her last, in And the Undead Sing (1974), Mavis somehow managed to solve crimes and not lose her life with the same casualness that she lost her clothes. “At least once in each book,” notes Kathleen Gregory Klein in The Woman Detective: Gender and Genre (1995), “she inhales too deeply and breaks a bra strap with predictable results. … Her body and her tight clothes, peekaboo blouses, or see-through nighties fill her narration and the [male readers’] imaginations.”

Although this is supposed to be only a “two-fer” post, I can’t help offering a bonus of sorts, for in the course of my research earlier today I ran across a third beautiful cover that’s very much in keeping with those previous two. So on the left, I present the front from the 1961 Crest paperback edition of False Scent, New Zealand wordsmith Ngaio Marsh’s 21st novel featuring her familiar “gentleman detective,”
Roderick Alleyn. Again, the illustration comes from Robert McGinnis. And once more it presents a woman ensconced comfortably before a mirror, fussing with her hair. In this case, though, the shadow of a threatening hand reaches into the image from the left. In a cover line, Erle Stanley Gardner promised that this novel was “a superb chiller.” Maybe so, but it’s the cover art that really sells this edition of False Scent for me.

Drawn to New Challenges

Although I wasn’t familiar with UK-born commercial and book artist Michael Johnson until reading about him in the blog Today’s Inspiration, I’ll definitely have to seek out examples of his gorgeous work in the future. Read more about Johnson and see some of his paintings in a series of posts here, here, here, here, and here.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Finds: “The Flesh and Mr. Rawlie”

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

The Flesh and Mr. Rawlie (Lancer, 1963), by Morton Cooper. Illustration by Victor Olson.

One synopsis says this novel “which tells of a suicidal playwright on the eve of his attempt at a Broadway comeback with a frothy musical comedy.” Goodreads says: “Rawlie lived hard and fast. Then it began to change, and the road turned downhill. The women grew cheaper, the wine thicker, and soon there was too much of both.”

An earlier cover for this book, with art by Barye Phillips, is here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Make Love, Not War

As L.A. police detective-turned-crime novelist Paul Bishop recalled several years ago, “During the late sixties and early seventies a genre of soft-core James Bond/Man from U.N.C.L.E. pastiches hit the stands, each series often written by several different authors under a publishing house pseudonym. … Some series were better written than others--and some books within each series were better written than others--but all sold fairly well during their day.”

One of the best-remembered contributors to that salacious subgenre was Theodore Mark Gottfried (1918-2004), who supplemented his income as a magazine editor, writing teacher, and author of “numerous thought-provoking non-fiction books for middle-grade and high-school readers” by penning--under the pseudonym Ted Mark--“sexpionage” adventures featuring “The Man from O.R.G.Y.,” “The Girl from Pussycat,” and “The Man from Charisma.” In his obituary for the New York Sun, Stephen Miller focused particularly on Gottfried/Mark’s Man from O.R.G.Y. works:
The O.R.G.Y. books were so satirical--the immediate reference was to the series The Man from U.N.C.L.E.-- that not even their hero, the gamely named Steve Victor, took his missions seriously. “O.R.G.Y. is the Organization for the Rational Guidance of Youth,” Gottfried wrote by way of introduction to Here’s Your Orgy (1969). “It’s a one-man operation devoted to sex research with ‘guidance’ actually a secondary function--which I admit, hasn’t ever really been exercised. I see myself as carrying on the traditions of Dr. Kinsey. The difference is that I’ve cut out the paperwork and substituted a personalized methodology.”

Always topical, the action in the O.R.G.Y. books traipses lightly across the world stage, with a stop at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and even touching on the Tet Offensive, which takes on a new shade of meaning for “offensive”: “I was personally attacked by a Cong guerrilla complete with bayonet, black pajamas, and breasts shaped like hand grenades, only bigger and better.” In later years, when his writing had taken up more serious topics, Gottfried would say that he felt an uneasy combination of chagrin and pride in his pulp productions. Having become an ardent supporter of feminist causes, he felt he had portrayed women in too stereotypical a light. Yet, he was gratified that the books remained popular with pulp enthusiasts--they are a staple on eBay. The books were part of a minor brouhaha in 1969, when it was found that the Job Corps had been purchasing them for use in remedial reading classes.
There was even a theatrical film release in 1970 titled The Man from O.R.G.Y., based on Mark’s series, with the role of “spy and scientific investigator” Steve Victor going to Robert Walker Jr. (an actor probably most familiar nowadays for having guest-starred in a 1966 Star Trek episode titled “Charlie X”; more on that episode here).

But while few readers nowadays can be relied upon for the remotest memory of Ted Mark’s stories, I’m betting more will recognize the covers that appeared on those paperbacks, a number of them credited to artist Stanley Borack and featuring actor-model Steve Holland. Consider, for instance, the fronts of This Nude for Hire, The Nude Who Did, The Nude Who Never, My Son, the Double Agent, The Girl from Pussycat, and my personal favorite, The Pussycat Transplant (more about which you can read here). An additional assortment of Ted Mark book façades can be relished here.

And you can click here and here for lists of the Ted Mark novels. You never know: it might be worth watching for these in your travels through used-book stores.

READ MORE:This Title Is Not to Be Seen by Unauthorized Persons,” by James Evans (Electric Sheep).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Closing the Book on Nappi

I was very sorry to hear this morning, via Facebook, that Rudy Nappi--an American artist-illustrator whose work graced the covers of so many paperback novels published in the mid- to late-20th century--passed away this last March 13 in his most recent hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Nappi was in his early 90s.

From what I’ve been able to dig up from the Web, he was born Joseph Rudolph Nappi in New York City in 1923, studied at the Art Students League, served with the U.S. Air Force during World War II, and wed a nurse, Margarete “Peggy” Schubert, in 1951. Nappi went on to become a commercial artist as well as “one of the most prolific of all the great pulp artists,” to quote from a blog called The Red Pill Room, written by Ian Ironwood. In addition to creating the immediately recognizable fronts of such paperbacks as Queer Patterns (1952), Reefer Girl (1953), French Alley (1954), and The Bedroom Bolero (1960)--not to mention the covers embedded at the top and bottom of this post--Nappi was responsible for updating the look of two popular mystery series for younger readers. As this site explains,
Over a period from the 1950s through to the late 1970s, Rudy Nappi was the principal cover artist for the U.S. Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, developing in the process what is generally regarded to be the definitive and most recognizable portrayals of all three characters. As one would expect, a healthy selection of artwork from Nappi‘s portfolio was employed by the British publishers, starting with Sampson Low, who used 14 of his cover illustrations.

When [publisher] MacDonald [& Company] took over the reigns in 1968, six out of the eight titles that they published featured Nappi’s handiwork on their dust-jackets. Subsequently, Collins used Nappi covers for six original series titles in 1980 (volumes 50, 51, 53-56), in addition to the softcover
Hardy Boys Adventure Activity Book and the revised edition of The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook.
Nappi’s cover for The Secret of the Forgotten City (Grosset & Dunlap, 1975), the 52nd Nancy Drew adventure, is displayed on the right.

Ironwood, concentrating on the work this painter did for more adult fiction releases, declared Nappi to be his blog’s “Prefeminist Artist of the Month” back in January 2013. He wrote in an obituary just last month that Nappi “always managed to capture a sense of erotic urgency and arousal that other ‘pin-up’ artists rarely did. …
From a marketer’s perspective the kind of work Nappi did is an increasingly lost art; once illustration ruled the advertising marketplace, and Chicago, New York, and other metropolitan areas bristled with commercial artists doing their work the old-fashioned way, with pencil, ink, and paper.

When commercial photography became sophisticated enough to be used in marketing, the periodicals of the mid-20th century began to move away from illustration and toward illustrative photos; while that, too, is an art, the work that Nappi and his colleagues cut their teeth on dried up over time. Only on novel covers and the occasional bit of nostalgia did you see a hint of this again.

What is ironic is that the “sleazy” work that these artists did, and Nappi in particular, was brilliant illustration that conveys some very primal and powerful emotion. In the way that master artists do, Nappi’s technique became refined over time, and according to the dictates of the market. But for me his best work continues to be the mid-century pulp illustrations he did so masterfully.
I showcased one of those pulpish fronts (from 1959’s Blonde Bait, by Ed Lacy) in a 2010 post on this page, but hadn’t yet devoted any further attention to his talents. Fortunately, others have more than made up for Killer Covers’ lack of Nappi façades. Try any or all of the following links to enjoy more of his memorable artistry:

Pulp Covers: The Best of the Worst
American Gallery
Vintage Romance Covers
Vintage Paperbacks & Digests

Finally, blogger Ironwood notes that Rudy Nappi died only three days after his wife, who went on March 10 of this year. This must indeed be a hard time for their family, but they can rest assured that although the artist is gone, his work lives on and will continue to be appreciated by so many of us.

Cruisin’ the Blogosphere

• It’s difficult not to notice a book that boasts this cover teaser: “A brutal, hard-hitting exposé of men and women obsessed by thrill drugs and uncontrollable passions.” Besides, the front of A Taste of H (1966), though uncredited, is pretty much a grabber.

• The International Crime Fiction Research Group hosts a fine and diverse selection of Edgar Wallace’s thrillers on its blog page.

• I received this link to a page of pulpish book-cover mock-ups from Randal S. Brandt, a librarian at the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. He wrote: “The designs are a little word-heavy for my taste, but if they were real, I’d need them all! The artist [Katie Gilmartin] is the author of the recent (and illustrated) Blackmail, My Love, published by Cleis Press.”

• And I’ve never before seen this collection of crime novels “published in France by Rome-based Editions ERP during the early 1960s.” But I do recognize at least one theft of artwork. The front from the book here titled La mort s’est arrêtêe à Juba looks remarkably like the 1959 cover of Day Keene’s Too Hot to Hold, with art by Robert McGinnis. I’m just saying …

Monday, April 13, 2015

Duped: “Awake to Love”

The latest installment in Killer Covers’ “haven’t we seen this cover someplace before?” series. Previous entries are here.

Given all the attention being paid recently by the media to sex--and especially the incidence of rape--on American college and university campuses, thanks to Rolling Stone magazine’s dubious report on such assaults at the University of Virginia, it’s only natural that the vintage paperback cover below should have attracted my attention. The artwork comes, of course, from the brush of Paul Rader (1906-1986), who created some of the sexiest novel fronts of the 20th century, primarily for publisher Midwood Books. But this is only one version of his eye-catching illustration.

For Awake to Love (All Star, 1967), Rader gives us the image of two youthful sweethearts, secreted behind a barrier of bushes and locked in passionate embrace on the grounds of what evidence suggests is a venerable institution of higher learning. The gent’s dress shirt is unbuttoned, but that is nothing compared with the woman’s dishabille; her skirt has been pushed up to reveal plenty of leg and a delicate garter, and her sweater looks to have popped its buttons, loosing at least one bare breast for her paramour’s appraisal. “Scandal rocks a quiet university campus …,” reads the novel’s cover teaser, “forbidden passion behind ivy-covered walls.”

This is a rather more explicit version of Rader’s illustration than appeared five years earlier on the Midwood release Campus Jungle, by Joan Ellis. That original image still showed the woman being kissed without abandon … but with her sweater fully covering her bust. It seems we have here one of a number of cases in which Rader reworked art he’d executed to Midwood’s specifications for a later publishing client. (He did that not only for All-Star, but also for Bee-Line, Edka and Private Edition titles).

We can only guess that the art director for Awake to Love thought the American reading public was more open-minded in 1967, a year before the famous “Summer of Love,” than it had been in 1962, when Marilyn Monroe was found dead at age 36 and The Beatles recorded their first single, “Love Me Do.”

Oops! Lost Your Clothes Again

I generally think of American artist Norman Saunders in relation to his work on covers for mid-20th-century paperbacks or men’s magazine fronts. But this small gallery featured in Evan Lewis’ blog, Davy Crockett’s Almanack, proves he was equally dexterous in producing “girlie art” for publications such as Saucy Movie Tales.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Finds: “2 Guns for Hire”

I usually try to find a good reason for posting vintage fronts on this page, even if the only rationale is that the particular book’s title or art fits into some theme I’m interested in at the time. Such conscientiousness, though, often stops me from showcasing covers I like, but can’t find a credible excuse for posting. Therefore, I have finally decided to inaugurate a regular feature here called “Friday Finds.” Books meriting inclusion in this series will be offered context-free, chosen simply because they caught my eye and I think others will enjoy them as well. I’ll try to provide links to reviews of the books and cover-art credits whenever possible.

Today’s premiere offering: 2 Guns for Hire (Gold Medal, 1959), by “Neil MacNeil,” a pseudonym used by Cleveland, Ohio-born author W.T. (Willis Todhunter) Ballard (1903-1980).

This was the third of MacNeil’s seven novels featuring Tony Costaine and Bert McCall, a series that Mystery*File says “was never a major hit, [but offered] … highly entertaining superior light private-eye fiction much in the mood and style of such popular series as 77 Sunset Strip and Peter Gunn on television. Costaine and McCall are the epitome of the cool, hip, buttoned-down P.I.s of the period, distilled through the Rat Pack school of middle-aged hipster, a group of slick eyes that rode the wave between Mike Hammer and James Bond.”

Sadly, I don’t find any credit for the cover artist. If anyone out there can identify who painted this artwork, please let me know in the Comments section below.

READ MORE:W.T. Ballard: An Interview,” by Stephen Mertz
(Black Mask).

If Only I Read German …

Hurrah! Artist Michael Gillette, who created such beautiful covers for Penguin UK’s 2008 centenary editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, and who recently brought forth new artwork for German editions of John Gardner’s 14 original Bond continuation tales, has a couple more of those Gardner Bonds on the way. Click here to see his seductive fronts for No Deals, Mr. Bond and Scorpius.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Two-fer Tuesdays: Shared Confidences

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

I actually had the chance once to meet and converse with Carolyn Heilbrun, the Columbia University English professor who, from the 1960s through the early 2000s, penned 14 mysteries under the pseudonym Amanda Cross. All of those novels starred a woman who wasn’t so very different from her creator: Kate Fansler, a literature professor at a prominent New York university who “is called upon to solve mysteries set in an academic context, usually involving the murder of a professor or student.”

Unfortunately, at the time--this would have been in the 1980s--I barely knew who Heilbrun was. As a founding member of Friends of Mystery, a Portland, Oregon-based crime-fiction appreciation society, I’d agreed to help organize a small convention in that city to celebrate the genre. By some legerdemain, we managed to attract several noteworthy crime-fictionists as speakers, including Joseph Hansen (author of the Dave Brandstetter private-eye tales), Richard Hoyt (then producing his yarns about soft-boiled Seattle P.I. John Denson), and Heilbrun. It was my job to publicize this event and take part in an onstage presentation with Hoyt, who I’d gotten to know quite well when he was my journalism professor in college. Another volunteer had charge of Heilbrun, though I did my best to welcome her to our gathering and later listen attentively to her talk. She seemed a formidable woman, confident in her skin as well as with her areas of expertise (which included author Virginia Woolf and “women’s issues”). Years later, in 2003, when I heard that she’d committed suicide at age 77, I thought how appropriate it was that this longtime professor should have ended her life on her own terms. As Heilbrun reportedly told her son, she felt her life was “completed.”

Only long after that convention did I read any of Heilbrun/Cross’ novels, among them In the Last Analysis (1964), which introduced Fansler and was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. The novel’s plot is described by this online review: “One of Kate’s former students [Janet Harrison] asks for a referral to a good psychiatrist. When the student is found murdered on the couch of the psychiatrist, Kate’s close friend Emanuel Bauer, suspicion falls on Emanuel, on his wife, and even on Kate herself.” The amateur sleuth ultimately uses Freudian analysis to solve the crime.

That scene the author offers of Ms. Harrison stabbed to death on the shrink’s couch wound up inspiring artist Robert K. Abbett to create the paperback cover of In the Last Analysis that’s shown above, on the left. It was published in 1966 by Avon.

Now train your eyes on the book immediately to the right of Cross’. It shows the front from Girl on a Couch, by Manning (Lee) Stokes, a prolific American writer who produced novels under several noms de plume and in a variety of genres, including spy fiction, detective fiction, Western fiction, science fiction, and adult fiction. It’s from that final category that Girl on a Couch (Softcover Library, 1966) comes. You can tell immediately, because of the cover teaser line: “Her analyst tried to cure Gay Horton, but fell victim to her instead … for she was a woman both disturbed and extremely disturbing.” Further, the back-jacket copy from the 1961 Beacon edition of this book (shown on the left, with cover art by Al Rossi) provides a deliberately titillating story synopsis:
What was wrong with young and wondrously attractive Gay Horton? It wasn’t just that she had no morals, no restraint. The queer thing was that night after night she haunted low dives, tenement houses, cheap bars, looking for the grimiest, worst-mannered, most-uncouth men she could find. Obviously Gay was sick. But her voluptuous beauty tempted even Paul Gray, the psychiatrist trying to help her. When Gay threw herself at him, he yielded--leaving his own sweetheart, pretty Pat Morley, to fall victim to the unnatural needs of other women. As for Gay, she pushed Paul still further into the pit. He found himself confronted by aberration more revolting than the love-mania with which she had first come to him …

Was Gay deliberately trying to punish herself by squandering her blonde beauty on low, vice-ridden brutes? Did her guilt concern her relations with a member of her own family …?

Sensitive, tender, yet almost frightening in its implications, the story of Gay Horton explores the therapist’s world … and the dark places of a woman’s soul.
All of that may sound pretty cheesy nowadays, but during the mid-20th-century, there was a substantial market for such soft-porn fiction--stories about lustful female nymphomaniacs, wife swappers, group gropes, shameless secretaries, naughty nurses, sex-crazed students, and of course licentious lesbians. Girl on a Couch might be one of the tamer works among that illicit breed.

I’m very fond of this particular cover of Stokes’ novel, with its illustration of a shapely, deep-cleavaged Gay Horton, reclining on her psychiatrist’s furniture. It’s easy to see how the conservatively attired Paul Gray might be seduced by her presence. I wish I was also able to see some signature on the artwork, but I don’t. Nor do I find any credit for this book front in the usual online sources.

READ MORE:The Professor and the Mystery Writer,” by Paula Span (The Washington Post).

Brief Encounters

• BookRiot has put together a small but significant gallery of “really cool” covers from Sherlock Holmes novels. I’m especially fond of Greek graphic designer Maria Papaefstathiou’s front for The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Very sharp-looking!

• Author Evan Lewis’ taste runs, instead, to versions of Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett’s 1929 Continental Op novel.

• Mark Dery, a contributor to The Daily Beast, offers “the first installment of a series celebrating book cover art and design,” looking back at artist Richard M. Powers’ surrealistic science-fiction fronts of the 1950s. More, please ...

• And Retrospace has collected some of the weirdest foreign adult horror comic covers you’re ever likely to come across.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Duped: “The Sweetheart of the Razors”

This is the first installment in Killer Covers’ “haven’t we seen this cover someplace before?” series. Later entries are here.

The illustration below shows the front of Peter Cheyney’s non-series novel, The Sweetheart of the Razors (originally titled The Curiosity of Etienne MacGregor, 1947). This 1962 paperback edition from UK publisher Four Square carries art by Robert Maguire ... which also just happened to appear on the façade of Thomas B. Dewey’s Dame in Danger (Signet, 1949). Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Two-fer Tuesdays: Comfortable with Duplicity

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

Temptresses tend to be pretty standard feature in espionage fiction, as these two look-alike paperback fronts appear to make clear. The cover on the left comes from the 1959 Corgi Books edition of Agent of the Devil. That novel was written by Hungarian-Austrian author-publisher János Békessy under his well-known pseudonym, Hans Habe. It was originally released in 1956 as Im Namen des Teufels (In the Name of the Devil), but was translated into English and first published in the UK two years later as Agent of the Devil. (I’ve also seen editions carry the title The Devil’s Agent.)

Sadly, the only write-up I could locate online about Agent of the Devil’s plot is this one from GoodReads, posted five years ago by a reviewer known as “Velvetink”:
Written in 1958, the New York Times hails Agent of the Devil as a “nerve-shattering spy classic.” Maybe in 1958 it shocked people. For 2010, it’s a bit ho hum. The author, Habe, was an intelligence officer during WWII for the U.S. Army in command of Psychological Warfare operations on the Italian front, and later a journalist, and he uses his knowledge of intelligence agencies a little too educationally here … [The book] is saved only by the character George Droste falling in love and his love for his adopted son.
Credit for the illustration showing a woman in red, reclining before a presumed spy, goes to James E. McConnell, a British book and magazine cover artist known for painting historical and Old West scenes, though he also branched out to create the covers for science-fiction novels. The terrific blog Pulp Covers: The Best of the Worst offers a small collection of McConnell’s book art here.

You will probably recognize the front of Legacy of a Spy (right) as the work of Robert McGinnis, whose talents I showcased on this page last October. Can it be a coincidence that this Crest Book cover, like McConnell’s for Agent of the Devil, comes from 1959?

Legacy of a Spy was the debut novel by Henry S. Maxfield (1923-2013). A World War II airplane navigator, who later became a Central Intelligence Agency employee during the Korean War and eventually established himself as a real-estate broker in New Hampshire, Maxfield earned some critical plaudits for Legacy of a Spy, including this brief assessment by Kirkus Reviews:
Bill Slater, known as Montague, the best agent in U.S. counterespionage, here becomes Bruce Carmichael, when he isn’t Slater, to hunt down those responsible for the disappearance of Webber in the Consulate in Zurich, who suspects Wyman of betraying information. Slater is tricked by the first move …; attacks the enemy spy net organizationally; evades an assassin; skis to safety. Brisk.
Furthermore, Legacy of a Spy was adapted by Hollywood in 1967 as The Double Man, an action flick set largely in the Austrian Alps, starring Yul Brynner and Brit Ekland. Maxfield went on to publish a second novel, Another Spring (1974), “about life in a small New Hampshire summer resort,” and followed that in 2007 with Justice Justice, about a newly elected U.S. president who, disappointed with the state of legal ethics, determines to appoint a non-lawyer, Bradford Justice, to the Supreme Court of the United States.