Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Favorite Finds: “A Big Man, a Fast Man”

Top vintage book fronts added to my collection in 2018.



A Big Man, a Fast Man, by Benjamin Appel (Permabooks, 1962). Cover artist unidentified.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Favorite Finds: “Sun in the Hunter’s Eyes”

Every year, I browse through thousands of book-cover images online, saving out those about which I would like to find some excuse to write. And every year, my imagination fails to provide me with sufficient reason to comment on a many of my choices. Rather than dispose of the excess, I keep the scans in my computer files, hoping to one day include them in a themed celebration of cover work or perhaps a gallery of paintings by their artists. But why wait? For the next week, I’ll be posting some favorite book art discovered during 2018, beginning with today’s example: Sun in the Hunter’s Eyes, by Mark Derby (Crest, 1959), with cover art by Ted CoConis.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Another Look: “Fast One”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.



Left: Fast One, by “Paul Cain,” aka George Caryl Sims (Avon, 1952); cover art by Victor Olson. Right: Fast One (Fawcett Popular Library, 1980); cover illustrator unidentified.

READ MORE:The Incomplete Cain,” by Boris Dralyuk (Los Angeles Review of Books).

Monday, November 19, 2018

Forsaken No More!



My wife’s stepfather died in September, about two years after her mother passed away. Over the last couple of months, members of the family have been prudently cleaning out the small but overstuffed house in which those two resided for so long, trying to make sure that the rest of us take whatever we want or can use, before the remainder is dispensed through an estate sale or hauled off to Goodwill. One of my jobs has been to cull and clean all of the books on the premises, many left packaged and stored in a cold, rat-infested garage ever since my wife’s parents divorced four decades ago.

I spent most of this last Saturday opening boxes, setting aside books I thought would be of interest to individual family members, and dividing the surplus majority into piles of works that (1) were in good shape and of potential interest to a local used bookshop, or (2) were less presentable or belonged to genres (romance novels, westerns, and politically incorrect joke books, etc.) that might attract buyers’ eyes only if severely marked down for immediate sale. I was surprised at how many books had survived, given the negligent conditions under which they’d been preserved.

From the thousands of books I went through—many of which had originally belonged to my wife’s father, a crime-fiction fan—I pulled out perhaps a dozen works of interest to me. For instance, I snagged a 1944 Pocket edition of Leslie Charteris’ Enter the Saint; one of Erle Stanley Gardner’s early Perry Mason novels, The Case of the Howling Dog (1934); and a hardcover edition of Joe David Brown’s Paper Moon (originally published in 1971 under the title Addie Pray). I also happened across a 1971 Bantam paperback edition of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale—shown atop this post—featuring cover art by Frank McCarthy. (You can see the back of that book here.)

There were a few other gems, as well: 1970s Paperback Library editions of three Milo March mysteries by M.E. Chaber (aka Kendell Foster Crossen), with fronts illustrated by Robert McGinnis; Dell’s 1958 issue of The Big Country—originally titled Ambush at Blanco Canyon—by Donald Hamilton, creator of the Matt Helm series; and a couple of John D. MacDonald books that I didn’t already own, The Neon Jungle (Fawcett Gold Medal, 1953) and The End of the Night (Fawcett Gold Medal, 1960). Scans of those six are below.







Beyond all of those, I stumbled onto a pair of romantic suspense novels, both boasting cover art by the great Harry Bennett: The Moon-Spinners, by Mary Stewart (Fawcett Crest, 1968) and Snowfire, by Phyllis A. Whitney (Fawcett Crest, 1974).



There are still more boxes for me to go through at my in-laws’ home, so we’ll see what others treasures might present themselves.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Because I Needed an Ellroy Fix …



Blood on the Moon, by James Ellroy (Avon, 1985). Originally published in 1984, this was the first installment in Ellroy’s trilogy of books starring Los Angeles police detective Lloyd Hopkins. The sequels were Because the Night (1984) and Suicide Hill (1985). Illustration by Stephen Peringer. See the back cover here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Hardman Is Good to Find



Beginning next month, publisher Brash Books plans to reissue all 12 of Ralph Dennis’ crime novels starring Jim Hardman, an Atlanta, Georgia, cop who becomes an unlicensed private eye after being improperly accused of corruption and stripped of his badge. As author and Brash co-publisher Lee Goldberg told me in September, the first four Hardman yarns—beginning with 1974’s Atlanta Deathwatch—will reach bookstores by the end of this year, with the remainder appearing over the course of 2019. All of Brash’s Hardman editions will appear with stylistically uniform covers, as shown above.

Goldberg writes that Ralph Dennis (1931-1988) “isn’t a household name … I believe that he should be. He is widely considered among crime writers as a master of the genre, denied the recognition he deserved because his series of twelve Hardman books, which are beloved and highly sought-after collectables now, were poorly packaged in the 1970s by Popular Library as cheap men’s action-adventure paperbacks with numbered titles.”

Being curious about those “cheesy covers” that Goldberg says “present[ed] the series like hack work, dooming the novels to a short shelf-life and obscurity,” I went looking online for the original Hardman paperbacks, which rolled out between 1974 and 1977. Top-quality images weren’t always easy to locate, but I finally settled on the dozen displayed below.

While I agree that Popular Library’s presentation of Dennis’ novels suggested they were fit for the boobs-and-bullets crowd only, rather than for more discerning crime-fiction readers, at least the first seven of the 12 boasted cover illustrations by Ken Barr (1933-2016), a Scottish artist who worked for DC and Marvel comics, but is perhaps best remembered for the paintings he created for science-fiction and fantasy novels. (You can see examples of Barr’s artistry here, here, and here.) I can’t tell whether the final five entries in Popular Library’s Hardman line carry Barr’s work as well, for there’s no obvious signature on those covers, as there is on the first seven. But at least to my eye, they appear stylistically quite different.

What do you think of the new editions versus the old ones?
















READ MORE:The Literary Life of Ralph Dennis,” by Richard A. Moore (Brash Books).

Monday, November 12, 2018

Another Look: “I Like It Tough”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.



Left: I Like It Tough, by James Howard (Popular Giant, 1960); cover art by Harry Schaare. Right: I Like It Tough, by James Howard (Digit, 1964); with a cover illustration credited to “Michel,” aka Michael Atkinson.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

An Unstoppable Invasion?


The War of the Worlds, Airmont Classics Series, 1964.


As I mentioned earlier in The Rap Sheet, today brings the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’ notorious radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, based on H.G. Wells’ 1898 science-fiction novel of the same name. To supplement that post, I am embedding here a selection of covers from various editions of Wells’ yarn. Where I have a publication date or artist’s name, I’ve included it.








From Pocket Books, 1953.



From Pan Books, 1970; art by George Underwood.





From Whitman Publishing, 1964; art by Shannon Stirnweis.





From Berkley Highland Books, 1969.



Classics Illustrated, 1955; art by Lou Cameron.



The War of the Worlds comes to the United States: The Cosmopolitan, April 1897.

READ MORE:Horrifying 1906 Illustrations of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: Discover the Art of Henrique Alvim Corrêa” (Open Culture).

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Another Look: “So Many Doors”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.



Left: So Many Doors, by Oakley Hall (Bantam, 1951); cover illustrator unidentified. Right: So Many Doors, by Oakley Hall (Hard Case Crime, 2018); cover art by Robert McGinnis.

READ MORE: “Interview with Oakley Hall,” by Justin Wolff
(San Diego Reader).

(Hat tip to Seattle Mystery Bookshop Hardboiled.)

Friday, October 5, 2018

Legacy of a Spy

Lest we forget: “Friday is Global James Bond Day,” mentions Bill Koenig in The Spy Command, “the event that was invented six years ago for the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Dr. No.” One obvious way to celebrate this occasion is with a rewatching of the 1962 Sean Connery film based on Ian Fleming’s original novel. But Koenig suggests, instead, taking in a handful of episodes of Hawaii Five-O and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. that boast “significant 007 connections.” Not a bad alternative.



Dr. No, by Ian Fleming (Great Pan, 1961).
Cover illustration by Sam “Peff” Peffer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Limb to Limb



After recently beefing up this page’s already large collection of summer-related book fronts, it occurred to me that, over the last few years, I have also been amassing additional covers with a different theme, one I addressed initially back in 2010: women’s legs.

Since so many early paperback publishers sought to win male attention, it is hardly shocking to discover an abundance of their books showcasing—as blatantly as mid-20th-century sensibilities allowed—various women’s body parts. However, that trend didn’t end with the women’s liberation movement of the 1960-1980s. Even in our slightly more “enlightened” era, you still see female limbs decorating book jackets. That’s probably because, if the truth be told, members of both sexes can appreciate a shapely feminine thigh, a sleek calf, and the graceful architecture of a girlish foot.

Illustrating today’s post are 45 book fronts that, in one way or another, display women’s legs. The example at the top comes from the 1962 Bedside Books edition of The Sin Drifter. Its byline reads Alan Marshall, but that was a pseudonym employed by Donald E. Westlake in his early writing days, when he was churning out sleaze novels. I wish I knew who painted Sin Drifter’s cover, because it’s a beaut. But so are some of the other fronts featured below. I can’t find accurate credits for many of the artists (and photographers). However, I can tell you that the façade of Death in the Fifth Position carries a painting by Robert Maguire; that The Case of the Long-Legged Models owes its playful artwork to Robert McGinnis, and that Barye Phillips is represented twice in this set, both by The Tycoon and the Tigress and Double in Trouble.

Between these 45 book covers and my previous collection of 66, I have now built up Killer Covers leggy offerings to a rather remarkable 111. Click on the images below for enlargements.