Sunday, April 25, 2021

Another Look: “Poison in Jest”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.

Left: Poison in Jest, by John Dickson Carr (Popular Library, 1951); cover painting not credited, but thought to be the work of Rudolph Belarski. Right: Poison in Jest, by John Dickson Carr (Berkley, 1957); illustration by Robert Maguire.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

All Alone, with Trouble in Mind

Book titles containing the word “widow” suddenly seem to be everywhere on my radar. March brought the publication of Alma Katsu’s “gripping, authentic spy procedural,” Red Widow (Putnam), and earlier this month saw the re-release (by Cutting Edge Books) of Louis Lorraine’s 1961 sleaze classic, Commuter Widow. Soon after I downloaded the inarguably not-safe-for-work front cover of that new Commuter Widow edition, I had cause to search for it again in my computer files … and came up with a slew of attractive vintage novels also featuring “widow” in their names.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t know the name of the artist whose remarkable work fronts the 1958 Crest printing of Richard Wormser’s The Widow Wore Red, shown above. But I can identify the painters of most of the paperback covers below, from Bill George (Black Widow, 1954) and Harry Barton (both the undated Exciting Widow and the yarn from which it swiped its art, 1963’s That Kind of Widow) to Ernest “Darcy” Chiriacka (Self-Made Widow, 1958, and 1963’s The Torrid Widow), Bob Hilbert (1953’s Night at the Mocking Widow), and Robert McGinnis (the undated Suddenly a Widow, by George Harmon Coxe, and 1966’s No Tears from the Widow, by Carter Brown).

Charles Copeland gave us the cover for Rick Holmes’ New Widow (1963), while Weekend Widows (1966) boasts a front painted by Al Rossi, and Paul Rader is credited with creating the image for Wayward Widow (1962). You’re looking at Clark Hulings’ work on 1957’s The Golden Widow, James Meese’s artistry decorating 1957 Pocket release of Ursula Curtiss’ The Widow’s Web, and the talents of Mort Engel showcased on the 1965 Ace version of that same Curtiss tale. Finally, Griffith Foxley was responsible for the painting that introduces the 1954 Dell release of Dolores Hitchens’ Widows Won’t Wait (a very Erle Stanley Gardner-ish title); Mitchell Hooks who was behind the 1955 Bantam cover of The Widow and the Web, by Robert Martin; and the great Walter Popp who imagined the candelabra-wielding redhead on Evelyn Bond’s Widow in White (1973).

Click on any of the images here for an enlargement.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy Easter, Everyone!

The Web of Easter Island, by Donald Wandrei (Consul, 1961). Sadly, the cover art is uncredited.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Another Look: “Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.

Left: Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye, by Horace McCoy (Signet, 1949); cover illustration by James Avati. Right: Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye, by Horace McCoy (Avon, 1965); artwork by Frank Kalan.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Because I Needed a McCoy Fix ...

No Pockets in a Shroud, by Horace McCoy (Signet, 1948). The initials “T.V.” in the lower left-hand corner of this illustration probably stand for Tony Varady. More examples of Varady’s cover artistry can be enjoyed here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

More Reasons to Love Robert Maguire

In case you require further proof that the New Jersey-born Robert Maguire (1921-2005) was a master painter of paperback covers, here are three additional examples of his artistry. Any questions?

Early to Rise, by Arnold E. Grisman (Berkley, 1959)

Cage Me a Peacock, by Noel Langley (Lion, 1956)

This Is My Body, edited by Thomas A. Dardis (Berkley, 1957)

READ MORE:12 Cover Artists Every Vintage Crime Lover Should Know,” by J. Kingston Pierce (CrimeReads).

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Happy St. Paddy’s: Get Your Irish On!

Strangler’s Serenade, by “William Irish,” aka Cornell Woolrich (Popular Library, 1952). Cover art by Rudolph Belarski.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Perfect for Procrastinators

Obit Delayed, by Helen Nielsen (Dell, 1954), featuring a cover illustration by John McDermott.

Obit Deferred, by Louis Trimble (Ace Double, 1950). No artist credit is provided. By the way, the second novel contained in this volume is I Want Out, by Tedd Thomey.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Another Look: “The Swimming Pool”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.

Left: The Swimming Pool, by Mary Roberts Rinehart (Dell, 1953); cover artist Carl Bobertz. Right: The Swimming Pool, by Mary Roberts Rinehart (Dell, 1974); cover illustration by George Ziel.

READ MORE:How Mary Roberts Rinehart, Queen of the Mystery Novel, Was Very Nearly Murdered,” by Sarah Weinman (CrimeReads).

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Monday, February 8, 2021

Because I Needed an Ozaki Fix …

Dressed to Kill, by Milton K. Ozaki (Graphic, 1954). This novel marks the single appearance of Chicago private eye Rusty Forbes, who here “takes a job repossessing cars, and the first one he goes after is driven by a beautiful blonde and has a corpse in the trunk,” according to the blog Pulp International. “The corpse of course leads to loot, and the loot of course attracts the villains—a bunch of Chicago mobsters. Generally well reviewed, but not Ozaki's best, according to most sources.” The cover illustration is by Walter Popp. You can see this book’s backside here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Sit Up and Take Notice

• This last Christmas brought me two handsome books that I had done my best to hint broadly about with people I knew were open to further expanding my art and design library. The first was Mort Künstler: The Godfather of Pulp Fiction Illustrators, by Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle (New Texture), the latest in their succession of volumes covering stories and artwork that once graced the pages of 20th-century men’s adventure magazines. What a beautiful hardback, complete with the artist’s own reminiscences (he’s still alive at age 89!) regarding his diverse and lengthy career, plus a preface by Stephanie Haboush Plunkett of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts and an introduction by Michael W. Schantz from the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, New York. Deis last year featured some of the illustrations from this book in his blog, but paging through the completed work is far and away better than scrutinizing shrunken scans.

(Right) The Case of the One-Eyed Witness (Pan, 1958). Cover art by Sam Peffer.

• The companion publication I found under my Christmas tree was Cover Me: The Vintage Art of Pan Books, 1950-1965, by Colin Larkin (Telos UK). I agree with author-blogger Andrew Nette, who calls this “quite simply one of the most beautiful appreciations of the paperback format I can remember reading. It also fills an important gap in the history of British paperback publishing in recounting the origins and operations of Pan …, including a lot of material gathered from interviews with the artists and editors involved in the company during this time.” Not only is Larkin’s oversize work stuffed full of gorgeous cover images, but it features often-fascinating profiles of the artists behind those illustrations, from James Hilton and Henry Fox to Oliver Brabbins and Sam “Peff” Peffer. Picking up Cover Me to flip through its pages leaves you at risk of forgetting whatever else you’d planned to do that day.

• George Easter, the editor of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, has posted two pieces recently that are of likely interest to Killer Covers readers. The first collects 39 vintage paperback fronts, each of which features one or more things we don’t see around much anymore. The challenge is to identify each of those anachronisms. The answers are all available at the post’s end.

In this second piece, Easter showcases a variety of “girl with a gun”-themed covers—one of which featured in this blog’s just-concluded 12th-anniversary celebration.

• Finally, Literary Hub asks, “Is the next book cover trend … rainbows?” The examples include one work from the crime-fiction stacks, the upcoming release You Love Me, by Caroline Kepnes.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Now We Are 12: “Dead Men’s Plans”

Part of a series celebrating Killer Covers’ first dozen years.

Dead Men’s Plans, by Mignon G. Eberhart (Dell, 1954).
Cover art by Richard M. Powers.

The Beginning of the End

In the coming hours, I’ll post the final entry in this blog’s 12th anniversary series of vintage book covers. It has been a great joy during these two weeks to introduce readers to some “classic book fronts that have attracted my attention over this last pandemic-seared year.” I am especially happy to have included within these dozen installments the work of several artists not previously showcased on this page.

If you haven't been assiduously following my daily presentations, simply click here to catch up with the whole series.

And rest assured that, although this particular celebration will soon conclude, the variety of classic covers in my collection is nowhere near tapped out. The future holds many more treats!

Friday, January 29, 2021

Now We Are 12: “My Late Wives”

Part of a series celebrating Killer Covers’ first dozen years.

My Late Wives, by “Carter Dickson,” aka John Dickson Carr (Pocket, 1949). Cover art by Louis S. Glanzman.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Now We Are 12: “The Pleasure in Women”

Part of a series celebrating Killer Covers’ first dozen years.

The Pleasure in Women, by “Ted Lee,” aka Herbert Leavy (Monarch, 1962). Cover art by Harry Schaare. If you’d like to read the back-cover copy, you can do so here.