Monday, January 8, 2018

Vote for Your Favorite Fronts

Just a reminder that today begins the final week of The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2017 contest. We have 15 finalists, all of which have slowly been accumulating support from readers. At this point, the top five contenders are: G-Man, by Stephen Hunter; Blackbird, by Michael Fiegel; Follow Me Down, by Sherri Smith; Day In, Day Out, by Héctor Aguilar Camín; and The Fall of Lisa Bellow, by Susan Perabo. But that lineup could well change.

This poll will remain open until midnight on Friday, January 12. Everyone who wishes to participate is given one chance to vote, though at that time you may cast your ballot for as many candidates as you prefer. The results of our survey will, of course, be reported after all of the votes are registered.

If you haven’t already chosen your favorites, please do so now!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

To the Nines



Robert McGinnis’ name has come up one or two times in this blog, I know (OK, maybe one or two thousand times), but that’s because even now—approaching his 92nd birthday on February 3—he continues to turn out excellent work. This coming October, for instance, a new painting by McGinnis will be featured on Hard Case Crime’s reissue of Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Count of Nine, shown above.

That book, you might remember, is the 18th original entry in Gardner’s series starring clever but oft-comical Los Angeles private investigators Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. The author saw it reach print initially back in 1958, under his by-then-familiar pseudonym, A.A. Fair. This is how Hard Case describes the plot: “Hired to protect the treasures of a globe-trotting adventurer, Bertha and Donald confront an impossible crime: how could anything be smuggled out of a dinner party when the guests were X-rayed coming and going—least of all a 6-foot-long blowgun? But that’s nothing compared to the crime they face next: an impossible murder …” The publisher goes on to promote its reissue of The Count of Nine as the novel’s “first appearance in bookstores in half a century!”

Hard Case has already brought out paperback editions of three other Cool and Lam yarns over the years: Top of the Heap, The Knife Slipped (apparently intended as the series’ second installment, but not released until 2016), and Turn on the Heat. McGinnis provided the cover image for The Knife Slipped; and now an even more beautiful example of his art will introduce this year’s trade-size edition of The Count of Nine. But that’s nine months away yet! In the meantime, let’s revisit four earlier fronts for Gardner’s tale.

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




Clockwise from upper left: Pocket Books edition from 1962, artist unknown; Pocket edition from 1969, with cover art by Mitchell Hooks; Heinemann UK edition, 1959, with art by Stein; and Pocket edition from 1966, with an illustration by Harry Bennett.

Incidentally, you can read a Count of Nine excerpt here.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bennett’s Beauties: Frank Kane

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.



During the early 1960s, Harry Bennett created a unified series of cover illustrations for several of Frank Kane’s novels featuring New York City private eye Johnny Liddell. I’m the proud owner of a few of these editions, though I haven’t read them all yet.









Bennett’s Beauties: “The Double Take”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


The Double Take, by Roy Huggins (Pocket, 1959).

Bennett’s Beauties: “An Ear for Murder”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


An Ear for Murder, by “Michael Brett,” aka Miles Barton Tripp (Pocket, 1967). This is the second installment in a 10-book series he penned about New York City gumshoe Pete McGrath. It follows 1966’s Kill Him Quickly, It’s Raining.

Bennett’s Beauties: “Snatch an Eye”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


Snatch an Eye, by Henry Kane (Permabooks, 1964). This is an entry in Kane’s long-running series starring Peter Chambers, a Manhattan-based “private richard” (yes, Kane persisted in using that clumsy reference as a substitute for “private dick”).

Bennett’s Beauties: “Murder on My Street”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


Murder on My Street, by Edwin Lanham (Pocket, 1960).

Today will conclude Killer Covers’ month-long tribute to Connecticut artist and illustrator Harry Bennett (1919-2012). However, this is not the end of my interest in his abundant talents. In addition to the Bennett book fronts I plan to roll out in several posts over the approaching hours, I have an interview dealing with his life, family, and long career that I hope to present soon on this page; and my computer files are bursting with scans of his paperback covers that I didn’t feature over the last 31 days. So you’ll be hearing more about Bennett here in the months and years ahead.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bennett’s Beauties: Parker Times Two

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


The Man with the Getaway Face, by “Richard Stark,” aka Donald E. Westlake (Pocket, 1964), the second installment in a series featuring a career criminal known only as Parker. The Jugger (Pocket, 1965) is the sixth book in that same series.

Bennett’s Beauties: “You’ll Like My Mother”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


You’ll Like My Mother, by Naomi A. Hintze (Fawcett Crest, 1969), made into a 1972 film of the same name starring Patty Duke.

Bennett’s Beauties: Chester Himes

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.



Harry Bennett painted covers for Dell Books editions of five of Chester Himes’ novels featuring Harlem cops “Coffin” Ed Johnson and “Grave Digger” Jones. All were published in the mid-1960s. “In contrast to [Bennett’s] lushly rendered romance covers, or more conventional crime novel art,” observes the blog Pulp International, “these have an almost spontaneous quality. Publisher input usually has quite a bit to do with it, but we suspect Bennett was also influenced by Himes’ writing and the Harlem setting, and as a result produced this jazzy art for a jazzy novelist. Excellent stuff.”



Bennett’s Beauties: “The Merchant of Murder”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


The Merchant of Murder, by “Spencer Dean,” aka Prentice Winchell (Pocket, 1960). This is the sixth entry in his series starring Don Cadee, the chief of security at Amblett’s, a high-end department store located on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Bennett’s Beauties: “Shake Him Till He Rattles”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


Shake Him Till He Rattles, by Malcolm Braly (Gold Medal, 1963). The late author Ed Gorman called this “the best novel I’ve ever read about the intersection of the Beats and criminals in the San Francisco heyday of Neal Cassidy, Jack Kerouac, etc. … It is a very precisely written and observed novel about how rich women slummed in the Beat bars of the time and how a cop persecuted the novel’s protagonist. It is grim, bleak, and one of the best novels Gold Medal ever published.”

Bennett’s Beauties: “The Watchman”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


The Watchman, by Davis Grubb (Crest, 1962).

Bennett’s Beauties: “The Episode at Toledo”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


The Episode at Toledo, by “Ann Bridge,” aka Mary Ann Dolling Sanders (Berkley, 1967)—the sixth entry in her series starring part-time British Intelligence agent Julia Probyn.

Bennett’s Beauties: Happy New Year
with “The Real Gone Goose”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


The Real Gone Goose, by “George Bagby,” aka Aaron Marc Stein (Permabooks, 1960).

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bennett’s Beauties: Hi, Profiles

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.



The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler (Pocket, 1964); and
The Last Love, by Thomas B. Costain (Pocket, 1964).


Bennett’s Beauties: Phyllis A. Whitney

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


Harry Bennett painted a variety of covers for Japanese-born American mystery/romantic suspense novelist Phyllis A. Whitney, but these are two of my favorites: Window on the Square (Fawcett Crest, 1962); Black Amber (Crest, 1965).



READ MORE:Woman with a Past,” by J. Kingston Pierce
(The Rap Sheet).

Bennett’s Beauties: “The Finishing Stroke”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


The Finishing Stroke, by Ellery Queen (Pocket, 1963).

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Bennett’s Beauties: Agatha Christie

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.



Five novels by Agatha Christie: A Daughter’s Daughter (Dell, 1967); A Pocket Full of Rye (Pocket, 1963); A Murder Is Announced (Cardinal, 1959); Towards Zero (Pocket, 1963); Double Sin and Other Stories (Pocket, 1962); Evil Under the Sun (Pocket, 1963); and The Mystery of the Blue Train (Pocket, 1963).





Friday, December 29, 2017

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Bennett’s Beauties: “End of a Millionaire”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


End of a Millionaire, by “P.D. Ballard,” né Willis Todhunter Ballard (Gold Medal, 1964), who also wrote the Bill Lennox series.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Bennett’s Beauties: “Marseilles”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.


Marseilles, by “Alan Caillou,” né Alan Lyle-Smythe (Pocket Cardinal, 1964), the second of four books he composed about journalist Mike Benasque. Lyle-Smythe also penned 1957’s Alien Virus, about which I have written before.

Dame Is the Name of the Game

Last year at this time, I launched a “12 Dames of Christmas” series, showcasing vintage paperbacks with “dame” in their titles. I considered resuming that December 25-January 5 series this month, but never found enough free hours in my schedule to do so. (Maybe next year.) If you missed appreciating those cover dames in 2016, or would like to see them afresh, simply click here.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Bennett’s Beauties:
Merry Christmas with Mary Stewart

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.



Five novels by Mary Stewart: My Brother Michael (Crest, 1964); The Gabriel Hounds (Fawcett Crest, 1973); This Rough Magic (Fawcett Crest, 1965); Thunder on the Right (Crest, 1967); and Airs Above the Ground (Fawcett Crest, 1968).





READ MORE:Mary Stewart, Storyteller; Possible Wizard” (Pornokitsch); “Mary Stewart, British Writer Who Spanned Genres, Dies at 97,” by Anita Gates (The New York Times).