Sunday, January 20, 2019

Killer Covers at 10: “The Two Faces of January”

A decade in business, a year’s worth of paperback fronts.



The Two Faces of January, by Patricia Highsmith (Pan, 1964). Cover illustrator unidentified.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Killer Covers at 10: A Calendar of Crime



Calendar of Crime, by Ellery Queen (Pocket, 1953).
Cover illustration by Richard M. Powers.

I know I didn’t plan ahead of time that the debut of my main blog, The Rap Sheet, back in May 2006, should have taken place on Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday; that was simply a fortunate happenstance. I don’t recall now whether I intended the launchof Killer Covers to occur on what would have been Edgar Allan Poe’s 200th birthday—January 19, 2009—though I may have done, as I commented on that anniversary in The Rap Sheet.

Regardless, the point is that as of today, I have been writing and editing Killer Covers for a full 10 years.

This blog has grown and changed considerably over the last decade, as I’ve adjusted my expectations for it. In the early days, I penned fewer posts, and those I did turn out were mostly longer contributions that employed a single vintage book as the jumping-off point to discuss the more extensive work of an individual author or cover artist. (See, for instance, this write-up about Harry Olesker’s Now, Will You Try for Murder?; or this one concerning Frank Kane’s once-popular Johnny Liddell novels; or this other piece having to do with Michael Avallone’s The Voodoo Murders, a 1957 paperback that featured artwork by Mitchell Hooks.) Over the last couple of years, my objective has been to increase the number of posts appearing here by combining quick-hit subjects (such as those in my “Two-fer Tuesdays” and “Book Fixes” series) with themed strings of entries (among them the recent “Twelve Dames of Christmas” lineup) and more extensive tributes to specific artists (my focuses on the artistry of Robert Stanley and Ron Lesser last year having been prime examples of such projects). I don’t think I have yet figured out the ideal mix, one that keeps this page lively without overly taxing my energies; but achieving that goal is likely to maintain my interest for years to come.

To commemorate Killer Covers’ ninth birthday in January 2018, I put together a set of nine attention-grabbing paperback façades that had been added to my computer files during the previous 365 days. This time around, I’m going to celebrate with a year’s worth of books bearing titles that include the names of months—our own “calendar of crime,” if you will. We’ll commence the rollout tomorrow with a January title, and move on from there, one book per day, through all 12 months of the now 437-year-old Gregorian calendar. Most of the covers to be featured have been chosen already, but I’m still looking for stand-out old fronts to represent November and December. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know via e-mail.

So here’s to the coming year of Killer Covers. Let’s hope it meets—nay, exceeds—out hopes for its continuing development.

READ MORE:‘The Purloined Letter’—Mystery Solved, by Susan Amper (Criminal Element); “A Brief and Incomplete Survey of Edgar Allan Poes in Pop Culture,” by Emily Temple (Literary Hub); “You Don’t Know Poe: 10 Weird Things About Edgar Allan Poe,” by Matthew Mercie (Tor.com).

Font and Center

I, for one, hadn’t noticed that “an approachable-witchy 1938 typeface,” familiar from the classic Nancy Drew mysteries, has been making a comeback on book fronts. Vox has the story here.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Because I Needed a Greene Fix …



Orient Express, by Graham Greene (Bantam, 1955). This novel, frequently referred to as “Greene’s first true success,” was originally published in Britain in 1932 as Stamboul Train, but was subsequently retitled for its release in America.
Illustration by George Gross.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Another Look: “The Case of the Drowning Duck”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.



Left: The Case of the Drowning Duck, by Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket, 1949); cover art by Louis Glanzman. Right: The Case of the Drowning Duck, by Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket, 1950); cover illustration by Frank McCarthy.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Rich “Harvest” of Hammetts



It was 58 years ago today, on January 10, 1961, that author Dashiell Hammett passed away as a result of lung cancer at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital. To mark that sad occasion, CrimeReads has posted 20 different covers from Red Harvest—the first Continental Op novel, and “one of Hammett’s most political works”—which was originally released by Alfred A. Knopf on February 1, 1929.

Among the fronts on display are two of my favorites, a Spanish edition published in 1979 (shown above), and Permabooks’ 1958 version, featuring a cover illustration by Lou Marchetti (below). I also like (and even own a copy of) the 1961 Permabooks edition CrimeReads editors rank as No. 1, but I have to say, there are other Harry Bennett-painted paperbacks I prefer.



Perhaps only because it wanted to cap its selections at 20, CrimeReads neglected to feature two other versions of Red Harvest: Pan Books’ 1980 version (below, left), and a handsome 1989 paperback edition from Vintage/Black Lizard (below, right).

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Neck and Neck

Two vintage paperback yarns that really go for the jugular.



There Is a Tide, by Agatha Christie (Dell, 1955), with cover art by William Rose. An earlier front for this novel is here.



Strangler’s Holiday, by “Kurt Steel,” aka Rudolf Hornaday Kagey (Crime Novel Selection, 1942), with a cover illustration by Norman Saunders. This book was originally titled Murder in G Sharp (1937). Under the Kurt Steel pseudonym, Hornaday (1904-1946) created “tough and well-muscled private investigator” Hank Hyer, who premiered in Murder of a Dead Man (1935).

Monday, January 7, 2019

Another Look: “The Case of the Vanishing Beauty”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.



Left: Case of the Vanishing Beauty, by Richard S. Prather (Gold Medal, 1950); cover illustration by Willard Downes. Right: Case of the Vanishing Beauty, by Richard S. Prather (Gold Medal, 1954); cover artwork by Barye Phillips.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2018: #12

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.



Dames Don’t Dictate, by “Ross Angel,” aka Donald Cresswell (Scion, 1953). Illustrator unidentified.

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2018: #11

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.



The Way of a Dame, by Fletcher Bennett (Playtime, 1963). Click here to see the back cover. Illustration by Robert Bonfils.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2018: #10

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.



Two Smart Dames, by Gene Ross (Leisure Library, 1952). From the Vintage Paperback & Book Covers page on Facebook: “Gene Ross was but one of a few pseudonyms used by British hard-boiled writer William Simpson Newton. You may remember him in Spike Morelli mode. He, like a few others of note, hopped on the postwar paperback band wagon loaded with all things noir, American, and tough as nails.” Illustration by Reginald Heade.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2018: #9

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.



All Dames Are Dynamite, by Timothy Trent (Novel Library, 1949). Several sources give credit for this book’s cover art to Peter Driben (more of his work here and here). But others claim to see the initials “DB” in the painting’s lower right-hand corner.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2018: #8

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.



The Dame Was Trouble: A Collection of the Best Female Crime Writers of Canada, edited by Sarah L Johnson and Halli Dee Lilburn (Coffin Hop Press, 2018). The cover design is by Axel Howerton, featuring an illustration by Ukrainian artist Clash_Gene, licensed from Shutterstock.

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2018: #7

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.



Designing Dame, by J.X. Williams (Greenleaf Classics/Idle Hour, 1966). As Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books explains, “J.X. Williams was the original pen name for John Jakes [see more here], and then later used as a house name by many, from Harry Whittington to George Smith and David Case. And editor Earl Kemp … Kemp, when not running the Cornith/Greenleaf imprints, wrote a few titles himself …” Illustration by Darrel Millsap.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2018: #6

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.



Four Men and a Dame, by Florence Stonebraker (Quarter Books, 1951). Illustrator unidentified.

(Hat tip to Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.)

Saturday, December 29, 2018

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2018: #5

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.



Dame on the Lam, by Johnny Dark (Milestone, 1953).
Illustrator unidentified.