Since last week’s celebration of Killer Covers’ first five years focused on book-front illustrations featuring women, I’ve decided to stick to that theme in my initial post-anniversary “two-fer” pairing.
The cover featured above on the left comes from the 1958 Beacon Press paperback edition of Lust Is a Woman, by Charles Willeford (though you’ll notice that his last name has been misspelled “Williford”). If my sources are correct, this was Willeford’s fifth novel and the fourth--and final--one he produced for Beacon during the 1950s, all of which are now considered extremely rare. (The few copies of Beacon’s Lust Is a Woman available through AbeBooks, for instance, are priced at $125 and up!) “He was under pressure to conform to the Beacon style,” explains the Web site Vintage Paperback Archive, “and the result is one of his weakest efforts.” Nonetheless, the playfully suggestive cover of this novel (which Willeford had originally titled Made in Miami) lends it some class. It’s credited to Clement Micarelli, a Rhode Island-born commercial artist who also created a number of recognizable mid-20th-century paperback fronts (some of which can be enjoyed here).
The other cover topping this post is taken from the 1964 Belmont Books edition of Lust Is No Lady, the 14th installment in prolific author Michael Avallone’s series about movie-obsessed New York City private investigator Ed Noon. Reviewing the novel late last year in his blog, Wayne D. Dundee wrote:
Lust Is No Lady (aka The Brutal Kook), is one of the stronger entries in the Noon series. Just incidentally, it marks the end of what might be called Noon’s “more traditional detective mystery” period. After that, starting with … [1967’s The] February Doll Murders, Noon became more of a globe-trotting quasi-superspy (reporting directly to the President of the United States for certain cases), clearly influenced by the James Bond/spy craze that was casting a shadow over everything in those days. The plots and characters got progressively wilder--not necessarily less entertaining, mind you, but nevertheless a departure from the direction of the series as it started a decade-plus earlier.I wish I had as much information to share about the captivating but odd (why is the nude, staked-out maiden here missing her nipples?) cover of Lust Is No Lady, but I don’t find its artwork credited anywhere on the Web. And I don’t happen to own a copy of this Avallone book, so I can’t look to see if the illustrator is mentioned on the back cover or inside someplace.
Not that Lust (nor most of the Noon books, for that matter) is lacking in wild plot twists or distinctive characters either. Start with being air-bombed by bricks out in the wilds of remote Wyoming; mix in a nude deaf mute Indian maiden found staked out in the desert and left for vulture bait; add in a blind old Indian man (the maid’s father) tortured to death and his corpse found hanging by the neck; season with a hidden stash of gold, a cast of men and women (all quite lovely, just incidentally) living secretly in a ghost town-like camp, and top off the whole works with a psychotic dwarf. Propel it all along in Avallone’s energetic, somewhat quirky--yet always compelling, in the sense of making you want to keep turning the pages--writing style, and you have a corker of a tale. The mystery of the lost gold is solved in a basic, but still rather clever manner, and the final denouement where the psycho dwarf “gets his” is quite satisfactory. A bit of a change of pace for Noon, as far as setting, though still satisfying as a tried-and-true P.I. yarn.