Monday, March 30, 2015
As odd as it may seem now, there was once--back in the 1960s, early ’70s--a fairly profitable market for paperback fiction about spouse swapping. A good number of those novels came from William Hamling’s Greenleaf Publishing, which owned imprints such as Nightstand Books, Leisure Books, and Companion Books. Now-prominent authors on the order of Lawrence Block, Ed McBain, Donald E. Westlake, and Harlan Ellison wrote for those imprints (under noms de plume, of course). But most of the cover artwork seemed to be executed by Robert Bonfils.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, back in 1922, Bonfils later served a stint with the U.S. Army during World War II, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and eventually went to work in Chicago for the prestigious art agency of Stevens, Hall, Biondi creating illustrations for advertisements, magazines, record jackets, and children’s books. During the 1960s--the “swinging ’60s,” remember--he started working for the Greenleaf imprints, turning out as many as 50 cover illustrations a month, many of them decorating vintage sleaze works such as Swap Now, Pay Later, The Swapping Urge, Swappers All, Make Her Swap, Acapulco Swap, and the distinctly non-Shakespearean The Swapping of the Shrew.
Bonfils’ artistry was generally far superior to the quality of the novels on which it featured (often uncredited), but his silliest, least appealing cover might have been for Spicy Meatball Swap, a 1971 Companion release credited to H.C. Hawkes (whose other titles included the literary classics For Couples Only and Threesomes, Foursomes, and Moresomes). Somehow it’s hard for me to imagine anybody looking at the cover of Spicy Meatball Swap on a newsstand--or, more likely, tucked onto a shelf in some poorly lighted back room of a bookstore--and thinking, Oh, yeah! I have to read that immediately! Or maybe after lunch ...