Monday, May 11, 2015
Not long after I posted last week’s “Two-fer Tuesdays” entry, which combined a couple of vintage paperback fronts highlighting the unforeseen dangers to be found in bathtubs, I received an e-note from Art Scott, co-author of last year’s The Art of Robert E. McGinnis. It explained that “The late Ellen Nehr, collector, reviewer and bibliographer (The Doubleday Crime Club Compendium), decided many years ago to collect books with dead bodies in bathtubs on the cover (they had to be dead). With the help of lunatic collectors like myself she acquired dozens of them. I inherited the collection when she passed [in 1995] and did a short feature for Paperback Parade some years ago. Let me know if you want to see more well-hydrated corpses; I’ll be happy to supply same.”
Naturally, I wrote him back immediately. And soon after that my e-mailbox filled up with scans of book façades featuring lifeless human limbs draped over porcelain or, in two cases, fetching females frightened in the midst of their ablutions (Scott calls these “strategically placed soapsuds” covers). One of my favorites from among Scott’s assortment is shown at the top of this piece. It’s the 1948 Avon edition of Whose Body?, Dorothy L. Sayers’ first Lord Peter Wimsey whodunit (originally published in 1923). Its cover artistry is credited to Ann Cantor, who worked on a number of Avon fronts during the mid-20th century. (More examples of her work are to be enjoyed here and here.) The cover to the right, meanwhile, taken from the 1948 Avon edition of Fast One, by Paul Cain, is quite appealing as well, but unfortunately its jacket illustrator is unidentified.
Below are other top selections from Scott’s set:
Today’s final example of this breed “comes with a story,” writes Art Scott. “I came across this book while rooting around the late lamented Murder One shop in London. I snapped it up, of course, and when I got home carefully gift-wrapped it and posted it to Ellen Nehr in Ohio, with a note attached that said something like, ‘Here it is, the capstone to your bodies-in-bathtubs collection. You’ll never find another book to top it!’ A couple days later the phone rang; it was Ellen calling to thank me, but it took a minute or so to realize who it was or what she was saying, she was laughing so hard.”
READ MORE: “Murder Leaves a Ring, by Fay Grissom Stanley,” by J. Kingston Pierce (Killer Covers).