Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Two-fer Tuesdays: Strike a Pose, Dear

A twice-monthly pairing of book covers that just seem to go together. Click on either of these images to open up an enlargement.

If I recall correctly, I’ve had the cover scan from Stephen Marlowe’s Model for Murder (Graphic, 1955) ever since I launched Killer Covers in January 2009, but couldn’t ever seem to find a proper way to showcase it. The same cover artist, Walter Popp, created the front for another novel in my collection, 1957’s Call Me Deadly, by Hal Braham, which I used in a blog gallery a couple of years back. But only now does Model for Murder finally gets it time to shine.

As I said, the illustrator responsible for that cover was Walter Popp, who, according to the essential blog Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists, was born in New York City in 1920, later studied art at the New York Phoenix School of Design, and went on to attend the Shriverham American University in England, and eventually the Art Students League of New York. Popp created covers and interior illustrations for periodicals such as Amazing Stories, Fantastic Mysteries, Western Story Round-Up, True Detective, and the fondly remembered Manhunt. (You can look over some of his magazine efforts here.) Beginning in the 1950s, though, he turned to painting covers for paperback book publishers such as Ace, Popular Library, Flying Eagle Publications, and Graphic, the last of which issued the above edition of Model for Murder. Popp died in 2002.

The author of this novel was Stephen Marlowe, born Milton Lesser in Brooklyn in 1928. As Wikipedia explains, Lesser/Marlowe penned science-fiction novels and even fictional autobiographies during his career (he died in Virginia in 2008). But “he is best known for his detective character Chester Drum, whom he created in the 1955 novel The Second Longest Night.” Model for Murder appears to have been Marlowe’s fifth novel, “a fairly standard tough-guy crime story,” as a reviewer named Shawn put it on the Goodreads site. The book’s back-cover copy offers some plot details:
Pretty Phyllis Kirk was an interviewer for the Kincaid morals report--a shocker that out-Kinseyed Kinsey! In her possession were intimate secrets about the town’s best people, secrets for which she was killed by someone planning blackmail …

Suspicion fell on Wilson Wompler, the cheesecake king, already working a blackmail racket with photos posed by his lovely models. A private eye, a couple of ex-convicts and a lady wrestler tangled to produce the real killer, a couple of murders later. But first the cute daughter of Pop Grujdzak, a Bible-quoting cop, had to pose for Wompler in her sister’s lingerie!
If you’re interested in learning more about this book, note that publisher Armchair Fiction reprinted Model for Murder last year as one of its “extra large paperback editions of the best in classic Mystery-Crime novels,” complete with the original Popp cover.

Sharing the same title (but that’s all) with Marlowe’s 1955 work is Robert Kyle’s Model for Murder, first published in 1959 by Dell Books and shown above, right. You may remember that Kyle was a pseudonym used by Robert Terrall (1914-2009), the prolific creator of New York private eye Ben Gates, introduced in the 1958 novel Blackmail, Inc. Gates returned a year later in Model for Murder, about which the blog Alpha-60 Books writes:
This one doesn’t waste no time with the usual introductions. On the first page there’s a mandatory “I'm private investigator” monologue; next we learn that we are in New York and that our gumshoe is already on the case. He’s about to hand $500 to a girl blackmailing his client (page two) when she starts shooting at him through the closed door. And then, for some strange reason (or is she simply pissed off at herself for failing to kill him?), she decides to shoot herself!?! And we are still in the middle of the third page!

Great start! And it gets better--proxy endorsement letter (something related to the stock exchange trading), stolen jewelry and counterfeit money are objects of desires in this one. They are of course also the reasons for the mayhem that follows. Blackmail, murder, robberies from the past, fucked-up families, sleazy hotels (and fancy hotels with sleazy detectives), gangsters, G-men, cops, jazz clubs, beautiful women, tough guys … and our private dick in the middle of all this. Used and eventually betrayed by his client.
I think Model for Murder is the only one of the five Gates novels I don’t own. Which is pretty darn sad, when I realize that its cover was painted by one of my favorite book artists, Robert McGinnis. I’ll definitely have to track down a copy someday.

1 comment:

Ed Gorman said...

Great post on Walter Popp, Theodore Pratt (I grew up reading his Gold Medal novels) and my late friend Stephen Marlowe. You made a geezer very hapy.