My interest in journalism dates back to my college years. I had been given the chance to join the newspaper staff in high school, but since I was attending that Catholic institution solely for its educational opportunities (yes, I was a very serious young student), extracurricular activities had no place in my schedule. Not until I reached college and began living away from home did I allow myself to do things other than study. Joining the staff of that school’s weekly paper proved to be an excellent decision, not only because it showed me that I could make a living writing (the only thing I really dreamed of doing), but introduced me to a lively, intelligent bunch of co-workers and put me in the position of interviewing such famous visitors to the college as Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, singer Sarah Vaughan, and Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.
In the decades since, I’ve made some mistakes in my career and been disappointed at times with what the field offers, but I have mostly enjoyed the challenges. The two books under consideration here today, however, make me think I have lived an altogether sheltered and tame journalistic existence.
The Roving Eye, by Michel Wells (Ace, 1957), is described on its back cover as “an intimate peep into the plush jungle that is the hunting ground of the world’s highly paid foreign correspondents.
Men like Robert Adams, whose sensational stories might sell out an issue of a magazine, yet whose private life was a cauldron of secret ambitions and thwarted desires. Women like the gorgeous Natalie Connors, envied queen of magazine feature writers, who used her sex like a precision tool for personal advantage.The Roving Eye’s jaded protagonist, explained John Maxwell Hamilton in his similarly titled non-fiction work, Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting (2009), “travels with ‘guts, wits, and typewriter in hand.’ On the book’s cover a dark-haired beauty massages the correspondent’s back while he drinks wine and hammers out a story on his typewriter in a Paris hotel room. ‘Robert Adams’ adventures as he hunts down the real story--and the real truth--make a sensationally thrilling novel of one of the world’s most exciting professions,’ proclaims a promotional blurb.”
What happened when those two dynamic personalities clashed over a scandalous story that could blast the lid off a certain publisher is a tension-taut novel of the resorts of Mexico, the luxury towers of Manhattan, and the sensual byways of Paris.
It’s an eye-catching cover, indeed, even though I can’t for the life of me figure out who painted it. Unfortunately, when digital publisher Singularity & Co. acquired the rights to The Roving Eye, it chose not to use the original book front, opting instead for a design that employs a rather famous photo of actress Ava Gardner.
Now let’s turn out attention to the second façade featured atop this post, from the 1962 Beacon Books release The Thrill Makers, by Brad Hart. The artwork in this case is credited to the prolific Stanley Borack. His illustration shows a youngish gent grinning in obvious satisfaction as he straightens his tie after what we can only presume was a sexual liaison with the underwear-clad woman on the bed. That man looks an awful lot like actor-model Steve Holland, who later provided Borack with inspiration when he painted the fronts of Ted Mark’s “Man from O.R.G.Y.” espionage yarns.
According to its cover teasers, The Thrill Makers is all about “what takes place behind the scenes at those Sexy Magazine editorial offices” where “cynical editors and photographers … will go to any lengths to satisfy thrill-seeking readers.” I was much too young to ever work for one of those Mad Men-era Sexy Magazines (don’t forget to capitalize both of those words!), but the back-jacket copy makes it sound like a wild time was had by one and all:
What is behind the tremendous success of today’s crop of Girlie Magazines? … Are such magazines deliberately being edited to stimulate and inflame senses to the point where anything can happen--and often does?Maybe more of a success than The Thrill Makers itself. As one Amazon reader-reviewer opines: “The Thrill Makers doesn’t really deliver on its promises, although if you want to get technical, it does in a way. What I mean is that, yes, you learn about the types of things that go on behind the scenes at a girlie magazine--business-type things, though, not sexy-time things. That isn’t to say this book is devoid of making the love, it’s just not in the context I was expecting it to be. The last half of the book is taken up almost wholly with legal issues. About as exciting as watching paint dry. Actually, I’d rather watch the paint. Two good things: Goat People and a Reasonable Person can be found within these pages. That makes it not as bad as it could be.”
Here is the long suppressed story of such a magazine and the people who make it tick--you’ll meet …
Brad Carlton, who edited the magazine and insisted upon doing his own research.
Maureen Casey, the beauty who took strange delight in photographing other beauty--in the nude!
Ivory Black, who was a model of the art of cheese-cake and an avid student of other forms of art.
Sheila Tatum, who had some remarkable connections … and vices.
--Together they made Satyrus into a tremendous success!
Brad Hart is not a familiar author to me, but it turns out he penned at least one more novel, an equally male-oriented tale called Bella Vista’s Wives (1963). Perhaps that does a better job of delivering the sexy goods. Not that I’m anxious to track down a copy …