The latest installment in Killer Covers’ “haven’t we seen this front someplace before?” series. Previous entries are here.
It wasn’t uncommon in the 20th century for American, British, and even Australian publishers to “borrow” each other’s paperback artwork. Since there was less travel between countries back then, readers might not realize that the handsome illustration they found on a Mickey Spillane, Carter Brown, or Ross Macdonald book in the States was also decorating a different work overseas. The talents of Robert Maguire, Robert McGinnis, Mitchell Hooks, and others were in particularly high demand. And if the original artwork couldn’t be had, some publishers commissioned look-alike illustrations.
Below we have a prime example of such imitation. The first cover comes from The Forbidden Room, a 1952 Gold Medal paperback written by Jaclen Steele (the joint pseudonym adopted by husband-wife authors Jack and Helen Steele). Touted as “a powerful novel of haunting fears,” it features a most appealing, slightly suggestive illustration by Barye Phillips, showing a woman in what’s either a short dress or a clingy slip--I’m no expert on such matters.
Now compare that with this next front, taken from a later 1950s edition of Whisper His Sin, Vin Packer’s novel of homosexuality and homicide. Released by the UK imprint Red Seal, its art was obviously inspired by Phillips’, though the woman is now clearly in her underwear. No illustration credit is given … probably because the painter was too ashamed to ’fess up to his theft.