Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Finds: “The Lady Came to Kill”

Another in our growing line of vintage book covers we love.

The Lady Came to Kill, by M.E. Chaber (Pocket, 1959).
Illustration by Len Goldberg.

Originally published in 1958 as The Gallows Garden, this was the eighth novel to feature Milo March, a CIA operative turned “globetrotting investigator for Intercontinental Insurance.” In my look at the ninth March tale, A Hearse of a Different Color, I noted that M.E. Chaber was a pen name for New Yorker Kendell Foster Crossen, himself a former insurance investigator, later a guide book contributor and editor of Detective Fiction Weekly.

The Lady Came to Kill finds March being hired to locate a missing college professor, who has apparently disappeared in a Caribbean nation while protesting the local government. “No sedative, this,” Kirkus Reviews remarked, noting the book’s thriller-ish pacing. Pocket’s back-jacket copy strongly supports the idea of this being a sharp yarn, replete with ample twists, turns, and curves (of both the plotting and female sorts):
The door opened and she walked in--like a queen. She was small and dark and stacked. I’ve known quite a few dames but this one was something extra special.

“Señor Milo March?” she asked in a soft Spanish accent.

I admitted that was who I was.

She reached into her shiny black hand-bag--and came up with a pastel blue gun. So help me. Real pastel blue. A lethal boudoir toy with the muzzle pointed straight at me.

“I have come to kill you,” she said--
and I knew she meant it.
I’m sorry to say that I do not know much about the cover illustrator, Len Goldberg, other than that he created a number of paperback covers for Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu-Manchu series during the 1960s, as well as fronts for publishers of horror, romance, and soft-core sleaze. You can see some of Goldberg’s other work here.

Artist Robert McGinnis created a very different cover for Paperback Library’s edition of The Gallows Garden in 1971, emphasizing toughness and sexiness over Goldberg’s action.

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