The Diamond Boomerang, by Lester S. Taube (Pocket, 1970).
Illustration by Robert Foster.
From what I can tell by searching the Web, this novel was originally released in 1969 by British publisher W.H. Allen under the title The Grabbers. Its author, Lester S. Taube (1920-2013), was born in Trenton, New Jersey, to Russian and Lithuanian parents. During his teens he joined the U.S. military, and in World War II fought with the Marines on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Following that war, Taube ran an electronics company in California, then a paper stock enterprise in Pennsylvania, and eventually a logging operation in Canada. He went back to serve as a military adviser and intelligence officer during the Korean War, and ended his armed forces career amid the chaos of the Vietnam War, when he found himself stationed in Europe as “a general staff officer working in intelligence and war plans.”
(Right) A much less attractive, 1970 UK edition of Taube’s novel.
Settling once more into civilian life, this time in France, Taube apparently opened a “chain of coin-operated laundries … that would become the largest in Europe.” It was during this later period of his life that he started penning fiction, ultimately putting his name to eight novels, the last of which was The Grabbers, described on what looks like the official Taube Web site as “a diamond theft thriller.” Here’s a brief plot account:
Dan Baldwin, an ex-colonel whose life has crashed, is rescued from a gutter in North Africa and finds himself elected at gunpoint to the company of a purposeful trio about to raid the secret diamond field of a relentless south-west African cartel. He contrives to locate the diamonds, and, for his pains, is left for dead by the gang’s treacherous leader, who has conspired to secure the entire illicit haul for himself.Apparently, the lithe, topless lovely depicted on the 1970 cover of the retitled Diamond Boomerang is not Ingrid, for the hue of her hair is all wrong. Nonetheless, the illustration certainly suggests that the adventure inside is fraught with risk and possible romance, all set against a territory made foreign by the endeavors and ethics of its inhabitants as much as by its natural environment. The painting is credited to Robert Foster, an accomplished (but now largely forgotten) artist who, after working during the mid-20th century as a popular instructor at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, relocated to the East Coast. He taught for a while with the Famous Artists School Correspondence Course in Connecticut, hoping to build up a portfolio that would gain him entry into the illustration market in New York City. As Tom Watson, a now-retired West Coast illustrator, art director and educator, who studied under Foster in San Francisco, recalls in this 2010 piece for the blog Today’s Inspiration,
The furious climax is reached in London, where Dan, after a tempestuous clash and torrid love affair with the beautiful, blonde Ingrid Talaanger, daughter of the diamond cartel’s head, discovers that for all his violence and cynicism, he can again love a woman devotedly and be changed by her.
[Foster’s] original intent was to break into the magazine illustration field, where the spotlight of modern illustration had been centered throughout the 1950s, but that market was starting to shrivel and gave less opportunity for the new guy in town. So he found a lucrative niche illustrating mostly pocket book covers for the major publishers and had built a substantial reputation, particularly in the science-fiction market.Watson’s multi-installment recollection of his time with Robert “Just Call Me Bob” Foster is well worth reading, if you’re at all interested in this artist. Follow these links to find his complete series: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV. Watson notes, amid his memories of the illustrator’s three-piece suits and use of his students as studio models, that Foster “passed away of a heart attack in 1977, at the age of 49, after having progressively poor health.”
Frederik Pohl was a well known sci-fi writer at the time and Bob did many illustrations for the covers of his books. One of his crowning achievements was a series of the first four covers for John Norman’s famous (sci-fi) “Gor” series. He illustrated the covers for other well-known writers of the day, such as Doris Lessing, Paul Gallico (The Poseidon Adventure) and Somerset Maugham, to name a few. …
Depending on the subject, his illustrations varied in their degree of realism, and some were rendered quite painterly. He was one of the very few successful sci-fi illustrators who used a unique surrealistic technique, ideal for that market. He used his anatomical knowledge to depict and render accurate human form, and blended innovative elements and backgrounds reminiscent of surrealism in a dramatic theatrical setting. Bob’s illustrations were carefully designed, positioning his figures and props to visually flow together, and to contrast and complement each other. In several examples, he extracted shapes and forms from small watch parts, gears, wheels, etc., enlarging and altering them for unique background props.
I don’t usually provide, in these “Friday Finds” posts, galleries of work by the principal artists under consideration. But I am quite struck by Foster’s exceptional talent. So below, you’ll find 11 of the paperback fronts he created during his career. These include his off-kilter cover for The Dakota Project (1971), the stunning back and front images he created for the 1970 Avon edition of Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man, his artwork for Dell’s 1972 paperback release of The Poseidon Adventure (a copy of which I happen to have in my own library), and his illustration for 1969’s Muscavado, a West Indies slave revolt tale touted in its time as “more explosive than Mandingo,” Kyle Onstott’s rather racy novel of the antebellum South (later turned into a movie of the same title).
Click on any of these images to open an enlargement.
Obviously, Robert Foster is an artist who deserves much greater recognition than he has received in recent years.
READ MORE: “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Art of Robert Foster, Part I” and “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Art of Robert Foster, Part II,” by Joachim Boaz (Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations).