Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Two-fer Tuesdays: Taking It to the Streets

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

Having finally completed two weeks of work remodeling a room in my house, I can again concentrate on important matters … such as writing about vintage book fronts.

The paperback cover above and on the left comes from the 1959 Midwood edition of Girl of the Streets, by Orrie Hitt, a fairly prolific “sleazecore” novelist of the 1950s and ’60s whose work has enjoyed a good bit of attention over the last few years (see here, here, and here). According to this write-up in a blog devoted to Hitt’s oeuvre, Girl of the Streets is one of the author’s weaker, less original literary efforts. It focuses on young Sherry Collins, a member of an office typing pool, who grew up in the seedier part of her town, “where cheap hookers and booze [are] always available, and shady characters sell reefer and girly pics on the street. But she is a good girl, despite her 38-19-34 figure that all men and boys crave …”

Sherry’s eventual descent into sin is ever swifter and sadder, due to her persistent innocence. Tired of living with her own parents (especially her boozing father), she first moves into “a room rented out by the parents of her boyfriend, Frank,” who seduces her and then promptly cheats on her. (Yeah, who could’ve seen that plot curve coming, right?) Then she relocates to a still more dubious boarding house “that caters to ‘loose’ women who make money in an amoral way consistent with ‘the street,’” only to fall under the libidinous sway of her lesbian-artist roommate. After all of these troubles, you’d think Sherry might be a wee bit more cautious about trusting people. But you’d be wrong. As the previously mentioned blog explains,
[O]ne day she is called into the head man’s office, Freddie Parks. She expects to be canned but instead Mr. Parks tells her he has had his “eye” on her and would like her to represent the company in the local country club beauty pageant.

She is flattered, floored, and naïve to boot—others try to warn her, and she soon figures out that these beauty contests are rigged and just a way for old married businessmen to flirt and sleep with pretty young girls. Freddie has rigged the contest so the judges will vote for her—this is after he beds Sherry. She is naïve enough to think that dinner and drinks with her married boss is nothing serious—she holds up her guard until he tells her sweet nothings and how he will leave his wife and marry her. He even makes her his personal secretary, [Sherry] not knowing that there have been three other secretaries, all whom he impregnated.
It’s but a small jump from there to Sherry’s debut as a smut photographer’s new model. “This is somewhat a depressing story,” the Hitt blog concludes, as if we couldn’t recognize that already. The best part of the book might be its cover, which was painted by Harry Barton and shows a busty young brunette in a beret, who might be cocking her shapely hip on a street in Paris … though it’s obvious that this “nice girl on her way down” (to quote from the cover lines) will be lucky to make it to her 40th birthday, much less Europe.

You might not guess that our second book under consideration this week, Richard Foster’s The Girl from Easy Street (shown above, right), is also about a young miss gone wrong. The artwork decorating this 1960 Popular Library edition of the novel, credited to Robert McGinnis, makes it look like a lighthearted tale of a woman negotiating the travails of laboring in a modern office. But the teaser text fronting the original, 1955 edition of Foster’s book hints at very different doings. “The tragic story of a teen-age girl who wanted too much too soon, and ran the brutal gamut of delinquency,” reads that cover copy, while the back offers this synopsis:
Betty Jane Allen was a pretty high school girl, who scandalized a small town …

Betty Hamill was a hoodlum’s moll, looking for thrills and a fast dollar …

Mrs. Chalice was in business and her phone number was for men only …

Mrs. Lance Peru was a Park Avenue beauty, available to the Vice Syndicate’s murder squad …

But they were all the same girl. A girl looking for Easy Street, but lost on a one-way road to ruin.
By the way, “Richard Foster” was another of several pseudonyms employed by New Yorker Kendell Foster Crossen (1910-1981), who also concocted private-eye fiction as “M.E. Chaber.” You’ll find another of his Foster novels showcased here.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Armed and Delicious

This has to be one of the cheesiest paperback spy yarn covers I’ve ever seen! Super-Doll was published in 1969 by Award Books. Unfortunately, its cover artist isn’t identified, and the author’s name is almost surely a pseudonym. But we can all use a good laugh before the start of a new work week, right? (Credit for bringing this art to my attention goes to the terrific Pulp Covers blog.)

Click on either of the images below to open an enlargement.

FOLLOW-UP: More than one knowledgeable source has now told me that the Super-Doll cover art should be credited to Ron Lesser.

Friday, January 8, 2016

One Final Treat from Orbik

After a very busy holiday season, I’m finding it somewhat difficult to get back into the usual swing of editorial commitments. Surely, by next week or so, this stumbling along will be at an end, and Killer Covers can return to its regularly scheduled postings. Meanwhile, let me at least present what I understand is the last book-cover illustration Glen Orbik created before he passed away in May 2015.

Quarry in the Black is the 12th installment in Max Allan Collins’ long-running series about a single-monikered killer-for-hire, Quarry, following last year’s Quarry’s Choice. Due for release in October from Hard Case Crime, this novel boasts some particularly timely elements. Here’s the plot brief from Hard Case’s Web site:

With a controversial presidential election just weeks away, Quarry is hired to carry out a rare political assignment: kill the Reverend Raymond Wesley Lloyd, a passionate Civil Rights crusader and campaigner for the underdog candidate. But when a hate group out of Ferguson, Missouri, turns out to be gunning for the same target, Quarry starts to wonder just who it is he’s working for.
Given how fond I was of Quarry’s Choice (it wound up on my top-10 list of crime novels for Kirkus Reviews), I’m looking forward to seeing what moral and criminal complications Collins can throw at his protagonist next. At the same time, I’m sorry this book will mark the end of Orbik’s splendid contributions to the genre.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Putting on a Good Face

It’s likely you haven’t noticed yet, but The Rap Sheet just posted its nominees for Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2015. There are 20 contenders this year, covering a wide assortment of authors and a range of publishers, both large and small. You’re invited to take part in choosing the ultimate winner. At the bottom of the post, you’ll find a simple electronic ballot. Please feel free to select as many or as few covers as you think deserve praise. Voting will remain open for the next two weeks, until midnight on Friday, January 22, after which The Rap Sheet will announce the results.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it. But the clock’s running. Vote now!