Thursday, May 12, 2016

Better Red

Redheaded Sinners, by Jonathan Craig (Lancer, 1952). Sadly, the artist responsible for this work is not identified.

The recent release of Max Allan Collins’ Better Dead—the 16th novel in his award-winning series starring private eye Nathan “Nate” Heller, set primarily in 1953—reminds us of a popular Cold War slogan. “Better dead than red” and its philosophical opposite, “better red than dead,” were once frequently heard and published, back in the days when the United States’ World War II alliance of necessity with the Soviet Union (the “reds”) had collapsed, and Western fears of Communism were rampant. Although “better dead than red” apparently persists as “a schoolyard taunt aimed at redhaired children,” it has otherwise fallen out of currency. Except in stories, such as Better Dead, that take place during the Eisenhower era.

But let us resurrect the phrase, if only for a moment, in order to exhibit a gallery of vintage paperback fronts that reference redheaded figures. There have been, of course, myriad covers released over the years featuring beautiful scarlet-tressed women (including this one and this one, as well as this one and this beauty). In putting together the collection below, though, I have restricted my choices to works on which the word “redhead” (or some version of that) appears either in the title or the main teaser line. Represented among these selections are such artists as Robert McGinnis (A Redhead for Mike Shayne, Operation Fireball, Killer Mine, Wanted: Danny Fontaine), Ron Lesser (Fatal Undertaking), Harry Schaare (5 Who Vanished, How Sharp the Point), Robert Maguire (The Case of the Radioactive Redhead, To Keep or Kill), Clark Hulings (Never Victorious, Never Defeated), William George (The Frightened Fingers), Barye Phillips (Until You Are Dead), and Harry Barton (The Squeeze and 1961’s Squeeze Play—with an image that latter appeared on 1964’s The Swimming Pool Set). I venture to say that no sane individual would rather be dead than have the opportunity to appreciate these tributes to redheads.

Click on any of the covers here to open an enlargement.

READ MORE:The Case of the Restless Redhead (1954), by Erle Stanley Gardner,” by Kate Jackson (Cross-Examining Crime).


Art Taylor said...

THAT is an impressive gallery! :-)

Max Allan Collins said...

What an array! I bought at least 9 of these off the paperback racks when I was in junior high and high school, and I got the tenth (FINGER MAN) in a used book store...but isn't she a blonde?

Kind of wish
I had made one of the key female characters in BETTER DEAD a redhead. Sometimes I miss the obvious.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

You're right, Max, the woman on the cover does look like a blonde. However, I've learned never to disagree with a cover blurb.


Anonymous said...

This is a great collection. Thanks to Amazon these books can be bought for almost the same original price. I have had a couple cover printed and framed and they hang in my house. Keep up the good works!

Art Scott said...

My friends will tell you that I have a "thing" for redheads. There was always a segment in my slide shows featuring reds (many of the covers are in your survey). After one Bouchercon presentation, Julie Smith, herself definitely a redhead, came up to me and said, "Art, I didn't know you were a fetishist!" To which I could only reply, "Thank you very much."