Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday Finds: “The Girl in the Black Chemise”

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

The Girl in the Black Chemise, by Les Scott (Beacon, 1952).
Illustration by Owen Kampen.

And so we come to the end of another week. But not without enjoying a final morsel of eye candy, courtesy of Wisconsin-born artist Kampen. This paperback front might have been included in our gallery of brass bed covers, but instead it’s been reserved for individual treatment. Largely because its author provides a good story.

“Les Scott,” you see, was one of a number of bylines employed by Alexander Leslie Scott (1893-1974), an American writer best remembered for penning Western fiction. In an introduction to Prologue Books’ line of Western e-novels, fictionist James Reasoner explains that “Alexander Leslie Scott was one of the most prolific authors in the Western pulps, his work appearing in hundreds
Alexander Leslie Scott
of issues of various titles from the 1920s to the 1950s. He’s best known for two series featuring heroic, iconic Texas Rangers, Jim Hatfield [Killer Country, 1961] and Walt Slade, both of which he created. The Jim Hatfield stories originally appeared in the pulp Texas Rangers under the house-name Jackson Cole. A number of different authors contributed Hatfield novels during the magazine’s run, but Scott was the first. Meanwhile, over in the pages of Thrilling Western, under the name Bradford Scott, he was also chronicling the adventures of Texas Ranger Walt Slade. But as if that wasn’t enough to establish Leslie Scott’s reputation as a leading Western author, as paperbacks came to dominance in the ’50s he moved his talents to that arena, penning original Jim Hatfield novels for newly established Pyramid Books … Following a successful run of Hatfield paperbacks, Scott also revived Walt Slade in an even longer, more successful series of full-length novels that were bestsellers for the next 15 years. … In all of his novels, Scott was known for his vivid descriptions of the Western landscape, his larger-than-life heroes, and his fast-moving action scenes.”

It wasn’t only tales of saddle jockeys, cattle drives, and main street shootouts, though, that attracted Scott’s attention. As the blog Booktryst observes, he gained a bit of notoriety penning a more titillating brand of fiction, including such works as Lady of the Evening and Twilight Women, both apparently released in 1952. And then, of course, there’s The Girl in the Black Chemise, with its abundantly sultry front and suggestive back-cover plot brief:
Is three a crowd?

The girl in the black chemise, Iris, was not housewife material. She was a woman of the twilight. Besides, she was convinced that Tom Grant still loved the utterly beautiful, utterly alluring, utterly wicked Bertha, to whom he had been wed many years.

So Iris let Tom love her, love her all he wanted to. But she refused to marry him. Inevitably, Tom sought solace in the arms of other twilight women; a step which proved fatal. For it threw him once again into the company of his irresistible ex-wife. By all indications, Bertha again was making him her love slave …

But Iris, Iris of the back chemise, suddenly decided to fight for her man and rejoined the fray. Her charms, already too much for Tom, proved just as devastating to Bertha!
Interestingly, Alexander Scott was the father of another big-producing author, Manhattan-born Justin Scott. The latter’s books include those published under his own name, such as The Shipkiller (1978) and Mausoleum (2007), and several he’s co-written with Clive Cussler, among them The Striker (2013) and this year’s The Gangster.

1 comment:

Richard Krauss said...

Great to see another Kampen cover, and this one's a beauty!