These “Two-fer Tuesdays” installments have been rather sparse lately, as I’ve focused what free time I have on celebrating John D. MacDonald’s centennial as well as what would have been the 110th birthday of paperback cover artist Paul Rader. For The Rap Sheet and Kirkus Reviews, I must still deal with Best Books of 2016 coverage and other year-end postings. But as things finally wind down for 2016, I hope to resume my regular Killer Covers posting schedule.
So let us begin by comparing the two softcover façades embedded above. The one on the left comes from the original, 1967 Gold Medal release of Tanner’s Twelve Swingers. That was Lawrence Block’s third (of eight) novels featuring Evan Michael Tanner, a seriously sleep-deprived Korean War veteran turned secret agent. A short MyShelf.com review of this “fast-paced” story with “many Cold War references” offers the following plot brief:
As a favor to his good friend, Karlis Mislovicius, Tanner agrees to go to Russia to smuggle a Latvian gymnast, Sofija Lazdinja, out of the country. He travels from New York City, across Europe, to Russia on his mission. His problem is augmented when Sofija refuses to leave without her eleven teammates. Along the way his entourage is increased by a Slav author and the young heir to the nonexistent Lithuanian throne. It takes all of Tanner’s ingenuity and resources to rescue them all.The dynamic illustration introducing this edition of Tanner’s Twelve Swingers was created by versatile, and now 90-year-old artist Robert McGinnis. It’s one of three stylistically similar fronts McGinnis painted for Block’s Tanner series, the others found on Two for Tanner and Tanner’s Tiger, both of which were published in 1968.
On the cover featured above and to the right, you see the term “swingers” being used in a very different manner. Dee Winters’ The Swingers (Beacon, 1965) was a soft-porn yarn about “rollicking” sex-partner exchanges among married couples. As the back-jacket copy on this other version of the same novel reads:
Welcome to the swinging, swapping suburban set--where couples are rated and partners switched with pushbutton ease.Responsibility for the cover art here belongs to Ernest Chiriacka (aka “Darcy”), one of my favorite paperback illustrators of the mid-20th century. I haven’t succeeded in learning much online about The Swingers’ author, but I do know that Dee Winters also gave readers such tales as 1962’s Motel Marriage (another wife-swapping adventure) and 1966’s You May Hate Lonnie Browning (“about nurses and the temptations in their intimate lives”).
Rick and Nina found the neighborhood “mating game” gave an exciting new fillip to their own waning marriage. They found new thrills in toting up their score cards, threw themselves with headlong abandon into a vortex of sensation-seeking as they competed with each other for “high-score.”
Nina made the rounds of husbands and Rick completed the circuit of wives. But at last one fatal step too far down the perverse path brought them face to face with a shocking realization about themselves—and about their friend, attractive Gerry Dennison. Gerry’s forbidden longings, it was clear, rendered her completely vulnerable to the warped ways of--The Swingers.
By the way, while I was digging around on the Web, I happened across another vintage paperback that picks up on this week’s title theme. Sex-Swinger (shown on the left) was published by Beacon Books in 1963. Its author is listed as “Andrew Blake,” but according to AbeBooks, that was just a pen name employed by Lary [sic] Mark Harris, who wrote additional books under such pseudonyms as Laurence M. Janifer, Barbara Wilson, Mark Phillips, and Alfred Blake. In addition to Sex-Swinger, Harris produced The Bed and I (1962), The Ecstasy Kick (1967), Love Hostess (1963), and 1969’s Topless (“a case history report … revealing portraits of the everything-goes woman in today’s anything-goes world”). The wonderful blog Pulp Covers: The Best of the Worst attributes the artwork for Sex-Swinger to Charles Schridde (1926-2011), who grew up in the American Midwest and was once a top illustrator in Detroit, Michigan, contributing his talents to automobile catalogues, and painting futuristic residential scenes for use in Motorola TV advertisements. (See examples of those here and here.) Schridde was also known during his later years for his Western imagery. Since his death, Schridde’s Web site has been taken down, but you can still access it via the Wayback Machine.