Foolish me. Not being a religious person, I have always figured that the 12 days of Christmas sung about in that old English carol (“On the First day of Christmas my true love sent to me/a partridge in a pear tree”) were those leading up to December 25. It seemed logical that the biggest present (12 drummers drumming) should be received on the actual holiday. Au contraire. According to Wikipedia:
The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season to celebrate the nativity of Jesus. In most Western Church traditions Christmas Day is the First Day of Christmas and the Twelve Days are 25 December–5 January. For many Christian denominations, such as the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church, the Twelve Days period is the same as Christmastide; for others, such as the Catholic Church, Christmastide lasts a little longer; the Twelve Days are different from the Octave of Christmas, which is the eight-day period from Christmas Day until 1 January. In Anglicanism, the term “Twelve Days of Christmas” is used liturgically in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the US, having its own invitatory antiphon in the Book of Common Prayer for Matins.OK, got all that? Regardless, the 12 days of Christmas idea got into my head as I was thinking about how to celebrate this festive occasion in Killer Covers, and it combined with something my clever niece, Amie-June, has said about the vintage crime-fiction fronts I feature on this page—how the women shown in them are so often “dames.” No, not “dames” in the noble sense of that word, but “dames” in the brassy, confident, take-no-shit-and-you’d-better-like-it sense; in the sense that the women actress Mae West so often played on the silver screen were “dames,” full of “bawdy double entendres, and breezy sexual independence.”
And I got to thinking about how often the word “dame” appears in the titles of those classic paperbacks I’ve come to treasure over the years. Could I find enough such books to fill a tribute to the dozen days of Twelvetide? As it turns out, there are many more than 12 available, especially if you include covers with “dame” in their teaser lines. So beginning today and running through January 5, Killer Covers is celebrating “The Twelve Dames of Christmas.”
We start off here with a front of particular interest. Atop this post you will see the façade from the 1954 Gold Medal release Death Is a Lovely Dame, written by “Matthew Blood,” aka Davis Dresser, author of the Mike Shayne private-eye series. The cover artwork—showing a young brunette reclined on a bed, her nudity concealed only partially by what appears to be a set of green pajamas draped across her derrière—is credited to the renowned Barye Phillips, and continues onto the book’s own back side.
Happy holidays, everyone! And stay tuned for more.