Although he’s now better recognized for painting dusty cowboys and nude women (a few of the latter collected here), Howard Rogers—born in San Diego, California, in 1932—also built up an impressive portfolio of paperback book fronts during the mid- to late-20th century. That turn in his professional path was not inevitable.
As one online biography explains,
Howard’s career began in 1959. He emerged from the Art Center of Los Angeles and began a decade of work in Detroit illustrating for the auto industry. He didn’t illustrate cars, but instead he illustrated the people who went into the cars. As the auto industry moved towards photography instead of illustrations for their advertisements, Howard headed to New York to work for publishing houses, advertising agencies, and magazines. He did illustrations for McCall’s, Good Housekeeping, Harlequin Romance novels, and W.S. George.Another of his clients was Bantam Books, for which he created the artwork atop this post. That cover comes from the 1972 paperback edition of The Law Unto Themselves (originally released in hardback two years earlier), written by Peter R. Runkel, then the chief psychologist at the Winston Churchill Clinic in Harlow, Essex, not far outside London, England. As the cover lines explain, this volume contains “eleven psychiatric case studies which reveal the turbulent drives, the inner torment, [and] the secret sex life of the cop on the beat.” Runkel writes in the opening pages that “over a period of ten years I have taped several hundred conversations held between myself and American policemen who came to talk with me about matters communally sacred and privately profane.” Those therapeutic exchanges—often ripe with what used to be called “dirty words”—can be a tad dry at times, but they’re also revealing of how police officers see their responsibilities, hardships, and anxieties. Of at least, how they saw them during the Vietnam War era.
I hadn’t realized until recently that Rogers also provided the illustrations for a succession of 1970s Bantam reprints of Earl Derr Biggers’ Charlie Chan yarns, most of which I inherited a decade or so ago, following my father-in-law’s unexpected demise. (Like me, he was an enthusiastic reader of crime fiction, though we didn’t have many years together to discuss the subject.) Since I also own a newer uniform line of the half-dozen Chan novels, put out in 2008 and 2009 by Academy Chicago Publishers (and featuring cover paintings by Chris Rahn), I haven’t had reason to dig up those older Bantam Chans for a while. However, as further examples of Rogers’ painterly expertise, I did so this morning, and am embedding their images below. In addition to five of Biggers’ books, I’m including here the front from Charlie Chan Returns (1974), described as “a novelization of a script by Ed Spielman and Howard Friedlander that was never produced.” It was composed by Dennis Lynds, aka Michael Collins, author of the Dan Fortune detective series.