Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Two-fer Tuesdays: Shape Shifting

A twice-monthly pairing of book covers that just seem to go together. Click on any of these images to open up an enlargement.

As I’ve mentioned on this page before, it was quite common during America’s paperback heyday of the mid-20th century for publishers to recycle cover illustrations from one book to the next, figuring that readers wouldn’t recognize such budget-saving thievery ... or at least wouldn’t care overly much about it. Less frequently, artists were commissioned to refashion their original paintings for a second (or even third) use. That was the case, for instance, with Ernest Chiriacka’s artwork for 1961’s By Love Depraved and Lou Marchetti’s cover image for 1955’s The Wanton Hour.

It was apparently also what Robert Maguire did in order to supply the two attention-grabbing paperback fronts showcased above.

The façade on the left comes from the 1960 Pyramid edition of Ed Spingarn’s Perfect 36, a novel said to offer “a revealing and riotous story of the bosom business.” I don’t have a scan of the back cover from that issue of Spingarn’s yarn; but the verso of the original, 1957 version (from Pyramid, as well) supplies this slightly more ample description of his plot:
How much is a girl’s virtue worth?

A mink coat? A two-carat diamond ring, with husband attached?

A fling with an intellectual?

A career as a model?

Or a flat $100,000 in cash?

It was up to Rosalie to choose—it was her virtue at stake.
Perfect 36 is the rowdy story of Rosalie—and her figure—and the startling emotions it roused in every male she met! It takes you behind the scenes and screens of the fabulous brassiere trade for the funniest, fastest, most titillating novel of the year!
“Titillating,” get it? Yeah, I don’t think the guy who concocted that suggestive copy received (or deserved) a bonus in his paycheck that week. Nonetheless, given the straightforward goal of drawing as many male readers to Perfect 36 as possible, by whatever creative schemes were available, I’m sure he won at least some appreciation from his bosses, and was invited to practice his teaser-penning talents on other novels.

(Left) Lou Marchetti’s art for the 1957 edition of Perfect 36.

Maguire’s artwork for Perfect 36 was exceptional, yet only slightly less provocative than that façade text, with its beautiful young brunette wrapped in a sparkly, curve-clinging dress, striking poses before an audience of leering gents who you just know aren’t whispering among themselves about her intellectual prowess. Pay special attention to that first guy on the left, the bald-headed one twiddling his cigar … because you’ll find that he, along with a version of the woman holding the limelight on Perfect 36, also appear on this week’s second “two-fer” front, shown above and on the right.

Released in 1966, this “Midwood Double Novel” comprises—as the cover line promises—“two stories about the kind of woman around whom no man is safe”: Test in Temptation, by Laura Duchamp; and Cool and Collected, by Blake Randall. It isn’t hard to recognize that the fetching femme Maguire imagined as that “kind of woman” is essentially the same one he’d pictured half a dozen years before on Spingarn’s novel. In this case, however, she’s clad in white, rather than iridescent red; her black tresses are more tossed than before, evidently as a result of her dancing; and her left arm has finally migrated out from behind her back, but the similarities are greater than those differences. And though the scene around her is more lively and colorful than on the earlier book, the gent (in the lower left corner) most obviously moved by her movements is the same grinning stogie-chomper we saw on Perfect 36, now wearing a light blue shirt and black necktie, rather than a dark blue shirt and a yellow tie.

If you recognize the byline “Laura Duchamp,” it may be because I mentioned it a few times last fall, when Killer Covers celebrated the 110th anniversary of artist Paul Rader’s birth. Duchamp was among the pseudonyms employed by author Sally Singer, who composed a variety of soft-porn novels (including Wild and Wicked, Model Mistress, A Weakness for Men, and The Sunday Lovers) for Midwood Books and—as Pulp International recalls—was “one of the few sleaze writers who was actually female. She was also prolific as ‘March Hastings.’” According to a backside blurb, Test in Temptation focused on a woman by the name of Celeste, who “was ready to violate every rule of house and home, ready to chuck it all, husband, family, the works, in order to get the kind of love she wanted from the kind of man she wanted it from.” Meanwhile, its companion volume—Cool and Collected, by Randall (one of several pen names used by science-fictionist Robert Silverberg)—features a protagonist with broader desires: “There’s a man for every woman, but Rebecca was a woman for every man. She knew she could make men or break them. She knew all she had to do was crook her little finger and they’d fall to their knees in humility.”

With these protagonists to work from, it’s no wonder Maguire’s Midwood cover coquette looks like somebody capable of handling her own affairs—in more ways than one.

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