Thursday, August 31, 2017

What a Terrific Tag Line!

A Bullet for My Love, by Octavus Roy Cohen (Popular Library, 1952). Illustration by James Meese.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Two-fer Tuesdays: Getting Off

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

Murder Off the Record, by John Bingham (Dell, 1960), with a cover illustration by Robert Maguire (see the full painting here); Murder Off Broadway, by Henry Klinger (Permabooks, 1962), featuring façade art by Harry Bennett.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Right This Way to the Exhibits

With a new academic year now starting up in the United States, this seems like an ideal time to revisit Killer Covers’ gallery of more than 80 school-related book fronts—including a couple of new ones I just added to that mix. You’ll find them all right here.

While we’re on the subject of such artistic collections … As you know, last Friday I added to this page a post showcasing 106 covers “on which women bare or prepare to bare their assets to men (and occasionally other women), either voluntarily or not, and with varying responses.” That provoked one reader to ask what other themed compilations might be found in the archives of this site.

Some of the galleries listed below (in order of publication) are larger than others, but I hope they never cease to entertain:

Suburban Sleaze (May 12, 2009)
Summertime Sex and Scandals (June 18, 2009)
Peeping Tom Covers (October 4, 2009)
Horizontal Paperback Fronts (October 31, 2009)
Covers Starring Women’s (and Sometimes Men’s) Legs
(March 7, 2010)
A Treasury of Blondes (June 12, 2010)
Books with “Kiss” in Their Title (February 14, 2012)
Deadly Beds (April 19, 2014)
Nymphs and Nymphos Aplenty (May 19, 2014)
Bodies in Bathtubs (May 11, 2015)
Wantons on the Loose (June 8, 2015)
French Fronts for Bastille Day (July 14, 2015)
Vixens! Yes, Vixens! (December 23, 2015)
Brass Beds (May 3, 2016)
Red-Headed Sinners (May 12, 2016)
Swamp Treats (January 25, 2017)
Books with “Business” in Their Title (June 21, 2017)

In a perfect world, I would put together many more of these collections for Killer Covers. I have no shortage of ideas, believe me, but not enough spare time to do the work. I guess we’ll just all have to be patient, and wait.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pay Attention, Big Boy!

(Above) The First Quarry, by Max Allan Collins (Hard Case Crime, 2008), with cover artwork by Ken Laager. (Below, right) The Art Studio Murders, by Edward S. Aarons (MacFadden, 1964),
featuring an illustration by Robert K. Abbett.

Sexual seduction sells. Just ask the producers of TV commercials, or the editors of Playboy, or even the authors of myriad young-adult novels who have discovered they can boost their readership by filling plots with toothsome vampires. Book-cover designers are equally well-versed in the power of sensual temptation. That’s been especially true of those responsible for paperback cover art. From the early era of paperback books, publishers have understood that sales can be boosted if they decorate their façades with shapely legs, or smoothly rounded breasts, or—best of all—scenes in which one lightly clad individual seeks to inveigle another into carnal congress.

Nine years ago, in the diapered days of The Rap Sheet, I sought to make this point with a post showcasing sexy vintage paperback fronts. At the time, Hard Case Crime was preparing to release Max Allan Collins’ The First Quarry, the earliest of what will now soon be seven prequels to his original, 1976-1987 series starring a hard-boiled contract killer known only as Quarry. (The new Quarry’s Climax is due out this coming October.) I opened my 2008 Rap Sheet post with some brief remarks about Ken Laager’s cover art for Collins’ novel—embedded above—and noted that its concept followed a tried-and-true pattern. “[It] shows a man seated on a couch (presumably the aforementioned assassin), holding what looks to be a gun,” I wrote, “while a curvaceous brunette stands in front of him, quietly but seductively removing her brassiere—though he seems too involved in whatever he’s thinking to notice. This sort of cover illustration—of a sexy female with her back turned to the book buyer, displaying her virtues to some man … who is either surprised or distracted by other matters—has become something of a standard.” I then went on to feature eight examples of similar covers.

In the years since, I have amassed many more such paperback fronts. I always had it in mind to elaborate on my original Rap Sheet post, but only this week did I find time enough to edit that collection. Below you will find 104 covers on which women bare or prepare to bare their assets to men (and occasionally other women), either voluntarily or not, and with varying responses. This artwork was drawn from the Web and other sources, but I owe particular debts to novelist Bill Crider, in whose fine blog you’ll find older paperback covers posted every day, and Art Scott, co-author of The Art of Robert E. McGinnis (2014), who—while we were both attending last year’s Bouchercon in New Orleans—handed me a USB flash drive containing hundreds of paperback fronts on which women appear in states of dishabille. (I’m still looking for other ways to bring the rest of those images to the attention of Killer Covers followers.)

Among the artists represented in this gallery are McGinnis, of course, but also Harry Schaare, Charles Binger, George Ziel, Paul Rader, Robert Maguire, Mort Engel, Rudy Nappi, Carl Bobertz, Barye Phillips, Fred Fixler, Tom Miller, Ernest Chiriacka (aka Darcy), Edward Mortelmans, Mitchell Hooks, Ron Lesser, Raymond Johnson, James Meese, Charles Copeland, Robert Stanley, George Gross, Harry Barton, Darrell Greene, Jerome Podwill, and Stanley Borack.

Click on any of the covers here to open an enlargement.

Additionally, there’s a subcategory of similar covers on which women pose in the altogether for (at least mostly) artistic purposes. One of my favorites among these is the 1968 Fontana Books edition of Shabby Tiger, by Howard Spring (shown at the bottom left of this set), with a cover illustration by Italian painter Renato Fratini. You can enjoy Fratini’s original art for that paperback here.

Twentieth-century magazine editors, seeing how successful paperback publishers had been with this style of artwork, tried it themselves. Below and on the left is the cover from the July 1954 edition of Manhunt; while beside it is embedded the front from the November 1956 issue. Sadly, I don’t know who painted either piece.