Friday, April 6, 2018

Stanley’s Style: Finishing Touches

Part of a 100th-birthday tribute to artist Robert Stanley.

The Inconvenient Bride, by “James M. Fox,” aka Johannes Knipscheer (Dell, 1950). This is an entry in his series featuring husband-and-wife sleuths Johnny and Suzy Marshall.

When Randal S. Brandt, a writer and librarian at the University of California, Berkeley’s distinguished Bancroft Library, contacted me in March 2017, informing me that the 100th birthday of paperback-cover artist Robert Stanley (1918-1996) was coming up a full year away and asking whether I’d like to commemorate that occasion in Killer Covers … well, I didn’t really know what to think. I was generally familiar with Stanley’s work, and had a computer file containing scans of his better-known book fronts. I had focused on his artistry in a couple of “Tuesday Two-fer” posts (see here and here), and had featured on this page Stanley’s 1950 cover for The Creeping Siamese, by Dashiell Hammett. But Stanley wasn’t as prominent on my radar as, say, Robert McGinnis or Harry Bennett. Nonetheless, I told Brandt that, sure, a birthday celebration could be arranged with his help.

I then forgot about the idea. I mean, it was a year off!

So imagine my surprise when, early last month, Brandt suddenly e-mailed me the Stanley profile he had long ago promised to compose, together with the link to a Flickr page he’d devoted to that painter’s myriad paperback covers. He reminded me as well that the 100th anniversary of this American artist’s birth was March 28, 2018. Brandt probably assumed I had a hyper-organized “tickler file” to remind me of this occasion, and that I had been mulling over the Stanley project for weeks in advance of his re-establishing contact with me. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

(Right) Robert Carter Stanley Jr. as a young artist.

However, with a modicum of scrambling, I managed to pull everything together. Our Stanley salute began with Brandt’s excellent summation of the artist’s career; slid from there into a series of posts showcasing the range of Stanley’s attractive and frequently innovative book-façade illustrations; and led to a selection of the painter’s Western-fiction fronts and a remembrance of his work for men’s adventure magazines. The whole enterprise concludes today with a gallery of more than 90 additional Stanley paperback covers.

Below, you will find 20 of the covers Robert Stanley painted for Dell Books’ line of Michael Shayne private-eye novels, penned by Brett Halliday. Those are followed by a couple of releases from Helen McCloy (their proximity to Halliday’s books being appropriate, given that the two authors were at one time married), plus assorted, often-forgotten yarns by the likes of George Harmon Coxe, Leslie Ford, Helen Nielsen, Edison Marshall, A.B. Cunningham, Delano Ames, Hampton Stone, Max Murray, and their 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s rivals. Not all of the fronts featured here belong to crime novels; there are also romances, a few non-fiction texts, and even a quartet of science-fiction tales at the bottom. But the plenitude of mysteries reminds me of this genre’s great breadth—and the numerous vintage storytellers whose fiction I still haven’t gotten around to reading. Then again, I was pleased, during the collection and posting of these scans, to realize that I own many of the editions shown here. I guess I have no excuse for ignoring them any longer.

Thanks again to Randal S. Brandt for getting the ball rolling on this venture. And I hope you’ve all enjoyed the course it’s taken.

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


TracyK said...

I have four of these covers -- two by Rex Stout, one by Delano Ames, and one by Carr. I would love to own more of them. Thanks for this series of posts.

Randal S. BRANDT said...

Thanks for everything, Jeff! This series of posts has been a blast.