Monday, November 13, 2017

Because I Needed a Queen Fix …

Halfway House, by Ellery Queen (Pan, 1959).
Illustration by Sam Peffer.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Two-fer Tuesdays: Are Those Terms Negotiable?

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

Love Me—and Die, by Day Keene (Paperback Library, 1962), featuring cover art by Robert Maguire; and Love Me and Die, by Louis Trimble (Ace, 1960), fronted by an uncredited illustration. (On the flip side of that Ace “Double Novel” was found The Duchess of Skid Row, also by Trimble.)

Briefly Mentioned

• U.S.-born Illustrator Tom Adams “seems to be everyone’s favorite Agatha Christie paperback cover artist. Certainly he is mine …,” writes Curtis Evans in his blog, The Passing Tramp. “Adams is best known for [the book fronts] he did over many years for English paperback publisher Fontana (often intriguingly surrealistic), yet his beautiful American Pocket editions from the early Seventies are most familiar to me personally.” Evans presents a handsome gallery of Adams’ Christie covers for Pocket at the link. You will find multiple examples of his Fontana paperbacks here.

• Meanwhile, blogger-author Evan Lewis has begun showcasing various British dust jackets designed for Raymond Chandler’s novels. Click here to enjoy the first such set. Previously, Lewis created a three-part gallery of Chandler’s vintage American dust jackets in his blog, Davy Crockett’s Almanack of Mystery, Adventure, and the Wild West. Part I was here, Part II here, and Part III here.

• Sadly, these covers for familiar novels by Chandler, Jim Thompson, and Dashiell Hammett don’t appear to have decorated any print books—as yet. But they really should. They’re the creations of Austin, Texas-based graphic designer David Johnson.

• A Web site called It’s Nice That recently posted a collection of what it labeled “Fantastically Kitsch Mexican Pulp Paperback Covers.” Explained contributor Rebecca Fullylove: “Ballsy, bizarre, and a little bit racy, these Mexican pulp fiction book covers are fantastic fun and epitomize our need for a bit of weird naughtiness. The kitsch-factor is overwhelming as scantily clad women run away in terror, a man in purple spandex is surrounded by adoring cats, and giant robots menacingly pick up shiny red cars.”

Speaking of cringe-worthy covers …

• As Electric Lit noted last month, “Saturday, October 14 marks the 125th anniversary of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: the first collection of his short stories previously printed in The Strand Magazine. Despite the fact that they are amongst Sherlock’s most famous cases, few stories in this collection have ever received their own cover designs—an oversight that has now been corrected. To celebrate this major milestone, 12 professional book designers from Reedsy have created exclusive new covers for each of these fantastic stories.”

• And Yvette Banek has put together a variety of hand-focused fronts from vintage paperbacks by Erle Stanley Gardner, Ngaio Marsh, Helen McCloy, and others.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Stoking Halloween Fears

The Garden of Evil, by Bram Stoker. Originally published in 1911 as The Lair of the White Worm, this novel was reprinted at least twice by American publisher Paperback Library—once in 1969 (above), with art by George Ziel, and previously in 1966 (below), with a cover illustration by an uncredited painter.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Finding a Fortune Is Suddenly Easy

Yesterday, as part of a large Rap Sheet post chock-a-block with news having to do with crime fiction, I included the following item:
It has now been just over 12 years since crime-fictionist Dennis Lynds died. I was reminded of this by a note in Mystery*File from his widow, thriller writer Gayle Lynds, who explains that her husband’s best-remembered protagonist, one-armed New York City gumshoe Dan Fortune, has recently been resurrected in print. She writes: “The entire 17-book series of private eye novels”—which Lynds published under his pseudonym Michael Collins—“are available again, for the first time in Kindle and trade paperback. We hope a new generation of readers will discover Dan, and that longtime fans will enjoy re-reading the classic tales.” Click here to find Amazon’s list of these reprinted works, from Act of Fear (1967) to Cassandra in Red (1993).
I confess, I’ve never been a huge Dan Fortune fan. If my memory is correct, I picked up a copy of the initial entry in that series, the Edgar Award-winning Act of Fear, during my 20s, when I was hungrily expanding my familiarity with the detective fiction genre. And I read two or three more Fortune books in quick succession after that, before becoming distracted by other fictional gumshoes that drew my attention more strongly. Nonetheless, I’m impressed by the fact that—as Gayle Lynds explains in her most recent newsletter—she exhausted “three years of work” trying to return all of the Fortune yarns to print. That’s a substantial commitment to the central body of work her prolific husband of some two decades produced. Readers need no longer haunt used bookstores or search online vendors for vintage copies of those novels.

Still, I prize one Fortune tale I stumbled across at a Half Price Books outlet in Seattle, and promptly purchased. It’s a 1970 Bantam paperback edition of Lynds’ second installment in the series, The Brass Rainbow (1969). The new, trade-size paperback edition that Gayle Lynds has helped bring back to market is stylish and appealing (you can see it on the left), but I prefer my copy—shown atop this post—with its lightly provocative cover art by Mitchell Hooks.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Two-fer Tuesdays: See What Can Go Wrong?

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

Never Walk Alone, by Rufus King (Popular Library, 1961), featuring cover art by Rudolph Belarski; and She Walks Alone, by Helen McCloy (Dell, 1950), with an illustration by Bill Fleming.

READ MORE:Mapback Monday: Helen McCloy’s She Walks Alone,”
by Janet Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare).

Monday, October 16, 2017

Because I Needed a Woolrich Fix …

Beware the Lady (aka The Bride Wore Black), by Cornell Woolrich (Pyramid, 1953). Illustration by Clarence Doore.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Restless Eyeballing

The Stockade, by Kenneth Lamott (Dell, 1953), with a cover illustration by Griffith Foxley.

Anyone who’s worked with me knows my perfectionist tendencies. I generally hold myself to standards just shy of unreasonable, whether in my news reporting, my interviewing, my book criticism, or my blog designing. When laboring on behalf of print publications, my habitual desire to tinker with my work is restricted by deadlines and the fact that once a magazine or newspaper article (or a book, for that matter) goes to press, I can no longer polish sentences, sharpen my analysis of a subject, or correct errors I failed to spot originally. However, such limitations don’t necessarily exist in the world of Web publishing. Even after a piece is presented in Killer Covers or The Rap Sheet, I can return to it hours, days, weeks, months, or years later to make improvements or additions.

This flexibility has served me well in regard to themed galleries of vintage book fronts I’ve assembled for this page. Over the last couple of years, I have gone back to several early collections of paperback covers—including those having to do with suburban sleaze, summertime sex and scandals, captivating blondes, and showcased legs—and improved their look, beefed up their diversity, or both. This week I finally found the opportunity to enhance and expand a feature I put together a full eight years ago, about Peeping Tom covers.

I haven’t done much to that post in terms of its text, but I have greatly expanded its visual presentation. When the Peeping Tom gallery first went up in October 2009, it comprised a modest 33 book covers; now, with my having spent a few extra years collecting specimens of this breed, it has almost quadrupled in size, boasting 121 fine façades—a new Killer Covers record. There are likely other handsome examples out there waiting to be discovered. For the present, though, I declare this set pretty darn perfect.

Click here to see if you agree.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Two-fer Tuesdays: Give It a Spin

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

The Sex Twist, by John Carver (Beacon Signal, 1962), with its back cover shown here; Sex with a Twist, by Joan Ellis, aka Julie Ellis (Midwood, 1962)—click here to see the flip side. The cover art on both of these books is uncredited.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Because Everyone’s Talking About Clowns …

Yes, Stephen King is to blame. See more here, here, and here.

The Hungry Ones, by Craig Douglas (Crescent, 1966), with cover art by Elaine Duillo; and Kill the Clown, by Richard S. Prather (Gold Medal, 1964), featuring a painting by Mitchell Hooks.

READ MORE:Two-fer Tuesdays: Fears of a Clown,” by J. Kingston Pierce (Killer Covers).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Two-fer Tuesdays: Rebels Without a Pause

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

The Revolt of Abbe Lee, by James MacBrain (Monarch, 1964), featuring a cover painting by Tom Miller (click here to see the back jacket); The Revolt of Jill Braddock, by Stuart Friedman (Monarch, 1960), with artwork by Harry Barton.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sensational Title, Shocking Art

Kiss My Fist, by James Hadley Chase (Eton, 1952).
The cover art is uncredited.

READ MORE:James Hadley Chase: The King of Thriller Writers and His Must-Read Books” (India Today); “James Hadley Chase Cover Gallery,” by Steve Holland (Bear Alley).

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 (McFadden, 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.