Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #12

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Calamity Fair, by “Wade Miller,” aka Robert Wade and Bill Miller (Signet, 1961). This was their fourth entry in a six-part series starring San Diego private eye Max Thursday.

Cover illustration by Mitchell Hooks.

My, That Went by Quickly

Today ends the storied Twelve Days of Christmas, which run from December 25 to January 5 (though some religious traditions extend it to the sixth of January). And so we also conclude Killer Covers’ latest tribute to the darling and daring dames of vintage paperback fronts. This series’ final entry will appear early this afternoon.

I’ll be interested to see what I can do along this same line in the future. A few months ago, my computer’s exterior hard drive, on which I’d been storing so many of my book-cover images, decided to cease functioning (throwing a number of projects into disarray). I have since re-created many of the files housed on that compact unit, but not all. And I haven’t come across any new novels with the word “dame” in their titles or their cover lines. I shall endeavor to dig up more, but it may be a year or two before I can present another “Twelve Dames of Christmas” feature here. Then again, doing this annually might make it more of a task and less enjoyable.

Here’s hoping 2022 will give us all cause to remember it fondly!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #11

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

The Velvet Ape, by David C. Holmes (Permabooks, 1958). After he died on June 26, 2004, an obituary in The Washington Post recalled that Holmes was “a retired Navy captain who wrote fiction and nonfiction books.” A native of Spokane, Washington, he’d graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and “served on destroyer-mine sweepers in the Pacific during World War II. He became a naval aviator in 1947 and later was part of a hurricane-hunter squadron. His specialty became guided missile systems. His final active duty assignment was at the Washington Navy Yard. In the 1970s and 1980s, he did consulting work for the Naval Research Lab on the global positioning satellite program.” In addition to The Velvet Ape, about a pilot who takes on a hazardous assignment in Central America (read the back-jacket copy here), Holmes wrote 11 other books, including Young People’s Book of Radar (1951), The Story of Weather (1963), and The Search for Life on Other Worlds (1966). He was 84 years old when he breathed his last in Annapolis, Maryland.

Cover illustration by James Meese.

Monday, January 3, 2022

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #10

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

The Violent Lady, by Michael E. Knerr (Monarch, 1963). Many years ago, science-fiction writer and editor John F. Carr explained in Mystery*File that Knerr was “born on May 31, 1936, in Williamsport, PA ... He was a hunter, Civil War re-enactor, horseman, built flintlock rifles, and loved boats and sailing. Mike was a former newspaper man ([with] the Shamokin [Pennsylvania] newspaper), and in 1973 moved permanently (except for a short time in Woolrich, PA) to Southern California, specifically Alameda, Sausalito and L.A.” Among Knerr’s early works were Travis (1962), which introduced Mike Travis, a Travis McGee-like “sailor of fortune” turned private investigator; something called Operation Lust (1962); and a straight-out soft-core porn novel titled The Sex Life of the Gods (1963). The Violent Lady, which also first appeared in ’63, sounds more like a hard-boiled crime yarn, if you go by this back-cover plot description:
You’re Clint Sheldon, a man with a mission—to raise the $6,000 to save your 49-foot yawl, Restless.

So you charter the ship out to Malvino Gia and his hot-eyed wife, Lois. But once under sail you find out they aren’t after pleasure; they’re after treasure—$250,000 worth of jewels lying at the bottom of the sea—and they need you to get it.

But you nix the deal. Only Gia pulls a gun and you’re forced to go along. Then Lois comes to you with a proposition. All you have to do is help her double-cross Gia and you can walk off with the loot—and her.

Suddenly you find yourself in a tight squeeze between Gia’s gun, Lois’ charms and Hurricane Donna’s fury. Now you stand to lose the dame, the dough and the debt you owe unless you can find a way to get out before all hell breaks loose.
Knerr went on to produce such now-forgotten books as the 1977 horror yarn Sasquatch: Monster of the Northwest Woods and Suicide in Guyana (1979), a non-fiction recounting of the 1978 mass-murder suicide of cult leader Jim Jones’ followers in Guyana. He reportedly died in 1999 at age 64.

Cover illustration by Harry Barton.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #9

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

The Big Make, by “Gene Paul,” aka Paul Conant (Lion Library, 1957). According to Allen J. Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV: A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1749-2000, author Paul Eugene Conant was born in San Bernardino, California, in 1906; worked as “a copy reader in Fort Lewis, Washington, in 1942”; and died in New York in 1968. He may be remembered best for publishing, under his own name, a 1952 mystery titled Dr. Gatskill’s Blue Shoes. In addition, though, he released three crime novels as part of editor Arnold Hano’s once-notable Lion Books paperback line (1949-1955): Little Killer (1952), Naked in the Dark (1953), and finally The Big Make, which was actually Little Killer under a fresh title. Click here to read the back-cover copy.

Illustration by Robert Maguire.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #8

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

The Best Go First, by “Frank O’Malley,” aka Frank O’Rourke (Bantam, 1952). A novel with “first” in its title seems appropriate for this New Year’s Day, don’t you think?

Author O’Rourke is remembered now as the “King of the Westerns,” thanks to the numerous works he produced in that genre, some of which—like 1957’s The Bravados—were adapted for the silver screen. However, he also published non-westerns under the pseudonyms Patrick O’Malley and Frank O’Malley. The Best Go First, described by Pulp International as “a detective thriller set in Texas involving oil money and murder,” was originally released in a 1950 hardcover edition by Random House. Two years later, it was reissued as a Bantam softcover.

There’s a faint signature in the lower right-hand corner of the cover shown above. It appears to read “Phillips,” leading many to conclude that the painting was done by prolific paperback artist Barye Phillips. Trouble is, he usually signed his work simply “Barye.” Another suggestion—based on this image’s style—is that it was created by renowned men’s adventure magazine illustrator Wil Hulsey, who is described by one Twitter user as “the undisputed king of the animal attack pulp cover. You name it, he'd paint it attacking you in a pool of stagnant water.” Hulsey didn’t usually attach his moniker to his work, so comparing this signature with other examples isn’t terribly straightforward. It’s not impossible that what looks to be a “P” at the start of that autograph is actually an elaborate “H.”

But I’ll leave responsibility for determining proper credit to others. In the meantime, if you would like to see the back cover of this 1950 paperback, click here.

Friday, December 31, 2021

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #7

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Assignment: Seduction, by “George Cassidy,” aka William E. Vance (Merit, 1963). Vance wrote primarily westerns under his own name, but used the Cassidy pseudonym when penning what we now fondly refer to as “sleaze fiction” (The Flesh Market, Bait, Wanton Bride, etc.). Illustration by Robert Bonfils.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #6

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Sweet and Deadly, by Verne Chute (Popular Library, 1952). Illustration by A. Leslie Ross. The back cover can be seen here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #5

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Don’t Hang Me Too High, by J.B. O’Sullivan (Pocket, 1956). This is the eighth novel to star Steve Silk, a boxer turned unlicensed private eye in New York City. Other entries in James Brendan O’Sullivan’s series include Death Came Late (1945), I Die Possessed (1953), and Someone Walked Over My Grave (1954). This book’s rear cover can be found here.

Illustration by James Meese.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #4

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

The Big Boodle, by Robert Sylvester (Permabooks, 1955). As Dan Stumpf recalls in Mystery*File, this novel—originally published in 1954—is “set in pre-Castro Cuba and deal[s] with P.I. Ned Sherwood’s efforts to disentangle himself from an elaborate counterfeit scheme involving Mexican film stars, Cuban hit-men, ex-revolutionaries and corrupt officials.” The story was adapted into a 1957 film starring Errol Flynn. I can’t find an authoritative biography of Sylvester (1907-1975), but the Facebook page Vintage Paperbacks and Book Covers says he “was an American drama and amusement writer for the New York Daily News and for twenty years wrote the syndicated column ‘Dream Street’ about the stage. He was also a press agent for Bob Hope and other luminaries …” Beyond The Big Boodle, Sylvester is said to have published four other novels, among them We Were Strangers (1949) and The Second Oldest Profession (1952).

The Big Boodle’s cover art is credited to Robert Schulz.

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #3

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Slow Burn, by Jack Ehrlich (Dell, 1961). This is the second of Ehrlich’s crime novels starring a parole officer named Robert Flick. Illustration by Robert K. Abbett.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #2

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Pure Sweet Hell, by “Malcolm Douglas,” aka Ronald Douglas Sanderson (Gold Medal, 1957). Illustration by Barye Phillips.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, 2021: #1

After posting two showcases of vintage paperback book covers featuring “Dame” in their titles—first in 2016, and again in 2018—I pretty much used up my resources. But then I remembered that I still had a wide variety of book fronts sporting “dame” in their cover teaser lines. So this morning, as my distinctive way of honoring the legendary “12 days of Christmas” (December 25 to January 5), I am posting the first of what will be a dozen fronts with “dame” superimposed somewhere amid their artwork.

Harry Charles “H.C.” Witwer (1890-1929) was an Athens, Pennsylvania-born journalist, short-story author, and comic-strip writer. Before being hired as a reporter for newspapers (among them the Brooklyn Eagle and The Sun, both in New York City), he worked as a boxing manager, and later penned boxing yarns for Collier’s magazine. His boxing novel, The Leather Pushers, was originally published (by Grosset & Dunlap) in 1921. As Thomas Hauser explained in his review of that book, posted several years back in a fight-focused blog called The Sweet Science,
The story is told in the first person by an unnamed narrator, a likable rogue who manages a young heavyweight prospect named Kane Halliday a/k/a Kid Roberts. It’s pulp fiction with a plot and ring action that are melodramatic to the point of being unbelievable. But Witwer had a wonderful way with words and conveyed the essence of boxing in a manner that encouraged the reader to suspend disbelief.
The Internet Archive offers the full novel here.

Interestingly, a silent film serial, likewise titled The Leather Pushers and inspired by Witwer’s popular boxing fiction, debuted in 1922. It was scripted, at least in part, by future movie producer Darryl F. Zanuck. That series employed a protagonist named Kane Halliday, too, though it’s not at all clear how closely it followed the plot of Witmer’s novel; episodes are said to have been self-contained and complete in their own right. It’s equally unclear as to how many of those two-reel installments were shot: Wikipedia puts the number at 18, but the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) says there were only half a dozen. In any case, prints of only a trailer for the series and two episodes—viewable here and here—are known to still exist.

The lovely paperback edition of Witwer’s The Leather Pushers featured atop this post was published by Popular Library in 1950. Its cover was painted by Earle K. Bergey. If you would like to read the plot description on the back of that book, simply click here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Because I Needed a Trimble Fix …

Cargo for the Styx, by Louis Trimble (Ace, 1958). This was published as part of a paperback “double novel,” with J.M. “Jay” Flynn’s Terror Tournament on the flipside. Unfortunately, the cover artist for Cargo is unidentified.

READ MORE:A P.I. Mystery Revew—Louise Trimble, The Surfside Caper,” by Steve Lewis (Mystery*File).

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

All Hands at the Ready

Give the Little Corpse a Great Big Hand, written by “George Bagby,” aka Aaron Marc Stein (Dell, 1955). This was the delightful fifth novel starring Inspector Schmidt of the New York Police Department and his sidekick and chronicler, George Bagby. The exquisite cover art was done by Victor Kalin.

Give the Boys a Great Big Hand, written by “Ed McBain,” aka Evan Hunter (Permabooks, 1961). This was the 11th entry in McBain’s acclaimed 87th Precinct series, set in Isola, a fictionalized version of New York City. Sadly, the cover illustration is not credited.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Because I Needed a Lacy Fix ...

Pity the Honest, by “Ed Lacy,” aka Leonard S. Zinberg (MacFadden, 1965). The art here is not credited, but may be the work of Robert K. Abbett. You can see the back cover here.