Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Because I Needed a Disney Fix …

The Hangman’s Tree, by Dorothy Cameron Disney (Bantam, 1951). Cover illustration by Harry Schaare.

READ MORE:Not What You'd Expect from a Disney,” by TomKat (Beneath the Stains of Time).

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Ready for a Summertime Release

This last Sunday, June 20, brought us not only Father’s Day, but also 2021’s summer solstice—the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. This has been a rough year, though nowhere near so difficult (and lonely) as 2020, and everybody could use a break from pandemic restrictions. While the United States has impressed the rest of the world with its aggressive campaign to curtail the disastrous spread of COVID-19, led by President Joe Biden and his still-new administration, the country has still not eradicated that contagion. So we must all still exercise some care when gathering amongst other people, many of whom may not be vaccinated against the virus. Nonetheless, the longer days of this brighter season give us all hope that better times are in the offing.

Over the last dozen years, Killer Covers has built up a rather impressive collection of summertime paperback fronts. You can enjoy those here. Meanwhile, I have embedded yet another example of the breed above. It comes from the 1962 Beacon Signal edition of Sun, Sex and Frenzy, by Francis Loren. The tale sounds like one ideal for beach reading. Here’s the backside synopsis: “Carol and Walt Mahon came to Fort Lauderdale on business—or so they thought! They learned—too late—that this torrid town can tear any marriage apart—with raw temptation! Nobody could teach these kids anything—and nobody could stop them from their own wild brand of love-making!” Credit for the cover artwork has been given to Al Rossi.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make a gin-and-tonic and retire to my front porch for some late-afternoon summer reading.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Boeckman Title Overdrive

Not unlike the young man who served as the amorous quarry in Velvet Jackpot (Beacon Softcover Library, 1965), this paperback’s cover illustration really got around. Painted by Victor Olson, it had featured previously—and with only minor variations—on two other Beacon releases: 7 Days to Love (1963), by “Colin Johns,” aka John Bentley and Cornelius J. Collins; and What Makes Sherry Love?, by John Burton Thompson (1970). There’s no question about it: that publisher certainly got its money’s worth from artwork purchases.

In case you’re wondering, “Alex Carter” was a pseudonym employed by Charles Boeckman Jr. (1920-2015). Born in San Antonio, Texas, he was a self-taught jazz musician, skilled with both the clarinet and the saxophone. But he was likewise a fast, accurate typist and an enthusiastic tale-spinner, and he dearly wanted to become a short-story writer. So in between playing gigs all across the United States, Boeckman mailed his yarns off to one publication after another. Finally, after collecting numerous rejection letters, he found the first buyer for his fiction in 1945, when he was 25 years old. He went on from there to bat out mystery, suspense, and western stories (mostly under the byline “Charles Beckman Jr.”), his work being picked up by pulp magazines on the order of Manhunt, Justice, Detective Tales, Dime Mystery Magazine, Pursuit, Star Western, and Dime Western. He even saw one of his stories, “Ambition,” adapted as a July 1961 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, starring Leslie Nielsen.

In addition to penning bookstore-acceptable novels such as Honky Tonk Girl (1953), which exploited his familiarity with the music world, Boeckman—like Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, and others—fed the fast-growing mid-20th-century market for sleaze-and-scandal fiction, the sort of titles usually tucked beneath newsstand counters. As Alex Carter, he churned out not only Velvet Jackpot, but also Traded Wives (1964, with cover art by Clement Micarelli), Change Partners (1963), They All Ran Naked (1967), Boy-Lover (1963, again boasting a Micarelli-painted front), The Games She Played (1966, with an illustration by George Gross), Sex Around the Clock (1965, offering art by Harry Barton), and Love Too Soon (1966).

Recent years have brought some renewed interest in Boeckman’s work. In 2011, Borgo Press reprinted Honky Tonk Girl. A couple of years later, a collection of his stories from the western pulps—Saddles, Six-Guns & Shootouts—saw print. And in 2015, Bold Venture Press issued Strictly Poison and Other Stories, gathering together 24 of his pulp magazine contributions.

If you’re interested, the late Bill Crider featured in his blog this 22-minute videotaped conversation between Boeckman and fellow author Talmage Powell “sitting in Powell's back yard in Asheville, North Carolina, around 1995 and discussing pulp magazines, digests, paperbacks, writing, and writers.” Great fun!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Come On, Baby, Let’s Do the Twist

Although the news is definitely making a turn for the better, what with increasing numbers of Americans now being vaccinated against the COVID-19 pandemic, glancing over the fronts of these four books—all published in hardcover in 2021—could well give you the impression that the world is going down the drain.

The Paris Labyrinth, by Gilles Legardinier (Flammarion), with cover artwork credited to Création Studio Flammarion.

The Price of Time, by Tim Tigner (independently published).

The Kingdoms, by Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury), with a jacket design credited to David Mann.

Stolen Thoughts, by Tim Tigner (independently published).

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Not Your Usual “Dain”

Above: Dell Books’ 1968 paperback edition of Dashiell Hammett’s second novel, with cover art by William Teason. Below: Penguin’s 1966 cover, with a photograph by Bob Brooks.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Another Look: “Poison in Jest”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.

Left: Poison in Jest, by John Dickson Carr (Popular Library, 1951); cover painting not credited, but thought to be the work of Rudolph Belarski. Right: Poison in Jest, by John Dickson Carr (Berkley, 1957); illustration by Robert Maguire.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

All Alone, with Trouble in Mind

Book titles containing the word “widow” suddenly seem to be everywhere on my radar. March brought the publication of Alma Katsu’s “gripping, authentic spy procedural,” Red Widow (Putnam), and earlier this month saw the re-release (by Cutting Edge Books) of Louis Lorraine’s 1961 sleaze classic, Commuter Widow. Soon after I downloaded the inarguably not-safe-for-work front cover of that new Commuter Widow edition, I had cause to search for it again in my computer files … and came up with a slew of attractive vintage novels also featuring “widow” in their names.

I’m sorry to say that I don’t know the name of the artist whose remarkable work fronts the 1958 Crest printing of Richard Wormser’s The Widow Wore Red, shown above. But I can identify the painters of most of the paperback covers below, from Bill George (Black Widow, 1954) and Harry Barton (both the undated Exciting Widow and the yarn from which it swiped its art, 1963’s That Kind of Widow) to Ernest “Darcy” Chiriacka (Self-Made Widow, 1958, and 1963’s The Torrid Widow), Bob Hilbert (1953’s Night at the Mocking Widow), and Robert McGinnis (the undated Suddenly a Widow, by George Harmon Coxe, and 1966’s No Tears from the Widow, by Carter Brown).

Charles Copeland gave us the cover for Rick Holmes’ New Widow (1963), while Weekend Widows (1966) boasts a front painted by Al Rossi, and Paul Rader is credited with creating the image for Wayward Widow (1962). You’re looking at Clark Hulings’ work on 1957’s The Golden Widow, James Meese’s artistry decorating 1957 Pocket release of Ursula Curtiss’ The Widow’s Web, and the talents of Mort Engel showcased on the 1965 Ace version of that same Curtiss tale. Finally, Griffith Foxley was responsible for the painting that introduces the 1954 Dell release of Dolores Hitchens’ Widows Won’t Wait (a singularly Erle Stanley Gardner-ish title); Mitchell Hooks was behind the 1955 Bantam cover of The Widow and the Web, by Robert Martin; and the great Walter Popp imagined the candelabra-wielding redhead on Evelyn Bond’s Widow in White (1973).

Click on any of the images here for an enlargement.

READ MORE:Review: The Widow,” by Steven J. McDermott (Mostly Old Books and Rust).

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy Easter, Everyone!

The Web of Easter Island, by Donald Wandrei (Consul, 1961). Sadly, the cover art is uncredited.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Another Look: “Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye”

Warning: Artistic inspiration drawn from book titles may vary.

Left: Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye, by Horace McCoy (Signet, 1949); cover illustration by James Avati. Right: Kiss Tomorrow Good-bye, by Horace McCoy (Avon, 1965); artwork by Frank Kalan.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Because I Needed a McCoy Fix ...

No Pockets in a Shroud, by Horace McCoy (Signet, 1948). The initials “T.V.” in the lower left-hand corner of this illustration probably stand for Tony Varady. More examples of Varady’s cover artistry can be enjoyed here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

More Reasons to Love Robert Maguire

In case you require further proof that the New Jersey-born Robert Maguire (1921-2005) was a master painter of paperback covers, here are three additional examples of his artistry. Any questions?

Early to Rise, by Arnold E. Grisman (Berkley, 1959)

Cage Me a Peacock, by Noel Langley (Lion, 1956)

This Is My Body, edited by Thomas A. Dardis (Berkley, 1957)

READ MORE:12 Cover Artists Every Vintage Crime Lover Should Know,” by J. Kingston Pierce (CrimeReads).

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Happy St. Paddy’s: Get Your Irish On!

Strangler’s Serenade, by “William Irish,” aka Cornell Woolrich (Popular Library, 1952). Cover art by Rudolph Belarski.