Sunday, March 7, 2010

Get a Load of Those Gams!

I think Killer Covers is due for another themed post, don’t you? The subject this time: women’s legs. A run-away lot of them. The shapelier, the better. It was, of course, illustrator Robert McGinnis—famous for the impossibly long and curvaceous limbs of his femmes fatales—who first made me a paperback leg man. Ever since, I’ve been collecting examples of book covers that focus on or emphasize women’s (and less often men’s) lower limbs. There are surprisingly many such examples, both classic and contemporary. And not all of them were born on the tips of McGinnis’ brushes.

The image atop this post, for instance, comes from the 1959 Cardinal edition of Erle Stanley Gardner’s third Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Lucky Legs. According to the FantasticFiction Web site, that book—originally published back in 1934—finds Gardner’s perceptive protagonist defending “leggy Marjorie Clune,” who has been “unjustly accused of [the] murder of sleazy movie promoter Frank Patton ...” However, the case is by no means a slam-dunk, even for Mason. As Wikipedia points out, “A mistake at a murder scene dogs Perry” as he works on behalf of Clune, who has evidently been “taken in by a con man.” It’s presumably Ms. Clune who we see—or see most of, anyway—on the cover of this short novel, in an illustration credited to the Scottish-born John A. Fernie (1919-2001). During the mid-20th century, Fernie worked as an artist in the commercial and fashion fields. He also produced a number of attractive covers for a Canadian paperback imprint called White Circle, as well as for U.S. publishers.

Come stroll with me now through a choice assortment of eye-catching and appendage-rich fronts by other artists. Among the talented professionals represented below are Victor Kalin, who created the playful cover of Thomas B. Dewey’s The Girl with the Sweet Plump Knees (right); Lou Marchetti, who gave us the languid, seductive jacket for H. Vernor Dixon’s The Pleasure Seekers; Glen Orbik, responsible for the keyhole image decorating the Hard Case Crime edition of E. Howard Hunt’s House Dick; Robert Maguire, who delivered the art for Nude Croquet, an anthology of stories exploring “the joys and terrors of marriage”; Ken Laager, who holds credit for the front of the 2008 reprint of Shephard Rifkin’s The Murderer Vine; James Meese, responsible for the Pocket Book edition of A Hearse of Another Color; and of course, Robert McGinnis. I tried not to go thigh-high here with McGinnis fronts, but it wasn’t easy.

Click on the images below for enlargements.

ADDENDUM I: I discovered this next paperback jacket, from the 1965 Signet edition of Carter Brown’s The Bump and Grind Murders, only after posting the rest of my piece. The fact that the legs of the woman portrayed here by Robert McGinnis can’t even be contained within the front cover, but must instead stretch out onto the back, only emphasizes the artist’s signature (and frequently sexy) distortions of the female form.

ADDENDUM II: Here’s a second wraparound cover from “The Carter Brown Mystery Series,” taken from Signet’s 1963 paperback edition of The Girl Who Was Possessed. Again, the art’s by McGinnis.


Frank Loose said...

You have certainly posted quite a collection of leg art. I remember as a young boy seeing many of these books, esp the Carter Browns, on the spinning racks in our local drug stores. Of course, i was too young to be allowed to read them, but they certainly were eye catching. And IMO they remain that way today. Many of them are great reads, and when compared to many of today's books, they are quite tame.

Anonymous said...

Great collection of covers!