Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Duped: “The Lash”

The latest installment in Killer Covers’ “haven’t we seen this front someplace before?” series. Previous entries are here.

I knew I’d spotted the byline “John Burton Thompson” before, and sure enough, that same moniker appears on the cover of Nude in the Sand, a 1959 Beacon Books release that I showcased a couple of years ago. There isn’t much information on the Web about Thompson, beyond the fact that his name appears on other such “literary gems” as Lakeside Love Nest, The Couch Cure, and The Ravished. However, the professional responsible for the seductive front of The Lash (Softcover Library), a “lesbian pulp” novel from 1965, is extremely familiar: Charles Copeland (1924-1979), a prolific Missouri-born artist of the mid-20th century who, in addition to churning out pin-up-style illustrations for men’s magazines, did a great deal of work for paperback book publishers such as Ace, Popular Library, and of course Softcover (an imprint of Beacon, one of the last century’s most successful soft-core paperback publishers)

So prized were Copeland’s paintings, that Beacon editors decided the one employed on The Lash--displaying a slender, half-dressed brunette curled up a couch, with expectation in her eyes (presumably focused on the bare-midriffed woman whose reflection can be seen in the mirror behind her)--would be wasted were it used just once. In fact, the same artwork had already graced a 1963 Beacon novel titled The Sexecutives, by Lee Richards. (Shown on the right--click for an enlargement.) There’s a difference, though: Rather than a woman in the mirror, The Sexecutives shows the reflection of a power-suited blond manager type lighting a cigarette. As that book’s cover lines attest, Richards’ yarn was about “high-powered executives who tried everything for kicks. Now they went on a new one--wife-trading.” It seems “the mark of their success was the key to the right apartment.” Should anyone miss the suggestion in all of this that The Sexecutives was not the sort of story to be left lying around on a coffee table when company calls, the novel’s concluding come-on line reads, “A novel of big business that makes The Carpetbaggers look simon-pure.”

Apparently Beacon knew its primarily male readership well, for The Sexecutives satisfied not only its audience in America, but also book-buyers in Australia, where--under the title “See Me Tonight!”--this novel was one of many about “high-flying corporate execs behaving badly.”

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