Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My, You’ve Got Some Brass!

A particularly handsome brass bed front: Grounds for Murder, by John Appleby (Dell, 1958), with art by James Hill.

Late last month, after I posted on this page the cover from the 1959 paperback edition of Noel Clad’s The Savage—featuring a young blonde tied to a brass bed frame—I received a note from Art Scott, co-author of the wonderful 2014 book, The Art of Robert E. McGinnis, saying that he’d like to share with me his collection of 25 other vintage novels on which brass beds have appeared. “More than anything,” he explained, “[those beds] seem to be a universal symbolic indicator for ‘cheap rooming house.’ Not having experience staying in same, I’ll have to take it as gospel, but you’d think brass bedsteads would be a lot more expensive than wood. However, they would also be much more durable, and no doubt the beds found homes in a succession of cheap rooming houses on the used market.”

Once I started flipping around through my files of book scans and searching the far corners of the Web, I realized that brass beds have been even more ubiquitous on paperback fronts than Scott suggested. Some examples have been used previously in a Killer Covers post I wrote back in 2014 about beds as places where danger and death might lurk. (Note there, for instance, the façades from Paul E. Walsh’s The Murder Room, William Holder’s The Case of the Dead Divorcee, Van Wyck Mason’s Secret Mission to Bangkok, and Richard Stark’s The Sour Lemon Score). But I am showcasing below more than four dozen additional such covers, boasting paintings by Robert Maguire (the first, purple covers from The Brass Bed), Victor Kalin (Sinners Wild and the first cover shown below from Berton Roueché’s Rooming House), Robert McGinnis (Assignment: Maltese Maiden, State Department Murders, The Sometime Wife, and The Star Trap), Rafael de Soto (The Bed She Made, So Deadly Fair, This Bed We Made), Vic Prezio (The Bed Sharers), James Avati (Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye), and James Meese (Worse than Murder).

Click on any of the covers here to open an enlargement.

American artist Mitchell Hooks, Scott added, “seemed to be particularly fond” of using those frequently ornate brass furnishings (either polished or painted) in his cover illustrations. Indeed, what follows are eight of Hooks’ attractive paperback wrappers, among them the 1957 Bantam edition of The Wench Is Dead, by Frederic Brown, which I remarked on in an early Killer Covers post.


TracyK said...

Amazing, I never would have thought there would be so many covers with brass beds, although now it makes sense. I particularly like The Joy Boys with the leather jacket ... Very nice set of covers.

John said...

Wow! What a cover collection. I think you may have discovered a new fetish -- brassaphila!