A queen wearies of hoop skirts and powered wigs, but the royal fencing épée should come in handy.
Benedetto Caroselli once again shows his skill as an illustrator with this cover of a fencing foil wielding femme fatale for Mario de Adda's La regina di spade (Cristina di Svezia), aka, The Queen of Swords (Christina of Sweden), 1965, for Italian publishers Edizioni Periodici Italiani. The book is part of the series Ritratti storici: Le grandi peccatrici, or Historical Portraits: The Great Sinners. Was Queen Christina of Sweden a great sinner? Well, she didn't obey the rules as expected of women in the 17th century—even those of royal blood. Abdication was the result, followed by numerous other intrigues and difficulties. But telling her story is beyond our scope. We're just into Caroselli's art, which is brilliant, as always.
I'll run for help! Have you seen my red slingback pumps?
Our ongoing showcase of Italian artist Benedetto Caroselli continues with the above cover for Crise Pounds' novel Faust “61,” a horror update of the classic German folk legend. It was published in 1961 by Grandi Edizioni Internazionali for its series I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell’Orrore. Pounds was a pseudonym used by Maria Luisa Piazza, who wrote three other novels for Grandi Edizioni Internazionali. Caroselli's cover work here shows his command of both subject matter and color. And fashion, as his stylish bystander looks on in terror.
Caroselli bests the competition again.
Above is another beautiful piece painted by Benedetto Caroselli, a man we're going to go ahead and anoint one of the greatest paperback cover artists of all time. His work on Richard Walker's Nodo scorsoio—which means “slipknot”—is simply brilliant, with its red tressed, black dressed femme fatale, and graphic background elements. It dates from 1962 for Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's collection I Gialli dell'Ossessione, and is number ninety-seven in the series. The book was translated from Richard Walker's original English text by Domenico Vitali, and once again we suspected the translator was the author, since we're pretty sure this book was never actually released in English, thus would never have needed a translator. After some searching we confirmed our suspicions—Vitali wrote as Walker on several occasions, including two novels for Éditions S.E.P.'s P.J. Police collection. We're going to keep digging up art by Benedetto Caroselli because it's all good—every piece we've seen. You can see more of his work by clicking his keywords below.
You're wondering how I got this thing stuck in my panties? It defies reason.
The pulpification of ancient literature takes another strange turn as Edizioni Le Lucciole presents this 1970 paperback L'antiragione, or “the anti-reason,” which, incredibly, is a collection of writings by the Greek astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus of Samos, the guy who lived from 310 to 230 B.C. and presented the first model that placed the Sun at the center of the known universe with the Earth in orbit around it. Yeah. And when you can solve a mystery that vast, the question of how a femme fatale got a hoop stuck in her undies is really nothing. The art, which conversely is really something, is by the always great Benedetto Caroselli.
Where there's a will-o'-the-wisp there's a way.
We probably should have shared this cover from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's series KKK Classics around Halloween, because it's a bit scary. Then again, maybe now is better, because Christmas is possibly even a little scarier. The art here, from Benedetto Caroselli, has a red-eyed cover figure sitting atop what is supposed to be a giant skull, which, again, is a bit scary. However, if you look at it the right way she could be sitting on a giant nose. Again, possibly even scarier.
Inside the book you get two tales—the introductory “Welcome to Blackstone, Mister Clift,” by Silvano Alessandrini, followed by the full length title story. Fuochi fatui, by the way, translates as “fatuous fires.” What the hell does that mean? Fuochi fatui are basically analogous to will-o'-the-wisps, alluring lights in the wilderness that prove eternally elusive and lead to frustration and possibly danger. You can fill in your own Christmas shopping metaphor here.
Author Sean Alexander was aka Silvano Alessandrini. The pseudonym thing with French and Italian authors back in the day is a bit strange. Since they were selling to their home markets you'd think indigenous names would be an advantage, but it's clear that the type of mayhem and terror they were going for were thought to be more credible if written by Americans. Which when you think about it is possibly the scariest thing of all. Anyway, the copyright on this is 1969, and it's beautiful.
“The Thing” that wasn't there.
We've shared several covers from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's horror collection I Capolavori della Serie KKK but this one is kind of special. Translated into Italian by Fernanda Adami, this is a collection of horror master Robert Bloch's early short stories. In case he isn't familiar to you, he wrote Psycho. This book is called La Cosa, or The Thing because Bloch's first story, a piece called “The Thing” appeared in his school magazine in 1932 when Bloch was only fourteen. But guess what? “The Thing” isn't one of the stories in The Thing. Instead the book consists of four tales—“Colui che apre la via,” “Ritorno a Sabbath,” “Il segreto di Sebek,” and “Enoch.” In English these are “The Opener of the Way,” “Return of the Sabbath,” “The Secret of Sebek,” and “Otis.” Just kidding—it's “Enoch.” Lovecraft fans probably already know of the first three stories because they appeared in Bloch's Lovecraft inspired collection The Opener of the Way in 1945 and remain widely read pieces of Lovecraftian lore. So that makes this paperback a bit of a collector's item. As if the great art by Benedetto Caroselli didn't already do that. Yes, he painted a misleading illustration for a horror anthology but Caroselli and Grandi Edizioni Internazionali specialized in that. Want to see a particularly brazen example? Check here.
I usually wear floor length hoop skirts but for certain occasions this crimson mini is just the number.
Sometimes when classic literature was remarketed for mid-century audiences the pulp style makeovers were stretches. But in this case it works. Le amicizie pericolose is a 1964 Italian translation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos's 1782 French epistolary novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, aka Dangerous Liaisons. The story features one of history's greatest femmes fatales—Marquise de Merteuil, whose pride and sexual vanity is the seed of an unspeakable tragedy. There's also an homme fatale—the serial seducer Vicomte de Valmont, whose dick eventually gets him in a crack so tight he can't escape.
The book has been filmed six times, and cinephiles argue which version is the best. While Glenn Close as the Marquise in 1988's Dangerous Liaisons was astounding, and Annette Bening's turn as the character in 1989's Valmont was also good, we recommend checking out Roger Vadim's 1959 adaptation, which was set in modern day Paris. Actually, even the 1999 Gen-X version Cruel Intentions is pretty good, which just goes to show how rich the source material is. There are also Korean and Chinese versions from 2003 and 2012 respectively.
The amazing femme fatale in red mini-dress and spike heels on the Grandi Edizioni Internazionali edition above—who of course looks nothing like the hoop skirted and white-powdered Marquise de Merteuil described by Laclos—was painted by the abundantly talented Bendetto Caroselli. Repackaging classics in this way (such as we've shown you before here and here) is usually a form of false advertising, but in this case we suspect many readers came away satisfied.
These are people who definitely pay attention to the poles.
When you look at lots of paperbacks sometimes a common thread suddenly jumps out at you that went unnoticed before. Such was the case a few weeks ago when we noticed the large number of characters on mid-century covers leaning against poles—light poles, telephone poles, sign poles, etc. We suggested someone should put together a collection, but of course we really meant us, so today you see above and below various characters deftly using these features of the urban streetscape as accessories. Art is from Benedetto Caroselli, Harry Schaare, George Gross, Rudolph Belarski, James Avati, et al. You can see a couple more examples here and here.
Even the Prince of Darkness needs love.
Italian illustrator Bendetto Caroselli painted this cover for Cuori per Satana, which means “hearts for Satan,” and it was written by Silver Ales for I Capolavori della Serie KKK's series Classici dell'Orrore, and published by Edizioni Periodici Italiani in 1968. Silver Ales was a pseudonym used by Silvano Alessandrini, a prolific poet, playwright, author of twenty-six detective novels, and longtime school teacher. His weird pen name sounds like a category of fancy microbrews, but we approve—it definitely sticks in the head. And of course Benedetto Caroselli was an artistic genius, which you can confirm yourself by looking here and here.
Getting into the spirit of things.
A bit more foreign paperback art today. Among the pantheon of excellent vintage paperback artists, Benedetto Caroselli has become a favorite, as our many posts of his work attest. He painted this cover in 1964 for Sheila Norman's L'anima nuda, or "naked spirit," which was number thirty-three in Grandi Edizioni Nazionali's macabre series I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell'Orrore. Norman was a pseudonym for Oretta Emmolo, who also wrote as Christoph Bonig, Valerie Greeves, and Reg Sattle. We have plenty more Caroselli art in the website. Just click here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
1925—Jury Decides the Teaching of Evolution Is a Crime
In the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, American schoolteacher John Scopes is found guilty of violating the Butler Act, which forbids the teaching of evolution in schools. The sensational trial pits two great legal minds—William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow—against each other. Ultimately, Scopes and Darrow are destined to lose because the case rests on whether Scopes had violated the Act, not whether evolution is fact.
1969—First Humans Reach the Moon
Neil Armstrong and Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin, Jr. become the first humans to walk on the moon. The third member of the mission, command module Pilot Michael Collins, remains in orbit in Apollo 11.
1972—Chaos in the Big Apple
In New York City, within a span of twenty-four hours, fifty-seven murders are committed.
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