Hello? I’m from next door! If you don’t turn down that infernal music I swear I’m going to shoot you!
Charles Williams’ A Touch of Death (published in Britain as Mix Yourself a Redhead) had several different covers, but this 1963 Gold Medal edition with uncredited art is easily the best. It’s a bit strange, though. It almost seems as if it depicts a blind woman. And it does—a woman who’s blind drunk. An intruder is sneaking up on her as she gets loaded and plays her record collection. Don’t worry though. The hero saves her and once she sobers up she reveals herself to be one of mid-century fiction’s greatest femmes fatales—the immortal Madelon Butler. This is a really good book.
Hmm… an Englishman to gut with my new blade. And here I was planning to go home and shave my monobrow.
We were talking recently about Harlequin’s early days as a publisher of more than romance fiction. Above is another example—Bats with Baby Faces by W. Stanley Moss, a former British Army officer who wrote such best sellers as Ill Met by Moonlight and A War of Shadows. Bats with Baby Faces, the title of which references bat-like masks rather than actual bats, deals with intrigue and smuggling in the Deir-ez-Zor region of Syria, and in Cairo, where Moss lived in a villa that became a hub for the British social set. The most famous of his numerous real-life adventures occurred during that period, and that time also served as inspiration for much of his fiction. Harlequin’s edition of Bats with Baby Faces was published in 1952, and the cover art, with its mean caricature of an Egyptian who’s so swarthy he’s—bizarrely—purple, is uncredited. More Harlequin here and here.
, Harlequin Enterprises
, Bats with Baby Faces
, Ill Met by Moonlight
, A War of Shadows
, W. Stanley Moss
, cover art
Facts, speculation, and dubious assumptions.
This Inside Story from November 1963 features cover star Christine Keeler and the people in her life, while the left of the page has insets with Mamie Van Doren and Anthony Quinn. We’ve covered Keeler. Hers was one of the most flogged scandals of the 1960s, and Inside Story editors are well aware of that, which is why they claim to have new information. But it’s nothing new—just rehash on Keeler, a background on Czech call girl Maria Stella Novotny, who was well known by this time as one of Keeler’s colleagues, and standard red scare stuff about motel rooms set up with microphones and two-way mirrors. We will get back to Novotny, however—her tale offers some interesting twists and turns.
Inside Story shares stories about Mamie Van Doren, Jackie Gleason, Peter O’Toole, Ava Gardner and a nervous tailor who measured her for a suit, and how perfume makes men go wild. Editors also decry the injustice of a Harlem restaurant refusing to serve a white woman—this, mind you, during an era when literally hundreds of thousands of U.S. enclaves, from restaurants to schools to country clubs to sectors of the military, were whites-only. False equivalence, thy name is Inside Story. But interestingly, a subsequent piece about the world’s sexiest nightclubs tells readers chic Harlem bars are frequented by white Hollywood stars. And so it goes…
, Inside Story
, Christine Keeler
, John Profumo
, Stephen Ward
, Mamie Van Doren
, Anthony Quinn
, Maria Stella Novotny
, Mariella Novotny
, Stella Capes
, Peter O’Toole
, Ava Gardner
, Malcolm X
, Jackie Gleason
, Bo Belinsky
, Kim Novak
You knew that he would.
Above is another rare double-sided Robert Bonfils paperback cover, this time for Any Man’s Playmate and Strumpet’s Jungle, written by Rubel, aka James Rubel, and Sloane Britain, respectively. See the first example we shared here.
Who says she’s in danger of sinking?
One Venetian treasure may be disappearing into the Adriatic Sea, but in this late 1950s promo shot British actress Venetia Stevenson is on the rise. In the end, many of her credits were for television appearances, but she also appeared in movies such as Day of the Outlaw and Island of Lost Women before leaving show business at the age of twenty-three to marry and have a family. Onward and upward.
The most unforgettable party of the year.
Above, a nice cover for Sloane Britain’s, aka Elaine Williams’ Meet Marilyn, from Midwood-Tower, 1963. Originally published in 1960, this is sort of an anthology novel, with various characters populating separate chapters before crossing paths at the same decadent Manhattan party, with the whole web really a set-up for assorted steamy hetero and gay encounters. The art is by Al Wagner.
What lies underneath.
British actress Shirley Eaton appeared in about twenty films before her role as the ill-fated Jill Masterson in 1964’s Goldfinger made her one of the most iconic guest stars of the Bond series. Her turn as a woman who is murdered by being covered in gold paint is in fact so central to the 007 universe that it’s arguably the single most known moment from the series. These days you see many more photos of Eaton painted gold than in her own skin, so we thought we’d rectify that a bit with the above shot. It was made to promote The Girl Hunters and it dates from 1963. See a few more Goldfinger images here and here.
J. Oval’s style was as clean and vivid as a master chef’s.
Illustrator J. Oval was a Brit named Ben Ostrick who painted under both his pseudonym and real name. His crisp illustrations helped make Pan Books, which debuted in 1944, one of the most eye-catching mid-century imprints. Pan is still around as part of Britain-based Macmillan Publishers, which is in turn owned by the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group of Germany. Many of Oval’s pieces for Pan were paired with works so obscure they’re almost impossible to find today, but above you see a good-sized collection, including a few we managed to turn up that haven’t been widely seen. With few exceptions they all use the same formula, though he would occasionally deviate by painting a fully rendered background, or populating a scene with more than one or two figures. You can see a couple more Oval covers in our collection of Asia-influenced paperback art here, and we also shared a small collection of his work back in 2011 that you can find here.
, Pan Books
, MacMillam Publishers
, Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group
, J. Oval
, Ben Ostrick
, Ronald Leavis
, Alec Waugh
, Nicholas Monserrat
, Douglas Angus
, Glendon Swarthout
, Paul Scott
, Gerald Green
, Cécil Saint Laurent
, William Bradford Huie
, Patrick Quentin
, R.H. Ward
, Peter Cheyney
, Ray Russell
, Erskine Caldwell
, Any Bonneval
, Georgette Heyer
, cover art
Beauty and the beasts.
Wade Miller was a shared pseudonym of Robert Wade and William Miller, and in Kiss Her Goodbye they tell the tale of a pair of siblings—a steady, responsible brother named Ed and his childlike but beautiful sister Emily. By childlike, we mean she’s fully grown but was stricken in her youth by some kind of brain ailment, maybe encephalitis, that stunted her mental development. She violently explodes when men make sexual advances toward her, something that happens constantly because, well, mainly because men are scum, but also because bombshell Emily is friendly toward strangers. You can imagine where this all leads. We’ve shared quite a few fronts from Corgi Books this year and this one from British artist Oliver Brabbins is especially nice with its color blocking and sprawled figure. Truly excellent work, and the book is good too. We have another piece from Brabbins here, and we’ll definitely have more later. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.
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