Lady, if you don't stop blocking my view I'm going to strangle you and leave you buried with the pharaohs.
We never go long without sharing art from French illustrator Jef de Wulf, and here he is again doing cover work for publisher Éditions de la Flamme d'Or and author Jacques Destier, whose Egyptian adventure Nioussia l'insaisissable was published in 1954. Destier was a pseudonym used by Jacques Thinus. If your French is rusty, Nioussia, l'insaisissable means “Nioussia, the elusive.” See de Wulf at his best here and here, and we'll have more from him a bit later.
You have multiple personality disorder—they're all insatiable nymphos.
Above, a cover for Sex Queen by Roger Blake for Fabian books, copyright 1962. Add this to our growing therapy collection, which you can get into starting here. The art is uncredited, but it could be Bill Edwards.
Marriage to a savage jungle woman is all fun and games until you get on her bad side.
This is a fantastic cover for John Saxon's, aka James N. Gifford's The Tigress, for Novels, Inc, 1952. This poor guy in the art. Takes abuse at the office all day then comes home and has to take more from his wife. Well, it's better than when she ignores him, or worse, perches on the kitchen counter and stares unblinkingly at him for minutes at a time. That's just plain unnerving. But she's worth it, because at her best she's a real pussycat. This cover, sadly, is uncredited.
Sorry to disappoint you, but we're into each other.
Well no, Leonhard Frank's novella Desire Me isn't about two men in love, but we think it should be, based on the cover art. It's actually a story centered around a clever idea that has been borrowed often since it was first written by Frank in 1926 as the play Karl und Anna. Basically, two men in a prison camp have plenty of idle time to get to know each other. The married prisoner speaks in detail about his wife. When the unmarried one escapes, he seeks out the married one's wife and the two fall in love. Naturally the husband, who his pal had claimed was dead, eventually resurfaces in the town to complicate matters.
This prison identity theft concept is the basis or backstory of many movies, including The House on Telegraph Hill. Returning from presumed wartime death to ruin a wife's new love affair has also been used often, notably in Casablanca. Frank was considered a leading German writer, but his legacy was destroyed when his books were burned by the Nazis before World War II. He actually wrote about this later and noted that even though Hitler lost the war, he largely succeeded in altering Germany's literary history, because many of the authors whose works were burned never regained their former stature. Frank's is a cautionary example about censorship—governments do it because it works.
Legendary thief plays cat and mouse on the French Riviera.
One of our favorite fiction tricks is the hero who has no idea a beautiful pest loves him. In David Dodge's To Catch a Thief the technique is used to good effect as readers are treated to a fun tale about a retired jewel thief known as Le Chat (the Cat) who'll be thrown in a French prison on general suspicion unless he catches an imitator who's robbing one percenters all over the French Riviera. Dodge is a rock solid storyteller, not the type of artisan to win literary prizes, but one to keep you turning pages at a rapid clip, and he's great here as usual. The art on this 1953 edition from Dell Publications is by Mike Ludlow, and even though the bikini clad cover figure for some reason is depicted on a piney lakeshore rather than the beach at Cannes, the image is still a nice match for Dodge's urbane, sun-drenched, Mediterranean mystery. Highly recommended.
Well, I heard it's a salon tan and her real name is Becky.
PEC, aka Publishers Export Company, was about a low rent as it got for mid-century fiction, and the company left no stone unturned to get at the sleaze underneath. Fred Haley's Black Heat is one of those books designed to get all the characters laid in taboo breaking fashion. The main character, sort of a local kingpin, is shocked when his blonde daughter gets involved with an exotic “negress,” and his son has an affair with another man. He then cheats, a blackmailer sends his wife a home movie of it, and so forth and so on.
Haley is actually a bit of a legend in this field, because he wrote Satan Was a Lesbian, beyond doubt one of the most posted and reposted sleaze covers ever. But Haley was a pseudonym—in that case for Monica Roberts. We can't be sure Roberts wrote Black Heat, though, since pen names were often shared. All these books—even the many that try to be progressive about the subject matter—are racist, sexist, homophobic, and all the rest, but they're also fascinating windows onto attitudes of the day. Black Heat is 1966 with an unknown cover artist.
You know what? Don't worry about it. The first time wasn't that great anyway.
Above, a Paul Rader cover for Twice with Julie by Jason Hytes, aka John Plunkett. The lesson here? Every man has his limitations. Copyright 1962.
You'll get nowhere fast with this book.
Popular Library made a habit of retitling novels if they thought the original was too esoteric. Many companies did it, but Popular Library had some notorious instances, including changing Ian Fleming's Casino Royale to You Asked for It. Speed Lamkin's The Easter Egg Hunt appeared in 1954 to reviews that ranged from cool to tepid, which was probably all the excuse Popular Library needed to rebrand and pulpify it for paperback release. Thus a year later Fast and Loose hit bookstores in a blaze of golden color from the exemplary brush of cover artist Rafael DeSoto, who was one of the top paperback illustrators going. This effort is typically flawless, and features the trademark textural background that makes his work so identifiable, such as here and here.
We gave Fast and Loose a read. You notice the cover quotes some reviewer or other saying the book is James M. Cainish. Lamkin is like Cain the way papier mache is like origami. They're both things you do with paper, but that's about it. Lamkin is more from the Capote or Fitzgerald schools of authoring. His book is also very similar to Ramona Stewart's forgotten novel The Surprise Party Complex, though Stewart's book came later. But both deal with the events of a summer in Hollywood. Where Stewart focuses on a trio of aimless teens, Lamkin writes about adults who, though they're producers, actors, and writers, are equally aimless, partying the days and nights away.
The main character Charley Thayer works for Life magazine, though never has work to do. He observes the celestial bodies in the orbit of wealthy Clarence Culvers, who has the best party house in Beverly Hills and is determined to make his young, volatile wife a star. The people in this crowd are shallow, selfish, and bigoted, and since Lamkin spent time in L.A. we can assume he's relating what he observed, or at least thought he observed. Frankly, these folks are all so tedious that when the expected tragedy finally occurs it's a relief to have one less horrible person in the world, even a fictional one. Speed needed a limit—to about two-thirds the number of pages. Then Fast and Loose might have worked.
Sleaze imprint offers illuminating cover art.
Several days ago we said we'd revisit whoever painted this cover with an eye toward determining if they were really any good. At a glance these fronts from sleaze imprint Gaslight Books don't compare to the many beautiful efforts from Midwood or Gold Medal, but only at a glance. There's a distinctive style here, a certain beauty of form and color, an ease of execution like sketches brought to life. All are uncredited, but all are by the same artist, who hasn't gotten their due, in our opinion, for taking cover art in this unusual direction. Alternatively, we could simply be high. But give these a close look, revisit last week's cover, check the example we shared several years ago, and see what you think.
Mirror mirror on the paperback, is whoever painted this really a hack?
This cover for Tom Haunt's Deadly Love is uncredited, and at a glance it looks like something splashed on canvas without much regard for the final result. But we'll be returning to this unknown artist for an extended look in a bit, and we may change your mind about him/her. It wouldn't be the first time a presumed hack got a reconsideration in the realm of paperback covers. Remember sleaze illustrator Gene Bilbrew, once ignored, now celebrated? If not, look here.
Some cover art isn't easy to stylistically appreciate at first glance, but it's useful to remember that it serves dual purposes. The artists and most art aficionados would say it must show proficiency. But a publisher would say it must catch the eye on a newsstand or bookstore shelf. Making those ingredients mix isn't easy, and the final result will sometimes have more of one flavor than the other. The above art is eye-catching but probably not proficient. Or is it? Stay tuned.
Moving on to the actual fiction, author Tom Haunt is a pseudonym, we're guessing, though for whom we don't know. Whoever he/she really was wrote numerous books. This one is the story of a young Coney Island hustler named Joe Brody who tries to turn a woman of thirty-one into his sugar mama. His plan is to use her money to ditch grimy New York for the white sands and endless sunshine of Florida.
Everything goes swimmingly for a while. Joe plies his benefactress for cash, gets her to buy him a car, and the two run off to the sunny south. But of course Joe is a heel and eventually his straying ways lead to serious troubles, and—as the cover blurb reveals—death! Actually several people die, including Joe, who we weren't sad to see go. There's nothing special in this story, but at least it was a quick read. Will we check out more from Tom Haunt? Doubtful.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
1962—Marilyn Monroe Sings to John F. Kennedy
A birthday salute to U.S. President John F. Kennedy takes place at Madison Square Garden, in New York City. The highlight is Marilyn Monroe's breathy rendition of "Happy Birthday," which does more to fuel speculation that the two were sexually involved than any actual evidence.
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