For a fulfilling killing nothing beats a blade.
Today we have for your pleasure a collection of vintage paperback covers featuring characters on both the giving and receiving ends of knives—or knifelike tools such as icepicks. Above you see Harry Bennett art of a poor fella getting a knife from nowhere. Maybe Damocles did it. It's a funny cover because we don't think we'd grab our throats if we got stabbed in the spine, but let's hope we never find out. Below, in addition to numerous U.S. and British offerings, you'll see covers from France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. There are many, many paperback fronts featuring knives—we mean hundreds—but we decided to stop ourselves at thirty-two today. These do not represent the best (as if we could decide something like that), or our favorites, but merely some interesting ones we've come across of late. If you're super interested in this particular motif we have plenty more examples in the archives. They'd be hard to find, because we don't keyword for knives, so here are some links to get you there: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Hi, this is Elke calling from Down Under. Can I speak to my agent? There's been a trademark infringement.
As usual the Aussie publishing company Horwitz has used a film star on one of its book covers—this time German goddess Elke Sommer on the front of 1959's Terror Comes Creeping. She was a favorite of theirs—we've seen her on four covers, including this one, and we've speculated that they're all unlicensed, for reasons discussed here. This one stars Carter Brown's, aka Alan G. Yates's franchise sleuth Danny Boyd, who's hired by a woman named Martha Hazelton who thinks her father is killing off his children—with her next in line—in order to avoid losing his dead wife's inheritance. The father, when confronted by Boyd, says that insanity runs in the family and his daughter is paranoid and probably nuts. It certainly seems that way when Boyd meets his client's loopy, danger obsessed little sister, but of course matters soon begin to look far more complicated than they seemed at first. On one level it's amazing Carter Brown sold something like 120,000,000 books, because his work is not special. But on the other hand it's fast, sometimes funny, and hits the right notes for detective novels. So maybe his success isn't so strange after all. We'll probably read another, because we have a few.
What happens next could be great or terrible, depending on how well you distinguish subtle shades of color.
Since we just saw Cleo Moore why not bring her right back? Here she is on the front of Carter Brown's Slaughter in Satin, 1954, from the Australian publisher Horwitz. We've long documented this publisher's usage of minor celebrities on its covers, and pondered whether it was copyright infringement. What caught our eye about this example, besides Moore, was the typesetting. Notice how the “s” in the title disappears into Moore's red jammies, so at first glance it reads as, “Laughter in Satin,” which is almost an opposite outcome from slaughter, like the difference between being lain or slain. Probably when the book was first printed the two shades of red stood out from each other more. Or maybe this visual trick was intentional. Or maybe it was a miscalculation that couldn't be repaired. We'll never know. See the other Moore here, and see the celeb Horwitz covers by clicking here and scrolling.
What is it with men? Why can't I find one who likes cats?
Like clockwork we return to master illustrator Robert McGinnis, as any paperback art site must. Here you see a cover for The Hellcat by Australian author Carter Brown, aka Alan Yates, for Signet Books, 1962. We showed you a Dutch cover for this years ago, which you can see here.
I'm going to kill myself because I can't have you! You always ignored me, but you can't ignore this! Ahhhhhhhh....!
Above, a fun cover for Carter Brown Long Story Magazine. And long story short, when you make an epic gesture to your object of unrequited love, be sure she's actually watching. 1960 on this, with art by Grant Roberts.
She was so good Horwitz had a second helping.
Senta Berger makes a second appearance on a Horwitz Publications paperback cover, this time for Carter Brown's Murder Is My Mistress. We showed you the Horwitz cover for Brown's Swan Song for a Siren a while back. That actually came second of the pair and was numbered 34 in the company's Reprint by Demand series. The above is number 19 and was published in 1960. We found it on the Nick Carter & Carter Brown blog, which is a stop you should make if you want to know everything about Brown. Anyway, we've been discussing these Horwitz paperbacks for a while because of their celebrity covers. In using Berger twice the publisher chose well.
American singer gets booked for special engagement Down Under.
We love documenting the appropriations of celebrities by Horwitz Publications. This time the company snares U.S. nightingale Abbe Lane for its 1955 edition of Carter Brown's Swan Song for a Siren. You see the original photo they worked with below, which also features Lane's husband Xavier Cugat in the left background, erased by Horwitz's graphics guru and replaced by a man with a gun. The company would reprint this title in 1958 with Senta Berger on the cover, because once you get a taste for kidnapping celebrities you never stop. You can see that edition here. And if you want to see more examples of celebrity theft click the Horwitz keywords below.
Like all thefts in pulp fiction it was less than perfect.
We were just talking recently about U.S. paperback art being copied by overseas companies, and here we have a good example from the Italian publishing company Gialli Tre Cerchi. This cover for Wallace MacKentzy's, aka Mario Raffi's Allan Beebe spacca tutto meno Gina features art copied from Robert McGinnis. The artist is uncredited, which is probably good because his work, though pleasing, is not close to the standard of McGinnis. But don't take our word for it. Have a look at the McGinnis that was copied—Carter Brown's Who Killed Doctor Sex?, which we shared way back in 2012. You'll also notice it was copied more than once. Well, if you're going to steal from someone, steal from the best.
Al Wheeler gets caught in an explosive situation.
Barye Phillips art adorns the cover of Carter Brown's The Bombshell, first published in 1957, with this Signet edition appearing in 1960. The book features his franchise police detective Al Wheeler, who's assigned a murder case where there's no body. He protests because it's really a missing persons investigation, but his boss is convinced young Lily Teal's corpse is somewhere to be found. Even so, a previous investigation came up empty and Wheeler is assigned the case with the expectation he won't get anywhere. But failure is for lesser detectives. Our favorite exchange in this one:
Femme fatale: “Maybe it's something to do with me being born in the South—a girl matures early in a hot climate.”
Al Wheeler: “And you've been carrying that climate around with you ever since.
We shared this cover as part of a collection several years ago, but hadn't read the book. The scan above is from our own copy. This is the third Al Wheeler book in the long running series, but it already feels a bit perfunctory. The narrative doesn't really take off until Wheeler is framed for attempted sexual assault. At that point, based on how far his still unknown enemies are willing to go, he realizes there's more to the case than just a possible murder. Overall, not a bad outing, but nothing special. We have more Al Wheeler mysteries we acquired recently, so we'll see how those go.
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