The difference is in the details.
The phenomenon of vintage illustrators copying each other is a subject of interest and bafflement to us. We've talked about it a lot. When it happens, usually it's a great illustration being copied by an anonymous artist of far lesser ability. Other times, though, it's two top level artists painting the same piece. We assume these are initiated by the copyright holders, whether movie studios or publishing houses.
Today we have an interesting example from the literary world. In 1962 Enrico de Seta painted a brilliant cover for a Digit Books edition of Dashiell Hammett's classic mystery The Glass Key. The same year, amazingly, Digit commissioned another, almost identical cover from illustrator Dan Rainey. You see it at top, with the de Seta cover underneath. We also have de Seta's piece in our usual pixel size, here, from a post back in 2014, so if you're on a mobile device feel free to click over there for more resolution. De Seta originated this tableau, so we give him more credit, but it's great work from Rainey too, even if it's almost a copy. We'll show you more from him later.
Paperback publishers get it up in Paris.
Below, seven more examples of vintage paperbacks using the Eiffel Tower on their covers. You can add these to the collection of twenty-two we put together a few years back.
For someone so big he didn't leave much of a trace.
You'd think a guy named Bunyan would be a giant, at least figuratively, but after some deep searching we found no mention of Pat Bunyan associated with the mid-century jazz movement in any context other than that offered by the blurb on the back of the jazz oriented 1963 novel The Big Blues. The rear says, “Told by a man who blew the horn in many a night spot from the lowdown dive to way up there...” So you can see why we expected to find him mentioned as a major dude of the bop era. But we found no credits for him—way up there or anywhere, even on the comprehensive music site Discogs. Well regarded jazz players often—if not typically—played on albums as sidemen. No such indications exist for Mr. Bunyan. Of course, he could have performed under a pseudonym.
The Big Blues was originally published in the U.S. in 1958 by Newsstand Library, then again in 1960 as I Peddle Jazz by Saber Books, both low budget outfits that specialized in sleaze novels. That probably tells you all you need to know as far as Bunyan's literary talent goes. As far as confirming his identity, we had hopes when we saw he was referred to as Paul Porto on the U.S. edition. Maybe that was the name he used when he lit a firestorm in the American jazz scene. Maybe he had to change identity or be arrested for terrorism after blowing club after club sky high. To the far corners of the online realm we went and... nope. There's no evidence of a Paul Porto playing music during the mid-century jazz era.
As we've commented before, the internet is just an aperture and only about .000001% of all knowledge makes it through the opening. Someone has to actually take the time to do what we do here at Pulp Intl., which is decide the data is worthwhile to others and upload it. We're constantly uploading from sources we've purchased, for example from old tabloids. That makes us gatekeepers of sorts, and as members of that group we can tell you we're notoriously lazy, repetitive, and biased. But even if the gatekeepers don't do the best job getting all relevant data online, would the internet not have info on a great jazzman who played way up there? For that reason, we suspect Bunyan/Porto was just a hack author taking advantage of the jazz trend.
In any case, Digit saw something salable in The Big Blues and certainly elevated it when it produced its edition. The company often featured brilliant cover art—examples here, here, and here—and the front of this one was painted by the masterful Sam Peffer, aka Peff, who we've talked about a couple of times, notably here. So The Big Blues paperback ended up being more artful than its author probably ever expected, and thanks to its collectible nature survives today. As for Big Pat Bunyan, he wrote one other novel that used jazz as a backdrop, 1966's A Doll for Johnny Marco, then disappeared from the publishing scene. We're curious though. Which means we'll probably pick up one of his books if we find one at the right price.
Update: we received an e-mail with a scan of an item from the Hartford Courant newspaper of June 1957 containing an announcement about a concert by Pat Bunyan and his band. So Bunyan did exist. Corrections from readers are part of the package for bloggers, and we'd be nothing without them. So thanks for the e-mail. Now we'll definitely have to read one of Bunyan's books. In fact, we just ordered The Big Blues a few minutes ago.
Don't look at me that way. He was like this when I got here. I swear.
Above, a beautiful cover painted by Robert Maguire for Edgar Wallace's mystery Four Square Jane, originally published in 1929, with this Digit Books edition appearing in 1962. This one is short and fun. Someone known as Four Square Jane is executing clever heists against the rich all around London, and Chief Superintendent Peter Dawes is put on her trail. The only clues are a card Jane leaves at the crime scenes, each bearing her personal sigil. Dawes soon realizes that one person in particular seems to be financially damaged by the thefts, and when murder enters the mix, the stakes mount. This is an excellent classical style mystery from Wallace with a proto-feminist angle. The art here is a re-usage of Maguire's cover for Henry Kane's 1960 novel Private Eyeful, which you can see at the top of this collection of women standing over dead or dying men.
Harlan Ellison takes readers inside the bloody gang culture of the 1950s.
We're back with more Harlan Ellison today, this time his 1958 inner city drama The Deadly Streets. He died last month—when we were reading this, in fact—and the literary world has lost a unique stylist, and a unique character. We've written about him often, such as here, here, and here. He'll continue to be one of our favorite subjects. The Digit Books edition of The Deadly Streets you see here has top notch cover art by Kirk Wilson, and inside you get a collection of short stories based upon Ellison's experiences hanging around the NYC street gang the Barons when he was researching material for his debut novel Web of the City, aka Rumble. Violence, revenge, and corruption are the dominant motifs. You get a cop who's a hit man, an avenging father/serial killer, a homicidal female gang leader, and more. As an early effort The Deadly Streets is imperfectly executed, but at its best it's like James Ellroy before Ellroy, a gritty, literary splatter painting. You really get the sense of a writer stretching his creative muscles, exploring a style that would help him go on to conceive some of the most groundbreaking fiction of his era. Fun stuff—if you can call harrowing glimpses of New York's gangland hell fun. Ellison will be greatly missed.
Paul Derval and the pleasure factory.
Is it pulp? Technically no. But then technically most of what we share isn't pulp, if you want to be doctrinaire about it. But this cover for Paul Derval's The Folies Bergère has pin-up style art, so that's good enough for us. This is from Digit Books, 1956, an English version of a book originally published by Methuen & Co. in France, and is a behind-the-scenes rundown of the famed burlesque theater written by the guy who managed the place from 1918 to 1956. It was under Derval that the Folies achieved arguably its greatest fame. In addition to his story, you also get eight photo pages inside, including the one you see below. If that image looks familiar, it may be because we showed it to you back in 2015, but a much sharper version scanned from a glossy photo. She's none other than the talented and beautiful Yvonne Ménard, and you can learn a bit about her, and see more of her, at this link.
Please let me go back—I forgot to remind my publisher to credit me as the cover artist!
Above is a very nice cover with a wraparound element for J.B. O’Sullivan’s 1957 novel Nerve Beat. Digit Books had a high standard for cover art, and a correspondingly low frequency of identifying artists, but this piece is at least signed—Mortimer. We have no idea who that is. Nice work, though. You can see a comprehensive collection of Digit book covers at this link.
Glass Key paperback art is tops thanks to another Italian master.
Alan Ladd, Brian Donlevy, and Veronica Lake’s film noir The Glass Key, which was Hollywood’s second try at Dashiell Hammett’s novel, premiered this month in 1942. To be exact, it opened yesterday in New York City and throughout the U.S. on October 23. The poster most often seen online is the theatrical release version we showed you several years ago, but alternates were produced and two of them appear below. What we really wanted to share, though, is this great paperback cover from UK-based Digit Books. It’s from 1961 and features the art of Italian illustrator Enrico de Seta, who we’ve mentioned before. If you haven’t watched The Glass Key we recommend it, and if you haven’t read the book, just know that it was Hammett’s personal favorite.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Baby Face Nelson Killed
In the U.S., killer and bank robber Baby Face Nelson, aka Lester Joseph Gillis, dies in a shoot-out with the FBI in Barrington, Illinois. Nelson is shot nine times, but by walking directly into a barrage of gunfire manages to kill both of his FBI pursuers before dying himself.
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.
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