Mastermind my ass. There's no way this guy is gonna outsmart me.
This cover for Hank Janson's Mastermind appeared in 1961 from Roberts & Vinter. We shared group of Janson covers in December, and had discussed him before that, but we're showing this piece today to focus on the artist, whose name is Michel Atkinson. We're working up a collection of the stuff he did for Roberts & Vinter's Janson books, which we'll get to sometime after we're no longer occupied with Noir City. Stay tuned.
Seventeen thrillers from swinging sixties.
Above, seventeen covers from Gold Star Books for Hank Janson's, aka Stephen Daniel Frances's, best selling and highly sexual Hank Janson series, starring a tough reporter who shared a name with the author's pseudonym. We think these represent the complete run of Janson books published by Gold Star, though there are more entries in the series. Later novels were written by Victor Norwood, Harry Hobson, and D.F. Crawley. The excellent art is from Paul Rader, Harry Barton, and Robert Maguire, circa 1963, 1964, and 1965.
You should have seen it. It was unbelievable. From base to tip it was like this. I swear.
Originally published in 1952, this paperback edition of Hank Janson’s Conflict came from British publisher Alexander Moring in 1957. The art is uncredited and unsigned, but it’s undoubtedly Reginald Heade, who stopped putting a name to his work after seven of Janson’s books brought about an obscenity trial and guilty verdicts. Though Janson’s writing was racy, we doubt that this cover is supposed to convey what we imply. But you have to admit—it’s a really curious pose from the female figure. See a bit more Heade here.
What do you call forty dead men? A good start.
Two years ago we shared five covers of women standing over men they had just killed and mentioned that there were many examples in vintage cover art of that particular theme. Today we’ve decided to revisit the idea in order to reiterate just how often women in pulp are the movers and shakers—and shooters and stabbers and clubbers and poisoners and scissorers. Now if they do this about a billion more times they’ll really be making a difference that counts. French publishers, interestingly, were unusually fond of this theme—so egalitarian of them. That’s why many of the covers here are from France, including one—for which we admit we bent the rules of the collection a bit, because the victim isn’t dead quite yet—of a woman actually machine gunning some hapless dude. But what a great cover. We also have a couple of Spanish killer femmes, and a Dutch example or two. Because we wanted to be comprehensive, the collection is large and some of the fronts are quite famous, but a good portion are also probably new to you. Art is by the usual suspects—Robert Maguire, Barye Phillips, Alex Piñon, Robert Bonfils, Robert McGinnis, Rudolph Belarski, et al. Enjoy.
Murder always rings twice.
The last book cover we shared was a Dell mapback, so today we thought we’d continue that theme by showing you a double-sided Hank Janson cover from London based Roberts & Vinter, Ltd., advertising Janson’s upcoming novel on the rear. This appeared in 1960 with uncredited art, but was painted, according to a couple of convincing sources, by an Italian artist named Fernando Carcupino, who did work for Digit Books, Mondadori, and other companies. We’ll dig for more info, but these do pass the initial eye test—i.e. they look very much Carcupino’s work.
They all deserved it. You can be sure of that.
A few years ago we shared a collection of pulp covers featuring women holding smoking guns. Most of them, but not all, were standing over dead victims. Today we decided to revisit the idea, but this time feature only women standing over men they’ve just gunned down. We found many examples, but these are five of the best. Kind thanks to the original uploaders.
The first cut is the deepest.
You see this cover for 1958’s Jack Spot—The Man of a Thousand Cuts around the internet quite a bit, especially on auction sites, because Hank Janson, aka Stephen D. Frances, is a very popular vintage author. But you don’t often see the back cover. Since we were talking about a spread-legged/phallic symbol motif yesterday, we thought we’d show you another example. The excellent art, which we found at a very interesting website here, is uncredited, so it seems. As far as content, the book is a biography of a notorious London gangster named Jack Comer, née Jacob Camacho, who as a youth became known as Jack Spot due to a mole on his cheek. Spot was quite a troublemaker, and used his knife-fighting skills and aptitude for vice to build and maintain a criminal empire that stretched from London to Tangier. Probably he deserves a heavier treatment on this website at some point, but we’ll see about that later. However, we can pretty much guarantee we’ll get back to Hank Janson, because he wrote numerous novels, and also created a character named Hank Janson who starred in some of the books, and, just for good measure, later stepped aside and let the pseudonym Hank Janson be inhabited by several other authors. Pretty convoluted, but it’s just the type of thing we love here.
Does this look like one of the top sixty pulp book covers of all time to you?
No, it doesn’t look like that to us either. Don’t get us wrong. It isn’t bad. But top sixty? Ever? Yet we found it on a site that included it in its top sixty, along with a collection of other covers of which we can honestly say only three were excellent. There was not one Fixler or Aslan to be found. Nary a J. David, nor a Peff, nor even a hint of a Rader. Clearly, whoever put the feature together took sixty random images off Flickr (yet watermarked the art they borrowed) and called it a day. This highlights one of the main problems with the internet: it’s difficult to know which sites are primarily focused upon providing information, and which exist solely to generate traffic revenue. A site can do both (as we try to do here with our very minimal ad presence), but when some corporate pulp site that possesses endless resources somehow misidentifies the pulp era as lasting from the 1950s to 1970s, and asserts that the term “pulp” was popularized by the movie Pulp Fiction, it’s clear that information has not only taken a back seat to traffic revenue—it’s being dragged 100 feet behind the car on a rope. We would never presume to do something as subjective as select the best covers of all time, because who the hell are we? But we have, we hope, earned some credibility over the last three years. So on this, our official third anniversary, we're going to do a pulp cover collection of our own. We don't claim these are the best—only that we like them very much. We’re posting twenty-four because we’re too lazy to do sixty, but we think all of them are winners. A few have already appeared on our site; most have not. Got better ones? Use our reader pulp feature to send them. So here we go. And thanks to the sites from which we borrowed some of these.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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