….then he ate their livers. Anyway, I think he went that way. You check it out and I'll light your way from back here.
First rule of dark places: make sure you never go in first. Jean Salvetti paints a sinister scene on this cover for 1953's Des clous! by Robert Tachet, which is about crime, smuggling, and espionage in Perpignan on the French/Spanish border. The title, pronounced like “clue,” means “nails,” or maybe “spikes.” In the least surprising revelation imaginable, Tachet was a pseudonym for André Héléna. Why is that no surprise? Because Héléna was a pseudonym machine who also published as—ready?—Noël Vexin, Andy Ellen, Andy Helen, Buddy Wesson, Maureen Sullivan, Herbert Smally, Jean Zerbibe, Kathy Woodfield, Sznolock Lazslo, Clark Corrados, Peter Colombo, Alex Cadourcy, Joseph Benoist, Lemmy West, and C. Cailleaux. He was not only prolific, but was also one of the few mid-century writers to have his books translated into English from another language. Salvetti was prolific too. We have a few more examples of his brushwork if you're interested. Check here, here, here, here, and here.
Come on, one more won't kill you.
Jean David is one of the great French illustrators of the mid-century era, and this cover for Kathy Woodfield's 1955 novel Massacres à l'anisette shows him at his best. Woodfield, as we recently mentioned, was a pseudonym for André Hélena, and he wrote this for the Parisian publisher Éditions de la Seine for its Collection Rafale. David was based in Marseilles and was active from the 1940s and onward, working often with Le Méridional, and specializing in small drawings for V magazine. In our opinion he truly shone on paperback covers. Take a closer look below at how beautifully rendered his female figure is. He did far too few book covers. In fact we've seen only a handful. But you can bet that each time we run into one we'll share it here. We think he's great. You can see some of his mini art here, and another brilliant paperback cover at the bottom of this post.
The best hired guns never miss the mark.
Like clockwork, it's time once more for Jef de Wulf, one of the most reliable paperback illustrators of the mid-century era. Every cover he painted, for whatever company employed him, was stylish and unique. He was automatic. Here's an example of him at his best on this 1952 cover for Faudra cracher au bassinet, by André Helena writing as Kathy Woodfield, for Éditions la Dernière Chance's series Le Roman Noir Féminin. We don't know anything else about the novel except that the title translates as “you'll have to spit in the bassinet,” which is French slang meaning to give reluctantly. It only makes sense once you know that “bassinet” doesn't just mean a baby's bed, as it does in English, but also a church collection dish. Eew. We give unreluctantly more de Wulf here, here, and here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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