All these books are on our bucket list.
When you look at paperback covers every day it's interesting the common elements you notice. Of late, we've noticed buckets. They pop up on backwoods and rural sleaze novels, usually in amusing fashion, often in the possession of hardworking women going about difficult chores while nearby men don't do dick. We'll just tell you—that's not the way it works around our place.
I used to be over easy, but that was during my wild college years.
Above, a beautiful 1950 Venus Books cover for Hard-Boiled, originally published in 1935 as Struggle, written by Harmon Bellamy, who was in reality Herman Bloom. The book deals with an embittered misogynist who meets up with a hardboiled woman of low repute, and finds his feelings for her evolving from contempt to a growing desire to peel her and have her for a meal. The main attraction here, though, is the art by George Gross. He was good at everything, but in the area of dressing his women, he was top of the heap. This lacy bodysuit is perfect. For more examples of Gross fashions, check this collection, especially the top example.
But I feel absolutely miserable, nurse. And you know misery loves company.
Above we have an addition to our ongoing collection of nurse/doctor covers, 1953's Night Nurse by David Charlson for Venus Books, which was a branch of Star Guidance, Inc. If you seek to buy this, you'll find it priced at up to $100, which is enough to put you into shock, and then you can have a night nurse of your own. We don't know about you, but we'll content ourselves with this nice scan. The art is uncredited. See more guaranteed-to-amuse nurse and doctor covers here, here, here, here, here, and here.
I've got two days. That's not much time to waste all my pay on impersonal professional sex, so let's get started.
Would the global sex-for-pay industry even survive without the military? We seriously doubt it. If you're partnered up with a military man, just know he's done the above, multiple times, no matter what he may tell you. Whit Harrison's 1952 novel Sailor's Weekend deals with three navy guys set loose in San Francisco, which was an entirely more lawless place back then as far as the sex industry goes. The art on this is by Herb Tauss, who we did a small feature on a long while back. You can check that out here.
Okay, he's taken the bait. We'll let him get close, then you distract him by puking on his coat, and I'll take him down.
City Streets was written by Gene Harvey, aka Jack Hanley, who we last saw authoring 1942's Leg Artist. Harvey was a literary vet who authored such memorable lite-sleaze epics as She Couldn't Be Good, A Girl Called Joy, and Stag Stripper. City Streets is from 1954 and apparently his various publishers liked it so much they issued it four times—Venus Books put it out in 1950 as Cutie, Exotic Novels released it as Passion's Slave the same year in an illustrated format, Original Novels published it as what you see above, and finally Star Novels published it, also as City Streets, in 1955. These companies were closely related, but that's still a lot of mileage from one book. It explores the trials and tribulations of beautiful young Dru, “a bad girl of the slums,” who's gotten her education from the school of hard knocks—i.e. from Chicago's south side. The cover art on this is by Rafael DeSoto, who cleverly hid his signature in the gutter. It's a really beautiful effort from him, certainly one of his best. We've featured him often, so just click his keywords below if you want to see more.
Can I interest you in a quick hay ride?
Above, another installment of art from the great George Gross, with cover work for Norman Bligh's Play-Girl, 1950, from Venus Books. See more here and here.
Then she realized she had an aptitude for it and today she's the very best.
Above, She Tried To Be Good, by the prolific Florence Stonebraker for Venus Books, 1951. The cover is the flawless work of Rudy Nappi, whose output we've shown you before. We think this is one of the most beautiful illustrations of the mid-century era, and we suspect we're not alone in that opinion. We'll have more from Nappi a bit later.
I already knew you weren’t married, silly. No self-respecting wife would let her man out wearing such an atrocious tie.
Above is a beautiful and lighthearted cover for No Time for Marriage by David Charlson for Venus Books, 1951, featuring a smiling femme fatale and her homme with his garish pin-up girl tie. The art isn’t attributed and Gary Lovisi’s reference book Dames, Dolls and Delinquents lists it as by unknown. But we think it’s by George Gross. Compare it to a cover confirmed as painted by Gross—One Wild Night, which you see just to the right. The general style is close if not identical, and the female figures on both covers wear drawstring puff sleeve blouses, necklaces, an assortment of gold bracelets, and the always popular ankle strap pumps.
We sound like we’ve been watching Project Runway for the last ten years, we know, but this is what obsessing over paperback art does to you. You also notice that the pose, facial features and hairdos on both covers are nearly identical too. While it’s true Rudy Nappi also painted in this general style for Venus, his hairstyles were usually less sculptural than what you see here. We also think the similarities of No Time for Marriage to other Gross covers are too great to ignore. In any case, we hope whoever painted it was well paid at least, because the same art was reused for Joan Tucker’s 1954 novel Young Secretary.
Hah hah, it always cracks me up when you ask me that, baby. No, you can’t drive my convertible.
Passion Is a Woman is a Hollywood melodrama by Kate Nickerson, née Lulla Adler, focusing on aspiring but untalented actress Linda March, who hooks up with a series of men, including a director, an optometrist, and others. She eventually steals the actor husband of a fading but still powerful starlet, and has to contend with the spurned woman’s wrath. The art is from Rudolph Belarski, and the flipside of the book, posed by two models, is rather interesting too.
A zebra amongst the lions.
Erolie Pearl Gaddis Dern wrote as Joan Sherman, Joan Tucker, Pearl Gaddis, Peggy Dern, and for this 1951 romance Painted Lips decided to use her best known moniker—Peggy Gaddis. Gaddis was prolific, publishing dozens of romances and nurse novels between 1929 and 1966. This particular book follows the various dramas of a habitual homewrecker. We love the cover femme fatale, with her zebra skirt and wacky bodice. This would have been an absolutely insane outfit for 1951, so we wonder if the artist simply dreamed it up. We can’t answer that, though, because the art is uncredited. We think that was the modus operandi at Venus Books, because we’ve seen quite a few of their releases—including a couple with covers obviously by this same talented painter—with no attribution. Shame. But we’ll try to dig up more info on a possible artist anyway. There’s always someone out there who knows.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant
, East of Eden
, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause
, dies in an auto accident
at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
1916—Rockefeller Breaks the Billion Barrier
American industrialist John D. Rockefeller becomes America's first billionaire. His Standard Oil Company had gained near total control of the U.S. petroleum market until being broken up by anti-trust legislators in 1911. Afterward, Rockefeller used his fortune mainly for philanthropy, and had a major effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.
1941—Williams Bats .406
Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox finishes the Major League Baseball season with a batting average of .406. He is the last player to bat .400 or better in a season.
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