*sigh* Sure, wild body. Always wild. Dance, dance, dance. You know how this body feels right now? Hung over.
This cover for the 1953 novel Wild Body introduced a new artist to us—Howard Purcell, who produced an illustration better than Manning Clay's novel deserves. Wild Body is the story of a woman named Valerie Browning who's too attractive. That's Clay's formulation, not ours. Valerie's dilemma is summed up by this line about a hundred pages in: The cruelty of nature had endowed her with an exotic body but had forgotten to provide a heart and a soul. So she's kind of like the Tin Man, but stacked. She has starry ambitions, but can only manage to reach the burlesque circuit. As a dancer she quickly becomes jaded and depressed, and in addition to problems with men has a roommate named Lucyanne who gets one gander of Val's goods and decides same-sex action is where it's at. That could make for a good tale, but with low levels of action, eroticism, and drama, Wild Body lacks body and isn't all that wild. We'll keep our eyes open from more art from Purcell, though. This subtly phallic cover is excellent.
It's a tough job but somebody's got to do her.
Wright Williams' 1948 novel Hired Husband came in a group of pulp novels we bought, and clearly isn't a crime or adventure novel, but a sleazy romance. And what vintage sleazy romances typically do is get the female protagonist laid, but not entirely due to her own efforts. In this case Laurette and John want to have a child, but can't get married because John's wife is wasting away comatose in a hospital, could continue doing so indefinitely, and divorcing a sick spouse who can't speak for herself isn't legal. So John is stuck. But he and Laurette feel they have no time to waste in pursuit of happiness and family, so they hire Latham to marry Laurette, so that John can impregnate her and the child will be so-called legitimate. After John's wife finishes withering to oblivion, Laurette will divorce her platonic hubby Latham, marry the widowed John after a respectable interval, and presto, instant family. What could possibly go wrong? Hah hah, plenty. Hired Husband is preposterous, and only marginally well written, but it kept us engaged. Also engaging is the cover art by Bill Wenzel, a guy we've featured before. See more here.
Shit, that waiter is fast! The meal sucked and his service was worse, but maybe we should have tipped him anyway.
This cover for the 1965 Ace Edition of Martha Albrand's 1959 novel A Day in Monte Carlo caught our eye for a couple of reasons. One is the nice art by an unknown, but the other is because we're almost finished with David Dodge's 1952 travel book The Poor Man's Guide to Europe, and it encompasses the south of France. Why read a 70 year-old travel book? We knew it would be like a priceless time capsule—and it is. We'll get to it a bit later, but suffice to say it made us see this cover as two vacationers stiffing a waiter who's now chasing them with a scimitar. As you'd expect, however, this is actually an espionage novel, and a well reviewed one.
But sadly, A Day in Monte Carlo, which you might categorize as romantic suspense, is silly. Its main flaw is that the central relationship between American spycatcher Mark and French dancer Fleur is built on the gimmick of love at first sight. They meet, fall in love within minutes, and agree to marry before half a day has passed. After that point one of the main sources of plot tension becomes: how can Mark carry on a love affair and still chase the great and mysterious Timgad, mastermind behind the Algerian rebel movement, who flits from the Sahel to the Riviera with the ease of a migratory hawk? Well, there's an answer to that, though not a good one.
Albrand was something of an expert at this type of fiction, having published other novels in the same vein, but reputations can deceive. A great writer, perhaps, could pull all this off, but Albrand, whose go-to lines are things like, “Oh, Mark, I was so afraid. Is it really worth it to love this much?” is not a great writer. At least not in this book. We've actually seen her compared to the aforementioned David Dodge, who in addition to travel books wrote fiction classics like To Catch a Thief. But while Dodge wrote with wit, panache, and a touch of romance, he also wrote with gravity and grit. A Day in Monte Carlo needs a dose of the latter two qualities. Onward and upward.
A nocturnal perpetrator is revealed thanks to key evidence.
Above you see a beautiful paperback cover, both front and back, for Gerald Kersh's classic drama Night and the City, basis for the famed 1950 film noir. We have a copy of the book, so we may get back to it later. We're sharing the cover because it was painted by Sandro Symeoni. Back when we first stumbled upon this genius more than a decade ago there was little online about him. Now he has a Twitter page, a dedicated website currently in mid-build, plus a recent Facebook group. All of this means his profile is growing, which in turn means more attributed pieces appearing.
But attribution can be tricky. Symeoni was a chameleonic artist, with a style that evolved so much that even with the presence of his signature removing all doubt as to the provenance of the work, it's still hard to imagination that he painted with such range. And of course, some of his pieces don't have signatures, often because it was covered or cropped, and in those cases a little detective work is needed. The above cover is a good example. It's not signed, and has not been attributed to Symeoni anywhere, but it's him.
Note the background perspective on the left side, the chain of streetlights that draws the eye beyond the female figure. For a while this was Symeoni's thing, and it appeared in much of his work. For example, check this section at right (or above if you're using a mobile device) of his cover for the Peter Cheyney novel He Walked in Her Sleep (full cover here).
And directly below that example you see another, more subtle version of it in a crop we've made of his poster for La strada della vergogna (full poster here). Again you see a pretty chain of light receding from the viewer, plus a few impressionistic dots of nocturnal illumination. We have a few more examples below, but what you've already seen is probably convincing enough. These are all unmistakably by the same hand. Simultaneously, Symeoni used another stylistic trademark on the Kersh cover—flourescent yellow. You see that in the first two posters of this group. Sorry to ask you click over there, but if we added those examples here the post would become a real mess. In any case, you see what we mean about the light. With both the perspective and dayglow yellow characteristics noted, plus the general similarity of style, there's little doubt this is Symeoni's work. The final piece of evidence is simply that he's known to have produced pieces for Ace Books between 1958 and 1960, if not even a year or two later. This is an Ace cover, thus the case becomes open and shut. Well, maybe it wouldn't hold up in court, but it's good enough for here. Verdict reached: Symeoni. Below we've uploaded a few movie posters, confirmed as Symeoni's, in which he uses the perspective technique noted above. They'll help to reinforce our conclusion. Again, stylistically he was wide ranging. In addition to what you see here he painted portraits, delved deeply into color blocking, painted with abstract and blank backgrounds, drew in ink, painted humorous pieces, and created scores of unique fonts. But of all his styles we like these nighttime masterpieces best. More from this virtuoso later.
Hi, Jane. I hear Tarzan's away for the week. You know, some of us guys living in this jungle have a little class.
Remember that time Tarzan went all the way to the city to buy bug repellant? Jane was alone, and they'd been having some troubles, and she needed a shoulder to cry on, and Chad, who lives a couple of trees over, happened to be around, and, well, something happened. It lasted like a week. Chad was such an entitled ass it made Jane realize how good she actually had it with the King of the Jungle. And him? What he doesn't know can't hurt him.
Excuse me madam, would you like to hear an American's opinions about everything?
John Steinbeck's Un americano en Nueva York y en Paris was published in 1957 by Ediciones Mariel, which was based in Buenos Aires. First published in 1956 in France as Un Américain à New York et à Paris, this is a collection of articles that Steinbeck wrote for Le Figaro when he was living in Paris. Because they originally appeared in French for a French publication many went unpublished in English for decades. In fact we can't be sure all the essays are available in English even today, though one would like to assume so. In any case, that's why this book caught our eye—because it surprised us that the entire collection of essays was available in Argentina, but not the U.S., almost immediately after they appeared in France.
Steinbeck was a serious writer, and thus was considered a serious persona, but the Le Figaro essays gave him a chance to show readers his wit and humor. Some of his observations read so contemporarily they could be from a year ago, particularly his musings over a restaurant owner who received a Michelin star, then spent every waking moment plotting, hoping, suffering to get another. He hopes to have his chance when the Michelin critic schedules another visit. The fact that the chef's official taster is Steinbeck's cat Apollo just adds more absurdity to the tale, as the genius who wrote Of Mice and Men veers into the silliness of cats and menus.
The parts of Un americano en Nueva York y en Paris not about France consist of articles concerning New York, culture, and politics. One of those latter entries, from 1954, is about Joseph McCarthy, who was in full witch hunt mode at the time. Much of the literati were loudly opposed to the proto-fascist senator, but Steinbeck took a different tack, writing that democracies occasionally need a challenge from demagogues in order to evolve, because such dark episodes remind people what democratic ideals really are—i.e. everyone gets to participate, not just self-appointed gatekeepers and purity-testers afraid of change or losing power. The tent of democracy always gets bigger, not smaller. It can't do the latter and qualify as a democracy.
The cover art on this was painted by J.C. Cotignola, whose work appeared on various Argentine and Brazilian publications, but who isn't well known today. Bang up job though. To us the title of the collection somewhat echoes George Orwell's acclaimed Down and Out in Paris and London, another book about knocking around in a couple of big cities. The difference is Orwell was so poor he almost starved to death—he literally ate moldy bread out of garbage cans to survive. Steinbeck was the toast of Paris when he was there. Given a choice, we'd skip the mold and go straight to the toast. Preferably with a layer of rillette de porc on top. Even Apollo the cat would approve of that.
It's nothing a good stain remover won't fix.
Above: a cover for Poupée de chair, 1963, by Hans J. Nordling, from Éditions Baudelaire—not to be confused with the publisher currently partnered with Hatchette. In French “poupée” means doll, and “chair” means flesh, so there's your title in English—"flesh doll." The book deals with a woman trapped in an unconsummated marriage, whose rival for her husband's affections is her own mother. How very French. We like the art on this, which we're going to say with a high degree of confidence was painted by James Hodges. It was cropped from a larger piece, we suspect, because his femme fatale is reaching for a gun you can barely see at lower right. See more from Hodges here, here, and here.
Put me down, silly. The expression means I want to spend more time outside the cabin.
According to medical folklore you're actually supposed to starve a fever, but that doesn't work with this cover at all, so feed it is. Orrie Hitt's Cabin Fever was published in 1954. We've read five of his books, and while we don't want to claim that once you've read that many you've read them all, it sure seems like he hits on the same ideas every time. So we aren't going to acquire this one, but that doesn't mean we won't revisit him later. One thing about Orrie—he's a quick read. Harry Schaare art on this.
Are we safe? Beats me. I don't actually know much about wildlife. I became a great white hunter strictly for the babes.
Instantly recognizable Bill Edwards art of a woman reclining in grass fronts H.T. Lord's 1963 sleaze novel Sin Safari. This was published by Europa Books with one of its rare foldout covers. You see both the folded front and the extended cover here, and you can see another example we shared several years ago at this link. We don't know how many of these fold-outs the company produced, but our guess is a mere five, because that's how many we've seen across a decade of searching.
Turning our attention back to Edwards, his style is usually distinct enough to identify at a glance, but assuming one is unsure and the piece is unsigned, it can be confirmed as his work thanks to his trademark—a mole on his women's cheeks. But he didn't do that 100% of the time, and in fact didn't do it here. Instead he's placed a Band-Aid on her thigh. We don't know what that's about, but he painted Band-Aids on his women at least a few times, giving his work another identifiable element. We'll have more from Edwards and Europa soon.
Theories anyone? I mean, the x-ray told us there was a clog in the intestine, but it isn't even chewed. It's just weird.
Above: a cover for Ellery Queen's The Dutch Shoe Mystery originally published in 1931, with this Pocket paperback appearing in 1952. This is one of those deals where the author and lead character were presented to audiences as the same person, but the secret got out pretty quickly that Ellery Queen was actually two guys named Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, but those were pseudonyms too. Their real names were Daniel Nathan and Manford Lepofsky. Maybe they wrote mysteries because they loved to mindfuck people. And the title, as well, is a bit of a misdirection—the book has nothing to do with Dutch shoes at all.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
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