Even half covered and drained of color the art is easy to recognize.
The famed French illustrator Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan, saw his work reused in the unlikeliest places, including unlicensed on bootleg vinyl sleeves for The Cure and Joy Division. Today we thought we'd show you his art recycled in his native industry—publishing. The top cover for Ludwig Krauss's Les nuits bavaroises is from Éditions Les Presses de la Nuit and appeared in 1958, and the simplified second cover for Michel de Kerguen's Concerto pour un ange is from Les Éditions Gamma and appeared a year later. You can be sure the reworked Aslan was licensed, but none of the sites we visited seemed to realize it originated with him. So we're giving him official credit. Both covers are nice, but the first is truly brilliant.
In a New York minute everything can change.
Casanova à Manhattan is another novel in the dekobrisme style by the author for whom the adjective was coined, Maurice Dekobra. In this one a French count rescues a woman from a concentration camp, marries her, and spirits her away to New York City. He gets a job in a nightclub and she finds work as a chaperone of debutantes. Things go swimmingly until the count's sister-in-law turns up with designs to replace the wife. Dekobra was one of the most famous French authors of the 20th century. You can learn a bit more about him from our previous write-ups on him here and here, but the best way to know him is to read him. The cover art here was painted by Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon. He painted some of the most romantic covers and pin-ups of the last century, and some of the most erotic. We've been thinking about putting together a collection of his pin-ups, but have been hesitant because they're pretty explicit. Well, stay tuned. We may do it anyway. Meanwhile, check out our collection of paperback kisses here.
Sing? Are you serious? I can barely breathe in this outfit.
We never want to go too long without an offering from the great French pin-up and paperback artist Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan, so above we have his cover for Macadam Sérénade, a thriller written by Paul S. Nouvel for Éditions de l'Arabesque. Nouvel was a pseudonym. The man behind it was French journalist/author/translator/editor Jean-Michel Sorel, who also wrote as Larry Layne, Arnold Rodin, Silvio Sereno, Tugdual Marech, Jan Mychel, Jean-Michel, Yvon Brozonech, Swani Abdul Hamid (we love that one), and many other identities. In all he produced more than one-hundred forty novels—and probably could have squeezed in a couple more if he hadn't been so busy thinking of pen names. 1955 on this.
National Informer predicts a sex-crazed future but it never came to pass.
Above, some scans from the sex obsessed U.S. tabloid National Informer, published today in 1968, with stories on penis size, nude models, spouse swapping, teen sex, and more. In fact, the editors seemed to believe the world was entering an era of sexual utopia. Which just goes to show people never appreciate the age in which they're living, because 1968 looks a lot more like sexual utopia to modern Americans than anything going on today. There are three highlights in this issue—Swedish actress Janet Agren, who we've memorably featured before, on the cover, an Aslan pin-up on page three, and visions of the future from Informer's resident soothsayer The (not so) Great Criswell. His craziest prediction is as follows: “I predict that African brides can be bought in the open market thru mail-order. These 12-year-old brides have been trained how to be a good, dutiful wife, a good mother, and a good black magician, fortune teller, and witch doctor. Over 18,000 are now in England alone!” There's really not much we can add to that. Except to say that if these 12-year-old fortune tellers actually existed we wish one of them would have taken Criswell's job. You can see plenty more from Infomer by clicking its keywords below.
I look ridiculous, I know, but it’s cheaper than a chiropractor.
Above, the cover of Lewis Simford's Mon cœur est à moi from Éditions Les Presses de la Nuit's Collection Les 4 Vents de l'Amour, or 4 Winds of Love Collection, 1958. Simford was an alias used by Jacques-Henri Juillet. But of course the reason we're sharing this is because of the art from the always brilliant Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon. See more from him here.
Sleeve from seminal gloom band gives fans plenty to be happy about.
This is the last of our rare bootleg record sleeves with art by Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon. The previous two were for records by The Cure, and we showed you those here and here. This one was made for Joy Division, and though undated—the blue vinyl and inner sleeve have no text at all—probably appeared in late 1980 as a rush release after lead singer Ian Curtis committed suicide. As far as we know, no other bootleg records with Aslan art were ever made, though Fontana released a series of very nice licensed Aslan covers during the 1960s. All three Aslan bootlegs are somewhat racy, this one perhaps most so, but it’s a brilliant piece of art.
Vintage paperback violence gets up close and personal.
We have another collection today as we prepare to jet away on vacation with the girls. Since the place we’re going is known for rowdy British tourists (what place isn’t known for that?), we thought we’d feature some of the numerous paperback covers featuring fights. You’ll notice, as with our last collection, the preponderance of French books. Parisian publishers loved this theme. The difference, as opposed to American publishers, is that you almost never saw women actually being hit on French covers (we’d almost go so far as to say it never happened, but we’ve obviously not seen every French paperback ever printed). The French preferred man-on-man violence, and when women were involved, they were either acquitting themselves nicely, or often winning via the use of sharp or blunt instruments.
Violence against women is and has always been a serious problem in the real world, but we’re just looking at products of the imagination here, which themselves represent products of the imagination known as fiction. Content-wise, mid-century authors generally frowned upon violence toward women even if they wrote it into their novels. Conversely, the cover art, stripped of literary context, seemed to glorify it. Since cover art is designed to entice readers, there’s a valid discussion here about why anti-woman violence was deemed attractive on mid-century paperback fronts, and whether its disappearance indicates an understanding of its wrongness, or merely a cynical realization that it can no longer be shown without consequences. We have another fighting cover here, and you may also want to check out our western brawls here.
For better or worse, in sickness and health, women in pulp don’t have a heck of a lot of choice about it.
Pulp is a place where the men are decisive and the women are as light as feathers. We’ve gotten together a collection of paperback covers featuring women being spirited away to places unknown, usually unconscious, by men and things that are less than men. You have art from Harry Schaare, Saul Levine, Harry Barton, Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan, and others.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Nixon Proclaims His Innocence
While in Orlando, Florida, U.S. President Richard Nixon tells four-hundred Associated Press managing editors, "I am not a crook." The false statement comes to symbolize Nixon's presidency when facts are uncovered that prove he is, indeed, a crook.
1938—Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Created
In Basel, Switzerland, at the Sandoz Laboratories, chemist Albert Hofmann creates the psychedelic compound Lysergic acid diethylamide, aka LSD, from a grain fungus.
1945—German Scientists Secretly Brought to U.S.
In a secret program codenamed Operation Paperclip, the United States Army admits 88 German scientists and engineers into the U.S. to help with the development of rocket technology. President Harry Truman ordered that Paperclip exclude members of the Nazi party, but in practice many Nazis who had been officially classified as dangerous were also brought to the U.S. after their backgrounds were whitewashed by Army officials.
1920—League of Nations Holds First Session
The first assembly of the League of Nations, the multi-governmental organization formed as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, is held in Geneva, Switzerland. The League begins to fall apart less than fifteen years later when Germany withdraws. By the onset of World War II it is clear that the League has failed completely.
1959—Clutter Murders Take Place
Four members of the Herbert Clutter Family are murdered at their farm outside Holcomb, Kansas by Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith. The events would be used by author Truman Capote for his 1966 non-fiction novel In Cold Blood, which is considered a pioneering work of true crime writing. The book is later adapted into a film starring Robert Blake.
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