Harry Bennett channels Himes and Harlem.
Chester Himes’ cycle of Harlem detective fiction spanned eight complete novels, and one unfinished effort, with four of the paperback editions illustrated by Harry Bennett, whose work you see above. Himes is world renowned, Bennett somewhat less so, but he was an award winning artist who illustrated hundreds of paperbacks during his career. We were reminded of him by a recent entry on Killer Covers, and remembered how much we like these four pieces. In contrast to his lushly rendered romance covers, or more conventional crime novel art, these have an almost spontaneous quality. Publisher input usually has quite a bit to do with it, but we suspect Bennett was also influenced by Himes’ writing and the Harlem setting, and as a result produced this jazzy art for a jazzy novelist. Excellent stuff.
New York City
, Dell Publishing
, Berkley Books
, All Shot Up
, The Real Cool Killers
, Cotton Comes to Harlem
, Big Gold Dream
, Chester Himes
, Harry Bennett
, cover art
Well, instead how about I just tell you why you’ll probably never get one of us in the sack?
Yes, this Harry Reasoner is the famed American newsman. Tell Me About Women was his only novel, written mostly while he was serving as a correspondent for Stars and Stripes during World War II, and was originally published by Beechhurst Press in 1946. Reasoner described the book as warmly received, but joked about its poor sales, and after a time admitted he cringed over the prose, perhaps because he never really knew anything about women until he fathered five daughters. The book is partly autobiographical, and follows the pattern of a lot of novels from the period—war, discharge, disillusionment, and troubled relations with the opposite sex. The Dell edition above appeared in 1950, and the art is by Harry Barton.
Always digging up trouble.
We really like this 1944 Dell paperback cover for Dashiell Hammett’s A Man Called Spade. The book contains three Sam Spade stories, plus two other tales. The art is by Gerald Gregg, an illustrator who avoided titillation in his work. While some of his pieces don’t catch the eye the way typical good girl art did, certain pieces—like this one—are really good. The map back by Ruth Belew and four-page Introduction “Meet Sam Spade” by Ellery Queen make this edition highly collectible.
Sorry to barge in. Remember you said your life was total shit and couldn’t possibly get worse? The sheriff is here with a county crew—he says he has to bulldoze your shack.
We’ve already shared Robert McGinnis covers twice this month, but since it’s in the charter of pretty much every pulp website to feature him constantly, here’s another contribution—Deadly Welcome, written by John D. MacDonald, 1959, for Dell Publishing. Probably a substantial proportion of you have read this, but if not, it deals with a government employee sent by the Defense Department back to his home town, the fictional Ramona Beach, Florida, to locate a missing government scientist. Top marks.
Okay, we’re ready to go. Um, anytime lazybones. Helloooo. Geez, it’s like he doesn’t even hear us.
Above, a cover for Three Women in Black, a mystery by the prolific American author Helen Reilly, née Helen Kieran, 1953. Part of the Inspector McKee series, this is the story of a wealthy man murdered in a roomful of people, an event which is followed by a second murder, and the uncovering of motives involving blackmail and a hidden inheritance, with a love triangle to add spice to the proceedings. Reilly was a heavyweight in the mystery genre and most of her books sold well and read well, but this one is among her best. The nice art is by Griffith Foxley.
It’s not as fun a place as you think.
Artist William Rose produced this great cover for Doris Miles Disney’s reverse mystery Dead Stop, aka Dark Road, in 1946. Doris Disney was a major writer who produced dozens of novels, many of which were made into movies, including the above (retitled Fugitive Lady), Family Skeleton, (retitled Stella), and Straw Man. This particular novel is about a woman named Hazel Clement who has a comfortable marriage to a boring man and decides that if she had a hammer, she’d hammer in the morning, hammer in the evening, all over his head. No spoiler there—the cover gives it away. The success of the book prompted Disney to write five more starring Jeff DiMarco, the insurance investigator tasked with unraveling Dead Stop’s mystery. We’ve read a couple of Disney books, and we can tell you she penned some pleasingly dark novels that are well worth the time. And in case you’re wondering, she’s unrelated to you-know-who.
They say there are victors and losers in life, but what if you’re both?
David Mark’s 1959 thriller Long Shot, originally published as The Long Chance in 1955, is a look at the life of a compulsive gambler. He picks winning horses, losing horses, marries Ruth, beds Katy and Carol, picks winning horses, picks many more losing horses, and eventually resorts to lies, cheating, theft, and so forth. To understand what the novel is about all you really need to know is the lead character’s doubly predictive name—Evan Victor Loeser. The excellent art here is by Mitchell Hooks.
But I’ve been super tense, and my masseur—his name is Pablo, by the way—he offered to make a house call, and…
Above is a Victor Kalin cover for the John D. MacDonald thriller Soft Touch, a book that originally appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine as Taint of the Tiger in March 1958, back when Cosmo used to print abridged novels. It’s the story of a man whose old war buddy approaches him with an offer to commit a seven-figure heist. The idea is to rob a courier of cash he’s shuttling from Latin America. The lead character is willing to do the job because his work sucks, he misses military action, and his wife is a cheating lush. Basically, he sees the crime as a way out, but of course he actually ends up getting way in—everything goes wrong. Taint of the Tiger was published in hardback as Soft Touch shortly after its Cosmo debut, and appeared in August the same year as a Dell paperback edition, above, with Kalin’s art. This is MacDonald before he invented Travis McGee. Not perfect, but well worth a read.
Oh darling, I’m so proud of you. It’s tough to get any kind of work right now.
In a down job market you take what you can get, especially if it makes your woman this happy. This cool cover for Brett Halliday’s Murder Is My Business was painted by William George Jacobson for Dell Publishing in 1949. Halliday was reprinted a bunch, so there are multiple covers for this book. The one just below is the original hardback from 1945, and after that, in order, are the 1945 paperback by Gerald Gregg, a photorealistic 1958 cover, a 1963 Robert McGinnis cover, and lastly, the recent Hard Case Crime version with Robert McGinnis cover art once again. There are others, as well, but we couldn’t track them all down.
I don’t know. Last time I saw her she was sitting over by that patch of mushrooms and now look at her.
Although there aren’t any psychedelic mushrooms in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Cave Girl, it’s still a fun book. Basically, a wheezy, wimpy, uptight city dweller named Waldo is swept overboard during a Pacific sea journey and fetches up on an island of Neolithic savages. He meets a girl and the rest of the book involves him turning into Rambo in order to defend her from the men of her own undeserving (obviously) tribe. Ultimately it turns out she was never a savage, but rather a regular white chick born on the island twenty years earlier to a shipwrecked American woman. The woman died and the girl was raised as an islander. So it’s a good thing Waldo washed ashore to keep those primitives from defiling her flesh. Burroughs helped pioneer the entire Lost World genre, so despite its flaws, The Cave Girl is worth a read for that reason alone. It began as two separate stories in 1914, was melded into a novel in 1925, and in 1949 was released in the Dell paperback edition you see above, with the title shortened to simply Cave Girl, and with cover art by Jean des Vignes. Interesting and action-packed, this one should keep you entertained for a couple of days, and it’s in the public domain, which means you can download it.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.
1936—First Edition of Life Published
Henry Luce launches Life, a weekly magazine with an emphasis on photo-journalism. Life dominates the U.S. market for more than forty years, publishing scores of iconic photographs that remain some of the most recognizable ever shot, and peaking at one point with a circulation of more than 13.5 million copies a week.
1963—Doctor Who Debuts on BBC
The BBC broadcasts the first episode of Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell as a mysterious alien who time travels in his spaceship, the TARDIS. With his companions, he explores time and space while facing a variety of foes and righting wrongs. The show would become the longest-running science fiction series ever broadcast.
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