Here’s a pop quiz for you, since you think you’re so damn clever. Is it better to be a live tramp or a dead loudmouth?
Harry Whittington’s The Lady Was a Tramp, aka Murder at Midnight, is the story of a man who hires a detective to solve the murder of his angelic daughter only to have the detective discover that the daughter was not such an angel after all. The book features Pat Raffigan, who is a character Whittington used often. 1951 on this, with uncredited art.
Hmm... looks like it was four or five shots that did her in—tequila most likely.
Originally published in 1945 as The Dead Lie Still, William L. Stuart’s thriller Dead Ahead is about an ex-naval intelligence officer who after the war runs afoul of a gang of local thugs. The Ace edition here appeared in 1953 and the art is by Norman Saunders. It’s a double novel, and the other side is Day Keene’s Mrs. Homicide, also with Saunders art. Twice the vice, one easy price.
Flight 69, please hold position until further advised.
We think the fabled mile high club is like the original Woodstock—400,000 people showed up, but if you count everyone who claims to have been there attendance was actually something like 8 million. If you’ve never had sex in the sky, let Paul Rader’s cover for Mike Skinner’s 1962 sleaze novel Flight into Sin inspire you (even if the cover figure hasn't gotten airborne yet). Skinner is a bit of a mystery, but we know he was credited with other books in a similar vein for Midwood, such as So Wild, The Undoing of Jenny, and The Passionate Virgin, and he seems also to have written Blondes Don’t Give a Damn as Michael Skinner for Kozy Books. As for Rader, there’s little more to add—he was one of the kings of mid-century paperback art. You can read a full bio on him here.
Next time he should try thinking about baseball.
Above is a nice piece by George Erickson for Eric Allen’s Like Wild. It’s the story of a soldier of fortune who returns from Laos to find that his patch of land in Florida is coveted by a local villain. Complicating matters is the villain’s wife, who is a seductress with no qualms about a little action on the side. You know the drill. You may also notice the rather Freudian aspect of the art—i.e., the female figure wraps herself around the male figure in a sexual style embrace that causes his, er, drink to overflow onto the carpet. Well, the stain will come out with water and soap, hopefully. Top marks on this one.
Today we’re doing fractions. Which of you can tell me how many times two can go into one?
Above, The Punks by Lee Richards, aka Lee E. Wells, 1966, from Beacon Signal, with unknown cover art. This book is part of that fun wave of high school sleaze fiction that crested during the 1960s. Author Lee Wells actually specialized in westerns, but you gotta pay the bills, right? See a few more good examples from this genre here and here.
J. Oval’s style was as clean and vivid as a master chef’s.
Illustrator J. Oval was a Brit named Ben Ostrick who painted under both his pseudonym and real name. His crisp illustrations helped make Pan Books, which debuted in 1944, one of the most eye-catching mid-century imprints. Pan is still around as part of Britain-based Macmillan Publishers, which is in turn owned by the Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group of Germany. Many of Oval’s pieces for Pan were paired with works so obscure they’re almost impossible to find today, but above you see a good-sized collection, including a few we managed to turn up that haven’t been widely seen. With few exceptions they all use the same formula, though he would occasionally deviate by painting a fully rendered background, or populating a scene with more than one or two figures. You can see a couple more Oval covers in our collection of Asia-influenced paperback art here, and we also shared a small collection of his work back in 2011 that you can find here.
, Pan Books
, MacMillam Publishers
, Georg von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group
, J. Oval
, Ben Ostrick
, Ronald Leavis
, Alec Waugh
, Nicholas Monserrat
, Douglas Angus
, Glendon Swarthout
, Paul Scott
, Gerald Green
, Cécil Saint Laurent
, William Bradford Huie
, Patrick Quentin
, R.H. Ward
, Peter Cheyney
, Ray Russell
, Erskine Caldwell
, Any Bonneval
, Georgette Heyer
, cover art
Climb up just a bit higher. The part of you I’m planning to shoot isn’t out of the water yet.
Interesting Charles Copeland cover art for Victor Canning’s 1955 adventure thriller Twist of the Knife, published outside the U.S. as His Bones Are Coral. It’s the story of a drug smuggler flying contraband from Sudan to Egypt who crash lands near the town of Suabar, gets involved in a caper to raise gold from the waters of the Red Sea, and of course beds the only white girl within sight. This was actually made into a really bad Burt Reynolds movie called Shark! in 1970.
, Berkley Books
, Twist of the Knife
, His Bones Are Coral
, Victor Canning
, Charles Copeland
, Burt Reynolds
, cover art
The girl's kisses made him even dizzier than his opponents' punches.
W.R. Burnett followed up his 1929 gangster novel Little Caesar with 1930’s Iron Man, the story of a boxer named Kid Mason who is laid low not by his ring opponents but by the machinations of unsavory hangers on and a femme fatale—who’s unfortuntately also his wife. We showed you the hardback dust jacket to this a while back. This paperback from Avon goes full pulp with the teaser, promising a “toboggan-slide of passion, a headlong express that rips through the heavens and plunges to the bottom of hell.” That sounds fun, and indeed it was well reviewed, and was adapted into a film in 1931 with Lew Ayres as Mason and Jean Harlow as his wife. The cover art is uncredited.
Beauty and the beasts.
Wade Miller was a shared pseudonym of Robert Wade and William Miller, and in Kiss Her Goodbye they tell the tale of a pair of siblings—a steady, responsible brother named Ed and his childlike but beautiful sister Emily. By childlike, we mean she’s fully grown but was stricken in her youth by some kind of brain ailment, maybe encephalitis, that stunted her mental development. She violently explodes when men make sexual advances toward her, something that happens constantly because, well, mainly because men are scum, but also because bombshell Emily is friendly toward strangers. You can imagine where this all leads. We’ve shared quite a few fronts from Corgi Books this year and this one from British artist Oliver Brabbins is especially nice with its color blocking and sprawled figure. Truly excellent work, and the book is good too. We have another piece from Brabbins here, and we’ll definitely have more later.
Please let me go back—I forgot to remind my publisher to credit me as the cover artist!
Above is a very nice cover with a wraparound element for J.B. O’Sullivan’s 1957 novel Nerve Beat. Digit Books had a high standard for cover art, and a correspondingly low frequency of identifying artists, but this piece is at least signed—Mortimer. We have no idea who that is. Nice work, though. You can see a comprehensive collection of Digit book covers at this link. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1941—Auschwitz Begins Gassing Prisoners
Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration camps, becomes an extermination camp when it begins using poison gas to kill prisoners en masse. The camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, later testifies at the Nuremberg Trials that he believes perhaps 3 million people died at Auschwitz, but the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum revises the figure to about 1 million.
1967—Nation of Sealand Established
The Principality of Sealand, located on a platform in the North Sea, is established under the rule of Prince Paddy Roy Bates. Proving that paradise is a pipe dream as long as humans are involved, Sealand has already endured a coup, a war, and a hostage crisis since its formation.
1973—J.R.R. Tolkien Dies
British fantasy novelist J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, dies at the age of 82.
1902—French Go to Moon
Georges Méliès' Le voyage dans la lune, aka A Trip to the Moon, is released in France. It is the first science-fiction film ever made.
1939—Germany Starts World War II
Nazi Germany, along with the Soviet Union and Slovakia, attack Poland, beginning the chain reaction that leads to war across Europe.
1972—Fischer Beats Spassky
In Reykjavík, Iceland, American Bobby Fischer beats Russian Boris Spassky and becomes the world chess champion. The match had been portrayed as a Cold War battle, and thus was a major propaganda victory for the United States.
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