Mid-century paperbacks and the many sides of erotic dance.
We've seen more paperback covers featuring dancers than we can count. No surprise—they are after all an essential element of crime fiction, and many of the covers depicting them are excellent. But as you might imagine, novels that feature strippers, showgirls, and burlesque dancers as characters also fall into the sleaze genre quite often, which in turn makes for a lot of low budget cover work. So we have the full range for you today in a collection depicting the kinetic art of stage dancing, with illustrations from Mitchell Hooks, Bernard Safran, Robert Maguire, Robert McGinnis, Gene Bilbrew and others, as well as numerous unknowns. Enjoy.
, Bernard Safran
, Robert Maguire
, Robert McGinnis
, Gene Bilbrew
, Robert Bonfils
, Bill Edwards
, cover art
, cover collection
They've been looking forward to this merger for a long time.
A while back we put together a collection of mid-century paperback covers set in offices and depicting hanky panky between bosses and workers. Most of the covers were by Paul Rader because he painted in that theme quite a bit for Midwood-Tower. Well, we've found another—the double novel Always Say Yes by Monty Brian and A Sure Thing by Vin Fields. It's a worthy addition to the collection, which you can see here.
Early television design rejected as a little too hypnotic.
We're doing a double on artist Mitchell Hooks with this cover for Gene Stackelberg's thriller Double Agent. Hooks was working this time for Popular Library, also in 1959 (we neglected to put the copyright in yesterday's post). CIA agent is accused of treason and can only clear his name with the help of the sister of a known informer. Gene Stackelberg was a pseudonym for Ouida Adams, a female writer who doubtless chose her pen name because it sounds so dry and serious, and likely because readers would be prejudiced against a female espionage author. As far as we can tell this was her only foray into fiction.
Underneath her cool exterior lies a completely different woman.
Paula is another southern sin novel—i.e. set in a decadent, overheated south where sex and greed combine to produce deadly results. This one follows an oil worker who goes to work for an impotent millionaire and his young hottie of a wife—the eponymous Paula. Hero gets hottie pregnant and murder must follow, but it’s after the killing that things really begin to fall apart, and in unpredictable ways. You know the basic idea because you read it in James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and “Double Indemnity.” Though the cover art from Mitchell Hooks doesn’t specifically invoke a southern mood, it’s really quite nice, especially how the robe is rendered in a style that verges on calligraphy, complimenting the edges of the mirror, and how the reflection in the glass is red, revealing the fiery intensity beneath Paula's cool exterior. Nice touch. You can see a couple more Hooks pieces here and here.
You exasperate me earth woman! I want you out of my saucer. Pack up your shit and I'll drop you at your mom's.
Martians decide they want to study a thousand Earthlings, including protagonists David and Janice, with the eventual goal of turning the entire human species into love slaves. Sounds easy, but of course unpredictable consequences result. The rear of the novel describes the story as “unbelievable but possible.” We think a better description would be, "Impossible, but you'll want to believe." 1960, with cover art from Basil Gogos.
They're not exactly New Orleans saints.
We love this cover for Noel O'Hara's A Time To Love, which comes from Chariot Books, a publisher previously unknown to us. A married couple are in New Orleans for a convention with no idea Mardi Gras is about to start. When it does both spouses are swept up in the craziness and infidelities result. Sleaze with beautiful cover art by an unknown, 1959.
It's a marvelous time for a loon dance.
This audacious wraparound cover is from Greenleaf Classics for Ricardo Armory's, aka George Davies' 1968 gay sleaze novel Fruit of the Loon. It's a satire of Richard Amory's hit trilogy Song of the Loon, featuring cowboys at the Circle 69 Ranch, a medicine man named Squirming Ass, and more. What makes the parody all the more interesting is that Song was gay fiction also published by Greenleaf, so they're roasting their own author here, as well as his novel that sold hundreds of thousands of copies, making it by far the biggest hit in gay literature in the 1970s. According to Drewey Wayne Gunn's book Gay American Novels, 1870-1970: A Reader's Guide, “[Fruit of the Loon] is not only hilarious but better written than the original.” The cover is better than the original too. It's doubtless Robert Bonfils or Darrel Millsap—probably Bonfils because thickly black-rimmed eyes appeared often in his Greenleaf work—but absent confirmation we'll go with unknown.
, Fruit of the Loon
, Song of the Loon
, Gay American Novels 1870-1970: A Reader's Guide
, George Davies
, Ricardo Armory
, Richard Armory
, Drewey Wayne Gunn
, Robert Bonfils
, cover art
They reserve the right to kill everything in sight.
It's murder and mayhem in this issue of Male published this month in 1958. The carnage and gunplay span the Wild West era to World War II, and France to Xinjiang, China, with cheesecake model Diana Crawford thrown in to break up the monotony. The cover is an atypical effort from George Gross, and the interior art is by the always excellent Charles Copeland, along with Brendon Lynch, John Leone, Arthur De Kuh, and others. Looking for more Male? Click here. Or here. France
, World War II
, Male Magazine
, George Gross
, Charles Copeland
, Brendon Lynch
, John Leone
, Diana Crawford
, Arthur De Kuh
, magazine art
That's right, I'm back. I'll have that fuzzy navel now and anyone who laughs this time is gonna regret it.
Above, a nice cover for Return to Deadmans by Al Cody, who was in reality Archie Lynn Joscelyn, an author who wrote hundreds of westerns under pseudonyms such as Tex Holt, A.A. Archer, Evelyn McKenna, and Lynn Westland. This one involves a group of land thieves and the heroic cowboy who stands in their way. 1963 copyright, cover artist unknown.
Nothing a little dying won't fix.
Narrated from the deck of a boat floating on the crystalline Caribbean, The Root of His Evil is the tale of a money-hungry femme fatale who rises from greasy spoon waitress to NYC union organizer to wealthy woman, all by age twenty-four. James M. Cain originally wrote this tale way back in 1938 as “The Modern Cinderella,” and immediately sold it to Hollywood, where it spawned the 1939 movie When Tomorrow Comes. He ended up suing for copyright infringement when the filmmakers borrowed a scene from another of his novels without paying for it. You can read details of that incident here if you're inclined. Some Cain fans love The Root of His Evil; the more prevalent opinion is that it isn't among his best. We'll say this much—there's no focus on crime here, just on questionable deeds. But we like the cover of this Avon paperback. It's less sophisticated than some good girl art, but strikes the right tone. It appeared in 1952 and is uncredited. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—The Hindenburg Explodes
In the U.S, at Lakehurst, New Jersey, the German zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg catches fire and is incinerated within a minute while attempting to dock in windy conditions after a trans-Atlantic crossing. The disaster, which kills thirty-six people, becomes the subject of spectacular newsreel coverage, photographs
, and most famously, Herbert Morrison's recorded radio eyewitness report from the landing field. But for all the witnesses and speculation, the actual cause of the fire remains unknown.
1921—Chanel No. 5 Debuts
Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel, the pioneering French fashion designer whose modernist philosophy, menswear-inspired styles, and pursuit of expensive simplicity made her an important figure in 20th-century fashion, introduces the perfume Chanel No. 5, which to this day remains one of the world's most legendary and best selling fragrances.
1961—First American Reaches Space
Three weeks after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly into space, U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard completes a sub-orbit of fifteen minutes, returns to Earth, and is rescued from his Mercury 3 capsule in the Atlantic Ocean. Shepard made several more trips into space, even commanding a mission at age 47, and was eventually awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
1953—Hemingway Wins Pulitzer
American author Ernest Hemingway, who had already written such literary classics as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls, is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novella The Old Man and the Sea, the story of an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.
1970—Mass Shooting at Kent State
In the U.S., Ohio National Guard troops, who had been sent to Kent State University after disturbances in the city of Kent the weekend before, open fire on a group of unarmed students, killing four and wounding nine. Some of the students had been protesting the United States' invasion of Cambodia, but others had been walking nearby or observing from a distance. The incident triggered a mass protest of four million college students nationwide, and eight of the guardsmen were indicted by a grand jury, but charges against all of them were eventually dismissed.
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