I'm in charge now. And the king's whole snake obsession? Let's just say it was a case of overcompensation.
Above, the front and rear covers of King of Snakes written in 1968 by Newton Wilde and published by Spotlight Books, a sister imprint of Las Vegas based Neva Paperbacks. The art is Stantonesque but it isn't him. It's uncredited.
Horwitz uses its best known cover star to date.
American actress and dancer Debra Paget appears, quite strikingly, on the front of Carter Brown's Stripper You've Sinned, which was published in 1956. We've been speculating for a while whether Horwitz, headquartered 7,500 miles away from Hollywood in Sydney, Australia, licensed its celebrity covers. Our assumption has always been no. The idea of celebrity covers would be, ostensibly, to generate extra interest in the book. But if that's the case, why such obscure stars? There's really no extra publicity to gain, and a licensing fee to lose. So we've always suspected the celebs were chosen merely because they were beautiful and the shots were available as handout photos.
But now we aren't sure about that, because Paget breaks the pattern—she was pretty well known in 1956, having appeared in more than a dozen films, and in highly billed roles in a few of those productions. So now we're thinking Horwitz actually did license these images. The fees must have been tiny, though, otherwise it wouldn't make any sense fiscally. Horwitz could have put an equally beautiful Aussie model on the book covers and gotten the same result with less hassle. In any case, this is great imagery. If you want to know what the book is actually about, check the review here. And if you click the keywords “Horwitz Publications” below you'll see all our previous posts on this matter.
Um... if your hands are supporting my torso and legs what's poking me in the groin?
In 1962's Vicious Vixen the main character Dyke Donohoe is a lifeguard torn between his hot girlfriend, his hot girlfriend's hot girlfriend, and his hot girlfriend's hot girlfriend's impossibly hot boss. No need for suspense—he gets to have all of them. He falls head over heels for the boss, who's married but hates her hubby and eventually suggests killing him for freedom and inheritance. Bad idea. Since the story is told in first person, we can't tell if Dyke is supposed to be a total meathead or if it's the bad prose that makes him seem stupid. Typical passage:
Her breasts were firm. They were pointed. They were full. They fitted just right. They gave a sense of exciting, delicious fulfillment. You felt you simply had to swallow them. Each of them. Both of them together. But that's kind of hard to do. So I flew from one to the other, maddened by the knowledge that I couldn't have both of them at the same time.
Yeah. That's pretty bad. And the book is extraordinarily padded—without the constant repetition it would probably run fifty pages. But weirdly, the writing gets better as the story wears on. By the end it's actually readable, and it has an effective twist ending we'll admit blindsided us. Woolfe, or the inhabitant of his pseudonym, wrote several other books. Maybe he really hit his stride on Beach Heat, Hot Angel, Sex Angel, or Sex Addict. But probably not.
Geez, everyone's a damn critic. I mean, look around. I play the blues for a reason.
Chicago based author William Attaway's Blood on the Forge is another of those highly serious literary novels that got the good-girl-art cover treatment. Numerous previously published authors were repackaged in this way during the 1950s. We're talking everyone from George Orwell to Aristarchus of Samos. This Popular Library edition is from the heyday of the makeover era—1953—but the book first appeared in 1941. It's about African American sharecroppers during the early twentieth century leaving their agrarian existence in Kentucky and heading to West Virginia, where they seek better lives and something closer to equality (the rear cover says Pennsylvania, but that happens much later in the story). This era is known historically as the Great Migration, when a lot of blacks got the hell out of the South and the increasingly vicious Jim Crow culture that thrived after slavery. The characters in Blood on the Forge find, like most real life migrants did, that the North is also unfair and difficult.
The cover art isn't as much of a stretch as it often is with these pulped up versions. The guitar player is Melody Moss, a major character, and the woman is Anna, who in the narrative is a Mexican girl of fourteen, but is depicted as well above the age of consent here. It's a pretty nice piece of art, though by an unknown (Ray Johnson? Owen Kampen?). As for the actual fiction, it was neglected for decades but it's now considered a literary classic and Attaway is recognized as an important figure of the Black Chicago Renaissance. Fitting, because Attaway was a real Renaissance man. He stopped writing novels after Blood on the Forge and moved into music and writing screenplays for radio, films, and TV. In 1957 he published the Calypso Song Book, a compendium of tunes he had collected. He also wrote for Harry Belafonte, including the classic "Banana Boat Song (Day O).” By the end of his career he had penned over 500 songs. You have to be impressed.
The most important safety precaution is to make sure the chamber on this baby is empty, or else disaster can—BANG!
The U.K. imprint Panther Books had some tasty covers during the mid-1950s, including this pretty effort by John Vernon for Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. We gave it a read and it involves Hammett's recurring character, a Continental Detective Agency operative, aka the Continental Op, being hired by a newspaper publisher who turns up dead before the two can meet. The subsequent investigation lifts the lid on corruption in a small town called Personville—but which locals call Poisonville. Hammett was a very solid genre author, with a spare, raw style, like this, from chapter seven:
It was half-past five. I walked around a few blocks until I came to an unlighted electric sign that said Hotel Crawford, climbed a flight of steps to the second floor office, registered, left a call for ten o'clock, was shown into a shabby room, moved some of the Scotch from my flask into my stomach, and took old Elihu's ten-thousand dollar check and my gun to bed with me.
After reading dozens of other (still very entertaining) authors since we last hefted a Hammett it was good to be reminded just how efficiently brutal he was. While the story is spiced up by a wisecracking femme fatale named Dinah Brand, the main element in Red Harvest is violence—a storm of it. By the end of the bloody reaping there are more than twenty five killings, as one player after another is knocked off. We rate Red Harvest the most lethal detective novel we've ever read. It was first published in 1929, with the above edition appearing in 1958.
She may be a bald mouse but you're about to be a dead rat, buster.
This beautiful cover was painted for Éditions le Trotteur's popular collection Espions et Agents Secrets by Nik, aka Jacques Thibésart, and illustrates Yannick Williams', aka Jacques-Henri Juillet's 1953 thriller Mademoiselle “Chauve Souris”, aka Miss “Bat”. That's a lot of aka's, and here comes one more. In French souris means “mouse,” chauve means bald, and the two words together mean “bat”—literally “bald mouse.” French paperback titles can get a little slangy, though. Souris by itself—a mouse—is also a word for a pretty woman. So there could be another aka happening here in the form of a pun. We don't know. Jo, where are you? We need you on this one.
Oh, and there's one more thing, also aka related. Thibésart has an unusual signature—not visible on this cover but viewable here—in which the “N” could be read as a stylized “M.” Just lately, online experts are beginning to wonder if his signature should be read “Mik” instead of “Nik.” Thibésart is still around, but in classic French fashion refuses to discuss any of this despite several queries being floated his way. So for now we'll stick with Nik. Also, we don't want to change all our previous posts on this guy. We will update later if needed.
So those four cards with A's on them mean you might win, right?
First published as an Ecstasy Novel with different art the previous year, this edition of Reno Tramp, appeared in 1951 on the Rainbow Books imprint with uncredited art. But the cover is by either Howell Dodd or Rudy Nappi, two artists whose work was similar, though we think Dodd tended to be a hair more precise—literally, as he expended more effort on his women's coiffures, in our opinion. In any case, the story in Reno Tramp deals with a girl from an impoverished childhood who arrives in Reno, Nevada as a beautiful young woman seeking a divorce, and whose need for money is a pathological drive. She finds just the rich pigeon she wants, but naturally another man comes along to complicate matters and make her question whether cash is really king. We'll keep an eye out for updated info and see if we can identify this cover artist down the line. In the meantime, you can see more from Dodd here, and Nappi here.
I shot the director. But I didn't shoot the D.O.P.
A DOP, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the Director of Photography, the director's creative right hand on a movie set. J. P. Ferrière's Marie-meurtre, which is entry #573 in Editions Fleuve Noir's long-running Spécial Police series, is about a woman whose visiting brother dies in her home of a heart attack, and whose demise is immediately followed by the arrival of a Parisian gangster looking for a cache of stolen jewels. This would normally be a disconcerting development, but Marie has an enemy and the gangster's presence turns into an opportunity for long sought revenge. The book was published in 1967 and it has Michel Gourdon artwork, possibly only tangentially related to the actual content. Since our French is bare bones at best we couldn't pore over the book to find the connection to the cover art. But when you come up with a good caption you just have to run with it.
I'll run for help! Have you seen my red slingback pumps?
Our ongoing showcase of Italian artist Benedetto Caroselli continues with the above cover for Crise Pounds' novel Faust “61,” a horror update of the classic German folk legend. It was published in 1961 by Grandi Edizioni Internazionali for its series I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell’Orrore. Pounds was a pseudonym used by Maria Luisa Piazza, who wrote three other novels for Grandi Edizioni Internazionali. Caroselli's cover work here shows his command of both subject matter and color. And fashion, as his stylish bystander looks on in terror.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Carole Lombard Dies in Plane Crash
American actress Carole Lombard
, who was the highest paid star in Hollywood during the late 1930s, dies in the crash of TWA Flight 3, on which she was flying from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after headlining a war bond rally in support of America's military efforts. She was thirty-three years old.
1919—Luxemburg and Liebknecht Are Killed
Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, two of the most prominent socialists in Germany, are tortured and murdered by the Freikorps. Freikorps was a term applied to various paramilitary organizations that sprang up around Germany as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I. Members of these groups would later become prominent members of the SS.
1967—Summer of Love Begins
The Human Be-In takes place in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park with between 20,000 to 30,000 people in attendance, their purpose being to promote their ideals of personal empowerment, cultural and political decentralization, communal living, ecological preservation, and higher consciousness. The event is considered the beginning of the famed counterculture Summer of Love.
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