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.
Well, if that's the way you feel about it, fine—I'll go to the damn grocery store with you.
Here's how food shopping works around here. When we go to the market we buy only enough for a day or two because we want to prevent food from going over, but when the Pulp Intl. girlfriends go they buy more than they can carry. Therefore, when we go alone we never get everything they want, and when they go alone they never have the help they need. We're thinking of buying them a donkey to solve that problem. Paul Kenny's Consigne impitoyable has nothing to do with any of that. It's an espionage thriller featuring the long-running character Francis Coplan, aka FX 18, who works for SDECE (Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionnage). The series, which was credited to Kenny as a pseudonym but written by Belgian authors Gaston Van den Panhuyse and Jean Libert, was immensely popular and sold tens of millions of copies globally. As you can see, Consigne impitoyable had two nearly identical covers, presumably representing two nearly identical occasions when extra persuasion was needed to get Coplan off his ass to help with the shopping. He may need to buy a donkey too. Both editions had Michel Gourdon cover art and appeared in 1958.
She's not out of the woods yet.
This is your regular reminder that Michel Gourdon was a top notch illustrator, though his brother Alain was the one who attained legendary status. Michel was more of a workhorse, though, painting many hundreds of paperback fronts, which probably contributed to him producing the occasional less-than-stellar effort. But this piece for Pierre Courcel's, aka Roger Jean Tribot's La haine qui rôde, aka The Hatred that Lurks, is Michel at his best. The sports car and female figure are nice, but the background of trees and sunlight is particularly beautiful, we think. It's from 1965 for Editions Fleuve Noir, entry #483 in its long-running Collection Spécial-Police.
Man, he had tiny feet. Suddenly it's hard to remember why I thought he was so dangerous.
Above, a Michel Gourdon cover for Serge LaForest's Les mains propres, aka Clean Hands, for Collection Special Police from French publisher Fleuve Noir. LaForest was a pseudonym used by Serge Arcouet, who wrote 140 novels as LaForest, Russ Rasher, Tony Stewart, and—we love this one—John Lee Silver. Actually, he shared Silver with two other French writers Pierre Aryaud and Léo Malet. Remember those trips to France we took? These Fleuve Noir paperbacks are staples in every secondhand bookstore you find, probably because very close to a billion have been printed and sold from 1949 until today. Les mains propres is from 1960
He might have broken the law, but he had a higher calling.
What’s an illustrator to do when he doesn’t have a model? Borrow a celebrity. And if you’re going to use a celeb you might as well take inspiration from the best. French artist Michel Gourdon decided upon the era’s most celestial sex goddess Raquel Welch for his cover of M.G. Braun’s Sam et Sally—Le sang du ciel, published in 1972 by Editions Fleuve Noir as part of its Collection Spécial Police. This would not be the last time Gourdon used Welch as a model, but it’s probably the best example.
This sort of appropriation was not unique to Gourdon. During this same period Italian artist Mario De Berardinis used Playboy Playmate of the Year Cyndi Wood for his poster promoting the film Giro girotondo... con il sesso è bello il mondo, Sharon Tate was used for at least two late 1960s paperback covers, Lavar Burton was borrowed for the front of an ultraviolent Italian fumetto, Ornella Muti provided the physical basis for the main character of the vampire series Sukia, Beba and Fiona of the Pornostar comics were based on two showgirls from Striscia la notizia, and none other than Iggy Pop appeared on the cover of Elvifrance’s Wallestein.
All of these examples using celebrity images for profit would be violations of intellectual property laws today, we’re fairly certain, but we could be wrong about that. Were they illegal in the past? Not in Italy, apparently—Ornella Muti must have known her image was being borrowed, since she worked primarily in Italy and Sukia was published there. Same goes for the Striscia la notizia showgirls. Maybe they were flattered. If so, they should have looked inside the comics, where their characters were ripping throats out and shanking dudes in the groin. In any case, we love curiosities like these, and we’ll doubtless run across more later.
When vacation meets pulp we’re happy.
Must do this quickly. The Pulp Intl. girlfriends are away only for minutes. We’re basically cut off from civilization on some forgotten coastline, but in a nearby townlet we found an internet place that had some books, and amidst all the dreck and dross, presto!—uncovered an entire stack of Fleuve Noir thrillers with cover illustrations by Michel Gourdon. The Pulp Intl. girlfriends are always trying to get us to unplug, but we simply—*tented fingers*—can’t be stopped.
Okay, I’ll put it in neutral and you push. On one, two, and—whoops, had it in reverse. You alright back there?
Here’s an interesting cover for Mario Ropp’s Celle des deux qui vivait, which means “which of the two lived.” If we had to guess, we’d say it was the driver. Following standard practice for French crime authors, Ropp was actually a pseudonym for someone named Marie-Anne Devillers who wrote for twenty-seven years under various names, including Dominique Dorn, Maia Walbert, Maia de Villers, and Michèle Vaudois. The art here is by Michel Gourdon and it certainly qualifies as one of his quirkier efforts. See more Gourdon here and here.
Yep, it's caught in your zipper alright.
French artist Michel Gourdon was an accomplished illustrator, but if he could be said to have produced an unsuccessful effort, this would be it. Looking at the image, we understand this is supposed to be a head butt to the gut, but it looks more like an impending lip lock to the cock. Can you imagine Gourdon unveiling this for his colleagues at Fleuve Noir? Michel goes, “Et, voila!” And a roomful of people all give the same wtf reaction, except for one editor who just hangs his head, and the publisher, who finally goes, “Michel, mon dieu, est c’un blowjob!” Anyway, we picked this up in Bordeaux last week while pulp digging, and as you might imagine, it sort of leapt out of the bin at us. Our pleasure was orgasmic, and we hope you like it too. We have yet more Bordeaux stuff upcoming, so stay tuned.
Three for the price of one.
Three Fleuve Noir covers painted by French artist Michel Gourdon, circa 1970s. These books were a steal at 1€ each.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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