There's been entirely too much downsizing around here. How about today you and I do a little upsizing?
When does a growth spurt occur in a typical business? In mid-century sleaze fiction, it happens whenever secretary and boss agree, as suggested in this brilliant cover by George Gross for John Hunter's 1957 novel Office Hussy, previously published in 1951 as The Loves of Alice Brandt and credited to Gene Harvey. We like to interpret this as the woman being the boss, having just told her subordinate to pour a couple of tall bourbons, and be damned quick about it. But it can be seen the other way if you wish. Doesn't matter, because when consenting parties get together everybody gets a bonus. You already know George Gross was close to the best paperback artist ever, but if you're unfamiliar with him, check here, here, and here.
If you'd just asked for directions like I told you we wouldn't be in this mess.
This is a nice acquisition—Vereen Bell's Swamp Water with George Gross art on the front. The book is a rural slice of life novel dealing with a young trapper named Ben Ragan who ventures into the Okefenokee Swamp in search of his lost hunting dog, Trouble. Nobody, aside from Indian tribes of earlier times, is thought to have entered the dreaded swamp and returned. Ragan goes in and finds Trouble—and trouble. Bell expertly catalogs swamp flora, fauna, and topography, which makes for a backdrop so vivid you can almost feel the humidity. This is an extraordinarily enjoyable tale, a sort of a revenge novel/chronicle of the deep South/backwoods adventure, written when the vast Okefenokee straddling Georgia and Florida was nearly uncharted territory. 1941 on this originally, with Bantam's edition coming in ’47.
So I thought to myself, why stop at my lips? I had plenty of lipstick and I was bored with this gold colored dress so I just kept going.
This is top quality George Gross art fronting R.R. McCollum's 1951 novel Passion Has Red Lips. You'll notice once again that trick of subtly phallic content in the art. Just look at the guy and the bottle he's holding that seems ready spill at any moment. This was published by Rainbow Books, a company renowned for its brilliant cover art. You can see more amazing examples by clicking its keywords below.
Listen, lady! There's two of us and only one goat on this island! We're going to have to come to an agreement!
No, this cover for William Fuller's 1954 thriller Goat Island is not a duplicate of yesterday's. It's a similar piece painted by the great same artist—George Gross. On both fronts you have the dark-haired femme fatale, the open white shirt, the seated position, the nearby tree, the shack in the distance, and a general backwoods mood. If you must copy, copy yourself. In terms of content the book falls into the category of South Florida detective yarns, a sub-genre scores of writers have found profitable over the decades. It's the second book featuring Fuller's franchise detective Brad Dolan. In 1957 Ace Books republished it with the art redone by John Vernon, which you see below. Yes, they're different. Look closely. Vernon's signature appears at the extreme bottom right, whereas Gross's is absent at top. Duplicating covers was common during the mid-century paperback era but we've rarely seen an artist as accomplished as Vernon given the task. Both covers are good, but Gross gets the nod of quality for only copying himself.
There's nothing quite like a roll in the hay.
You'd think we'd eventually run out of themes in mid-century paperbacks, but the possibilities are seemingly endless. We can add illicit love in the hayloft to the many other time honored subjects exploited by paperback publishers. We've already shared several covers along these lines, such as this one, this one, and this one, but today we have an entire set for your enjoyment. Personally, we've never had sex in a hayloft—in fact, we've never even had the opportunity—but we imagine that once you get past the smelly manure and the scratchy hay and the jittery animals it's pretty fun. Or maybe not. There are also numerous books, incidentally, that feature characters trysting by outdoor haystacks, but for today we want to stay inside the barn. Thanks to all the original uploaders of these covers.
My pa shouldn't be back for hours. But just in case he does show up, do you prefer burial or cremation?
A double shot of rural sleaze today, Norman Bligh's Once There Was a Virgin, 1950 from Exotic Novels, and Gail Jordan's The Affairs of a Country Girl, 1952 from Cameo Books. George Gross provided the art for these covers, which are cropped differently, but between the two you see pretty much the entirety of the original piece. We think this is one of his better efforts. We're putting together a small collection of paperback covers set in barns and haylofts, so consider this a preview, along with the covers here, here, and here.
You're right. They do look like ladybugs. I guess that means you're gonna get lucky.
Above you see the cover of Illicit Desires from Quarter Books, 1949, by H.M. Appel, aka Archibald Bittner, with art by the famed George Gross. Some sources say this book was originally published as The Farmer's Daughter, but others say that was the original title of Appel's Brutal Kisses. Were both novels alternatively titled The Farmer's Daughter? Could be. There were plenty of precocious farmer's daughters in mid-century fiction.
Can I interest you in a quick hay ride?
Above, another installment of art from the great George Gross, with cover work for Norman Bligh's Play-Girl, 1950, from Venus Books. See more here and here.
Why on Earth are you bringing up that till-death-us-do-part stuff now? Neither is us is going to die for a long time.
Above, great cover art for Robert O. Saber's Murder Honeymoon, a digest style paperback from the Australian imprint Phantom Books, 1953. The art originally fronted Saber's 1952 Original Novels thriller City of Sin, which you see at right, and was painted by the always amazing George Gross. Saber was aka Milton K. Ozaki, and we've featured him quite a bit because he seems to have always managed to have his books illustrated by the best. Though the art on these two books was basically the same, the novels were different. This is the first time we've come across identical art for separate novels by the same author.
These are people who definitely pay attention to the poles.
When you look at lots of paperbacks sometimes a common thread suddenly jumps out at you that went unnoticed before. Such was the case a few weeks ago when we noticed the large number of characters on mid-century covers leaning against poles—light poles, telephone poles, sign poles, etc. We suggested someone should put together a collection, but of course we really meant us, so today you see above and below various characters deftly using these features of the urban streetscape as accessories. Art is from Benedetto Caroselli, Harry Schaare, George Gross, Rudolph Belarski, James Avati, et al. You can see a couple more examples here and here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
1960—To Kill a Mockingbird Appears
Harper Lee's racially charged novel To Kill a Mockingbird
is published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. The book is hailed as a classic, becomes an international
bestseller, and spawns a movie starring Gregory Peck, but is the only novel Lee would ever publish.
1962—Nuke Test on Xmas Island
As part of the nuclear tests codenamed Operation Dominic, the United States detonates a one megaton bomb on Australian controlled Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. The island was a location for a series of American and British nuclear tests, and years later lawsuits claiming radiation damage to military personnel were filed, but none were settled in favor in the soldiers.
1940—The Battle of Britain Begins
The German Air Force, aka the Luftwaffe, attacks shipping convoys off the coast of England, touching off what Prime Minister Winston Churchill describes as The Battle of Britain.
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