I used to be over easy, but that was during my wild college years.
Above, a beautiful 1950 Venus Books cover for Hard-Boiled, originally published in 1935 as Struggle, written by Harmon Bellamy, who was in reality Herman Bloom. The book deals with an embittered misogynist who meets up with a hardboiled woman of low repute, and finds his feelings for her evolving from contempt to a growing desire to peel her and have her for a meal. The main attraction here, though, is the art by George Gross. He was good at everything, but in the area of dressing his women, he was top of the heap. This lacy bodysuit is perfect. For more examples of Gross fashions, check this collection, especially the top example.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
1934—Arrest Made in Lindbergh Baby Case
Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator. The infant child had been abducted from the Lindbergh home in March 1932, and found decomposed two months later in the woods nearby. He had suffered a fatal skull fracture. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and finally executed by electric chair in April 1936. He proclaimed his innocence to the end
1919—Pollard Breaks the Color Barrier
Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros. Though Pollard is forgotten today, famed sportswriter Walter Camp ranked him as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." In another barrier-breaking historical achievement, Pollard later became the co-head coach of the Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back.
1932—Entwistle Leaps from Hollywood Sign
Actress Peg Entwistle
commits suicide by jumping from the letter "H" in the Hollywood sign. Her body lay in the ravine below for two days, until it was found by a detective and two radio car officers. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.
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