I can feel you getting tense, baby. Just loosen up. This'll be great, I promise.
Sometimes the thing you're searching for finds you, especially in mid-century fiction. There were several covers produced for Day Keene's thriller Hunt the Killer, but the three used by Phantom Books were basically identical, and you see them above. The first came in 1951, the second in 1952, and the Phantom Classics edition in 1958. You see how the art was leached of its vividness with each subsequent release. It changes form too. The gaffing hook disappeared on the last cover. Did that happen because it was too violent, or too phallic, or both? We've yet to find a satisfactory explanation for why art changed this way for a company publishing the same book multiple times. Clearly they couldn't have lost rights to the original art, or else how could they have legally copied it? But if they had the rights, why use these progressively simpler versions? In this case we suspect Phantom wanted the cover to change with each edition to give it the sense of being a new product, but that's just a guess. The truth remains a mystery for now. In any case, interesting covers for Mr. Keene.
She's going to have to change her relationship status to “it's complicated.”
We shared a cover for the thriller Say It with Murder by Edward Ronns, aka Edward S. Aarons, last year, and now we've run across this alternate effort that also looks pretty nice. Both are from Phantom Books out of Australia but this second effort is from Phantom Classics, which suggests that the original run of the novel did quite well. As always with Phantom, the cover is by an uncredited artist.
As long as you're already feeling terrible I might as well tell you he landed on your cat.
For such clever animals cats do get underfoot at inconvenient times, don't they? But fret not—no felines are flattened in Day Keene's Wake Up To Murder. There's barely any character development at all, let alone time for extraneous animals. What happens here is the protagonist James Charters decides to save a woman from death row. Sound familiar? That's because it's the same set-up Keene used for Death House Doll. Plotwise the books diverge from there, as Charters gets blamed for a couple of murders and has some mobsters chasing after him for $10,000 they think he has. Put this in the Florida thriller bin, copyright 1952.
I've come to kidnap you—for another book cover.
Above you see two covers for Robert O. Saber's thriller Too Young To Die, the first from Graphic Books, and the second from Australian publisher Phantom. The art at top, which we think is brilliant, was painted by Walter Popp, a well known paperback and men's magazine illustrator who we've talked about several times. You can see some of those examples by clicking his keywords at bottom. His cover was copied by an anonymous artist for Phantom's re-issue. So as always we come back to the question: Why were publishers able to copy original art, but not to use it outright?
Assume you're Walter Popp and you've already been paid by Graphic for the use of your art. Phantom comes along and asks you to reuse it. It's free money in the sense that you've already done the work, and it's more exposure for your talent. So why not say yes? Since there's no reason in the world to say no we can only assume he was never asked. Looking at it from the other side, if you like Walter Popp's cover work but can't obtain the right to use it, how is it that you can get away with publishing a near exact copy? We posed that question to Bob over at the authoritative website menspulpmags.com, and he said that he thinks copycat covers that were not actual reuses of the original skated under copyright laws, and generally nobody paid much attention to them.
Bob also offered these insights:
Some of the artists who worked for mid-20th century men's adventure magazines and paperbacks that I've talked to have said they sometimes got paid small reprint fees for reuses of their work, but often did not. In the case of the men's adventure magazines, I know the artists typically only sold first publication rights and the artists who were most business savvy, like Mort Kunstler, made sure to get their originals back from the company or get fees for reuses. But some artists just turned in their illustrations to the art directors and didn't bother to get them back to track whether they were reused.
Some magazines that published multiple men's adventure magazines, like those put out by Martin Goodman's Magazine Management company, often reused illustrations in several different issues and sometimes used a magazine illustration on the cover of a paperback published by their paperback subsidiary (Lion Books in the case of Magazine Management), or vice versa. I show an example of a Samson Pollen painting used on a Lion paperback and a Mag Mgt. men's adventure mag in a recent post on my blog here.
There are many other examples of men's adventure mag illos being used on both a paperback cover and in a men's adventure magazine. For example, Pyramid published both paperbacks and Man's Magazine and many Pyramid cover paintings showed up as illustrations in Man's. I don't know if artists typically only sold first use rights to paperback publishers or all rights. I suspect it varied with the publisher. I do know many paperback cover paintings were reused both on other paperbacks and in men's adventure mags.
I also know that Gil Cohen, who I recently interviewed for my blog, told me he sold only first rights to Pinnacle for the roughly two-hundred Executioner/Mack Bolan paperback cover paintings he did. I'd guess that whether an artist got paid for reuses depended on how honorable the publishers were. Mag Mgt. and Pyramid actually treated their artists pretty well, from what I have been able to glean.
However, it seems pretty clear that many low budget men's adventure mags and paperback publishers just ripped artists off by reusing their artwork without paying them. I think that practice was pretty common and there was really no way for artists to keep track of all reuses back then. They would just have to happen to run across them on newsstands. And even then, they might not think it was worth the hassle of trying to do anything about it. Pulp art was basically viewed as "disposable" artwork without a lot of resale value back in the '50s, '60s and '70s. I think most artists were more concerned about getting their next assignment than trying to get smaller reprint fees for past work.
So there you have it, from someone who has spoken to many of the creators from the period. The art was just difficult to keep track of back then. As copies go, Phantom's Walter Popp rip-off is a decent one, though we've seen much better. We have another example of the practice you can check out here. And we're now sure our longstanding suspicions about the usage of celebrity images, which we've discussed several times, fall into the same category. Thanks to Bob for his answers, and we recommend that pulp fans check out his expansive and incredibly informative men's magazine website.
Her motivation for this scene is to survive.
Directed by the Devil was written by Bruce Kent for Australia's Phantom Books, and the publishers have graced the book with unusually striking cover art by an uncredited artist. Close to 100% of Phantom's covers were reworkings of art from U.S. paperbacks, but if this is a copy we can't identify the original. It'll turn up, though. They always do. But for now we'll give Phantom's mystery artist full credit for a brilliant cover. Storywise, everyone is chasing a letter that outs the sexual improprieties of Hollywood's biggest stars and studio heads. It was penned by an actress who turned up dead, passed along to a tabloid journalist who also ended up dead, and is presumed to be in the possession of screenwriter Steve Duane. The problem is Duane doesn't have it. But every crooked cop, slippery hustler, and evil gangster in town thinks he does, which is a state of affairs that could lead to him following the actress and journalist to the great beyond. His only solution? Find the letter. Pretty nice set-up for a Hollywood thriller. 1956 copyright.
Looks like she's well past the tipping point.
Any successful concept has the potential to become a cage for a crime author. Jack Dolph wrote the successful 1948 mystery Odds-On Murder about race tracks and their associated environs, and returned to that milieu for 1950's Murder Makes the Mare Go. In 1952's Hot Tip, for which you see the 1957 Phantom Books cover art above, Dolph is still hanging around the track, where a jockey dies in a sweatbox trying to make weight for a race, and his buddy Doc Connor sets about proving it was murder. There are suspects—the wife who stood to inherit insurance bucks, the estranged brother, and shady gamblers, while artsy Broadway types provide extra color.
Dolph used Doc Connor for all his horse books, with the character's interest in racing legitimizing his constant moonlighting as a sleuth when he probably should have been inoculating babies and reading x-rays. We described these concepts as a cage for authors, but that's our personal bias intruding. Dolph might have loved writing about racing. But either he or the public tired after his fourth foray and fifth novel overall, 1953's Dead Angel, at which point Dolph went out to pasture.
The art on the 1957 edition from Australia's Phantom Books is interesting but uncredited. The British edition from Boardman Books, just above, has nice cover art as well, painted by Denis McLoughlin. And the original art was reconstituted by Horwitz Publications, also Australia based, for usage on the front of Carter Brown's The Tigress, from 1961, below. Though actually, based on the quality of the art, Phantom's Hot Tip art looks like the copy, but the publication dates we have say Phantom was first.
Don't panic. Maybe he's not here for us. Maybe he's here to put that stranded humpback whale out of its misery.
Down on their luck everymen often have unlikely backgrounds. Killer Take All! features a guy who wanted to be a PGA golfer but didn't quite make it. The golf angle provides the entry point into the action, as he's asked to be a country club golf pro by a shady character, and soon finds himself tangled up with the man's femme fatale wife, sucked into fraudulent business practices, and suspected of murder. Talk about ending up in the rough. The author here, James O'Causey, aka James Causey, is one of those cases in crime fiction of a guy that published a few fairly well regarded thrillers then stopped writing. He had preceded the novels with some short stories, and penned a television script afterward, but that was it for his output. The consensus online is that he should have written more. Killer Take All! appeared originally in 1957 for Graphic Books, and this Australian edition from Phantom showed up in 1959.
In the end she didn't think saying it with flowers would get her true feelings across.
Tired of the rampant commercialism of Valentine's Day? So is the woman on the cover of Edward Ronns' 1955 thriller Say It with Murder. Too bad she doesn't live where we do, where there's no such holiday. This cover is from Australia's Phantom Books, a company we've been featuring often of late, and as we've mentioned, Phantom had a habit of using reconstituted art. You can see exactly what we mean by looking at the front of the 1954 Graphic Books edition, with its excellent work from Lou Marchetti. We still don't know exactly why Phantom changed its covers. A rights usage issue, we suppose. But if that's the case, why was the company able to get away with making near copies of the originals? We'll keep exploring this question until an answer presents itself.
I think we should consider a separation. And I have just the body part in mind.
A gringo detective with an agency in Mexico City is hired to locate his crooked ex-partner, who has bailed with the agency's money, and now is causing trouble for the client. The PI takes the job, glad to be paid to track down his betrayer, and starts in the Mexican town of Rio Bravo where the partner immediately turns up dead. From there the hero delves into local corruption, crosses the border to Texas, uncovers a human trafficking ring, meets a cantina dancer named Arden Kennett, deals with a dangerous wife, watches murders pile up and the police begin to suspect him, and learns that knives can be thrown just as effectively as they can be brandished.
The book was published in the U.S. as an Ace Double in 1959 with Paul Rader art and bound with Charles Fritch's Negative of a Nude, but the rare edition above is from Aussie imprint Phantom Books and appeared in 1960. We can't identify the artist, which is an affliction we've been dealing with quite a bit of late. But don't blame us—as we've mentioned once or twice before, including just a few days ago, Phantom didn't credit art, possibly because much of it was copied from U.S. editions. Many of the covers do, however, look like the same hand, so hopefully someone will be able to ID the owner of that hand at some point in the future.
Off with the hoodie, Bieber! Your days of shitty music and cultural appropriation end here and now.
Edward Ronns churned out about eighty novels over the course of his career, writing under his birth name Edward Aarons, and also as Paul Ayres. He wrote a novel called Death in the Lighthouse in 1938, which Australian imprint Phantom Books published as Cowl of Doom in 1954 with the curious cover art you see above. Plotwise, a man with a head injury—caused by a bullet—awakens in the apartment of woman he doesn't know and quickly realizes he's somehow lost three years. As usual, Phantom gives no artist info so we don't know who the brush behind this was. And yeah, we know we should stop ragging on Bieber, but we're getting better. Last time we compared him to Hitler.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
NBC radio broadcasts the cop drama Dragnet for the first time. It was created by, produced by, and starred Jack Webb as Joe Friday. The show would later go on to become a successful television program, also starring Webb.
1973—Lake Dies Destitute
Veronica Lake, beautiful blonde icon of 1940s Hollywood and one of film noir's most beloved fatales
, dies in Burlington, Vermont of hepatitis and renal failure due to long term alcoholism. After Hollywood, she had drifted between cheap hotels in Brooklyn and New York City and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. A New York Post
article briefly revived interest in her, but at the time of her death she was broke and forgotten.
1962—William Faulkner Dies
American author William Faulkner, who wrote acclaimed novels such as Intruder in the Dust and The Sound and the Fury, dies of a heart attack in Wright's Sanitorium in Byhalia, Mississippi.
1942—Spy Novelist Graduates from Spy School
Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, graduates from Camp X, a training school for spies located in Canada. The character of Bond has been said to have been based upon Camp X's Sir William Stephenson and what Fleming learned from him, though there are several other men who are also said
to be the basis for Bond.
1989—Oliver North Avoids Prison
Colonel Oliver North, an aide to U.S. president Ronald Reagan, avoids jail during the sentencing phase of the Iran-Contra trials. North had been found guilty of falsifying and destroying documents, and obstructing Congress during their investigation of the massive drugs/arms/cash racket orchestrated by high-ranking members of the Reagan government.
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