Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Two-fer Tuesdays: Some Skin in the Game

A twice-monthly pairing of book fronts that just seem to go together. Click on either of these images to open up an enlargement.



Fire in the Flesh, by Jack Sheridan (Dell, 1960), with a cover illustration by Mitchell Hooks; Trouble in the Flesh, by Max Wylie (Dell, 1960), featuring artwork by Robert K. Abbett.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Because I Needed a Sjöwall and Wahlöö Fix …



The Laughing Policeman, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (Bantam, 1971), the fourth entry in their series about Swedish police detective Martin Beck. Illustration by Roger Hall.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Conditions of Departure



New Jersey journalist-turned-author Wallace Stroby put up a post in his blog yesterday, sharing some of the favorable comments he’s already received about his seventh novel, Some Die Nameless, which isn’t due out from Mulholland until July. While reading that piece, I kept thinking the title of Stroby’s thriller sounded familiar. A quick check through my scans of vintage paperbacks reveals why.



(Left to right) Some Die Hard, by “Nick Quarry,” aka Marvin H. Albert (Gold Medal, 1964), with a cover illustration by Raymond Johnson; and Some Die Running, by “Norman Daniels,” aka Norman Arthur Danberg (Avon, 1960), with façade art by Milo.



Some Die Young, by James Duff (Graphic, 1956), featuring artwork by Roy Lance; and Some Die Slow, by William Herber (Bantam, 1953), with a cover painting by Mitchell Hooks.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Two-fer Tuesdays: Trip Traps

A twice-monthly pairing of book fronts that just seem to go together. Click on either of these images to open up an enlargement.



Journey Into Violence, by Harry Whittington (Pyramid, 1960), featuring a powerful cover illustration by Lou Marchetti; Journey Into Ecstacy, by Albert L. Quandt (Venus, 1951), with cover art by Howell Dodd (see Dodd’s original painting here).

Working the Web

• It’s always great to discover new vintage book and magazine illustrators—and even better to learn that they’re still alive. Such is the case with 94-year-old Gloria Stoll Karn. Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1923, Stoll studied art in high school, but later wound up working as an insurance company secretary. “One fateful day in April of 1941,” recalls David Saunders on his Web site, Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists, “she impulsively threw away all of her student artwork. The janitor rescued her portfolio from the incinerator room and showed it to another tenant in the building, who happened to be the pulp artist Rafael de Soto. De Soto asked to meet the discouraged seventeen-year-old art student, and inspired her to become a commercial illustrator.” According to this article produced by WESA, the National Public Radio station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Stoll went on “to create more than 100 full-color covers for romance and mystery magazines.” Now, more than three quarters of a century after she commenced painting for the pulps, Stoll’s art is being honored with a solo exhibition at The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. That show will continue through June 10. To view more work by Stoll Karn, who now lives northwest of Pittsburgh, click here.

• BookRiot calls pulpish paperbacksthe clickbait of the ’50s,” explaining: “The standard cover used a realistic illustration and combined a shocking title, a scantily clad woman, and an intriguing front-cover blurb. These covers were the main selling point for a title. … One of the defining features of clickbait is also present in pulp novels: you don’t always get what you were promised.”

• CrimeReads looks back at how, during the mid-20th century, fresh editions of crime/detective novels that actually predated the era’s taste in salacious book fronts were given “ridiculously sexified covers … that were far racier than the actual book.”

• And I wasn’t previously familiar with British journalist, pulp writer, and screenwriter Betty Mabel Lilian Williams (1919-1974), who published most extensively as “Dail Ambler.” But Bear Alley has posted an eye-catching selection of her book covers.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Stanley’s Style: Finishing Touches

Part of a 100th-birthday tribute to artist Robert Stanley.


The Inconvenient Bride, by “James M. Fox,” aka Johannes Knipscheer (Dell, 1950). This is an entry in his series featuring husband-and-wife sleuths Johnny and Suzy Marshall.


When Randal S. Brandt, a writer and librarian at the University of California, Berkeley’s distinguished Bancroft Library, contacted me in March 2017, informing me that the 100th birthday of paperback-cover artist Robert Stanley (1918-1996) was coming up a full year away and asking whether I’d like to commemorate that occasion in Killer Covers … well, I didn’t really know what to think. I was generally familiar with Stanley’s work, and had a computer file containing scans of his better-known book fronts. I had focused on his artistry in a couple of “Tuesday Two-fer” posts (see here and here), and had featured on this page Stanley’s 1950 cover for The Creeping Siamese, by Dashiell Hammett. But Stanley wasn’t as prominent on my radar as, say, Robert McGinnis or Harry Bennett. Nonetheless, I told Brandt that, sure, a birthday celebration could be arranged with his help.

I then forgot about the idea. I mean, it was a year off!

So imagine my surprise when, early last month, Brandt suddenly e-mailed me the Stanley profile he had long ago promised to compose, together with the link to a Flickr page he’d devoted to that painter’s myriad paperback covers. He reminded me as well that the 100th anniversary of this American artist’s birth was March 28, 2018. Brandt probably assumed I had a hyper-organized “tickler file” to remind me of this occasion, and that I had been mulling over the Stanley project for weeks in advance of his re-establishing contact with me. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

(Right) Robert Carter Stanley Jr. as a young artist.

However, with a modicum of scrambling, I managed to pull everything together. Our Stanley salute began with Brandt’s excellent summation of the artist’s career; slid from there into a series of posts showcasing the range of Stanley’s attractive and frequently innovative book-façade illustrations; and led to a selection of the painter’s Western-fiction fronts and a remembrance of his work for men’s adventure magazines. The whole enterprise concludes today with a gallery of more than 90 additional Stanley paperback covers.

Below, you will find 20 of the covers Robert Stanley painted for Dell Books’ line of Michael Shayne private-eye novels, penned by Brett Halliday. Those are followed by a couple of releases from Helen McCloy (their proximity to Halliday’s books being appropriate, given that the two authors were at one time married), plus assorted, often-forgotten yarns by the likes of George Harmon Coxe, Leslie Ford, Helen Nielsen, Edison Marshall, A.B. Cunningham, Delano Ames, Hampton Stone, Max Murray, and their 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s rivals. Not all of the fronts featured here belong to crime novels; there are also romances, a few non-fiction texts, and even a quartet of science-fiction tales at the bottom. But the plenitude of mysteries reminds me of this genre’s great breadth—and the numerous vintage storytellers whose fiction I still haven’t gotten around to reading. Then again, I was pleased, during the collection and posting of these scans, to realize that I own many of the editions shown here. I guess I have no excuse for ignoring them any longer.

Thanks again to Randal S. Brandt for getting the ball rolling on this venture. And I hope you’ve all enjoyed the course it’s taken.

Click on any of the images here to open an enlargement.