Author : Hank Hobson
Cover art : anonymous
[First published in hardcover, London, Cassell, 1960]
I’d never heard of author Hobson before coming across this obscure British reprint. My immediate reaction was that ‘Hank Hobson’ is a better name for a private eye than an author. And it turns out that I wasn’t too far off the mark, in a roundabout sort of way. Evidence is sketchy but it appears that Hank Hobson is a pseudonym for one Harry Hobson, aka Stephen D. Frances, aka Hank Janson. The latter is both the author and detective hero of a series of British pulp novels in the 1940s and 1950s which are probably best remembered today for their unforgettable cheesecake cover art by lingerie specialist Reginald Heade. This cover’s not by Heade, in fact not by anyone in particular. Actually it’s executed in a very different style from Heade’s – a strikingly etched combination of gloominess and brightness. The sharply composed foreground figure in black contrasts nicely with the murky depiction of a body nearby, and all are framed by the vague, quasi-surrealist landscape which seems to suggest a moonlight-reflecting river in the distance. Altogether, a refreshingly different, late vintage British take on the tough formula.