Friday, June 25, 2010

Avon Books 47 (1944)

Title : Shoe the Wild Mare
Author : Gene Fowler  
Cover art : uncredited

style *
substance **
collectibility **

Continuing with mare-titled books, we offer Gene Fowler's Shoe the Wild Mare, a rare instance in which the cover stands out not for its beauty or outrageousness, but rather for its singularly dull and unattractive qualities. All the more unfortunate in that this aesthetics-of-the-ugly entry represents an early Avon release and as such is at least marginally collectible. But nothing about this cover works, from the unfortunate color combination of yellow, black and purple to the man’s floating head between two women's heads facing each other. I can’t comment on the literary qualities of the book – for all I know it’s Faulkner in disguise – but with a cover like this I’m not really interested. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fawcett Gold Medal No. 644 (1957)

Title : Ride the Gold Mare
Author : Ovid Demaris 
Cover art : Barye Phillips
  [Greenwich, Conn. : Fawcett Gold Medal, 1957. No. 644. First printing, February 1957].

style ***
substance **
collectibility *

Ride the Gold Mare is a thriller about drug running in Southern California. Characters include a loose cannon cop, a drunken reporter “without a conscience,” and assorted bad guys. Barye Phillips contributes one of his most unforgettable covers with this elegant take on the sexy dead girl formula. A partially clothed dead woman is positioned in the center of the cover, with gloomy cityscape and gigantic hand superimposed menacingly behind her. Very effective use of the multi-layered collage type of cover art graphics popular in the late 1950s.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bantam No. 730 (1949)

Title : Dark Interlude
Author : Peter Cheyney 
Cover art : C. C. Beall
   [N. Y. : Bantam, 1949. No. 730. Also released as : The Terrible Night. Atmospheric, film noirish cover art by C. C. Beall. Vintage cover art has been kind to Peter Cheyney. See here for an eye-popping sampling of covers, both Anglo/American and European].

style ***
substance **
collectibility **

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Site of the Month

Reading California Fiction : Perusing Stories of the Golden State. This site offers book reviews for fiction set in California and written between 1890 and 1959. There's strong coverage of crime fiction and vintage pb’s  & lots of high quality cover scans. But the site is possibly most noteworthy for its inclusion of offbeat and little known authors like Florence Stonebraker

Berkley Books G-168 (1958)

Title : Renée
Author : H-R Lenormand
  [N. Y. : Berkley Books, 1958. No. G-168. 2nd printing, September 1958. 'Complete and unabridged.' First published, Paris, Flammarion, 1949, as Une Fille est Une Fille. Translated from the French by Frances Frenaye. Cover photo of title character, clad in pajamas, looking out window of Paris flat of vista of the city. 'An uninhibited girl of the Paris streets.' - front cover].

style **
substance **
collectibility **

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Popular Library No. 327 (1951)

Title : Stranger and Alone
Author : J. Saunders Redding
Cover art : uncredited
  [N. Y. : Popular Library, 1951. No. 327. “Special abridged edition.” “He couldn't escape the color of his skin." Novel about a guy with a white father & black mother who feels alienated from both races. [Anon.] cover art pictures the novel’s hero in foreground facing another guy nuzzling a black woman in low cut green dress].

style ***
substance **
collectibility **

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dell D375 (1960)

Title : The Obituary Club
Author : Hugh Pentecost
Cover art : Robert Maguire
  [N. Y. : Dell, 1960. #D-375. Pseud. Judson Philips. Cover : Robert Maguire. “First Dell printing, August 1960.” Maguire comes through with another knockout cover, this one using a favorite vintage paperback cover theme, that of the beautiful woman opening or peeking through a curtain. Great use of bright reds for the woman's dress, high heels and lipstick].

style ***
substance **
collectibility *

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quote of the Month

“Paperbacks had come into their own during and after the Second World War, and, by 1950, were like a giant money machine. Anything could be reprinted, from the classics to trashy novels; everything was given a ‘sexy’ cover and was sold like a magazine on a newsstand in the widest possible distribution. If paperbacks were once considered a way to educate the masses (Good Reading for the Millions) not much evidence of it remained. Capitalism ruled.”
  – Piet Schreuders, ‘What a Body.’ In : Sex Appeal : The Art of Allure in Graphic and Advertising Design, p. 230.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Zenith Books ZB-29, 1959

Title : Sweet and Deadly
Author : Philip MacDonald and A. Boyd Correll
Cover art : uncredited
  [Rockville Centre, N. Y. : Zenith Books, 1959. 'Zenith Books edition published October 1959.' Originally hardcover edition published by Morrow in 1948 as The Dark Wheel].

style **
substance **
collectibility **

Sweet and Deadly is a mystery offering from softcore sleaze publisher Zenith books. The anonymous cover art depicts a distraught looking blonde in loose fitting gray dress sporting jade(?) jewelry, orange lipstick and orange nail polish. An added feature is the gray dress, the left side of which seems to come from the gravity-defying school of cover art. This cover strikes me as both artificial and strangely compelling (much the same could be said for all the vintage pb cover art from the classic era, I suppose). In any case, the woman's look is obviously posed, with hokey theatrical gestures, and besides there's a mannequin-ish quality about her as well. But who cares? It's a wonderfully fetching design with the murky background, and it's hard to go wrong with such a strong use of the all-too-infrequent color of blue.

The Devil Thumbs a Ride (Grove Press, 1988)

Title : The Devil Thumbs a Ride and Other Unforgettable Films
Author : Barry Gifford
Cover art : Kirwan

style ***
substance **
collectibility *


Though a longtime fan of film noir, I confess to not being familiar with the title film. But no matter; there’s plenty of great substance here in Gifford’s idiosyncratic essays on the dark side of cinema. As befits his subject matter, Gifford’s highly readable prose is suitably clipped and no-nonsense (neo-Chanlderese might describe it). And his opinions are often refreshingly contrarian. (Re Barbara Stanwyck : “she does nothing for me”). Another strength is that he covers films we don’t usually think of as being part of the noir canon, and in true contrarian fashion omits quite a few of the better-known titles.

The book comes with a front cover blurb by Elmore Leonard claiming some the essays are better than the films they describe – high praise indeed from a source of such impeccable credentials. A nice added bonus is a perceptive Introduction co-written by Edward Gorman and, more unlikely, novelist Dow Mossman.

But the true jewel in this production is the admittedly not very noirish looking cover (by Kirwan) in its over-the-top phantasmagorical glory (love the look on the girl’s face!). The design isn’t even hardboiled, but it sure gets its message across with the 1980s reto-vintage style which actually captures the 1950s vintage pb spirit pretty well -- the frozen-in-an-instant moment of drama.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Century Mysteries #26 (1945)

Title : Fallen Angel
Author : Marty Holland
Cover art : uncredited
  [Chicago : Century Publications, 1945. Century Mysteries #26. Condensed from the original, per copyright page. 'A Century mystery'. Written by Marty (i.e. Mary) Holland. Digest-sized paperback. Subsequently released as Blonde Baggage. First thus. Movie tie-in : 20th Century Fox film, Fallen Angel, starring Linda Darnell, Alice Faye and Dana Andrews, directed by Otto Preminger. Uncredited painting of a towering Linda Darnell and other stars of the movie on front cover.]
style ***
substance **
collecibility *** 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Halo in Brass (Dennis McMillan, 1988)

Title : Halo in Brass
Author : Howard Browne
Cover art : Joe Servello
  [Missoula : Dennis McMillan, 1988. 'A Paul Pine detective.' Cover by Joe Servello. Originally published as by John Evans, Bobbs-Merrill, 1949. Reprint, Pocket #709, July 1950. Notable for its use of lesbian themes, a rarity in the 1940s.  Review by Marvin Lachman.]

style ***
substance ***
collectibility *


Pocket Books, 1950
I'm a big fan of retro-vintage covers and this is one of my favorites. Joe Servello's front cover art really delivers the noirish goods (albeit using a technicolor palette). The added bonus is the back cover art, also presumably be Servello, which is almost as good. Halo is genuinely 'retro' in the sense that the novel was originally published in 1949. Howard Browne's star has risen in recent years and today he's considered one of the best of the classic era detective writers who wrote in the Chandler/Hammett tradition.

Foulsham, London, 1951

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vintage Espionage V

Pendower, Jacques [pseudo. T. C. H. (Thomas Curtis Hicks) Jacobs]. Betrayed. N.Y.: Paperback Library, 1967. #53-481. First printing. Cover art : uncredited. First published in hardover as The Widow from Spain, London, Robert Hale, 1961. The prolific British author T. C. H. Jacobs wrote under numerous pseudonyms, including Jacques Pendower, T.C.H. Pendower, Penn Dower, Tom Curtis, Marilyn Pender, Helen Howard, and Anne Penn. Betrayed is yet another Cold War story of an amateur spy recruited to do work, this time serving as a courier for documents wanted by both sides.

Atlee, [James] Philip*. [Pseud. James Atlee Phillips]. The Black Venus Contract. Greenwich, CN: Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1975. Gold Medal M3187. “A Joe Gall novel.” Cover art depicting title character and Brazilian girlfriend is done in the Robert McGinnis style, but no cover artist is credited.
   Special agent Joe Gall is a U.S. counterintelligence operative who works for a mysterious government agency. His job title is The Nullifier and his job is to ‘eradicate the situation.’ The 20th book in the ‘Contract’ series finds him in Brazil hunting a South American terrorist organization.
   It was always my impression that the Joe Gall novels arrived a little late to the vintage espionage party, even though the first Gall [non-espionage] novel, Pagoda, was actually published in 1951. In any case, there were 22 books in total in the Gall series, which ran through the mid-1970s. The ‘Contract’ novels are held in moderately high regard today -- one of Atlee’s more unlikely admirers was Raymond Chandler. [*Author ‘Philip Atlee’ was the older brother of CIA agent David Atlee Phillips of Bay of Pigs and JFK assassination notoriety]. 

   “Good stuff, if you can stand another spy with a cruelly handsome face, who drinks with distinction, and who is an inveterate womanizer.” – review of Atlee’s The Paper Pistol Contract and The Death Bird Contract [Chicago Tribune, Feb 27, 1966, p. N-13].

Hershatter, Richard. The Spy Who Hated Fudge. N. Y. : Ace, 1970. No. 77855. Another example of the seemingly endless supply of spy spoofs popular in 1960s and 1970s : the DIA’s reluctant spy, Special Agent 6-X, is dispatched to Paris to retrieve the Statue of Liberty, which seems to have been stolen. Because of its very late appearance, this one barely rates the vintage pb moniker, but it manages to just squeak by with its sensationalist – if goofy – subject matter and the vintage style cover art.

Allbeury, Ted. Omega Minus. N. Y. : Ballantine Books, 1976. “Ballantine suspense.” [Published in England under the title Palomino Blonde]. The second book in the Tad Anders series. First Ballantine Books edition, July 1976. Gaudy 1970s style front cover art. Cover artist uncredited.

Fleming, Ian. Casino Royale. N. Y., London : Penguin Books, 2002. [Seventh printing]. Cover design : Roseanne Serra. Cover photo/illustration : Richie Fahey. Features eye-catching retro-vintage front cover art dominated by curvaceous brunette in tight fitting black evening dress. Another stunning Fahey/Serra design for the Penguin Bond reprints.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ballantine 288, 1958

Title : The Bright Road to Fear
Author : Richard Martin Stern
Cover art : uncredited
   [N. Y. : Ballantine Books, 1958. No. 288.
Cover features a a tough guy in foreground smoking a cigarette with figure of slumped woman behind him. The rather sfumato-esque shading of the undefined light source bathes the two figures in an eerie glow. "Completely convincing and gripping melodrama of drug smuggling that borrows from news columns." - Drexel Drake, Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1958, p. I9.]

style ***
substance ***
collectibility **