Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dell D298 (1959)

Title : Murder on Broadway (aka The Last Gamble)
Author : Hal Masur
Cover art : Victor Kalin 
[New York, Dell, 1959. No. D298. Front cover : Victor Kalin. 'First Dell printing, July 1959.'  First published in hardcover, Simon & Schuster, 1958, as The Last Gamble. Published in the UK as The Last Breath. Variant issue : back cover, advertisement for Paris Belts.]
style ***

substance **

collectibility *

Victor Kalin worked in a variety of venues but his vintage pb cover art is among the finest from the classic era. Kalin’s sensitive portraiture of beautiful women had a exceptionally luminous quality ..... indeed the the brightly lit, almost radioactive quality of the women suggest that they are about to burst into flames at any minute. This is in contrast to, say, the cover art of Robert McGinnis, who portrayed women in a cooler, more objective style. It also contrasts with Rudolph Belarski’s somewhat hokier glowing women effects for Popular Library in the early 1950s. The Belarski covers are of course classic examples of vintage cover art at its lurid best but somehow I prefer the leaner, more stylish Kalin look. I’m not enough of an expert on art technique to know what methods are used to get the effects but who cares when the results are this good.

In any case, while Murder on Broadway is a more subdued entry in the Kalin canon, it nonetheless is one of his stronger efforts; great touches abound : the girl’s subtle reflection in the mirror, the quasi-sfumato shadings. It all combines to create a minor masterpiece. We only have to compare to the covers of the later printings, released as The Last Gamble, to know that the Kalin magic is missing in these versions. More on Kalin’s cover art can be found here and here.
Dell D250
Dell 886

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