Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Signet 1755 (1960)

Title : Cobra Venom
Author : John B. West
Cover art : Jerry Allison 
[New York, Signet, 1960. No. 1755].
style ***

substance **

collectibility *

John B. West's Rocky Steele was a lively entry into the crowded field of private eye fiction in the late 1950s. According to one source, Steele was a P.I. so tough he made Mike Hammer look like Liberace [1]. But what was probably most interesting about this series was that author John B. West was a black physician practising in West Africa [2], as well as a part-time owner of a broadcasting company, manufacturing firm, and a hotel/restaurant chain, when he wrote the Steele thrillers. A good summary of the Rocky Steele aesthetic can be found here and here

Fittingly, the John B. West novels were rather well served by vintage cover art; even the mid sixties reissues, while lacking perhaps the naive, visceral charm of the Signet originals, nonetheless have a beguiling elegance of their own. 

For the featured title of Signet 1755, Jerry Allison's incredibly intense cover art nicely captures the grittiness of the character in dramatically chiarscuro-esque fashion. But for sheer over-the-top visuals nothing can compare to the usually restrained Barye Phllips' ultra-exploitative take for Taste for Blood.

[1] Max Allan Collins, History of Mystery, p. 148.

[2] Liberia, to be exact.

No comments:

Post a Comment