Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Last Tango of Dolores Delgado

Title : The Last Tango of Dolores Delgado
Author : Day, Marele   
Cover art : Caz Rodwell (illustration); Julie Melvin (design)
  [St. Leonards, NSW, Australia : Allen & Unwin, 1993. ISBN : 1 86373 323 X. ]

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sunshine Enemies

Title : Sunshine Enemies
Author : Constantine, K. C.   
Cover art : Bradley Clark (art); Jackie Merri Meyer (design)  
  [N. Y. : Mysterious Press, 1990. “A Mario Balzic novel.” Bold b&w lettering and retro-vintage cover art highlight a lively cover.]

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Pocket 1274

Title : So Dead the Rose
Author : Chaber, M. E.
Cover art : Jerry Allison  
  [N. Y. : Pocket, 1960. Number 1274. Pseud. of Kendall Foster Crossen. Front cover art : Jerry Allison. First printing. Originally published in hardcover, New York, Rinehart, 1959].

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“She was dangerous – but beautiful!” 

Vintage Cold War skullduggery in East Berlin & Moscow : insurance investigator (and former OSS & CIA agent) Milo March is recruited by the CIA to recover stolen government files. Jerry Allison’s front cover art for the Pocket reissue depicts the elegantly sinister Soviet femme fatale in most alluring, spider-woman fashion.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bantam 751 (1950)

Title : Shot in the Dark
Author : Merril, Judith, ed.
Cover art : H. E. Bischoff  
  [N. Y. : Bantam, 1950. No. 751. Cover art depicts a scene from Leigh Brackett’s story, The Halfling. “28 astounding stories that are out of this world.” Anthology of science fiction stories contains: The Sky was Full of Ships by Theodore Sturgeon; The Halfling by Leigh Brackett; Knock by Fredric Brown; Voices in the Dust by Gerald Kersh; A Hitch in Time by James MacCreigh; Gentlemen Be Seated by Robert A. Heinlein; Nightmare Number Three by Stephen Vincent Benet; The Star by H. G. Wells; Mr. Lupescu by Anthony Boucher; The Day of the Deepies by Murray Leinster; The Shadow and the Flash by Jack London; Spokeman for Terra by Hugh Raymond; He Was Asking After You by Margery Allingham; Strange Playfellow by Isaac Asimov; Brooklyn Project by William Tenn; Interview with a Lemming by James Thurber; Mars is Heaven by Ray Bradbury; Who Is Charles Avison by Edison Tesla Marshall; The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe; The Bronze Parrot by R. Austin Freeman; Life on the Moon by Alexander Samalman; Blunder by Philip Wylie; and The Dark Angel by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore.)] 

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gold Medal 994 (1960)

Title : Shanghai Incident
Author : Stephen Becker
Cover art : Robert McGinnis
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“You need more than luck in Shanghai” – Elsa Bannister (played by Rita Hayworth), The Lady from Shanghai (film, 1948)

   Maybe I’m a sucker for all things Shanghai – Paris of the East; hotbead of intrigue, and so on. I’m especially fond of those old movies with the city‘s name in their title – Lady from Shanghai, Shanghai Express, Shanghai Gesture. The (Eurasian?) woman depicted on the front cover of Shanghai Incident is obviously the story’s femme fatale, and I just love the yellow dress, orange umbrella and high heels. By the way, I’m curious to know what those Chinese characters say at the top. And the Chinese woman in the background – is her gaze directed at the woman in yellow or beyond her, out towards the viewer?
   I’ve always thought that the Gold Medal line of paperback books in the 1950s were among the best produced and had some of the coolest covers. This stunning design by cover art legend Robert McGinnis typifies the company’s bright, splashy style. I’m most familiar with his work for Dell, especially the series for the Mike Shayne novels, and is it my imagination, or did he change his style a bit for the GM covers? In any case, McGinnis, with Barye Phillips and Robert Maguire, probably did the best portraits of dangerous, seductive women which adorned the covers of so many paperbacks in the vintage era.
Shanghai Incident was first published by Gold Medal Books in 1955 (#456) with serviceable but less atmospheric cover art by Lou Kimmel. The author was listed as ‘Steve Dodge,’ a pseudonym for Stephen Becker. - BCS

Review by Gary Lovisi.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fawcett-Muller 41

Title : Murder for the Bride
Author : MacDonald, John D. 
Cover art : Barye Phillips  
  [[Manchester], UKFawcett-Muller, 1954. Printed in Great Britain by Frederick Muller, Ltd.”]. 

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Bride is MacDonald’s second novel and dates from his pre-Travis Magee period. Very much a product of its time, it’s a good example of how the tough school of writers could borrow Red Scare themes and treat them in a hard-boiled style. To wit, Bride is the story of a man who unknowingly marries a communist agent. Many complications follow, one of them being a Spillane-esque denouement in which the hero sniffs out the den of Red spies and has the inevitable confrontation with the bad guys. 

Gold Medal K1537 (1965)
In any case Barye Phillips' cover is a stunner. Phillips usually emphasized glamour in his portrayals of women and this one has the glamour but a sharp edge as well, with the ominous gigantic red hand and shadows in the backgound seeming to suggest the Red Menace.

Gold Medal 767 (1958)
This version is a rare British paperback edition; I don’t recall seeing any other GM books which originated in the UK, and I’m not that familiar with the company’s publishing history to know how this one fits in the mix. Everything seems to be the same as the cover of the U.S. printing except that it happened to originate from the UK. A curious bit of trivia is that my copy didn’t have a GM number. -- BCS

See also : AbeBooks post on Brides' Books Revisited: Weddings in Literature

Presses de la Cité, Un Mystère, 
No. 249 (1956)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dell 34311 (1983)

Title : If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home
Author : O’Brien, Tim 
Cover art : uncredited  
  [N. Y. : Dell, 1983. No. 34311. Third Laurel-Leaf printing, July 1983. Bold red and black lettering dominate a quirkily surrealistic cover design.

style **
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Monday, October 1, 2012

Vintage V-271

Title : The Romance of Tristan and Iseult
Author : Bédier, Joseph (as retold by) 
Cover art : Joep Nicolas  
  [N. Y. : Vintage, 1965. Translated by Hilaire Belloc and completed by Paul Rosenfeld.

style **
substance ****
collectibility *

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Cobra Kill

Title : The Cobra Kill
Author : Nick Carter
Cover art : photograph  
  [London : Tandem, 1971. Pseud. Manning Lee Stokes “A killmaster spy chiller.” Produced by Lyle Kenyon Engel. Originally published in the U.S., Universal, 1969. ] 

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As discussed elsewhere on this blog, the late 1960s and early 1970s more or less represented the ultimate in kitschy lows for paperback adventure/espionage covers, and I thought the present Nick Carter offering was fairly representative of the ultimate in sleaze. But a glance at the various versions of the same title suggests that the present entry is, if anything, on the mild side in tacky and tasteless. I must confess that the cover tableau of the half-naked, half caste(?) girl rather proudly displaying a skull in a box does get one’s attention.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Title : Potiki
Author : Patricia Grace
Cover art : Ron Hampton  
  [Auckland, NZ; Middlesex, UK ... , Penguin, 1986.] 

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Review by Lisa Hill at ANA LitLovers LitBlog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Erle A706 (1967)

Title : Kill Me in Yoshiwara
Author : Earl Norman
Cover art : Barye Phillips?  
  [Japan : Erle A706, 1967. Pseud. Norman Thompson. Burns Bannion No. 5].

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I must confess that until I came across this minor gem at a thrift store I hadn’t heard of the Earl Norman books. Apparently the hero is a kind of Mike Hammer who operates in exotic locales, most specifically Japan. Anyway, like the Hammer tomes the Norman books have appeared to decidedly mixed critical acclaim. The uncredited sleaze/cheesecake cover is executed in the Barye Phillips style, and at least one source lists Phillips as the artist. The semi-nude girl lying on bed looks back enticingly at our hero. Is she supposed to be Japanese/exotic? She actually seems to have quite Caucasian features. Whatever.
   Review by Tom Johnson at Pulpden.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Gold Medal 402

Title : French for Murder
Author : Bernard Mara
Cover art : Clark Hulings  
  [Greenwich, Conn. : Fawcett Gold Medal, 1954. Pseud. Brian Moore. Great low-keyed but nonetheless intense cover from far too infrequent vintage pb cover artist Clark Hulings.] 

style *** 
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Three Coffins

Title : The Three Coffins
Author : John Dickson Carr
Cover art : Roger Roth  
  [N.Y. : International Polygonics, 1987. "A Gideon Fell mystery." Library of Crime Classics. Cover art : Roger Roth. First publishined in the UK, 1935, Hamish Hamilton, as The Hollow Man. International Polygonics comes through with another glorious retro cover, this one an especially creepy depiction of Dr. Fell.] 

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Macfadden 60-275 (1967)

Title : Pearls Before Swine
Author : Margery Allingham
Cover : uncredited
   [N. Y. : Macfadden, 1967. Second edition. First published, London, William Heinemann, 1945, as Coroner's Pidgin.]

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The Macfadden paperbacks issued in the 1960s seemed to me among the most bland of the late vintage entries. 60-275 is true to form, with more of a Sixties feeling that’s incongruous with the novel’s 1940s London fog bonafides. However, it’s noteworthy as a top drawer entry in the canon of the great Margery Allingham. The quirky lettering and pearl necklace rather in the form of a question mark are pluses.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Executioner 71

Title : Blood Dues

Author : [Don Pendleton]

Cover art : uncredited  
   [N. Y. : Gold Eagle, 1984. Mack Bolan. Executioner 71. Written by Mike Newton]

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   It’s been noted that the early and mid 1970s represents the nadir of espionage and action paperback cover design. Certainly most of the Executioner titles can be included in this dubious pantheon, but I confess I rather like the cover of Blood Dues, mostly because it has such a genuinely pulpy feeling to it, both the setting and execution (no pun intended!). It has that seedy, smoky back room gestalt so beloved by fans of the authentic vintage pb cover art style of the Golden Age.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cain's Wife

Title : Cain’s Wife
Author : O. G. Benson
Cover art : Thomas Sperling
  [N. Y. : Perennial Library, 1985. Paperback. Reissue. First published, as Cain's Woman, March 1960, Dell First Editions.] 
style **
substance ****
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“I almost didn’t go down to the office that day. Not that it would have mattered, I suppose. She would have reached me anyway.” Thus begins Cain’s Wife, the first and only novel by Chicago author and painter O.G. (Ben) Benson [1]. The story elements are familiar – beautiful, mysterious woman, older husband, blackmailers, PI with heart of gold, sleazy bad guys, elegantly sinister bad guys. But Benson handles all with considerable deftness and aplomb, doing an especially nice job of creating a Chandleresque atmosphere in a Midwestern setting. Time has been kind to Cain’s Woman. It was originally released in 1960 to little fanfare but since its reissue by Harper Perennial in 1985 it’s been creeping up in critical esteem and visibility, with phrases like ‘forgotten classic’ and ‘cult favorite’ used to describe its quirky charms. I’ll go one further and put myself out on the proverbial limb and proclaim it the best private detective novel of the post Chandler era. In any case two reviews can be found here and 
Dell A200 (1960)
  [1] Not to be confused with Ben Benson, a late 40s and early 50s mystery author.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Gold Medal k1323 (1963)

Title : Message from Marise
Author : Paul Kruger
Cover art : Stanley Zuckerberg
   [Greenwich, Conn. : Fawcett Gold Medal, 1963. First printing, July 1963. Pseudonym of Roberta Elizabeth Sebenthal.] 
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     Stanley Zuckerberg was among the most accomplished of the James Avati-influenced artists who strove for an emotional-realistic style. But his cover for Message from Marise – a rather late entry into the vintage cover art canon – has a splashy, quasi-expressionistic quality which shows how far the lurid style had evolved by the early 1960s. Nonetheless, the eye-catching design for Gold Medal k3123 represents one of the most unforgettable covers from the twilight era of vintage paperbacks.