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 ****
collectibility **

“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.] 
style ***
substance **
collectibility *

     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.