Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It’s Always Good to Have a Plan


Cover design by Will Staehle.


While contemplating the imminent release, in late July, of Killing Is My Business (Tor), Adam Christopher’s second novel in his speculative-fiction/crime-fiction series starring steely eyed, tough-talking robot private investigator Raymond Electromatic, I got to thinking about how many other imaginative yarns based in the realm of crime and corruption have included the word “business” in their titles. At least a good handful, it seems.

Click on the images below to open enlargements.


(Left to right) Murder Is My Business, by Brett Halliday (Dell, 1963); and Murder Is My Business (Hard Case Crime, 2010). Both editions feature cover art by Robert McGinnis.



No Business for a Lady, by James L. Rubel (Gold Medal, 1965); and No Business for a Lady (Gold Medal, 1950).



Bullets Are My Business, by John B. West (Signet, 1960)—the fourth book featuring Manhattan boxer-turned-private eye Aloysius Algernon “Rocky” Steele—with a cover illustration by Barye Phillips; and Strictly Business, by Eunice Brandon (Midwood, 1965), with cover art by Paul Rader.



Trouble Is My Business, by Raymond Chandler (Pocket, 1965), with a front likely painted by Harry Bennett; and Trouble Is My Business (Pocket, 1958), featuring cover art by Robert Schulz.



My Business Is Murder, by Henry Kane (Avon, 1957), with cover art by Robert Maguire; and My Business Is Murder (Avon, 1954).



The Venom Business, by Michael Crichton (Hard Case Crime, 2013), featuring a captivating illustration by Gregory Manchess; and Violence Is My Business, by Stephen Marlowe (Gold Medal, 1958), with cover artwork by Barye Phillips.


Bad for Business, by Rex Stout (Century, 1945); and “Pleasure Girls Are Big Business!” (True Cases of Women in Crime, January 1951), with a façade painting by Howell Dodd.

Dead of Summer

Today is the first full day of summer 2017—a perfect time to revisit Killer Covers’ extensive selection of vintage crime-fiction fronts linked to this season. Artists represented include Barye Phillips, Robert Bonfils, Robert McGinnis, Paul Rader, Mitchell Hooks, Charles Copeland, J. Oval, George Ziel, Harry Barton, and Charles Binger.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Father’s Day Links Round-up

• The fine Web site Atlas Obscura showcases a variety of pulp-era crime-fiction works featured at the Wolfsonian-FIU museum in Miami Beach, Florida, as part of an exhibition titled In the Shadows: American Pulp Cover Art. The display is scheduled to remain on view at the museum through Sunday, July 9.

• Editors at Lit Hub have gathered together some of their favorite risqué book covers from literary fiction. “[W]hile racy covers are expected for works of erotica,” they explain in an introduction, “literary covers like to create a little shock and awe sometimes too—and when they do, they also tend to be sneakily suggestive, in ways that compel us to keep looking, whether with their titles or their—ahem—representative iconography.”

• Which brings us to this eye-catching collection, in Pulp International, of artist Harry Barton’s numerous paperback book fronts showing men kissing women’s necks.

• You’re likely familiar with the dramatic final scene, from Planet of the Apes (1968), in which an astronaut played by Charlton Heston, having landed on earth in the distant future, discovers the destroyed Statue of Liberty. But did you know that hasn’t been the only time writers and artists have imagined Lady Liberty’s ruin?

• Backchannel examines the power of typography, which it says “can signify dangerous ideas, normalize dictatorships, and sever broken nations. In some cases it may be a matter of life and death. And it can do this as powerfully as the words it depicts.”

• And The Guardian observes that while “the digital revolution was expected to kill traditional publishing,” things haven’t quite turned out that way. Print books, it declares, are now “more beautifully designed and lovingly cherished” than ever.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

McGinnis Lands on the Runway

Brett Halliday’s Never Kill a Client and Murder and the Married Virgin (both from Dell, 1963); artwork by Robert McGinnis.

From Vogue magazine:
Miuccia Prada is known for pulling together disparate references, and her Fall 2017 collection did not disappoint on that front. Among the looks on her runway in Milan tonight were a series of prints pulled from paperback novels of the ’60s, drawn by renowned illustrator Robert E. McGinnis. Looks 30 to 34 featured McGinnis’s depictions of bombshells in various states of alluring undress, each featured on the covers of mid-century books by Brett Halliday (and one by Erle Stanley Gardner) with salacious titles like Murder and the Married Virgin and Never Kill a Client. Titillating! McGinnis’s artwork was also featured in Prada’s set this season, with some of his famous works collaged in the Via Fogazzaro show space alongside modern photography and maps.
(Hat tip to Art Scott.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Because I Needed a McBain Fix …


Lady, Lady, I Did It! By Ed McBain (Permabooks, 1962).
Illustration by Robert McGinnis.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Duped: “Situation—Grave”

The latest installment in Killer Covers’ “haven’t we seen this front someplace before?” series. Previous entries are here.



Spanish painter Joan Beltrán Bofill (1939-2009) isn’t exactly a household name, at least on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. Yet he left behind a handsome and wide-ranging wealth of canvases—plus a quantity of attention-grabbing paperback fronts that aren’t always linked to his portfolio. According to a Web site called Tutt’Art,
[He] was born in Barcelona. Joan attended the prestigious Casa Lonja, where several artists from the Catalan School, including Picasso, had also studied. It was here that Joan studied drawing, painting, composition, and theory of color. Joan also studied at the Sant Jordi Fine Arts School in Barcelona.

Considered by many to be the foremost Spanish contemporary Impressionist of today, Beltrán Bofill paintings evoke memories and feelings of previous centuries. In Bofill’s sensuous, free brushwork and lively colors, as well as his choice of subjects, one is reminded of Renoir, Monet, and Munch. But, although the influences of many artists are brought to mind, Bofill succeeds in creating a very distinctive style and beauty of his own. His work cascades with light, color, and rhythm of movement, which results in creating in the eye of the beholder a sense of beauty and tranquility. Dating back to 1972, Joan Beltrán Bofill has had one-man exhibitions in Palma, Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Monaco, Paris, New York, Chicago, Palm Beach, and Tokyo.
Tutt’Art offers various examples of his Impressionist efforts, and they’re well worth scrutinizing. However, it’s the artistic mastery Bofill brought to his work on book fronts for European publishers during the second half of the 20th century—usually under the pseudonym Noiquet (or Portada Noiquet)—that interests us here. In addition to creating jackets for Enid Blyton children’s stories and Zane Grey Westerns, Bofill fashioned striking covers for novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, Agatha Christie, Earl Derr Biggers, and the astonishingly productive Carter Brown (aka Alan Geoffrey Yates).

Bofill/Noiquet was also responsible for the captivating paperback façade embedded at the top of this post, featuring a young brunette in her underwear, kneeling on what appears to be a bed. It comes from UK publisher Roberts & Vinter’s 1962 edition of Situation—Grave. As I understand it, that thriller was first released in 1949 as Sweetheart, Here’s Your Grave, but was retitled when another British house, Alexander Moring, brought out its own softcover edition in 1958. It was one in a plethora of popular works penned by Stephen Daniel Frances, once acclaimed—under the pseudonym Hank Janson—as “England’s best-selling mystery writer.”

I’ve mentioned Frances several times in this blog. That South London-born clerk turned journalist turned author concocted a succession of tough-guy tales—rich in American pulp-fiction vernacular, though Frances himself reportedly never visited the States—starring a Chicago-based newspaperman-cum-detective also named Hank Janson. (As legend has it, Frances selected the forename Hank because it rhymed with Yank.) The earliest of those quickly churned-out crime yarns was When Dames Get Tough, which debuted in 1946. New entries continued to appear until the 1970s, though by then their crafting had been handed over to lesser fictionists, and “the series had become near pornographic in content,” as Lee Server remarks in his Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers.

The books often carried memorable titles, among them Slay-Ride for Cutie (1949), Hotsy You’ll Be Chilled (1951), Blonde on the Spot (1949), Broads Don't Scare Easy (1951), Skirts Bring Me Sorrow (1952), Sugar and Vice (1958), and Hell’s Belles (1961). And a number of them boasted fairly revealing artwork by Reginald Heade, which—combined with the stories’ violence and sexual suggestiveness (there were frequent mentions of “clinging sheer stockings and ripped ‘knickers’”)—eventually landed the Janson books afoul of British obscenity laws, though by then Frances had decamped with his profits for a life of leisure in Spain. (He died of emphysema in 1989.)

During the middle of the last century, “Hank Janson’s sexy crime thrillers were the hottest thing around,” recalls Colin Dunne in a 2014 piece for the Daily Mail. “The American writers Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett had elevated the hard-boiled ’tec story into something like poetry, but Hank turned up the violence and the sex and took it back downmarket. Right down.” British crime writer John Harvey, creator of the Charlie Resnick series and a Hank Janson fan in his youth, writes in his introduction to the recent double release of two early novels, Amphetamines and Pearls & The Geranium Kiss, that “The first hard-boiled crime novels I read were written by an Englishman pretending to be American: Stephen Daniel Frances, using the pseudonym Hank Janson, which was also the name of his hero. With titles like Smart Girls Don’t Talk and Sweetheart, Here’s Your Grave, the Janson books, dolled up in suitably tantalizing covers, made their way, hand to hand, around the school playground, falling open at any passage that, to our young minds, seemed sexy and daring. This was a Catholic boys’ grammar school after all, and any reference to parts of the body below the waist, other than foot or knee, was thought to merit, if not excommunication, at least three Our Fathers and a dozen Hail Marys.”

Bofill/Noiquet contributed two cover illustrations that I know of to the Hank Janson line, both of them commissioned by Roberts & Vinter: one for the 1963 edition of Second String (shown above, on the right), and the other for Situation—Grave. I don’t find any full-length reviews of the latter novel online, but a Web page devoted to Janson first editions mentions that its plot is “set in Hollywood—the action switching from studio to marijuana den, and with intimations of the making of a snuff movie.” Classic lurid storytelling.

Apparently, I’m not the only person to have been impressed by Bofill/Noiquet’s Situation—Grave front, with its elegant brushstroke work in gouache. A version of his illustration later graced an issue of a Finnish, digest-style “cheapo paperback series called Max Strong,” named after a fictional Australian detective whose exploits—“excitement of a different kind”—were composed, in large part, by editor-author Frank Sydney Greenop (aka Robert Dudgeon) and designed to capture a readership on the scale of Carter Brown’s. In his write-up on this publication, Finnish blogger Juri Nummelin headlines it as having been distributed in 1954, though the wrapper date says 1965. He goes on to explain that the cover story, Murhat ovat epämiellyttäviä (translated as Murder’s So Unpleasant) was the work of “Frank Struan”—real name Graham Fisher—who was “born in 1920 … [and] used the Frank Struan pseudonym in a series of stories that were published in the legendary British magazine called Tit-Bits in the early ’50s.” As to the tale’s plot, Nummelin calls it “a mock-American hard-boiled crime novel with a private-eye hero called Johnny July.”
In this outing, Johnny July is hired to guard a wealthy business man, but he dies—in a closed room!—before July gets a chance to make out just from whom the man’s supposed to be guarded ... There are two beautiful women involved in the case, the young bride of the deceased and her sister who seems to be after the man’s inheritance. Or some such. … It's an one-hour entertainment, nothing more. There are notable gaps in the plot and Johnny July isn’t a very interesting character, but I didn’t really mind, as the stuff went on with some speed. There are many references to Chandler. The city of the story is Bay City, Chandler’s fictional city, and Johnny July is mugged and taken to a mental institute to be held there just like [Philip] Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely.
You’ll note I wrote that a “version” of Bofill/Noiquet’s art introduced Murder’s So Unpleasant. That’s because, if you look closely at the book front on the left, you’ll realize that the image has been flipped from the way it appeared on Situation—Grave, turning Noiquet’s signature at the bottom of the picture backwards. And the scantily clad brunette is now holding a gun, whereas that same hand—formerly her right, now her left—had previously been clutching her left bicep. I have no idea whether Bofill was commissioned to make this modification to his painting, but I’d guess it was executed by somebody else. It’s well done; however, 20th-century publishers of “cheapo paperback series” rarely coughed up the dough demanded by famous artists to alter their compositions for second use.

Joan Beltrán Bofill wasn’t as prolific a book-cover painter as some of his contemporaries (he probably reserved his energy for his Impressionist masterpieces). However, he created a number of excellent specimens of the breed. Below are eight more of my favorites. Click on the images for enlargements.








Monday, April 24, 2017

Because I Needed a Gardner Fix …


The Case of the Hesitant Hostess, by Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket, 1959). Illustration by Charles Binger.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Finds: “The Halfbreed”

Another in our growing line of vintage book covers we love.


The Halfbreed, by Al James (Midwood, 1961).
Illustration by Robert Maguire.


When I first saw this paperback front, I presumed that—based on the young woman’s dark hair and braids, and the vibrantly hued blanket draped across her hip—she must be this story’s titular “halfbreed.” But I was wrong, as evidenced by the back-jacket copy:
Sin—Southern Style!

They entered the water together, wading in until the warm surf swirled around their knees. Wanda raised her face to his, her gentle features contorted with passion.

Frank kissed the open mouth and felt her pleasure vibrate through his body. His hand slid around her waist and she trembled as he moved the palm, slowly, softly. She thought of her husband, Ben, her worn-out, rich old man, and suddenly it didn’t matter that he could give her nothing but money. Frank, her handsome halfbreed, was here now, and he was all man!!!

She broke the kiss. “We were going swimming,” she reminded. Her panting was audible.

“We are swimming,” Frank answered.

“I don’t want to swim, anyhow,” she moaned, twisting in his arms. “You know what I want.”

“Yes, I know,” Frank said, and he leaned her downward, down toward the sand …

LOVE! CARNAL! CONSUMING!

Turning the Florida Everglades into a Jungle of Sensuality!!!
Yuck! (Or, more appropriately in this case, Yuck!!!) That’s terrible writing, even for publisher Midwood Books, almost too dreadful to retype here. And not all that illuminating. Since I don’t own a copy of The Halfbreed, I can only assume that the mixed-blood Florida male who makes young Wanda’s blood race must be part Native American (rather than half-black, as was the case with other sleaze paperbacks that intended to shock mid-20th-century Americans). The South has a long history of interracial sexual consorting—not always acknowledged—and in the humid environs of the Sunshine State, those temptations might only be heightened.

Or at least that’s what “Al James” would have you believe. As I mentioned in a post from two years ago, which focused on a cover boasting no fewer curvaceous charms than this one, James was one of several pseudonyms behind which labored Albert James Hjertstedt, the son of seemingly inexhaustible fictionist Gunnar Hjerstedt, better known under the byline “Day Keene” (To Kiss or Kill, Dead in Bed, Too Hot to Hold, etc.). The younger Hjertstedt never surpassed his father in terms of literary output, but as Al James he racked up plenty of credits in crime-fiction periodicals (everything from Trapped Detective Story Magazine and Sure-Fire Detective Stories to the higher-prestige Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Manhunt), and copies of his novels—including Child Bride (1961), The Lover (1961), and The Shameful Breed (1973)—can still be unearthed from the dustier corners of well-stocked used bookstores.

I, myself, would love to find a copy of The Halfbreed in good condition, though I’d be buying it for the Robert Maguire cover alone. The chances of my actually reading it? Unlikely!!!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Because I Needed a Christie Fix …


The Mystery of the Blue Train, by Agatha Christie (Pocket, 1963).
Illustration by Harry Bennett.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Because I Needed a Chandler Fix …



The Simple Art of Murder, by Raymond Chandler (Pocket, 1964).
Illustration by Jack Thurston.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sites for Sore Eyes

• When Michael Callahan remarks, in Vanity Fair, that “Much of the public doesn’t know Robert McGinnis,” he is certainly not talking about yours truly. In Killer Covers I’ve frequently highlighted the work of that now 91-year-old Connecticut book and magazine artist, including in a series of posts last year timed to McGinnis’ 90th birthday. In addition, I wrote about his more than half-century-long career for the Kirkus Reviews Web site, and followed that piece up with a longer one in The Rap Sheet. It’s actually Callahan who seems a bit late in showcasing McGinnis and his talents. Nonetheless, his new Vanity Fair feature is welcome, recapping the painter’s years spent building his reputation, noting the artist’s “pathological modesty,” and winning some rare face time with the man who gave us “the McGinnis Woman.” Give the piece a read.

• Although I’ve never watched the 1978 grindhouse flick Mardi Gras Massacre—which Every ’70s Movie blogger Peter Hanson describes as “a sexed-up horror picture with so much nasty gore that it received an X-rating during its original release”—I have periodically come across the promotional poster displayed on the right. Inspired by Hanson’s brutal recent takedown of the movie (“Mardi Gras Massacre offers crappy filmmaking, exploitive nude scenes, and rotten acting”), I scouted the Web in search of an artist’s credit for this stunning work, only to come across it here on Southern California bookseller and books historian Lynn Monroe’s site. It seems responsibility for that poster image belongs to Charles Copeland (1924-1979), a prolific magazine and book-cover illustrator during the 20th century about whom I have written, well, not nearly enough on this page.

• During the mid-20th century, it seems that Australia-based Horowitz Publications was in the “habit of using celebrities on its Carter Brown paperback covers.” Pulp International has slowly but quite surely been racking up a collection of those, including this appearance by U.S. actress Mamie Van Doren on Strictly for Felony (1956) and this showing by Lili St. Cyr on Homicide Harem (1965), along with sightings of Elke Sommer, Joan Collins, and Senta Berger.

• “A lusty novel about Florida crackers”?

• Illustration Press is readying the release, in July, of The Life and Art of Bernie Fuchs, by David Apatoff, a 240-page, full-color book containing more than 300 illustrations, all devoted to the life and artistic skills of Bernie Fuchs (1932-2009). Selections of his advertising and magazine work are featured, along with his portraiture. (He did a variety of TV Guide covers.) You can page through a low-resolution version of the book here.

• Back in 2008, Penguin UK released fresh editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy novels, all with beautiful covers by Michael Gillette. Since then, Gillette has also created new fronts for German publisher Cross Cult of John Gardner’s 14 original Bond continuation tales. A number of those can be enjoyed here, with the latest—for Gardner’s 1991 novel, The Man from Barbarossashown here.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Bloch Party


The Will to Kill (Ace, 1954). Cover art by Rafael de Soto.


Today marks 100 years since the birth, on April 5, 1917, of Robert Bloch, the American novelist and inveterate punster remembered for penning The Scarf (1947), The Will to Kill (1954), Psycho (1959), Star Stalker (1968), and further works of crime, suspense, and science fiction. To commemorate this occasion, bloggers across the Web have been paying tribute all week to his more than half-century-long career. Todd Mason offers his own and other fine retrospectives on Bloch’s literary efforts, with additional salutes coming from Jerry House, James Reasoner, Patti Abbott, and Bill Crider (here and here). You have your work cut out for you, if you hope to read this wide range of articles, so you’d better get started right away.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tow-Headed Teases and Troublemakers


The Black-Eyed Blonde, 1944. Illustration by Reginald Heade.

My recent post on this page about the 1963 paperback edition of Atomic Blonde, by Monte Steele, reminded me that I have long thought to update a piece I put together back in 2010, focusing on assorted book fronts featuring blondes—particularly of the more nefarious female sort. When I originally assembled that gallery, I had 38 covers in my files to showcase, but since then, I have come across many more, painted by such familiar talents as Robert Bonfils, Ernest Chiriacka (aka Darcy), Robert Maguire, Denis McLoughlin, Mort Engel, Reginald Heade, Barye Phillips, Victor Kalin, Robert Stanley, Paul Rader, Robert K. Abbett, and Rudy Nappi.

Over the last few years, I’ve gone back to enlarge this blog’s collections of “kiss covers” and “leggy covers,” as well as those highlighting summer, suburban sin, and nymphs. It’s been a real treat to revisit themes from Killer Covers’ past, and to bring the formatting of older posts into accordance with my present preferences. Today, I am rolling out a much-expanded selection of books that include the word “blonde” in their titles. From the 38 such façades I called attention to in 2010, I have now boosted the offerings to 90 works, all of which you can enjoy by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bodies, Bombshells, and Berlin



When I learned recently that lovely South African actress Charlize Theron would be starring in a movie titled Atomic Blonde, I was, well, more than a bit perplexed. After all, I associated that playful title with the notably racy 1963 paperback shown above, credited to author Monte Steele (which may or may not have been a pseudonym). As Michael Hemmingson explains in his blog, Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books, Steele’s yarn—which carries cover art by Robert Bonfils—focuses around a “tongue-in-cheek tough guy, murder, and lots of sex.” He goes on to offer this plot brief:
The narrator of Atomic Blonde is Johnny Stone, an insurance fraud investigator in Desert City, Nevada, who happens upon a platinum blonde bombshell with a flat tire and a pink Caddy. He offers to help fix the flat but she keeps telling him no; but, being the ladies’ man and gentleman he is, with the possibility of getting some blonde pussy, Johnny doesn’t listen to her—and when he opens her trunk to get the jack, he finds the … dead body of a man and a diamond head rattlesnake.

The blonde takes off in his car.

Then two thugs try to kill him—they keep trying to kill him throughout the book, which takes place in 48 hours.

In that 48 hours, Johnny has sex with half a dozen women, from maids to whores to the blonde and his own girlfriend, Carol, who has no idea what a pussyhound he is—or does she? She does get him to marry her in the end.
As you might have surmised by this point, Steele’s “mindless entertainment” of a novel was not the inspiration for Theron’s Atomic Blonde. Instead, the screenplay was inspired by a 2012 graphic novel, The Coldest City, by Antony Johnston. Wikipedia says “the film takes place in Berlin, 1989, on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the shifting of superpower alliances. Lorraine Broughton [Theron], a top-level spy for MI6, is dispatched to Berlin to take down a ruthless espionage ring that has just killed an undercover agent for reasons unknown. She is ordered to cooperate with Berlin station chief David Percival [James McAvoy], and the two form an uneasy alliance, unleashing their full arsenal of skills in pursuing a threat that jeopardizes the West’s entire intelligence operation.”

This action-oriented spy picture also stars John Goodman, Toby Jones, and Sofia Boutella. It’s set for a July 28 U.S. release. (You can watch a trailer here.) The only things it may have in common with Steele’s 54-year-old softcover tale are what Hemmingson defines as “prolonged sex scenes and moments of hard-boiled violence”—two elements that are much in demand by today’s film-goers.

READ MORE:The Coldest City Warms Up to Atomic Blonde, and Charlize Keeps Spying,” by Matthew Bradford (Double O Section).

Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Finds: “Be Still My Love”

Another in our growing line of vintage book covers we love.


Be Still, My Love, by June Truesdell (Dodd, Mead, 1947).
Illustration by Denis McLoughlin.


What a brilliantly evocative dust jacket this is, with its vintage sedan stopped at night along a sheer coastline, the beams from its headlights leaping far beyond the land’s end and reflected in the water. This could have been the poster artwork promoting any number of mid-20th-century noir films. Indeed, author June Truesdell’s suspense yarn became the basis for a 1949 Paramount motion picture retitled The Accused, which Variety said offered “high grade melodrama,” and starred Loretta Young, Robert Cummings, Wendell Corey, and Sam Jaffe. First, however, Be Still, My Love appeared in print in 1947, one of at least three crime novels attributed to Truesdell (1918-1996), the others being The Morgue the Merrier (1945) and Burden of Proof (1951).

In his excellent blog, Reading California, retired historian Don Napoli opines that Be Still, My Love “manages to be bad and fascinating at the same time.” Here’s his summation of Truesdell’s plot:
Wilma Tuttle, thirty-year-old psychology professor at a Los Angeles college, lives in terror of the real world. Small, frugal and constrained, she’s experienced none of the joys of everyday life. One day an arrogant and maliciously flirtatious student, Frank Parry, asks her out to dinner. They drive up the coast, where eventually Frank tries to rape Wilma. She kills him then tries to make the death look like an accident. Back home she soon must lie to Frank’s wannabe girlfriend, Connie Bradlet, who wonders why he’s broken a date. Meanwhile, a police investigation is underway. Tad Gowan, head of the LAPD homicide division, tricks the coroner’s jury into declaring the death an accident, hoping to put the killer off guard. Helping him build a case for murder is Warren Ford, tall and ruggedly handsome lawyer for the Parry family. When they ask Wilma, who’s teaching criminal psych that semester, to join them, she sees a chance to solidify her deception.
One brief online review of Hollywood’s adaptation of this tale makes clearer the inspiration for the dramatic cover illustration shown above: “When Perry* tries to rape Tuttle, she beats him to death with a tire iron. She covers up her crime by making it seem as though Perry was killed while diving into the sea from a precipitous cliff.” Unfortunately for the naïve Miss Tuttle, in the end her conscience—as well as her “burgeoning romance” with attorney Ford—undermine her desperate efforts to escape a murder conviction.

If the artistic style of this book front appears familiar, it’s likely because the painting was done by Denis McLoughlin (1918-2002), one of the most prolific and now revered British illustrators of the 20th century. David Ashford, who put together a handsome 2012 volume called The Art of Denis McLoughlin (Book Palace), declared that “In the history of British Illustration there is no one who can be reasonably compared to him.” McLoughlin’s contributions to comic books, pulp magazines, and especially hard-boiled crime novels have won him a worldwide following, though his name is rather less familiar than the art he left behind.

Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, and asthmatic as a child, McLoughlin won a scholarship to a local art school at age 14. Yet soon afterward, he took a job drawing for a Manchester-based mail-order company. In 1940, near the start of World War II, McLoughlin was called up to military service as a gunner with the Royal Artillery Depot at Woolwich (near London). “However,” explains this informative Web biography, “because of his safe posting and his skills with a brush, he soon found himself painting murals on canteen walls, and making a bob or two by sketching officers’ portraits. More importantly, his billet also gave him an unwarranted freedom to go up to London and show his artwork to various publishers.” After first wielding his paints and pens on behalf of publisher Wells Gardner, Darton & Company, in the mid-1940s McLoughlin made the commercial contact that would eventually bring him renown, with UK publisher T.V. Boardman Ltd. (aka Boardman Books). It was for Boardman that he developed three-color rotogravure comic series starring private investigator Roy Carson and science-fiction hero Swift Morgan, plus a best-selling succession of Buffalo Bill Annuals that drew on McLoughlin’s great interest in the American West. For the same house, he also became a fast but inventive painter of novel fronts.

The Guardian’s 2002 obituary of this artist notes that “During 20 years with T.V. Boardman, then the fifth largest British publisher, McLoughlin produced 700 dust jackets, scores of paperback and magazine covers, strips and illustrations … It was McLoughlin who designed the pipe-smoking, deerstalker-wearing Bloodhound emblem”—shown on the left—“that graced the Boardman Bloodhound Mystery series, and a total of some 600 crime novels alone, most of them featuring his distinctive, lower-case signature.”

That same obit says that McLoughlin’s early books “featured fully air-brushed art (around 1957, the color was reduced to save money) … Later books were pen and ink drawings, another cost-cutting decision, but McLoughlin was able to get the maximum potential from each medium. Over the years, his work ranged from fully painted action illustrations to minimalist designs. He was not frightened to experiment with layouts, incorporate photographs, or mix realism and metaphor. With his brother Colin, he often acted out scenes for reference photographs, and both starred in more than one cover.”

There are so many McLoughlin dust jackets from which to choose, it would take a book-length study such as David Ashford’s to do his portfolio justice. But I can at least offer here a few other examples of his talent—books by authors such as Henry Kane, Thomas B. Dewey,  Richard Deming, Ed McBain, and yes, one other by June Truesdell.


























(Enjoy more of McLoughlin’s artistry here, here, and here.)

Wikipedia’s McLoughlin page points out that the artist’s career “spanned eight decades” but concluded sadly:
Like many others who devoted their life to commercial art in the first half of the 20th century, Denis McLoughlin was never paid a great deal for his work. Many pieces of his artwork, the Boardman book covers in particular, which Denis had been promised would be returned to him, were either lost or ended up in private collections. While he made a living, Denis never accumulated much money. Although he had a pension from the British government, he was forced to augment his income by working long past retirement age. He once commented that he never particularly liked illustrating military topics and yet that is what he found himself doing for the last 20 years of his life. Perhaps, had he been given cowboy stories to illustrate, he might have been happier.
According to this piece in Nick Jones’ blog, Existential Ennui, Denis McLoughlin committed suicide at age 84, “shooting himself … with ‘the only non-replica gun that he possessed and for which he had only the one bullet’ … because he was ‘worried about the loss of feeling in his right arm and feared that he wouldn't be able to draw again.”

* There seems to have been a change in the spelling of student Frank Parry’s last name. The novel apparently gives it as Parry with an “a,” while reviews of the movie spell it “Perry.” The things Hollywood does—go figure.