Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s Day, Everyone!

Love Me Now, by Fan Nichols (Monarch, 1963). Cover illustration by Rafael de Soto. The back-cover can be enjoyed here.

READ MORE:Sweetheart Sleuths for Valentine’s Day,” by Janet Rudolph (Mystery Fanfare).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Adopting Crider’s Baby

Texas author and blogger Bill Crider, probably best recognized for having penned a long-running, lighthearted mystery series starring Sheriff Dan Rhodes (Dead, to Begin With), died yesterday evening at age 76. I didn’t know him well, but I had tremendous respect for his work, his generosity in regards to other writers, and what can only be called his gentlemanly demeanor. Knowing that Crider’s remaining time among us was short (he spent the last year and a half undergoing medical treatments for a virulent variety of cancer), I had recently been thinking of a way to honor his memory once he was gone. I ultimately settled on continuing, in The Rap Sheet, a popular feature from his own blog: “PaperBack.”

Almost every day for the last seven-plus years, Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine posted the front and back covers from a vintage paperback—primarily crime novels, but with science fiction and horror fiction titles thrown in occasionally. I can’t promise to keep up that sort of pace, but I think Bill would appreciate my extending the life of his “PaperBack” postings, even if only on a once- or twice-a-week basis. And I believe Killer Covers readers will enjoy what becomes of this series. Click here to keep up with all the offerings.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Because I Needed a Marlowe Fix …

Terror Is My Trade, by “Stephen Marlowe,” aka Milton Lesser (Gold Medal, 1956)—the seventh novel in his series featuring globe-trotting, Washington, D.C.-based private eye Chester Drum. Illustration by Gerald Powell.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Can We Ever Get Enough of McGinnis?

Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini, by Cynthia Von Buhler (Titan Comics, 2018). This is part of a new 1920s-set mystery thriller series “with a sinister twist!”

Last week, when I decided to celebrate Killer Covers’ ninth birthday by creating a gallery of nine vintage paperback fronts I’d added to my files over the last year, but had not found a reason to post before, it required my culling through hundreds of scans to choose just a few favorites. The rest I held back for (I hope) future use.

Amid that process, I decided to leave out several works by Robert McGinnis, the renowned cover painter who has enjoyed more than his fair share of attention from this blog (including a very recent mention). Only days later did I start to regret my decision, and feel a need to spotlight those façades separately. So what we have here are five superior specimens of McGinnis’ artistry—a new hardcover illustration at the top, followed by four classic paperback scans I was pleased to add to my collection over the last 12 months.

The Young Lovers, by Julian Halevy (Dell, 1960). You can enjoy McGinnis’ original art for this paperback by clicking here.

The Pagans, by Barbara Harrison (Avon, 1970).

The Coach Draws Near, by Mary Savage (Dell, 1972). Savage was the third and final wife of Davis Dresser, who—under the pseudonym Brett Halliday—penned more than 50 novels about Miami private eye Michael Shayne. Savage is also remembered for her 1963 modern witchcraft yarn, A Likeness to Voices.

A Peak in Darien, by Roswell G. Ham Jr. (Avon, 1960). This could have been included in my gallery of suburban yarns.

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Shindig Suitable for Softbacks

Bedeviled, by Raymond Mason (Hillman, 1960).
Cover art by George Ziel.

Today marks a full nine years since I launched Killer Covers as a companion blog to The Rap Sheet. During the last 12 months I added a variety of regular features to the posting lineup here, all designed to increase activity on the page. In addition, I put up several galleries (including one highlighting books with the word “business” in their title and another that showcased fronts with women exposing themselves to men), presented a month-long celebration of American cover artist Harry Bennett, and expanded a few previously popular themed posts (such as this one featuring blondes and another focused on peeping toms). Killer Covers is still a work in progress. I don’t think I have yet found its perfect mix, one that allows me flexibility but that also keeps me attentive to its expansion. Maybe by the blog’s 10th anniversary in January 2019, I shall feel as if things are going as smoothly as possible here, but I haven’t reached that point yet. Nonetheless, this blog is now nearing 750 posts in total, and has already recorded more than 1.25 million pageviews.

By way of commemorating this anniversary, I have put together nine vintage paperback façades. These scans aren’t linked by a common theme. But they have all been added to my computer files over the last year, and I haven’t found a reason to post them before. Furthermore, I am fond of them all. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Love Cult, by Harry Whittington (Lancer, 1962.)
Cover art by James W. Lampp.

Missing! by Michael Avallone (Signet, 1969).
Cover art by Robert Heindel.

The Flying Eyes, by J. Hunter Holly (Monarch, 1962).
Cover art by Jack Schoenherr.

The Love Seekers, by Jay Carr (Beacon Signal, 1963).
Cover artist unidentified.

Operation Super Ms., by Andrew Offutt (Berkley Medallion, 1974). Cover art by Mel Crair.

Six Graves to Munich, by “Mario Cleri,” aka Mario Puzo (Banner, 1967). Cover artist unidentified.

Make My Bed in Hell, by John Sanford (Avon, 1957).
Cover artist unidentified.

Hot to Trot, by John Lahr (Fawcett Crest, 1975).
Cover art by Morgan Kane.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Vote for Your Favorite Fronts

Just a reminder that today begins the final week of The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2017 contest. We have 15 finalists, all of which have slowly been accumulating support from readers. At this point, the top five contenders are: G-Man, by Stephen Hunter; Blackbird, by Michael Fiegel; Follow Me Down, by Sherri Smith; Day In, Day Out, by Héctor Aguilar Camín; and The Fall of Lisa Bellow, by Susan Perabo. But that lineup could well change.

This poll will remain open until midnight on Friday, January 12. Everyone who wishes to participate is given one chance to vote, though at that time you may cast your ballot for as many candidates as you prefer. The results of our survey will, of course, be reported after all of the votes are registered.

If you haven’t already chosen your favorites, please do so now!

FOLLOW-UP: This survey’s top five vote-getters are revealed here.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

To the Nines

Robert McGinnis’ name has come up one or two times in this blog, I know (OK, maybe one or two thousand times), but that’s because even now—approaching his 92nd birthday on February 3—he continues to turn out excellent work. This coming October, for instance, a new painting by McGinnis will be featured on Hard Case Crime’s reissue of Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Count of Nine, shown above.

That book, you might remember, is the 18th original entry in Gardner’s series starring clever but oft-comical Los Angeles private investigators Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. The author saw it reach print initially back in 1958, under his by-then-familiar pseudonym, A.A. Fair. This is how Hard Case describes the plot: “Hired to protect the treasures of a globe-trotting adventurer, Bertha and Donald confront an impossible crime: how could anything be smuggled out of a dinner party when the guests were X-rayed coming and going—least of all a 6-foot-long blowgun? But that’s nothing compared to the crime they face next: an impossible murder …” The publisher goes on to promote its reissue of The Count of Nine as the novel’s “first appearance in bookstores in half a century!”

Hard Case has already brought out paperback editions of three other Cool and Lam yarns over the years: Top of the Heap, The Knife Slipped (apparently intended as the series’ second installment, but not released until 2016), and Turn on the Heat. McGinnis provided the cover image for The Knife Slipped; and now an even more beautiful example of his art will introduce this year’s trade-size edition of The Count of Nine. But that’s nine months away yet! In the meantime, let’s revisit four earlier fronts for Gardner’s tale.

Click on any of the images below to open an enlargement.

Clockwise from upper left: Pocket Books edition from 1962, artist unknown; Pocket edition from 1969, with cover art by Mitchell Hooks; Heinemann UK edition, 1959, with art by Stein; and Pocket edition from 1966, with an illustration by Harry Bennett.

Incidentally, you can read a Count of Nine excerpt here.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Bennett’s Beauties: Frank Kane

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

During the early 1960s, Harry Bennett created a unified series of cover illustrations for several of Frank Kane’s novels featuring New York City private eye Johnny Liddell. I’m the proud owner of a few of these editions, though I haven’t read them all yet.

Bennett’s Beauties: “The Double Take”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

The Double Take, by Roy Huggins (Pocket, 1959).

Bennett’s Beauties: “An Ear for Murder”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

An Ear for Murder, by “Michael Brett,” aka Miles Barton Tripp (Pocket, 1967). This is the second installment in a 10-book series he penned about New York City gumshoe Pete McGrath. It follows 1966’s Kill Him Quickly, It’s Raining.

Bennett’s Beauties: “Snatch an Eye”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

Snatch an Eye, by Henry Kane (Permabooks, 1964). This is an entry in Kane’s long-running series starring Peter Chambers, a Manhattan-based “private richard” (yes, Kane persisted in using that clumsy reference as a substitute for “private dick”).

Bennett’s Beauties: “Murder on My Street”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

Murder on My Street, by Edwin Lanham (Pocket, 1960).

Today will conclude Killer Covers’ month-long tribute to Connecticut artist and illustrator Harry Bennett (1919-2012). However, this is not the end of my interest in his abundant talents. In addition to the Bennett book fronts I plan to roll out in several posts over the approaching hours, I have an interview dealing with his life, family, and long career that I hope to present soon on this page; and my computer files are bursting with scans of his paperback covers that I didn’t feature over the last 31 days. So you’ll be hearing more about Bennett here in the months and years ahead.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bennett’s Beauties: Parker Times Two

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

The Man with the Getaway Face, by “Richard Stark,” aka Donald E. Westlake (Pocket, 1964), the second installment in a series featuring a career criminal known only as Parker. The Jugger (Pocket, 1965) is the sixth book in that same series.

Bennett’s Beauties: “You’ll Like My Mother”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

You’ll Like My Mother, by Naomi A. Hintze (Fawcett Crest, 1969), made into a 1972 film of the same name starring Patty Duke.

Bennett’s Beauties: Chester Himes

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

Harry Bennett painted covers for Dell Books editions of five of Chester Himes’ novels featuring Harlem cops “Coffin” Ed Johnson and “Grave Digger” Jones. All were published in the mid-1960s. “In contrast to [Bennett’s] lushly rendered romance covers, or more conventional crime novel art,” observes the blog Pulp International, “these have an almost spontaneous quality. Publisher input usually has quite a bit to do with it, but we suspect Bennett was also influenced by Himes’ writing and the Harlem setting, and as a result produced this jazzy art for a jazzy novelist. Excellent stuff.”

Bennett’s Beauties: “The Merchant of Murder”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

The Merchant of Murder, by “Spencer Dean,” aka Prentice Winchell (Pocket, 1960). This is the sixth entry in his series starring Don Cadee, the chief of security at Amblett’s, a high-end department store located on Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Bennett’s Beauties: “Shake Him Till He Rattles”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

Shake Him Till He Rattles, by Malcolm Braly (Gold Medal, 1963). The late author Ed Gorman called this “the best novel I’ve ever read about the intersection of the Beats and criminals in the San Francisco heyday of Neal Cassidy, Jack Kerouac, etc. … It is a very precisely written and observed novel about how rich women slummed in the Beat bars of the time and how a cop persecuted the novel’s protagonist. It is grim, bleak, and one of the best novels Gold Medal ever published.”

Bennett’s Beauties: “The Watchman”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

The Watchman, by Davis Grubb (Crest, 1962).

Bennett’s Beauties: “The Episode at Toledo”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

The Episode at Toledo, by “Ann Bridge,” aka Mary Ann Dolling Sanders (Berkley, 1967)—the sixth entry in her series starring part-time British Intelligence agent Julia Probyn.

Bennett’s Beauties: Happy New Year
with “The Real Gone Goose”

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

The Real Gone Goose, by “George Bagby,” aka Aaron Marc Stein (Permabooks, 1960).

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Bennett’s Beauties: Hi, Profiles

Part of a month-long celebration of Harry Bennett’s artistic skills.

The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler (Pocket, 1964); and
The Last Love, by Thomas B. Costain (Pocket, 1964).