Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #12

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Dangerous Dames, selected by Mike Shayne (Dell, 1965).
Illustration by Robert McGinnis.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #11

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Dames Play Dumb, by Bart Barnato (Edwin Self & Company, circa 1951). Illustrator unknown. According to the Ash Rare Books site, Dames Play Dumb—in which a character named Nicky Folan “is released from jail looking for vengeance”—was “an early Bart Banarto title, here using the variant Barnato spelling.” Banarto was an Edwin Self house-name, but “most of the Banarto titles appear to have been written by Albert Edward Garrett (1917-1968).” (Hat tip to Art Scott.)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #10

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

The Dame’s the Game, by “Al Fray,” aka Ralph Salaway (Popular Library, 1960). Illustration by Harry Schaare.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #9

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Dame in My Bed, by Michael Storme (Archer, 1950; Kaywin, 1951). Illustration by Reginald Heade.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #8

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Just Like a Dame, by Walter Standish (Brown Watson UK, 1948).
Illustration by J. Pollack (who also created this cover).

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #7

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Dames Don’t Care, by Peter Cheyney (Pan, 1960).
Illustration by Sam “Peff” Peffer.

READ MORE:Cheyney’s Dark Times,” by Michael Keyton
(The Rap Sheet).

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #6

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Dames, Danger, Death, edited by Leo Margulies (Pyramid, 1960).
Illustration by Harry Schaare.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #5

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Exit for a Dame, by Richard Ellington (Pocket, 1953).
Illustration by Clyde Ross.

READ MORE:Two-fer Tuesday: Take That, Sucker!” by J. Kingston Pierce (Killer Covers).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #4

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

A Dame Called Murder, by “Robert O. Saber,” aka Milton K. Ozaki (Graphic Mystery, 1955). Illustration by Walter Popp.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #3

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

The Sixpenny Dame, by Eaton K. Goldthwaite (Pennant, 1954).
Illustrator unknown.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #2

Celebrating this festive season with brassy bombshells.

Hot Dames on Cold Slabs, by Michael Storme (Leisure Library, 1952). Illustration by Reginald Heade.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Twelve Dames of Christmas, #1

Foolish me. Not being a religious person, I have always figured that the 12 days of Christmas sung about in that old English carol (“On the First day of Christmas my true love sent to me/a partridge in a pear tree”) were those leading up to December 25. It seemed logical that the biggest present (12 drummers drumming) should be received on the actual holiday. Au contraire. According to Wikipedia:
The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season to celebrate the nativity of Jesus. In most Western Church traditions Christmas Day is the First Day of Christmas and the Twelve Days are 25 December–5 January. For many Christian denominations, such as the Anglican Communion and Lutheran Church, the Twelve Days period is the same as Christmastide; for others, such as the Catholic Church, Christmastide lasts a little longer; the Twelve Days are different from the Octave of Christmas, which is the eight-day period from Christmas Day until 1 January. In Anglicanism, the term “Twelve Days of Christmas” is used liturgically in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the US, having its own invitatory antiphon in the Book of Common Prayer for Matins.
OK, got all that? Regardless, the 12 days of Christmas idea got into my head as I was thinking about how to celebrate this festive occasion in Killer Covers, and it combined with something my clever niece, Amie-June, has said about the vintage crime-fiction fronts I feature on this page—how the women shown in them are so often “dames.” No, not “dames” in the noble sense of that word, but “dames” in the brassy, confident, take-no-shit-and-you’d-better-like-it sense; in the sense that the women actress Mae West so often played on the silver screen were “dames,” full of “bawdy double entendres, and breezy sexual independence.”

And I got to thinking about how often the word “dame” appears in the titles of those classic paperbacks I’ve come to treasure over the years. Could I find enough such books to fill a tribute to the dozen days of Twelvetide? As it turns out, there are many more than 12 available, especially if you include covers with “dame” in their teaser lines. So beginning today and running through January 5, Killer Covers is celebrating “The Twelve Dames of Christmas.”

We start off here with a front of particular interest. Atop this post you will see the façade from the 1954 Gold Medal release Death Is a Lovely Dame, written by “Matthew Blood,” aka Davis Dresser, author of the Mike Shayne private-eye series. The cover artwork—showing a young brunette reclined on a bed, her nudity concealed only partially by what appears to be a set of green pajamas draped across her derrière—is credited to the renowned Barye Phillips, and continues onto the book’s own back side.

Happy holidays, everyone! And stay tuned for more.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Finds: “The Voyagers”

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

The Voyagers, by Dale Van Every (Bantam, 1959).
Illustration by Stanley Zuckerberg.

In a newspaper column syndicated by Indiana’s Anderson Daily Bulletin on September 4, 1957, Associated Press writer Hal Boyle introduced then 61-year-old author Dale Van Every with these words:
Most writers dream of turning out a novel they can sell in Hollywood and become rich.

Dale Van Every, a top authority on America’s early frontier, did it the other way. He quit a $75,000-a-year job in Hollywood in 1943 to become a historical novelist.

“I was making $1,500 a week—which made me a working picture writer, not a celebrity,” he remarked drily. “My only regret is that I didn’t quit sooner.”
Born on July 23, 1896, in Emmet County, Michigan—located atop that state’s Lower Peninsula—Dale Baron Van Every subsequently moved with his parents to Southern California, graduated in 1914 from a San Bernardino high school, and went on to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto. According to this short notice, published in the San Bernardino Sun back in 1922, his college education was interrupted by World War I, when he “enlisted with the Stanford ambulance unit, serving overseas for about three years, first in the ambulance corps, later as a commissioned officer in the Convois Automobils and finally closing his European sojourn with an art course at the University of Lyons” in France. With the war at an end, Van Every returned to Stanford, finally won his diploma in 1920, and took a job with the United Press newswire service in New York City. His U.P. assignments included working as a staff correspondent in Washington, D.C., covering the summer activities of President Calvin Coolidge, and serving as the bureau chief in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In April 1922 he wed Ellen Mein Calhoun. The daughter of a Seattle family, she had also matriculated from Stanford, and had for a time been the women’s editor of the Daily Palo Alto. After bringing two children into the world, the couple would divorce in 1935.

Van Every resigned from the U.P. sometime during the mid- to late-1920s, and co-authored (with Morris DeHaven Tracy) a biography of aviator Charles Lindbergh, which was published in 1927—the same year
Dale Van Every, 1928
Lindbergh made his famous non-stop flight from New York to Paris. Van Every’s debut novel, Telling the World, followed soon afterward, and was made into a 1928 silent film of the same name, starring William Haines as journalist Don Davis, whose romantic tendencies involve him in a murder case that takes Davis all the way to China. In short order, Van Every’s face became familiar in Los Angeles, and especially at the Hollywood film studios, as he undertook the creation of screenplays for 1931’s East of Borneo, 1932’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1937’s Captains Courageous (which earned him an Academy Award nomination), and 1951’s Sealed Cargo, among numerous other productions. His résumé, as recorded at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), can be found here.

Wikipedia says that by 1934—in the midst of the Great Depression—Van Every was being paid “a salary of $52,500 by Paramount Pictures, $250 less than Mary Pickford and $1,000 more than Walt Disney.” That was income enough to keep him living in high style and make sure his name appeared on party guest lists; but it was apparently insufficient to win from him a lifelong commitment to screenwriting. Van Every remained in the biz till 1957, but by that time he had begun penning novels again. Long fascinated by American history (one of his grandfathers was allegedly a Tory combatant during the Revolutionary War), and after employing some of his Hollywood proceeds to amass an extensive library of resource volumes, Van Every put his name to a string of yarns about America’s 18th-century frontier, ranging from The Shining Mountains (1948) and Bridal Journey (1950), to The Captive Witch (1951), The Trembling Earth (1952), and The Scarlet Feather (1959). On top of those, between 1961 and 1964 he sent to bookstores a four-part non-fiction series called “The Frontier People of America.”

“I use fiction only as a kind of sugar-coating for the facts,” Van Every told the AP’s Boyle. “It is the facts that interest me. My pleasure in writing is the delight in re-creating a lost world—the period between 1780 and 1811, when America really became a nation.”

The Voyagers, which was published originally by Henry Holt & Company in 1957, fit squarely within those historical parameters, being set in the Ohio River valley in 1788. Kirkus Reviews called the novel “another tale of derring-do against the background of the American frontier,” and went on to note:
The story begins and ends in Traners Landing, below Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania]. And the central figure is Abel Traner, the only responsible one of the family, who breaks away from responsibility to shift for himself on the river he knows and loves. His adventures included some brushes with Wilkinson, of the grandiose schemes; [as well as] some give and take—mostly take—in acquisition of riches beyond his dreaming, and their equally undreamed-of loss. Of women, [the story’s cast ranges from] the exquisite Madame Baynton, for whom he ultimately paid the price of his own freedom, to the undependable Magda, to Hagar, who won her man, and back to Eather, at home, grown up and ready to give him the security he’d learned to want. Good period adventure.
The rear side of the 1959 Bantam edition of The Voyagers (shown on the right) quotes Virginia’s Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper as promising that among this tale’s attributes are “river pirates, spies, Indian massacres, murders, thefts, chicanery, rapes, last-minute rescues, beautiful and amorous women.” It adds, “The Voyagers has everything.” While I’m not sure many copies of Van Every’s book were sold on the basis of it incorporating “rapes,” I can understand the draw of those other plot turns.

The cover of that Bantam paperback, too, was a significant attraction. As displayed atop this post, it shows a man with what appears to be a flintlock rifle, pulling a nude and curvaceous young woman into a small boat. Or maybe he’s just protecting her from the party of canoe-borne Native Americans firing arrows in their general direction; it’s hard to be sure. What I do know is that this quite striking painting was done by Stanley Zuckerberg, an artist born in Long Beach, New York, circa 1920. According to a boilerplate biography found several places on the Web (for example, here), Zuckerberg “began to draw at age 6. He received an Art Scholarship to [the] Pratt Institute of Fine Arts beginning [in] 1939. He also studied at the Art Students League with Khosrov Ajootian, William Gorham, Thomas Benrimo, and Alexander Kostellow. … Some of the authors whose books he illustrated were John Dos Passos, Somerset Maugham, Sinclair Lewis, James Michener, Vladimir Nabokov, Irving Stone, and Norman Mailer.” This Web site adds that Zuckerberg was “among the most accomplished of the [mid-20th-century] James Avati-influenced cover artists who strove for an emotional-realistic style.”

I’ve featured Zuckerberg’s work in several Killer Covers galleries over the years, and focused on one excellent example—the 1957 front from Robert Wilder’s Flamingo Road—four months ago. However, this artist deserves greater attention. So I am embedding, below, 30 book façades credited to him. They include the 1961 movie tie-in edition of Wirt WilliamsAda Dallas; the 1953 Signet release of Mailer’s Barbary Shore; the 1962 Crest version of Charles Gorham’s controversial McCaffery; the ever-captivating 1957 edition of Jonathan Craig’s The Case of the Body Beautiful; the 1963 Gold Medal issue of Message from Marise, by “Paul Kruger,” aka Roberta Elizabeth Sebenthal; and Zuckerberg’s 1958 front for Silver Spoon, by Edwin Gilbert.

Click on any of these images for an enlargement.

From what I can tell, Zuckerberg’s single contribution to Dale Van Every’s oeuvre was that illustration he did for The Voyagers. Yet that 1957 romantic adventure wasn’t Van Every’s final offering. He went on to compose works of both fiction and non-fiction, such as Our Country Then (1958), Disinherited: The Lost Birthright of the American Indian (1965), and The Day the Sun Died (1971). According to this bookstore Web site, he married at least twice more during his life, and left behind a daughter, Joan Van Every Frost, who made her own mark on the world as a novelist before passing away in 2012.

Dale Van Every, himself, died on May 28, 1976, in Santa Barbara, California. He was just short of 79 years old. Given how hard he had labored during his later years to re-establish himself as a novelist, rather than as a screenwriter—someone whose imaginative explorations of the old American frontier set the stage for later authors on the order of Douglas C. Jones and Allan W. Eckert—it was a bit sad that obituaries tended to focus on his Hollywood years.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Adultery, Murder, and Mirth

The Knife Slipped (Hard Case Crime, 2016), with a cover illustration by Robert McGinnis that features modern-day burlesque dancer/pin-up icon Dita von Teese.

Today marks the official publication date of The Knife Slipped (Hard Case Crime), Erle Stanley Gardner’s long-lost 30th installment in a series he wrote—under the pseudonym A.A. Fair—about mismatched Los Angeles private eyes Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. As I explained recently in my Kirkus Reviews column,
Apparently, Gardner concocted Knife as the second entry in this series, following 1939’s The Bigger They Come; but publisher William Morrow objected to its casting Mrs. Cool, a stout cheapskate of a woman who’d inherited her L.A. detective agency from an adulterous husband, as profane and not above gypping her clients. An Afterword in Knife speculates Morrow might have taken issue as well with Gardner’s portrayal of Lam’s fallibility, something that “brainy little runt” was less prone to in subsequent books. This rediscovered mystery begins with an overprotective mother and her daughter employing B. Cool—Confidential Investigations to look into the presumed philanderings of the younger woman’s spouse, Eben Cunner, who works for an automobile accessories wholesaler. Although Lam, a disbarred lawyer, is still learning the shamus game, he soon ferrets out the fact that Cunner has rented not one, but two, separate apartments under aliases. At one of those he’s been spotted with a comely blonde claiming to be his sister, and at both he has welcomed cops and firemen at odd hours. This is obviously not a simple hot-sheets case, but before our gumshoes can fathom its complexity, Cunner is murdered and suspicion falls on Lam and the chestnut-haired switchboard operator, Ruth Marr, who found the corpse. There are plenty of narrative contortions and distortions of the truth in these pages, but some semblance of justice is eventually reached.
Author Jeffrey Marks, who’s spent a great deal of time working on a new Gardner biography, spells out in his blog how his research into the life of that prolific California lawyer turned novelist finally brought The Knife Slipped—“the first new Erle Stanley Gardner novel since 1970”—to bookstores. He adds that “Over my time writing about Gardner, I came to appreciate the Cool/Lam novels more than Perry Mason. That might be sacrilege, but they represent a more hard-boiled, pulp-oriented story. Gardner had plenty of experience with those, writing 625+ shorter works for the pulps. Cool and Lam were the worthy successors to Ed Jenkins and Ken Corning. Gardner could be himself more in these books, and his infectious personality and wit come through in these books.”

To celebrate the tardy but certainly pleasing appearance of The Knife Slipped, I have gathered together, below, a handful of my other favorite covers from the Cool and Lam series.

Bats Fly at Dusk (Dell, 1963), art by Ron Lesser.

Beware the Curves (Pocket, 1960), art by Harry Bennett.

Double or Quits (Dell, 1963), art by Stanley Borack.

Some Women Can’t Wait (Dell, 1960), art by Robert McGinnis.

Spill the Jackpot (Dell, 1962), art by Harry Bennett.

The Count of Nine (Heinemann UK, 1959), art by Stein.

Top of the Heap (Dell, 1959), art by Robert McGinnis.

You Can Die Laughing (Pocket, 1961), art by Harry Bennett.

READ MORE:A New (Old) Book Just Waiting to Become a TV Series,” by Ken Tucker (Yahoo TV); “Review: The Knife Slipped, by Erle Stanley Gardner,” by David Cranmer (Criminal Element); “The Knife Slipped—Erle Stanley Gardner,” by Bill Crider (Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine).