Death on The House.

Dime Detective June 1947

Adapted from Peter Paige’s “Death On The House” opening two-page spread, which appeared in the June 1947 Dime Detective magazine, as seen at the always excellent pulpcovers.com site. I really wish the pulps credited the interior artists. Pulp experts are usually able to ID the cover artists, but the countless stunning (and sometimes, not-so-stunning) B&W interior spot illustrations are mostly doomed to anonymity.

Give this cocktail lounge coquette a simpler hairstyle with bangs, put her in a pair of plain pumps, and this illustration could almost be a new ‘Stiletto Gumshoe’ avatar.

Noiquet.

Noirquet--1974

Spanish painter Joan Beltran Bofill (1939 – 2009) was best known in fine arts circles as a contemporary Impressionist, his sumptuous light-filled paintings recognized for nostalgic settings and lush, swirling brushwork. But, like so many artists, Joan (don’t be confused, Joan’s a man’s name in this case) juggled both fine art and commercial art careers, and was also a popular European paperback and digest cover illustrator, particularly in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Noiquet - Beltran

Beltran Bofill came from Barcelona, studied at the Casa Lomja (Picasso had been a student there) and the Sant Jordi Fine Arts School. In an effort to keep the easel painting and illustration work separate, the artist worked under the name ‘Noiquet’ for various series of children’s books, Zane Grey westerns, and a number of standalone mystery/crime fiction novels and series, including Hank Janson and Agatha Christie books, Earle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason and saucy Carter Brown series. You’ll see hints of American illustrators like Robert McGinnis, Victor Kalin and others in Noiquet’s work, most of them excellent period pieces showcasing a real 60’s/70’s/80’s feel.

Noiquet 1974

Rooting around, I see many covers or even original illustrations questionably credited to Noiquet, some of which simply don’t look at all like the artist’s style, or lack his distinctive and usually prominent signature. Tempting as it may be to show them here, I’ll pass, but this post includes several examples of the artist’s work from the early 1960’s through the mid-80’s. A follow-up tomorrow will include some more…

Noiquet - FBI Series 1968

Noiquet

Noiquet

Got A Wrench?

vogue miami 1975

Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty. Overalls might be better suited to the task, but it’s not as if they’re doing a lube job. Let’s just assume that someone’s really going to be surprised when he turns the ignition key. Serves him right for driving a station wagon.

Vintage Helmut Newton from a 1975 Miami photoshoot.

Helmut Newton

What Do You Wear To A Break-In?

Rianne ten Haken 1

A sleek black jumpsuit, soft sole shoes and hair tucked under a knit cap would seem like optimal cat burglar attire. Of course, if your name’s Selina Kyle, you could go with night vision goggles and cat ears instead. Couture frocks, patterned hose and heels might be a suitable ensemble for a boutique clerk’s job, but destined for ruin if burglary’s your trade.

Rianne ten Haken 2

Not so for Rianne ten Haken, apparently, who’s shot here by photographer David Burton in a 2012 Elle Russia photo suite. Maybe Haken’s adhered to that old saw about dressing for the position you aspire to, not the one you’re currently in. And who knows? Maybe she’ll have her own opulent digs…once she fences all that loot, that is.

And don’t ask what the editorial’s title is. I don’t speak Russian.

Rianne ten Haken 3Rianne ten Haken 4Rianne ten Haken 5Rianne ten Haken 6

One Good Deed

One Good Deed

We’ve been here before. If you’re a fan of postwar paperback originals, you’ve been probably here quite a few times, in fact. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to be here all over again if a talented writer can make it worth the trip.

A stranger arrives in a made-up big town/small city, typically in some vaguely Midwest or southwest locale, only to wind up in trouble with the local law, corrupt power brokers and – inevitably – the resident femme fatale. It’s been a standalone mystery/crime fiction novel staple since the 1940’s. Paw through musty paperbacks in a used bookstore and you’re bound to come up with one or more. Familiarity (even occasional redundancy) doesn’t undermine this viable noir-ish story setup, any more than seascapes, still life’s and figure studies would be invalidated simply because painters frequently explore them like an artistic right of passage. Two examples of this type of story that immediately come to mind are Ross MacDonald’s Blue City from 1947 and The Long Wait, a rare non-Mike Hammer novel from Mickey Spillane in 1951. And I bet you could name some others.

Blue City MontageThe Long Wait Montage

So, there’s nothing surprising about David Baldacci giving this time-honored theme a go in his current One Good Deed, other than the fact that this NYT bestseller already knocked out nearly 40 novels (his first novel, Absolute Power, adapted to a successful film as well) before contemplating his first retro postwar setting. Based on some online reviews I’ve spotted, it caught a few of his loyal fans off-guard. Well, they better get used to it, since it sounds like One Good Deed is the first in a new series Baldacci has planned.

In 1949, Aloysius Archer steps off the bus in Poca City in ill-fitting clothes, a measly few dollars in his pocket and a three day stay prepaid at the only hotel. He’s due to meet his parole officer, find a job and start over after a three-year prison stint on trumped-up charges. But Archer (which is the handle he prefers) endured far worse as a decorated infantryman in WWII’s Italian campaign, and is a man to reckon with.

An ill-advised but understandable urge for a forbidden drink and some barroom banter with a local lounge looker are among his first mistakes. Followed by a bigger lapse in judgement when he agrees to collect a debt for Poca City’s big shot, Hank Pittleman, who owns the local bank, the town’s only industry (a hog slaughterhouse), the hotel Archer’s staying in…hell, even the cocktail lounge they’re drinking in. And the girl who’s got Archer’s head spinning. As will happen in such tales, Archer winds up in bed with Pittleman’s seductive mistress…the same night Pittleman’s murdered, his throat slit ear-to-ear. All of which finds Archer in one hell of a lot of trouble with the local law, the State Police homicide investigator who takes over, and Archer’s own parole officer…who just happens to be an intriguing woman with a mysterious past and is every bit as alluring as the Poca City bad girl he’s already mixed up with.

There’s enough small-town drama and family secrets to fill both a Grace Metalious novel and a Tennessee Williams drama here, mixed in with a puzzling murder mystery (and a few other dustups and deaths along the way), all capped off with a climactic courtroom scene, which may sound like a bit much for any one book, but then Baldacci’s a real pro and more than up to the task. I’d never read one of his novels before, but knowing he plans more Archer novels after One Good Deed, I’ll be watching for the next one. The fact is, when I stumble across some musty old paperback by a long-gone writer in a used bookstore with some other loner stepping off the bus in a made-up town’s Main Street, I’ll probably give it a try too, no matter how many times I’ve been there already.

Adriana, The Femme Fatale

Adriana Lima Vogue Brazil 2013 1

A sleek black dress, heels and hose, a cigarette smoking away…and if looks could kill, then hers say murder. But it’s not a saucy scene from a retro noir in a steamy South American setting. It’s model Adriana Lima posing for Vogue Brazil in an editorial shot by Giampaolo Sgura.

More From Bertil Hegland

Bertil Hegland 1

A few more examples of Swedish artist Bertil Hegland’s mystery/crime fiction cover art, the illustrator’s career tragically cut short at age 42 when an accident caused him to lose the use of his hand. Look for the preceding post for more examples of Hegland’s work.

Bertil Hegland 9Bertil Hegland 8Bertil Hegland 7Bertil Hegland 6

A Career Cut Short: Bertil Hegland

Bertil Hegland 2

Bertil Hegland (1925 – 2002) was a Swedish illustrator known in the Scandinavian market for popular children and teen book series covers — including the Nancy Drew series (apparently called “Kitty”) — as well as hard-boiled mystery and crime fiction covers. Initially an advertising illustrator, Hegland migrated more and more to publishing. By the late 40’s and still only in his mid-twenties, his main clients were book, digest and magazine publishers.

Bertil Hegland 10

But at only 42, Hegland was the victim of an unfortunate car battery accident that severely injured his hand, to the point that he could no longer draw. Apparently, he gave up art altogether at that point. Whether his hand was crushed by a battery (they can be pretty heavy) or it exploded (which we’re often warned about) isn’t clear.

You can point out that Mickey Spillane, James Hadley Chase, Peter Chaney and other writers’ work was packaged in more handsome cover art in the U.S., UK and elsewhere, and I won’t argue. Publishers in smaller markets deal with substantially shorter press runs and surely looked for proportionately smaller fixed upfront costs. Many encouraged illustrators to freely ‘adapt’ U.S./UK covers, and you can see that at work here with some of Hegland’s illustrations.

Bertil Hegland 4

Biographical info is spotty at best on Bertil Hegland, and most of that in Swedish, which I can confirm translates pretty poorly in standard online translation. Check the next post tomorrow for additional examples of Hegland’s work.

Bertil Hegland 5

Debutante To Derelict: The Shanghai Gesture (1941)

shanghai gesture 6

Reading Steve Kronenberg’s excellent “Handle With Care – The Ordeals Of Gene Tierney” in the new Noir City issue number 27 was bound to send me flipping through DVD’s for a Tierney film. You’d just assume I’d go for Laura. And while not a noir, as it happens, I’m quite partial to The Ghost And Mrs. Muir. (Call me a softie.) But Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture offered a Tierney performance which, while not necessarily echoing the specifics of the actress’ troubled life, certainly portrays a woman destined for (or determined to find) her share of troubles.

This 1941 proto-noir is one truly weird movie. Based on John Colton’s risqué 1920’s Broadway play of the same name, the story’s controversial themes had to be severely diluted to make it onscreen. In fact, Hollywood studios and producers already tried to make a film version of the play many times, and the Breen Office censors demanded more than 30 revisions before the script was acceptable.

Shanghai Gesture 5

Phyllis Brooks & Victor Mature Lobby Card

Despite hefty bribes to the authorities, “Dragon Lady” Gin Sling’s (Ona Munson) casino is being forced to shut down and relocate to Shanghai’s seedy Chinese sector by a wealthy English developer (Walter Huston) with grand designs on her location. While Victor Mature’s (looking ridiculous in a fez) ‘Doctor’ Omar and down-on-her-luck American showgirl Dixie Pomeroy (Phyllis Brooks) try to cook up something to thwart the developer’s plans before the impending Chinese New Year deadline, Gin Sling’s joint is visited by stunning and refined Victoria Charteris (Gene Tierney), fresh from a European boarding school but currently going by ‘Poppy Smith’, eager for thrills and swiftly seduced by liquor and gambling. It doesn’t take long for her to turn into a lush, wind up in debt to Gin Sling, and then fall in love with charlatan ‘Doctor’ Omar (despite the fez). Things get a little soap-opera-ish then, revealing that Gin Sling once had a fling with the wealthy Brit who’s destroying her casino. Abandoned and destitute, she was forced to leave their baby behind…who grew up to be none other than Victoria Charteris/Poppy Smith/Gene Tierney. If all of these revelations aren’t bad enough, particularly since the lovely Victoria has turned into the deep-in-debt drunk Poppy now, things can always get worse, climaxing when Gin Sling ends up shooting Tierney, her own daughter.

Shanghai Gesture 4

All of this might make a bit more sense (or not) if censors allowed the play’s real premise to be depicted: Gin Sling didn’t run a casino but a brothel/opium den. ‘Poppy’ didn’t get a taste for the booze and the dice, but became a drug addict, helped along by the fellow she fell for. ‘Poppy’. Get it?

Shanghai Gesture 3

The Shanghai Gesture is far from a classic, not quite a ‘noir’ or even a crime melodrama, and wasn’t particularly successful with audiences or critics. Further, it’s packed full of utterly squirm-worthy ethnic stereotyping, like so many films of its era were.  Still, it’s worth it just to watch Gene Tierney go from refined to bar-room bad girl to drunken lush, her transition taking place in some decidedly uncensored and surreally decadent surroundings. The shift in delivery, body language and appearance is striking. Flanked by Phyllis Brooks and Ona Munson, the three women deliver the goods in a sometimes bizarre and sometimes pedestrian film. Sure, I’ll probably watch Tierney as Laura Hunt and Lucy Muir. I mean, how can you not if you’ve got Gene Tierney on your mind? But I’m glad I started here.

Shanghai Gesture 2

 

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