Playing The Stock Market.

the rap sheetBrowsing the Chicago papers and the New York Times online before the workday commences is a daily routine for me. Call me a news junkie. Similarly, I rely on certain blogs and sites for my daily doses of noir culture and writerly biz, Literary Hub, Crime Reads and J. Kingston Pierce’s The Rap Sheet (link below) key among them. Great for writers? You bet, but just as essential for readers and genre enthusiasts. In The Rap Sheet’s case, there’s often much more than genre goings-on to peruse. Case in point:

The 1.11.20 edition included a link to an August 2019 article from the AIGA Eye On Design site, “Why Do So Many Book Covers Look The Same? Blame Getty Images” by Cory Matteson. The AIGA? That’s the American Institute of Graphic Arts (and do I really need my day job’s turf creeping into my coffee break ‘me-time’?).

AIGA Screen Cap

I’ll wager that, like me, many visitors and followers here at The Stiletto Gumshoe site frequent some of the truly excellent vintage pulp magazine, postwar paperback and classic illustration sites like The Rap Sheet’s affiliate Killer Covers Of The Week, Pulpcovers, Not Pulpcovers, Seattle Mystery Books and others. Betcha you’ve been amused by their periodic examples of classic pulp magazine or vintage paperback cover art re-purposed on another title…as-is, altered, or sometimes quite possibly stolen by a less-than-ethical offshore operation. More in the ‘now’, I get a little dizzy when I cruise the Seattle behemoth’s Kindle books and see how much classic Robert Maguire, McGinnis, Rader, Barton and other artists’ work appears on quickie crime novelettes and sexy-shorties. Let’s just guess those illustrations aren’t in the public domain and some self-styled self-publishers don’t own the originals.

But the Matteson’s AIGA Eye On Design article tackles a different situation altogether: Cover art’s stock photography redundantly appearing on different titles. Matteson notes, “The book cover design world, it turns out, has something of an all-star squad of stock and archival images that show up on book covers time and time again”. The AIGA article isn’t merely pointing out isolated examples of a stock image appearing on two books. The article depicts images used more or less concurrently on a dozen different titles, sometimes in different markets, sometimes not. And it occurs more frequently than you might expect. Just one example from Matteson’s article: Matthias Clamer’s 2004 photo “Naked Woman Sleeping On Gravel” is shown here on just two titles, but it’s actually been used on fifteen books.

Book Cover Duo

Designers have a love-hate relationship with stock imagery: Grateful it’s available when budgets won’t allow for original photography or illustration, but well aware it’s being used by counterparts elsewhere. You need a photo of an apple? A coffee cup, hammer or clock? Are you really going to hire a photographer to shoot one, or just expeditiously snatch one from a stock photo site for a fraction of the cost, downloaded and ready to use now? Most creative resources maintain subscriptions or ‘bank’ credits with their preferred stock photo agencies for easy access, the images ranging from routine objects and insets, to stunning works of photographic art, to the digital building blocks of proprietary photo-composed imagery. Getty is kind of the Cadillac of the bunch, with iStock, CanStock, Shutterstock and others bringing up the rear with more affordable options. But with stock photos, you definitely get what you pay for, both in selection and quality.

Indie book launcher dot com

This topic’s been addressed before – both humorously and seriously – at The Rap Sheet, Goodreads, various pulp illustration sites, indie/self-publishing sites (examples above from the Indie Book Launcher site, for instance). Surely you’ve spotted a memorable book cover’s photo on another title, or in an ad or magazine. I do, and often. Big city art agencies and studios repping the likes of Mike Ludlow, Clement Micarelli, Edwin Georgi and their ilk are long gone. In the mystery/crime fiction marketplace, Hard Case Crime has been the only reliable line showcasing contemporary figurative illustration. They’ve done so right from the start and continue to do so in their new ownership…God bless ‘em. But it’s a photographic world (a digital image world to be precise) and in publishing, it’s understandably a stock image world, realistically dictated by budgets and timetables. Still…that doesn’t excuse the redundant use of the same image. Blame Getty? Not me. I’ll blame inattentive (or disinterested) art directors, graphic designers and inexpert self-publishers.

Rap Sheet Blog Archives

I won’t include a direct link here to Cory Matteson’s AIGA article “Why Do So Many Book Covers Look The Same? Blame Getty Images”. Go to The Rap Sheet yourself to follow the link. It also appears on the Killer Covers of The Week site, and those links are below. Go to either to check out Matteson’s article for an interesting read, but I bet you spend some time at one of Pierce’s sites browsing other stuff. In fact, I defy you not to.

http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/

http://killercoversoftheweek.blogspot.com/

Paul Mann

Paul Mann 1

In the preceding post, Daniel Kraus’ new Blood Sugar from the Hard Case Crime line depicted a Good Girl Art pinup style Halloween witch on its cover, done by Salt Lake City, Utah artist and illustrator, Paul Mann.

Paul Mann 2

In fact, Mann seems to be Hard Case Crime’s current go-to artist, if you check out their site. You can also go to paulmannartist.com to find out more about this talented artist and his traditionally styled work.

Paul Mann 3

C. C. Beall

C C Beal

Cecil Calvert Beall (1892 – 1970), better known as C.C. Beall, isn’t a big name among vintage paperback and retro pulp magazine illustrators. Actually, his reputation is mostly due to a series of high profile WWII era war loan drive posters.

c c beal - 3

Beall learned under master figure drawer George Bridgeman, surely a familiar name to any former art student, and studied at the Art Students League and Pratt Institute. While most contemporaries worked in slow drying oils or fast drying (but extremely tricky) gouache, Beall worked primarily in traditional (transparent) watercolors, though in a distinctive heavy manner, only ocassionally combining them with charcoal or gouache for selected commercial assignments. His patriotic war era propaganda ad and poster illustrations were so successful that he was temporarily made an employee of the U.S. War Department, and was present at the final Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri in 1945, where he painted the official portrait of the event.

CC Beal - 2

But like many working artists of the time, Beall did all kinds of work, from glossy magazine illustrations to advertising, film studio assignments and book covers, including his darkly gorgeous painting for Bruno Fischer’s 1950 House Of Flesh from the preceding post. Some more of his non-military work is shown here. And heck, I’m throwing in the cover art from House Of Flesh one more time for good measure.

Walk In Fear CC BeallsSiagon Singer CC BeallsFarewell To Arms CC BealDark Interlude CC BeallsCC Beall House OF Flesh 1950 Art

Edmond Gray

Edmond Gray

Maybe I’m just looking in all the wrong places. I don’t think I’m misspelling the artist’s name. But I can’t seem to locate much (or any!) background or biographical information about postwar illustrator Edmond Gray. I’ll keep digging, but till I do uncover something, here’s a piece that’s always been among my favorites from that era.

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