The Case Of The Singing Skirt.

1963 the case of the singing skirt

If we can trust online translations (which we probably can’t), this 1963 Dutch edition of Erle Stanley Gardner’s 1961 Perry Mason novel The Case Of The Singing Skirt reads “The Girl’s Secret In Leotard”.  Well, that’s what I got, anyway. Which might make sense since the model in Dutch photographer Philip Mechanicus’ cover photo doesn’t appear to be wearing a skirt at all. To be fair, many U.S. paperback editions of Gardner’s Perry Mason novels showcased peculiarly steamy covers for their wildly successful mysery/courtroom potboilers. This one? A low-rent California gambling den’s cigarette girl and aspiring songstress who witnesses a gambling debt payoff winds up pinned with a murder rap…Perry Mason to the rescue.

Singing Skirt Group

Sometimes They Got It Right.

Startling Detective 1952

Given a choice, I’ll always go for illustration over photography when it comes to vintage pulp fiction and true crime magazines and paperback covers. Frankly, I’ve never really gotten into the whole true crime magazine arena anyway, finding the oldies a little ho-hum and most of the ‘modern era’ stuff really, really creepy. (Though that’s based on browsing only a few issues, to be fair.)

But, I’ll be the first to concede that the genre boasted its share of nifty covers, many of the artists working interchangeably between the mystery/crime fiction titles and true crime mags. The photographers? Well, they were usually a bargain-basement lot shooting on the cheap in low-rent set-ups with models who definitely hadn’t just come off Vogue assignments. Still, there are some good ones, and the March 1952 issue of Startling Detective magazine happens to be one of my favorites.  I may have no interest in reading about the “Murder Trail Of The Roving Rapist”, “Irma’s Night of Horror” or any of the other gruesome stories inside, but Fawcett art director and art editor Al Allard and Phil Cammarata got got it right for that issue.

Mildred, Updated.

1967 james bama Mildred Pierce

Not Joan Crawford, not even Kate Winslet, but it is supposed to be Mildred Pierce, on a 1967 Bantam paperback edition of James M. Cain’s 1941 classic Mildred Pierce, the cover art by illustration maestro James Bama, who I believe is still with us.

Paul Mann.

Paul Mann 1

Paul Mann did the handsome retro-flavored cover art for Brian DePalma and Susan Lehman’s Are Snakes Necessary? profiled in a prior post. The Salt Lake City, Utah artist is an old-school illustrator employing a master craftsman’s skills with figures in a distinctly 1960’s/70’s era movie poster montage style. His work graces a number of the Hard Case Crime series novels, reviving the look of so many Robert McGinnis and other’s covers from the latter days of the postwar paperback era.

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Meese’s Ann Avery.

The Murder Of Ann Avery - Art

Gorgeous James Meese 1956 cover art for Harry Kuttner’s (1915-1958) The Murder Of Ann Avery,  the second in the Michael Gray psychoanalyst murder mystery series, which lasted for only two more novels before the author’s untimely passing at age 43.

You Never Know Where The Art Will Appear.

lou marchetti Duotone

A dark duotone cover illustration for Edward Multon’s 1963 De Gouden Berg (a Dutch book, I think) is shown above. I’ve never been sure how this all worked back in the day, this being artwork by Lou Marchetti from the 1958 paperback edition of Holly Roth’s The Sleeper. Artists’ agents resold their illustrations when they could? Or, foreign publishers just ‘appropriated’ them? The latter seems more likely, but I’m just guessing about that.

The Sleeper 1958

I don’t read Dutch so I haven’t read Multon’s De Gouden Berg. Or The Sleeper either, for that matter. But I’m going to assume that someone gets tied up in something somewhere in Holly Roth’s cold war espionage novel, since the Lou Marchetti cover art and an earlier Lion Books edition depict a damsel in distress. In fact, I think the original hardcover edition showed a fellow all in knots, so maybe everyone got trussed up in The Sleeper.

The Sleeper 1955

Worthy of a novel on her own, Holly Roth – better known to some by her K. G. Ballard pen name – was a model turned journalist who then became a successful mystery and thriller novelist, but came to an untimely and mysterious end when she went overboard off a yacht in the Mediterranean.

You never where the art will appear, and you never know where a rambling post will end up.

Elaine And John Duillo, Continued…

john duillo 2

More about the husband and wife team of 20th century illustrators, Elaine and John Duillo:

Meanwhile, husband John was an in-demand illustrator for PBO’s as well, known most for westerns and doing some 500+ covers during the 1950’s and 60’s. It’s estimated that his Zane Grey, Max Brand and Louis L’Amour books sold over 100 million copies. Late in his commercial career, Duillo also did numerous covers and interior illustrations for the men’s adventure and so-called men’s sweats market, including a number of notorious women-in-peril pieces typical for that market (and the kind we’ll skip here). He retired from commercial illustration in the mid-1970s to focus on western art and historical Civil War painting and etchings. John was a President of The Society Of American Historical Artists.

See a prior post for art and info from Elaine Duillo.

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Elaine And John Duillo

elaine duillo 1

I posted about artist and illustrator John Duillo some time back (at the main site, not Tumblr) but never pointed out that Duillo was but one half of a powerhouse commercial illustration duo along with his wife, renowned romance novel illustrator Elaine Duillo.

Elaine Duillo 3

Both Elaine and John were born in 1928. They met while attending the Manhattan High School of Music and Art, later marrying in 1949. From her start with Balcourt Art Service in 1959 through her retirement in 2003 (the year John Duillo sadly passed away), Elaine painted a broad range of magazine and paperback book covers, from mystery/crime fiction to science fiction and racy ‘sleaze’ titles, though she was most widely recognized as one of the premier romance novel artists, initially for gothic novels and later for Regencies and so-called bodice rippers. Duillo’s style was so popular it became known in the industry simply as “Elaines”. She sold her first cover for $150. At her peak, Elaine Duillo covers typically went for $8,000 or more. Elaine Duillo is an Illustrators Hall Of Fame inductee.

Elaine Duillo 2

The mark she made on the romance genre is unquestioned. Still, you indulge me if I wish she’d squeezed in a few more crime fiction covers here and there, being certain that she’d have given that market’s greats some real competition.

See a following post for art and info on John Duillo…

Elaine Duillo 4

Words & Pictures

The Brass Cupcake 2

Book titles have been on my mind lately. While doing some routine computer housekeeping to finally read, file or toss the zillion things I collect, I found myself marveling at so many retro mystery/crime fiction novel and pulp magazine story titles. Say what you want about vintage genre fiction, but those writers sure could concoct some terrific titles.

The fact is, I’d been struggling with titling my own projects, originally doing some querying with just a working title (Surprise: “The Stiletto Gumshoe”) but then fretting that the title might give the wrong impression. Considering that queries and subs often garner no more than a few seconds of a busy agent or editor’s attention – if that – did I really want to stick with a title that sounds more like a ‘mystery-lite’ novel or shopaholic mystery about a modern-day well-heeled dilettante running down clues in her Louboutins?

Sure, cover art ultimately brings a book’s title to life and telegraphs the novel’s message. But in the manuscript stage, the ‘cover art’ is 12 pt. Times New Roman type on plain white 20 lb. bond or much more likely a screen…or something even more generic keyed into online submission/query forms.

Publishers Weekly

Jim Milliott reported on the importance of book titles in last week’s Publishers Weekly: “Judging A Book By Its Title” (link below), sub-headed with, “A recent test found that titles can be more important than cover art in attracting prospective readers”. Milliott writes about a Codex Group research study presenting over 50 upcoming titles to some 4,000 participants in order to probe what piqued readers’ interest or might impact purchase decisions. Book buyers being word lovers by nature, it might come as no surprise that titles, not cover art, prompted decision making, at least according to the Codex Group study. Reading Milliott’s article further, though, I’m not so sure, particularly when he quotes an Amazon creative director, who recognizes the importance of “the interplay between the title of the book and the visuals on the cover”.

The Brass Cupcake Barye Phillips 1958

If you’re reading this and follow or visit here, you already know I’m fixated on cover art…contemporary or retro, photo or illustrated. I pondered some mystery/crime fiction titles I’ve always loved…John D. MacDonald’s The Brass Cupcake came to mind as just one particular fave, for example, and I peeked at different editions of that book, from what I think is its first release from 1950 (at the top of this post) to what may be the best known, a 1958 edition with a Barye Phillips illustration (just above) and various other editions. Each says something a little different, accurate or not.

Brass Cupcake - Montage

If you’re a published writer, you may have books on shelf with covers so beautiful they could make you weep, and others you prefer to hide in your sock drawer. Or, if you’re still looking forward to the day when your name will be emblazoned on your first book, you’ll have ample time to fret about the cover art…and little voice in what it ends up as, no doubt. And if you’re an avid reader squandering too much dough on books (like me) you know how titles and cover art have lured you in…happily, sometimes…and sometimes not.

I’m experimenting with titles right now, sending out with “Title A” vs. “Title B” to see if it matters, naturally petrified that the options are awful. “The Stiletto Gumshoe” doesn’t have the zing of The Brass Cupcake. But then, what does?

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/82381-judging-a-book-by-its-title.html

 

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