The “Deluxe” Lady Killer.

Lady Killer Deluxe

I may not be able to get inside any comics shops ‘round here yet, but I haven’t gone comics-free during the past few months. Though I already have Joelle Jones Lady Killer in trade pb editions, I couldn’t resist the new Dark Horse May 2020 Library “Deluxe Edition”, an absolutely gorgeous oversize hardcover that covers the entire series, including Book One: Seattle 1962 written by Jamie S. Rich (Joelle Jones’ collaborator on the wonderful You Have Killed Me), and Book Two: Florida 1963, with both the art and story by the Goddess of Comic Art, Joelle Jones herself. This nearly 300-page edition includes an introduction by Chelsea Cain and over 30 pages of extras.

And yes, I had to read it all over again before I slid it into a place of honor on my bookshelves. Big surprise there.

Lady Killer 3

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.

The Violent Ones.

The Violent Ones Illustration

I can’t tell you much about Fernando Lamas (married to Esther Williams, spoofed by Billy Crystal on old Saturday Night Live episodes…that Fernando Lamas?) much less about the two feature films he directed, which includes 1967’s The Violent Ones. The film’s grim piece of uncredited movie poster illustration above might look more at home as a duotone spot or spread in a sleazy men’s ‘adventure’ magazine from that same era, the film dealing with a southwestern lawman (Lamas) transporting three rape suspects to a safe trial with a lynch mob on their tail. It’s on Turner Classic Movies’ database, but that doesn’t guarantee it’s a classic. I’ve never seen it, and with no TCM anymore, I don’t imagine I’ll be seeing it soon.  Still, it had an interesting (albeit creepy) poster.

A Deadly Kiss.

n saunders mans story 1970 copy

Let’s hope that kiss was really, really worth it, since the revolver digging into that fellow’s chest seems likely to bring this embrace to a very abrupt end. It’s a spot interior B&W illustration by pulp maestro Norman Saunders for a 1970 issue of Man’s Story magazine.

It’s More Than Just A Fetish Picture.

The Artless Heiress 1

The picture”? Scroll way down for that one.

Clarence Budington Kelland (1881 – 1964) described himself as “the best second-rate writer in the world”. But, if he was, he was a pretty successful second-rate wordsmith, credited with 60 published novels and over 200 short story sales from westerns and mysteries to multiple juvenile series, including his story “Top Hat” which was the basis of the 1936 Gary Cooper/Barbara Stanwyck film Mr. Deeds Goes To Town.

The Artless Heiress 2

His story “The Artless Heiress” (AKA “Miss Drugget Takes The Train”) was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post in 1957, later collected with two other novellas in a 1962 Walter J. Black Inc. Detective Book Club hardcover edition. A long-forgotten kind of cozy, even somewhat creaky mystery, Kelland’s tale lives on because of the Post editor’s or art director’s decision to assign popular illustrator Robert Meyer to the series, one illustration in particular appropriated as a kind of a staple at many pulp and even some creepy fetish sites.

The Artless Heiress 3

Columbine Pepper Drugget is the unofficial secretary to her Aunt Egeria Cordwainer, headmistress of the Cordwainer finishing school.  Prim, proper but ‘spunky’ twenty-one year-old Columbine still favors the same severe uniform style shifts, schoolgirl hats, chunky oxfords and thick white stockings she grew accustomed to when a pupil at Cordwainer herself. She hasn’t even gotten her hair cut short and bobbed yet, and wears steel-rimmed specs, considering horn-rimmed glasses a trendy affectation. When a mysterious attorney’s letter that may promise an inheritance prompts her to take a train ride (just like the title says) she’ll quickly become embroiled in a dangerous – make that potentially deadly – mystery that begins with a luggage mix-up, a cache of precious gems, a voodoo doll and a revolver in a stranger’s suitcase. Her inheritance turns out to be a peculiar old Arizona resort hotel. Multiple mysterious mishaps occur while Columbine acquires an entourage of oddly named acquaintances like Roxy Thistlebun and Artemus Thumb, and emboldened by her adventures, eventually exchanges her schoolgirl coif and dowdy duds for an all-new style. Ultimately finding herself in quite a fix when bad guys after the property (or mysterious valuables hidden there) get rough, Columbine triumphs and everything turns out well in the end, befitting Kelland’s typically tame puzzlers.

The Artless Heiress 4

While many pulp and paperback artists never got a chance to read a summary of the material they were illustrating, Robert Meyer’s paintings all faithfully depict actual scenes from Kelland’s tale. It’s just that they put a slicker contemporary spin (for 1957) on a rather obsolete story. Whether that was the illustrator’s intent or he was prodded to freshen up Kelland’s fun but fundamentally fussy tale remains unknown. Regardless, I assume there’s a legion of folks with a squirm-worthy fondness for a pair of damsels in visible distress, even if they’ve never heard of Clarence Budington Kelland, couldn’t care less about Columbine Pepper Drugget blossoming into an independent woman (circa 1957, that is) as she puzzles her way through a series of adventures, and may not even know who artist Robert Meyer (1919 – 1970) was. Yes, that particular picture really is more than just a tawdry bit of provocative perviness, and surprisingly, you can track down Kelland’s story (in either title) quite easily online.

Clarence Budington Kelland Books

And They’re All-True.

al rossi true advetures march 1957

The men’s adventure (or so-called ‘sweats’) mags were what they were and I can’t say I’m much of a fan. Heck, even pulp mag veteran Mort Kunstler did his cover illustration for the March 1957 issue of True Adventures magazine under a pen name (brush name?), which tells me it wasn’t considered a premier venue. But, the interesting art often lurked inside those publications, with some nifty mystery/crime fiction halftone and duotone spots and spreads from Bill Edwards, Charles Copland, Gil Cohen and others.

Now I’m not sure which of that issue’s “true” tales the Al Rossi B&W illustration shown above was done for. Was it “Woman’s Secret Shame” or “Die, Little Lovely”? I’m pretty certain it wouldn’t have been for “What Are Your Homosexual Tendencies?”, but then, those were very different times…

True Adventures March 1957

David Seeley

David Seeley 4

What gets you? Spiders, creepy clowns, snakes? For me it’s 1) deep water/drowning and 2) heights, either of those likely to plague my rare nightmares, and both frighteningly popular scenes among crime pulp cover artists, vintage paperback cover illustrators and many of the B&W’s and duotones in the prewar pulps and postwar men’s adventure mags. So artist David Seeley’s terrifying depiction of a woman being shoved out of a highrise window has been giving me the chills since I first spotted it. (Kinda shivering right now.)

David Seeley 2

Neither prudish nor particularly political, normally I just yawn when it comes to contemporary artists doing pinup style art. Seventy years ago? That was then, this is now. And many of the subjects in David Seeley’s work do seem to lose track of their clothes, except for some skimpy lacies. But they never seem to lose sight of their guns, and maybe that’s what caught my eye and why the work reminds me less of peekaboo paintings and more of familiar Robert McGinnis 1960’s series paperback covers and the popular styles seen in so many 1960’s/70’s illustrated film posters.

David Seeley 5

Boston based artist David Seeley studied architecture and first worked as a successful architect until some serious soul-searching led him to pursue art full-time. In a modern day spin on many postwar illustrators’ shared NYC studio spaces, Seeley shares a virtual studio with fourteen other artists including the likes of Greg Manchess. Seeley’s technique is an intriguing blend of digital photo-composition merged with traditional oil painting on archival printouts, and he details his process at his site, www.daveseeley.com. Check it out…it’s pretty interesting even if you’re not an artist.

David Seeley 1David Seeley 3David Seeley 6David Seeley 7

 

Dangerous Bluff.

thornton utz sat eve post 1960

Illustrator Thornton Utz depicting a tense standoff for Thomas Walsh’s Dangerous Bluff (”Who would give in, the detective or the gunman with the human shield?”) from the Saturday Evening Post in 1960.

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