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

A Mid-Fifties ‘Stiletto Gumshoe’.

True-Detective-October-1954 mort kuntsler copy 2

While it doesn’t appear in the Mort Kunstler – The Godfather Of Pulp Fiction Illustration hardcover by Robert Deis, Wyatt Doyle (and Mort Kunstler, of course) that I recently received (and chatted about here a few days back), that book showcasing more of the cover and interior art icon’s men’s adventure magazine and so-called men’s sweats work, this particular true crime pulp cover has been one of my personal favorites and residing in a ‘The Stiletto Gumshoe’ folder stuffed full of 1950’s/60’s photos, ads and historical references. Sure, you’ll find more exciting, violent, lurid or blatantly sex-ified covers among 1950’s crime fiction and true crime pulps than this October 1954 issue of True Detective magazine, which touted cases inside like “The Murder Minded Lawyer Of Lake Wales” and a double-length feature, “Daughter’s Revenge”. This particular plainly attired snoop was but one of many vintage paperback and pulp magazine covers that planted the seeds of inspiration for my own current projects, and could almost be ‘The Stiletto Gumshoe’ herself.

Often as not, postwar pulp and paperback covers weren’t even credited. But I’ve seen this one attributed to Mort Kunstler at more than one site now, so I’m going with that. Smack my forehead…I always thought it was a photo, not an illustration.

A Pulp Godfather.

Mort Kunstler Book

Mort Kunstler – The Godfather Of Pulp Fiction Illustrators by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle (and Mort Kunstler) was the first book to arrive as I replenish my woefully empty to-be-read spot on the writing lair’s endtable. Mind you, the actual reading went quick, this very handsome 130+ page 2019 hardcover being a little light on text. But the nine-page intro by Mort Kunstler himself (as told to Robert Deis) was an intriguing read nonetheless. As he explains right at the start, “The word Kunstler means artist in German”, his immigrant father (an amateur artist himself) kept the spelling, and the rest was probably destiny.

The book’s heavy on Mort Kunstler’s pulpy ‘men’s sweats’ and adventure magazine illustration work, filled with WWII combat scenes, Cold War era spies and exotic safaris, with only a few examples of the master’s crime pulp work included. But trust me, it’s worth it for that intro alone, even if you’ve already seen many of the illustrations included here at any of your favorite pulp, vintage illustration and retro-kitsch sites and blogs.

A Noir-ish Icon

Mort Kunstler

An often-seen and often-ogled illustration by pulp-art maestro Mort Kunstler, who’s still with us, I believe, and in his early nineties. Kunstler’s pulp magazine, paperback covers, and men’s ‘sweats’ magazine cover art and interior illustrations may be cherished by fans of all that’s retro, kitschy and sleazy, but the artist would understandably prefer to be known for his incredible historical art, his many epic Civil War paintings in particular. Nonetheless, this bit of 20th century naughtiness is from a February 1970 issue of Men magazine and seen often enough to almost be a noir-culture icon, replete with a spartan room, a rugged shoulder-holstered bad guy with gun in hand and a table covered with stolen loot. Just how many gals were still rolling on nylons by 1970, I don’t know, but some pulpy clichés almost demand to be retained, don’t they?

Men 1970

Sign Me Up.

1949

Hey, I want some ‘solid evenings of first-rate entertainment’ too. A one-year subscription to the pulp magazine Two Complete Detective Books for only $1.75? Sounds like a bargain, till we start adjusting for inflation, perhaps. But with magazines shrinking (when they’re not vanishing altogether) today into what can seem like little more than pamphlets, two-bits an issue was a pretty good deal. (Do the math, though. Unlike current magazine subscriptions, it’d be cheaper to buy 6 issues at the newsstand for a buck-fifty total.) Guessing from the artist’s signature that this ad showcases an illustration by George Gross, who shared a Tribeca studio with another well-known pulp and paperback cover artist, Mort Kunstler, for a while in the 1950’s.

two complete detective books

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