Artists & Models: Robert McGinnis And Shere Hite.

A big thanks to site follower/viewer Art Scott for passing along some intriguing info (complete with links) about revered golden/silver age illustrator Robert McGinnis and sex educator, author and feminist Shere Hite, who sadly passed away not long ago on September 9th, 2020.

An April 2017 Vanity Fair magazine feature by Michael Callahan, “The McGinnis Look”, profiled the artist and his iconic paperback covers and movie posters featuring distinctively stylized femme fatales who became known as “the McGinnis Woman”: long, lithe figures draped (or more likely undraped) in 1960’s-70’s mod patterned apparel. These trademark women appeared on numerous pulpy mystery/crime fiction novels, perhaps as much a part of some series’ appeal as the stories themselves. 

No news there to many followers and visitors of a “noir culture” blog like The Stiletto Gumshoe. The interesting bit of vintage illustration trivia and mid-twentieth century pop culture lore was the revelation that one of McGinnis’ frequently employed models was none other than a young Shere Hite, whose fit frame and wavy red tresses were a perfect match for McGinnis’ evolving style.

Shirley Diana Gregory was born in Missouri in 1942, changed her name to Shere Hite (using her stepfather’s surname after her parents’ divorce) and with her B.A. and a Masters in History under her belt, headed to New York in 1967 to work on her Ph.D at Columbia University. Just another Boho student squeezed into a cramped Manhattan apartment, Hite found work as an artist’s model, not only for Robert McGinnis, but for other pulp and paperback illustrators, such as Norm Eastman. But it’s her work with McGinnis that may be most readily identifiable, often retaining her thick mane of wavy red hair. International renown was only a few years away for Hite, but at that particular time, she was the McGinnis woman come to life.

Hite published a number of works from the mid-1970’s through 2006, starting with Sexual Honesty By Women For Women, then most notably The Hite Report On Female Sexuality two years later, and a follow up on men and male sexuality several years after that. As far back as 1948, Alfred Kinsey, and later, Masters & Johnson in the mid-1950’s, published ground-breaking studies on human sexuality, but Hite’s interview-based research largely discarded those pioneers’ notions about women’s sexual experiences and responses, which were still rooted in male-centric perspectives. From what I’ve read, she endured some nit-picking about her methodology, but my freshman year 100-level sociology and psychology classes certainly don’t qualify me to draw any such conclusions. What’s clear is that Hite played a crucial role in the 1960’s-1980’s women’s movements and evolving understanding of – and attitudes towards – female sexuality. That she was gearing up to accomplish all of this while earning some coin with art modeling gigs, and for well-known names in the mystery/crime fiction publishing arena – is pretty damn cool. 

Follow the links below (with thanks again to follower/visitor Art Scott for those) to Michael Callahan’s 2017 Vanity Fair article on Robert McGinnis and a more recent piece from Air Mail News on Shere Hite and her McGinnis modeling work. It’s enough to make you scrutinize the faces of the people populating all those postwar paperbacks and mid-twentieth century pulp magazine covers a lot closer to see who else we might discover.

https://archive.vanityfair.com/article/2017/4/the-mcginnis-look

https://airmail.news/issues/2020-10-24/a-study-of-female-sexuality

A Losing Bet?

The cover illustration for the February 1971 issue of Real Men magazine might go with the story “He Bet His Babe In A Poker Game…And Lost!” that lurked inside. But with so many so-called ‘men’s adventure’ magazine stories like this particular issue’s “Sex-Hungry Women – Where To Find Them!”, “Give A Dame A Gun And She’s A Killer!” and “I Went To Bed With A Lez…Just To Find Out What It’s Like!” (from ‘an average young wife’, no less), it’s not always entirely clear which story the cover art goes with. Nonetheless, it’s classic 1960’s-70’s style vintage sleaze, and likely could’ve been paired with any of a number of that marketplace’s stories and articles.

A Stiletto Gumshoe’s Halloween: Witches, 1950’s Style.

This should’ve been in an October issue, but it’s actually from the February 1958 issue of Jem, “The Magazine For The Masterful Male”, one of the countless Playboy knockoffs from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

“Broom And Board” by R. Fred Arnold, is the “authentic, never-before printed story of the life and times of a witch”. Authentic it’s not, though 1950’s-funny it aims to be. Young Beaulah Broome of Coffeyville, Kansas is more or less a normal small-town teen who sometimes hears spooky voices and other-wordly laughter. Tossing and turning in bed one night, she awakes to find a witch perched right on her own footboard. “At least, I imagined it was a witch. She had on a peaked hat and long grey robes. There was a broom clutched in her hand. But far from being the weather-beaten hag pictured in the usual drawings of witches, she was a beauty. The grey robes fitted tight over a voluptuous figure. The peaked hat made her long face and laughing eyes even more beautiful.” With a sprightly “Hi-ya, witchy,” the visitor welcomes Beaulah to the IWW (the International Witch Workers) who’ve been monitoring her since childhood. Young Beulah is whisked away for training at…Wichita State University.

You can actually read the whole story online (the entire February 1958 issue of Jem is at Flashbak (flashback.com), “Where Everything Old Is New Again”. Beulah masters the art of infiltrating other women’s bodies in order to seduce men, but if you’re expecting something 1950’s-naughty, be warned: the tale’s strictly PG rated, if even that. Nonetheless, it did feature a nice (though uncredited) illustration.

Le Diable.

These femmes fatales are devilish enough, but this isn’t another Halloween post.

I confess: I’ve seen some of these illustrations lurking around sites and blogs forever and always assumed they were retro styled but recent comic or pinup art. Not so. They’re but a few of dozens of cover illustrations from French paperback and digest novels done by “R & R Giordan”, which is really the brothers Raoul and Robert Giordan, who had a long and successful career doing comics, book covers and spot illustration work in the 1940’s through the 1970’s, particularly popular in science fiction and adventure titles.

The Giordan brothers came from Nice, Robert born in 1922, Raoul in 1926, and worked at a hotel during WWII. After a brief postwar stint at an animation studio, they began working in comics, much of their 1950’s-60’s era work being graphic novel style adaptations of popular science fiction books. In the 1970’s, Raoul began to drift away from comics and illustration work to focus on his own painting, and some years later, both had stopped commercial work altogether. Sadly, brother Robert passed away at the young age of only 61, though Raoul gave an SF/Fantasy comic one more go as late as the 1990’s. Raoul Giordan passed away in 2017.

Even though they’re best known in European science fiction/fantasy/adventure circles, the brothers did a lot of covers for mystery/crime fiction digests and paperbacks as well, some of which are shown here. Le Diable En Bas Nylon by Gerald Rose (The Devil In Nylon Stockings, no surprise) from 1952, and others, are indicative of their consistent style: A particularly ‘fatal’ femme fatale either beckons to some soon-to-be victim, or is already gloating over his downfall, as we see in Robert Trebor’s Mauvais Pretexte. There’s quite a bit about the Girodan brothers to be found online, but mostly in French, and four years of high school French doesn’t equip me to decipher more than a random word or two. Perhaps the less linguistically-challenged among you will fare better.

Tomorrow, You Die.

Austrian artist Rudolph Sieber-Lonati (1924 – 1990) was best known for his colorful and action-packed science fiction, horror and western illustrations, but he also painted a number of crime digest and paperback covers. An excellent example: This illustration for G. W. Jones’ Morgen Wirst Du Nicht Mehr Leben, one of that prolific writer’s many “Fledermaus” and “Die Schwarz Fledermaus” digests. Unreliable online translators work that title out as “Tomorrow You Won’t Live Anymore”, but what do you want to bet it’s really “Tomorrow, You Die”?

More From The Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators.

The B&W spot illustration above is from “Murder In Season” by C.A.M. Donne, actually Donald Clough Cameron (1905 – 1954), a prolific novelist, pulp scribe and comics writer who penned many Batman and Superman issues and has been credited in whole or in part with coming up with Wayne Manor’s butler, Alfred Pennyworth, and the Batcave. I’ll have to leave it to true Bat-Experts to correct me on that.

The other illustrations (above and below) are from “Sabotage Salvage” by Jerome Severs Perry, which is actually one of Robert Leslie Bellem’s many pen names (as if he wasn’t cranking out enough material for Dan Turner Hollywood Detective tales). It sure seems like forties frills just couldn’t manage to keep the hems of their frocks from flapping open over their stocking tops, at least in Spicy Detective artwork.

The cover for this December 1940 issue was by the great H.J. Ward. But alas, no credits are available for the interior artwork.

The Dawn Is For Dying.

(Spotted at that most excellent of reference sites, Notpulpcovers.com)

Back in 1944, ‘Noir Prince’ David Goodis penned a dogfight story titled “Dusk Is For Dying” under his own name for Fighting Aces magazine. For Goodis, any time may have been a good time for dying, dusk or dawn. 

But let’s assume that “The Dawn Is For Dying” (above) by Lance Kermit doesn’t deal with heroic American airmen blasting Zeroes, Messerschmitt’s or whatever else Fighting Aces magazine showcased. 

Actually, “Lance Kermit” was one of several pen names David Goodis used for the pulp magazine market (though he used his own name for many stories too). Not that I’d consider Adventure magazine a prestige venue…or any of the men’s adventure or ‘sweats’ mags, for that matter. But a David Goodis story graced by an Al Rossi two-page B&W illustration is prestigious enough for me, even if Rossi’s art is pure vintage sleaze at its ‘best’…or worst, depending on your point of view. 

Now that I think about it, this April 1959 issue would’ve been on the newsstands during my own The Stiletto Gumshoe project, the hoped-for series’ first novel set in April and May of that same year. As it happens, “Sharon Gardner/Sasha Garodnowicz” (the Stiletto Gumshoe herself) inherited a soft spot for mystery fiction and true crime pulps left behind by her old man, and she’d have been sorely tempted by “The Case Of The Deadly Doll” and “Are You A Slave Of Desire?”. But I know she’d have snickered at “Land Of The Love-Captive Girls” and John Stygna’s cover art with its sword-wielding sheik and harem girls. My bet: A quick thumb-through of the rag would’ve probably found her settling in to Kermit/Goodis’ “The Dawn Is For Dying”. 

The Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators.

More from some anonymous residents of the “Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators”: Three B&W interior illustrations by (sadly) unidentified artists from the November 1942 issue of Spicy Detective Stories, including “Too Many Clubs” by John Wayne (I’m assuming it wasn’t The Duke) above, and below, “Riddle In Red”, a Robert Leslie Bellem Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective story, and “Dead Girls Can’t Talk” by John Ryan.

Thriller.

From Peter Adrastos Athos’ First Draft Wordpress blog (link below): a 1973 LP from Bay Area band Cold Blood. The front is a pretty fair homage to the mid-fifties true crime and detective magazines that used photography instead of illustrations. But it’s the album cover’s back side that’s a real treat. Head to First Draft to read more about this band and the LP, or better yet, just to keep an eye on the blog’s “Pulp Fiction Thursdays”.

https://first-draft.com/

A Black Silk Dress, Tighter Than A Bandage On A Sore Finger.

Allan Anderson’s gruesome cover art for the January 1942 issue of Spicy Detective magazine corroborates the assumption that the illustrators were often cooking up ideas (or getting them from the editors) with little regard to the stories inside a particular issue. Oh, there’s all sorts of murder and mayhem in this 128-page Adventure House 2007 trade pb reprint, but nothing about a bride-to-be fending off a knife-wielding killer outside the seamstress’ fitting room. 

That the U.S. was officially in WWII by this point is apparent, though the stories were surely written and selected long before Pearl Harbor the month before. Henri St. Maur’s “Go Ahead – Shoot” deals with private op Matt Kerrigan tangling with Axis spies at a precious metals smelter, and Adolphe Barreaux’s Sally The Sleuth 8-page comic “On The Heels Of Heels” finds her infiltrating Nazi saboteurs masquerading as a quiet married suburban couple. For once, it’s someone other than Sally herself who manages to lose most of her clothes (well, mostly). 

The interior illustrations shown here (unfortunately uncredited, as usual) accompany the issue’s lead story, “A Pile of Publicity” by Justin Case. That would be pulp maestro Hugh B. Cave (1910 – 2004), a one-man story factory who sold over 800 pulp magazine tales, most of his horror, science fiction and weird menace tales penned under his real name. “Justin Case” was used for The Eel series, The Eel one of the era’s many gentleman thief anti-heroes who dabbled in private investigations. Case/Cave wrote seventeen of them between 1936 and 1942, this one the second to last. An admirer of Damon Runyon’s style, Case mimicked that same present-tense first-person format for his Eel tales. Here, The Eel’s hired by a wealthy artist to protect a just-completed full figure nude portrait to be unveiled during an elaborate gala at the painter’s Connecticut estate, and wouldn’t you know it, some folks wind up dead during the highbrow art set’s decadent shenanigans.

For anyone who’s only used to browsing the 1930’s-40’s era’s mystery/crime pulp’s covers but hasn’t given the stories themselves a try, I encourage you to do so (mystery/crime fiction writers in particular). Every hoary hard-boiled genre cliché began here, sometimes awkwardly plugged into really clunky prose, but often as not, really leaping off the page, particularly when you keep in mind they weren’t quite so cliched yet. For example, try this passage from the issue’s second-to-last story, “Two Little Rocks” by Clark Nelson, a nifty bit of nastiness dealing with murderous jewel smugglers: 

“The instant Steve Carnahan, proprietor of Carnahan Detective Agency, entered that frowsy hotel bedroom, he knew he’d led with his chin. 

A dame opened the door to his hairy-fisted knock. She was a tall, slinky redhead in a black silk dress that was tighter than a bandage on a sore finger. She had green eyes, red lips and a sardonic smile. She also had a pearl-handled .38 caliber persuader, which she proceeded to jam against Carnahan’s middle vest-button. 

“Freeze, flatfoot,” she remarked distinctly.”

A tall, slinky redhead in a black silk dress that was tighter than a bandage on a sore finger…I’ll never manage a line like that. If you can compartmentalize the wince-worthy bits of non-politically correctness, there are real genre gems to be enjoyed in those ancient pulps. I’ve still got four or five more late 30’s and early 40’s Spicy Detective issues to work through.  

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