Well, it won’t be out till November 10th (and who knows if it’ll really be available immediately). But I’ll definitely be pre-ordering Colin Larkin’s Cover Me: The Art Of Pan Books 1950 – 1965. Sure, $45 is steep, but well worth it for a 256 page book with over 300 cover illustrations (bet there’ll be a lot of Sam Peffer examples). I’ll always admit to favoring U.S. postwar pb cover illustration work over the UK, continental Europe and other markets. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy them all! Looking forward to this one.
Who was Eunice Gray, author of the spicy 1959 ‘romance’ Steffi?
Don’t ask me. You can find several Eunice Grays, one an author but surely not of a novel like Steffi. Another was a scientist, another the proprietor of a turn of the century (19th to 20th, that is) bordello, of all things.
There are more, but I’m not convinced any are the Eunice Gray (if that’s not a pen name) who lucked out with this saucy Clement Micarelli cover art. I’m supposing Micarelli referred to the frequently seen publicity photo of Swedish actress Anita Ekberg (1931 – 2015) in lieu of a model for Steffi’s gouache illustration, but if not, it’s uncanny how similar the poses are.
Several consecutive posts in early August talked about Henry Kane’s late 1950’s ‘stiletto gumshoe’, Marla Trent, the “Private Eyeful” (link below). The paperbacks were graced by cover art from postwar illustration greats like Robert Maguire and Mort Engle, but I did once have a hardcover with much simpler (and a little less leering) art by Denis McLoughlin, which in its way was all the more striking.
British artist Denis McLoughlin (1918 – 2002) was as much a graphic designer as an illustrator, doing spot illustrations for a mail order catalog firm when WWII broke out and he became a gunner at a suburban London Royal Artillery Depot. There he was also ‘drafted’ to do officers’ portraits and produce murals around the base. After the war, McLoughlin began a long association with UK publisher T.V. Boardman, Ltd., his book cover work what he’s best known for, though he also did many magazine illustrations and even worked in comics. Fascinated by the swiftly evolving photo-mechanical color separations processes, McLoughlin was known for eking out striking results with limited colors, something pretty foreign to contemporary designers and illustrators working in a CMYK digital environment.
Like many of the unsung heroes of the postwar commercial art world, Denis McLoughlin was all too often underpaid for his efforts. In his case it meant being forced to work way past retirement age. Tragically, his eyesight faded in his 80’s, Soon, he began to lose dexterity in his right arm. Fearing he’d be unable to draw and paint, Denis McLoughlin committed suicide using a studio prop pistol that only had one bullet in it.
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.
Born in a small town outside of Rome, Italy in 1932, Renato Fratini studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti de Roma and began his commercial art career in the early 1950’s, originally doing comic strips and spot illustrations for the Guerri Brothers studio. But in 1952 he moved to the competing Favelli Brothers agency, which had a contract with Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, allowing Fratini to work on a number of now iconic European film posters.
He continued doing a lot of film promotion work there and later for other studios throughout the fifties, while also expanding into paperback book cover art. That work led Fratini to London, where he dived into his most productive period, churning out popular film poster, magazine illustration and book cover art assignments in a unique mixed media combining acrylic underpainting layered with inks and gouache. Some bio’s wonder how the artist managed to produce so much work throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, notorious for living it up in the swinging sixties Rome and London party scenes. Sadly, his lifestyle caught up with him, and Renato Fratini passed away at the young age of 41 in 1973.
“35 Dolls Of Memphis” is a Neil Pritchie story from the January 1956 issue of Stag magazine, which lucked out with this two-page spread duotone illustration by Illustrators Hall Of fame inductee James Bama, well represented in the “men’s adventure magazine” market at that time, his solid run on Bantam paperback covers still a few years away.
“There weren’t enough detectives in Memphis to question all the inmates of Daddy Samples’ harem,” the story’s tease stated, “a collection of luscious females, each a murder suspect.”
Would it surprise us if the Bama art turned out to be the best part of the tale?
Let’s honor the postwar master artist/illustrator Robert Maguire (8.3.1921 – 2.26.2005), who only has one more to go before the century mark, and is credited with over 1,200 paperback covers in addition to his work in magazines, advertising and other media. Maguire was attending Duke University when the U.S entered WWII, and ended up in the infantry in the Italian campaign. Once mustered out, he studied at the Art Students League, graduating in 1949 and quickly finding work, first with Trojan Publications’ “pocket pulps” like Hollywood Detective Magazine.
Sadly, (but very understandably) the Robert Maguire website at ramaguirecoverart.com (a terrific site cataloging the master’s work and showcasing intriguing studio photos, sketches and more) was shuttered not all that long ago. You can still land at the URL, and see for yourself why it had to be taken down. Doubly sad that Maguire’s and so many of his revered postwar era peers’ work has been ‘appropriated’ by the less than scrupulous, showing up with frightening frequency on quickie sex and crime ebook covers and online ‘sale-ables’.
Jim Silke’s 2009 Dames, Dolls And Gun Molls – The Art Of Robert Maguire is a treasured tome in my writing lair’s bookcases. It would be impossible for me to load up all my favorite Maguire covers here, so only a few will have to do, like The Damned Lovely up above from 1955, The Brass Bed from 1960 and Mona Knox from 1962 below. It’s barely scratching the surface of this talented artist’s many works and diverse styles, but it’s good to remember – and honor – one of the very, very best of the 1950’s-60’s era PBO cover artists, whose work graces so very many mystery and crime fiction classics and quirky cult faves often seen here and at fellow noir culture fans’ sites. I’m sure someone (or someones) much better informed and scholarly than I will have suitable tributes come this time next year.
While working at his family’s New Jersey general store, McCauley “Mac” Conner (1913 – 2018) started his art training during the Depression through the International Correspondence School, later attending the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and New York’s Grand Central School of Art. While still there he was drafted into the Navy during WWII, stationed in New York and assigned to produce training materials. Once discharged, he began his illustration career in earnest, opening The Neeley Studio with two partners, quickly in demand as a go-to artist for the Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan and other glossies along with multiple advertising accounts.
Editors and art directors relied on Conner’s work to be up-to-date right down to the details of the season’s fashions from hemlines to accessories, and though many regard Conner as an expert with female subjects (and thus, numerous romance story assignments) he actually enjoyed mystery and crime story projects. His 1950’s era work (the examples shown here) are mostly gouache, ink and graphite on board, and are dramatically different from his later work, Conner intentionally reinventing himself during the 1960’s when he witnessed the rapid decline of magazine and advertising illustration work, which was being supplanted by photography. He turned to carefully rendered and less stylized painting and quickly became popular with romance paperback publishers like Harlequin and Warner. In his well-deserved retirement, Conner continued painting, turning to portraiture. Mac Conner passed away at 105 in 2018.
McCauley “Mac” Conner (1913 – 2018) often said that he considered himself a storyteller more than an artist, and didn’t care if his work ended up hanging on a wall in a museum or in the trash.
As it turned out, the successful postwar era illustrator’s work did indeed end up hanging on museum walls in the Museum Of The City Of New York’s 2014 retrospective, “Mac Conner: A New York Life” which showcased a generous selection of his prodigious output, linking his subjects and style to the so-called “Mad Men” era and aesthetic.
More of the artist’s work follows in the next post…
Pulp magazine and vintage paperback collectors have done a darn good job of tracking down writers’ pen names and identifying cover artists’ unsigned works. But the artists and illustrators who banged out the black & white interior spot illustrations – surely for starvation rates that wouldn’t buy a cup of java and a sinker – sadly will remain anonymous for the most part, with very, very few ever credited, and even the pulp experts often stumped. I sometimes think of them as the anonymous residents of the Tomb Of The Unknown Illustrators, such as these examples pulled from a couple issues of Spicy Detective magazines from 1940.