Happy Birthday To The Master: McGinnis.

mcginnis exit dying art 1960

Exit Dying, 1960

A very happy birthday to Robert McGinnis, born today in Cincinnati back in 1926 and still with us at 94. Apprenticed at Walt Disney Studios and studying art at Ohio State, McGinnis served in the Merchant Marine, then worked in advertising after WWII, where a chance 1958 meeting with illustrator Mitchell Hooks led to work at Dell Publishing. The result? In addition to editorial work for glossy magazines and over 40 movie posters, he’s credited with over 1,200 book covers, his well-known series work for Mike Shayne and other detective novels a key part of those books’ branded marketing. McGinnis is a member of the Society Of Illustrators Hall Of Fame, and after ‘retirement’ (if we want to call it that) has focused on non-commercial western themed art fine art painting.

There are too many ‘favorite’ Robert McGinnis cover illustrations to count, much less post here, and so many are already familiar to any visitor to this site. Still, I’ll post a few particular ‘faves’ I’ve always cherished, even before I knew they were McGinnis works, in some cases.

Too Hot To Hold

Too Hot To Hold, 1959

mcginnis never kill a client shayne 1963

Never Kill A Client, 1963

kill now pay later 1960

Kill Now, Pay Later 1960

The Skeleton In Santa Claus’s Closet.

Snappy Stories

I not entirely sure I want to know what skeletons Santa’s got hiding in his closet. His personal stash of pilfered toys from the workshop? Incriminating photos of Mrs. Claus? The down ‘n dirty scoop on Rudolph? Or is it really where the naughtier elves rendezvous in secret? We’ll never know, unless you can get your mitts on this 1926 issue of Snappy Stories.

 

Death on The House.

Dime Detective June 1947

Adapted from Peter Paige’s “Death On The House” opening two-page spread, which appeared in the June 1947 Dime Detective magazine, as seen at the always excellent pulpcovers.com site. I really wish the pulps credited the interior artists. Pulp experts are usually able to ID the cover artists, but the countless stunning (and sometimes, not-so-stunning) B&W interior spot illustrations are mostly doomed to anonymity.

Give this cocktail lounge coquette a simpler hairstyle with bangs, put her in a pair of plain pumps, and this illustration could almost be a new ‘Stiletto Gumshoe’ avatar.

Love, Libel And Murder

Invasion Of Privacy

“He was head over heel – in love and libel and murder…”

Illustration by Joe Bowler for Harry Kurnitz’ “Invasion Of Privacy” from Collier’s magazine, 1955.

1955 joe bowler

Spicy Detective, Back in ’41

Spicy Detective September 1941

The September 1941 issue of Spicy Detective magazine (an Adventure House facsimile edition 128-page reprint shown here) may not have been that magazine’s best issue, but it’s certainly representative of that title and the era’s material, complete with the usual cast of hotel house dicks, low-level mugs, scheming femmes fatales and even a phony haunted house. Having read a few Spicy Detectives now via these Adventure House reprints, my tally concludes that this particular issue might just have more florid descriptions of women’s scanty apparel than any other from that period, and considering how the writers could go on and on with that stuff, that’s really saying something.

This time it’s a fellow instead of a ‘frill’ who gets trussed up on the cover, which isn’t as unusual in 1930’s – 1940’s crime pulps as you might assume.  But the illustration still includes the obligatory damsel in distress, her frock obligingly aflutter while she struggles with a menacing thug. Actually, that cover art could apply to several stories inside, since more than one gumshoe finds himself jumped, socked or sapped and ends up hogtied by the bad guys. Fear not: This is an equal opportunity issue of Spicy Detective…the women end up much the same way in most of the stories.

Untitled3

There are seven tales here, with magazine regular Robert Leslie Bellem’s Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective in “Barmecide Bride” as well as stories by William B. Rainey, C.A.M. Deane, Randolph Barr, Walton Grey, Bob Leeson and Stan Warner. Plus, Adolphe Barreaux’ Sally The Sleuth makes an appearance in the four-page strip “She Keeps Her Head”, which deals with an axe murderer, and thus, the title. All in all, a lot of reading for two bits, even when a quarter was worth something.

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It’s too bad the pulps rarely credited the artists. Pulp and golden age illustration aficionados have ID’d so many cover paintings from 20thcentury magazines and paperback originals, but the pulps’ interior illustrations are mostly doomed to anonymity. A few from this issue are shown here, ripe with all the ‘spice’ that gave the magazine its name.

Untitled

The Consummate Illustrator

Austin Briggs

Just ordered mine today from Auad Publishing: Austin Briggs – The Consummate Illustrator edited by Manuel Auad, text by David Apatoff, with a foreword by the artist’s son.

Briggs isn’t the first name that’ll come to mind when you think of so-called golden and silver age illustrators from the mid-twentieth century, at least among pulp, mystery and crime fiction enthusiasts. He worked primarily in the glossies (lucky fellow) and in advertising, but his enormous body of work included no shortage of dark and mysterious pieces from high profile magazine story assignments. Check out a previous post of mine on Austin Briggs (link below) for a few more examples of his work and more about the artist.

Austin Briggs Cosmopolitan 1947Austin Briggs

And try the link to Auad Publishing while you’re at it. What an interesting operation. I have a couple Auad books, so I know that Austin Briggs – The Consummate Illustrator will be a handsome piece. Manuel Auad produces a small but impressive list of titles, each a labor of love and honoring classic American and foreign illustrators. These are well made books done in short runs, most sold direct from the publisher, not in stores, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. There’s only so much to browse there, some of the titles already sold out. But the site’s definitely worth a visit for its Links page, with a great list of artists’ and illustration sites you’re bound to probe a bit.

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2019/07/24/austin-briggs/

auadpublishing.com

I Was A Hideout Honey

Howell Dodd 1951

As is often the case with vintage pulps, it’s not always clear which of the bloodcurdling or teasingly sexy stories the cover art actually depicts. Face it: Sometimes the cover art was commissioned or purchased without any regard for that issue’s individual stories, or before they were even written.

Here, I’m going with “I Was A Hideout Honey” from this 1951 issue of True Cases Of Women In Crime. The classic Howell Dodd gouache illustration (I’ve also seen it credited to George Gross…couldn’t be, though. Right? Experts, please correct me if I’m wrong!) is crammed full of every genre trope and cliché you can ask for: Cigarette dangling from his lips, a bad guy smirks while he fingers his .45. The end table’s littered with an empty glasses, another cigarette smoking away in the ashtray, so you can almost smell that dingy old room. On the divan, the ‘hideout honey’ herself glances his way, resplendent in her filmy negligee, lacy black slip, coyly fussing with her nylons. Who knows what crime’s gone down already or is about to be committed, but Dodd sure nailed it all with this cover art.

True Cases Of Women In Crime 1951

 

Bill Edwards’ Black & Whites

bill edwards 1964 babe magazine #4

I’ve posted Bill Edwards illustrations before, and will again, hopefully along with some explanatory background on this truly intriguing artist, once I get the time.

Some have claimed that the figures in his full color cover art can look a little stiff or his backgrounds too pedestrian compared to some of his contemporaries, which include the genre’s masters like McGinnis, Maguire and others. I don’t now about that, not being an art critic. I do know that his B&W and duotone interior illustrations — surely done fast, probably not for mega-bucks and normally for the bottom-feeders of the fast-fading pulp magazine marketplace — the so-called ‘mens sweats’ – are full of verve and manage a lot of pop with only a one-color palette. Period-perfect retro-sauciness, too, don’t you think? This particular piece is a Bill Edwards gouache on board for a 1964 issue of Babe magazine.

‘Babe’ magazine? Yikes.

Who’s Rescuing Who? Just Askin’…

CNDA G-Men Detective Nov 1948 copy

Pulp magazine cover illustrations can be beautiful, lurid, hokey or sexy, though they don’t always make perfect sense. Still, it can be fun to decode them. Browse a few and see for yourself if you aren’t occasionally befuddled by just who’s the hero, who’s the villain and who’s the victim. Case in point: The November 1948 issue of G-Men Detective with a colorful action-filled illustration by pulp-maestro Rudolph Belarski (A Canadian edition shown here, I think).

 Scenario 1: Racing to free the woman on the sofa, the woman in the red dress has just removed her gag and is about to untie her friend when the gangster, kidnapper or generic gun-wielding gangsterish bad guy appears. Or…

 Scenario 2: That green scarf wasn’t a gag at all. The fellow with the cigarette tucked between his lips and brandishing the .45 automatic is no gangster. He’s a cop, private eye or generic good-guy, arriving just in the nick of time to rescue the the blonde haired woman in white who’s struggling on the sofa, about to be strangled by the evil woman in red. Or…

Oh hell, you could come up with another scenario for this one.

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