Sunday, July 30, 2006

Femme Fatales Go to the Wall

[[C U L T U R E]] * I’m not usually big on wall calendars, but Bill Crider’s mention about a new flip-up bevy of babes for 2007 from the pen of Robert McGinnis caught my eye. (Hey, I’m a guy--what can I say?)

McGinnis, an Ohio kid who began illustrating paperback covers for Dell way back in 1958, has recently gained a whole new set of fans, thanks to the work he’s done on several Hard Case Crime fronts, including those of Plunder of the Sun, The Girl with the Long Green Heart, and The Last Quarry. But, now in his 80th year, he already has more than 1,500 paperback covers to his credit, produced for series by Erle Stanley Gardner, Brett Halliday (aka Davis Dresser), John D. MacDonald, Carter Brown (aka Alan G. Yates), and many others. (An outstanding array of his past covers is available here. For more, check out the artist’s own Web site.) In addition, McGinnis has painted movie posters for Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Barbarella (1968), and the 1971 James Bond flick Diamonds Are Forever. In 1993, he was elected into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, to join the likes of Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, Winslow Homer, Frederic Remington, Al Hirschfeld, and Maurice Sendak. More recently, two books have celebrated his artistic contributions--Tapestry: The Paintings of Robert E. McGinnis (2000) and The Paperback Covers of Robert McGinnis (2001).

Since McGinnis is best known for his illustrations of slinky, seductive, and often perfidious women, it’s not surprising that a wall calendar of his work would boast the appearance of a pin-up scheduler. But “Dangerous Dames,” described by retailer as “a hard-boiled collection of femme fatale paintings,” shouldn’t get your wife’s or girlfriend’s panties in a twist. Its dozen illustrations, borrowed from the covers of novels such as Take a Murder, Darling, Girl in a Shroud, and No Tears from the Widow, are a tribute to American pulp fiction of the mid-20th century. This isn’t about sexual exploitation; it’s about history. If they ever existed, most of the women McGinnis based his paintings on are probably grandmothers by now. That’ll dash cold water on one’s fantasies about these “Dangerous Dames,” if nothing else does.

Copies of the calendar can be had here for $12.99 apiece. Cheap for a year’s entertainment.

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