Monday, June 01, 2009

Beauty Is Only Page Deep

Anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis knows what a big fan I am of vintage crime-fiction book covers. So allow me to enthuse just a bit over Dames, Dolls, and Gun Molls: The Art of Robert A. Maguire (Dark Horse, $24.95), by Jim Silke. American Maguire, who died in 1995, was one of the foremost paperback illustrators of the mid-20th century. “His classic period ...,” explains the artist’s official Web site, “grew out of his skilled female images, some of the best and most memorable of the period. Maguire’s mastery of the ‘femme fatale’ created a vintage paperback icon: his women are passionate yet somehow down to earth, approachable, though sometimes at your own risk. These images compel one to wonder what led up to that instant in time and where it will lead next, the very stuff of timeless art.”

Writer and artist Jim Silke, who created the memorable Rascals in Paradise series for Dark Horse Comics in the 1990s, and more recently gave us Pinup: The Illegitimate Art (2005), loads the 96 pages of Dames, Dolls, and Gun Molls with large-scale reproductions of Maguire’s arresting artwork, as well as essays about his life and his illustrating process, some of the sketches he later turned into book jackets, and a few photos he used to capture reality on the tip of his pen. If you’d like to see some of the results, check out the flip-book sampler here.

This book might be an ideal companion to Dope Menace: The Sensational World of Drug Paperbacks, 1900-1972. But it would also be well paired with the forthcoming (in July) Dames, Dolls, and Delinquents: A Collector’s Guide to Sexy Pulp Fiction Paperbacks, by Gary Lovisi. What wonderful riches for the eyes as well as the imagination!

Oh, and if you’re wondering where you’ve seen the cover illustration of Dames, Dolls, and Gun Molls before, it’s comes from 1956’s The Bad Blonde, a Father Shanley mystery by Jack Webb.

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