The great art found on 1940s-60s bools — not just sleaze, sex, and sin, but all paperback genres — were meant to catch the eye: when a customer saw the cover on the newsstand or bookstore, they would pick it up out of great curisoity: is the cover as good as the story inside? Sometimes people bought the books on covers alone, just as collectors do today (collecting Bonfils or Rader, they don’t care about the text).
I never heard of these two books below, for instance, or the writers, and have no idea what they are about, I just now got them on eBay because I liked the covers:
Look at those bosoms on that Bonfils art! Push-up 50s bras!
And Twisted — the cover seems to hint at incest. From a Beacon? I don’t know yet, but I have a feeling the cover is misleading, that the girl’s father is strict and mean and she takes off and rebels, and not that her father is the man on the cover wanting to prove that incest is best in some sort of gutter laden lust of shame!
I am often annoyed when the cover is indeed misleading, if the girl on the cover does’t match the main character. Bonfils always illustrated a scene in a Nightsand book, unlike Midwoods where Harry Shorten would buy art and have writers compose something around it, or just attach art to a book that doesn’t quite fit the story, like Mel Johnson’s Instant Sex.
In the 1970s and 80s, sex books started to use photos of real people models, believing that is what customers wanted. Perhaps they did, and perhaps paying a model a few dollars was cheaper than commissioning original art. I don’t care much for photo covers, and they tend to not fit the stories either. This is true for today’s erotic books — at Blue Moon Books, sometimes the Avalon art dept. just randomly slapped some photo they had in stock (sometimes even putting the same one on two books); and they would put modern age women on Victorian novels. Some of my Blue Moon covers I hated, like The Dress –
The dress in the novel is short and black, and the female character is blonde – the other female is a red-head. So who the hell is this on the cover supposed to be?
(Note: The Dress is being made into a sexy art film in New York soon, after three years of development, and is available in ebook format at Olympia Press, or you can get it used online. I wrote it as a novella in 1996, published in The Mammoth Book of New Erotica (edited by Maxim Jakubowski) in 1997; I then expanded it as a full novel in 2001 for Blue Moon. Of all my erotic books, this one has made the most money, mainly from the film option.)
Some covers I really liked, such as The Rooms –
I actually saw the cover before completing the book so I wrote a scene that describes the cover.
For Amateurs, I took my own cover photo –
This was a girl who lived nextdoor, she was from Argentina. She had a website where she sold pix, and sometimes videos if her having sex with her boyfriend. I was happy when she agreed to grace the cover of one of my books, just as another female friend appears on the cover of one of my Dr. Mundinger-Klow books:
But…they just don’t make paperback or hardcover covers like they used to in the 1940s-60s. Some imprints imitate the look, like the Hard Case Crime books, and they are cool, but they are just retro – they have the look but not the spirit and the feel.
Here are some other covers that are great, worth the price of admission alone, but tend to not reflect the actual novel — posted here for your eyeball’s fancy, because I know you’re reading this blog because you dig these nifty covers a much as any other vintage book fan does…