Thursday, 4 September 2014

Pan People.

Amid all those artful Penguins, we haven’t had many examples of the more ‘old school’ approach to paperback crime covers on here for a while, so, here’s a cheery trio of UK Pan editions I just picked off the top of the book-heap, all featuring artwork from the ubiquitous Sam “Peff” Peffer - definitely one of the most consistent and classy British pulp cover artists I’m aware of.

‘Dames Don’t Care’ was actually a birthday present a few years back from some friends I’ve sadly lost touch with since (sorry about that guys, if you’re reading). I skim-read it at the time and found it a hell of a lot of fun as I recall – an example of Peter Cheyney pushing the ultra-hard boiled, cod-American thug vernacular style of his Lemmy Caution books to the point of absolute oblivion. Needless to say, none of the raging, desperate white trash characters featured in the book look anything like the more well-appointed couple seen on the front of this edition, leading me to suspect that the illustration was either just a generic, one-size-fits-all crime cover, or else a spare painting left over from some other assignment, slapped on here by a cost-conscious editor on a deadline.

Conversely, the Pan edition of ‘Lady in the Morgue’ must count as a bit of a minor brit-pulp classic, not only for the macabre and unusual cover painting, but for the frenzied back cover blurb (“..cuts grim mortuary capers over a volcano of violence..”), and even the press quotes are good too. Maybe not a paperback that’ll blow your mind on first glance, but in terms of the wonderful and peculiar stuff that keeps me coming back to these books, it’s got the complete package for sure.

Not much to say about about ‘The Endless Colonnade’, except 1. Hitchcocksploitation!, and 2. Ouch, quite a burn on John Buchan from the Evening News.

A nice interview with ‘Peff’ himself, alongside fellow cover artist Pat Owen, can be found here. Plenty of interesting recollections about life in the cover art business, but the thing that really knocked me out was the revelation that, for a lot of these covers, the publisher actually paid for reference photographs to be taken in advance, arranged on the artist’s instructions complete with models and costumes, and THEN paid the artist to paint the cover based on the photos! Truly, the mind boggles.

Oh, and by the way, apologies again for the continuing lapse in regular content on this blog. Just to keep you updated, I’m slowly getting back to some blog writing done after an unavoidable lay off, and, though I still have a pretty daunting workload to get through in other areas of life, I hope to be back in business with some fresh movie reviews by about this time next week, fingers crossed. Thanks again for your patience.

‘Lady in The Morgue’ dates from 1959 (originally published 1937), ‘Dames Don’t Care’ is 1960 (originally published 1937), and ‘The Endless Colonnade is 1959 (published for the first time).


dfordoom said...

Peter Cheyney's Lemmy Caution books are indeed tremendous fun.

JRSM said...

I've got, but haven't yet read, a couple of John Latimers, but they're meant to be a lot of fun, too.

For rather grimmer, but very well done, 1950s newspaper journalism/corruption/office politics stuff, Robert Harling's 'The Empty Sunday' is well worth a read.

knobgobbler said...

WOW! I had no idea there were Lemmy Caution books... I was only aware of the movies. I guess it figures (are there any Danger Diabolik books I wonder?).
Yay! Something new to obsessively track down and read.

dfordoom said...

I've read one Jonathan Latimer and yes, it was fun. A hardboiled humorous mystery if you can imagine such a thing.

Ben said...

Thanks for your thoughts JRSM and DforDoom - always appreciated. Maybe I'll give the Latimer book a go.

And for Mr. Knobgobbler -

Yes, all of the Lemmy Caution films (prior to 'Alphaville') were based on Peter Cheyney books. For a complete list, visit this page and scroll down to 'French films':

And, not quite prose books, but Diabolik was already a popular Italian comic book character prior to his appearance in Mario Bava's film. Created by Angela and Luciana Giussani in 1962: