• Rocket to the Morgue

    Rocket to the Morgue

    Rocket to the Morgue by H. H. Holmes (William Anthony Parker White, aka Anthony Boucher) was the first and only title published in 1942 under the imprint A Phantom Mystery. This elusive mystery novel features several of Boucher’s mystery-writer colleagues under pseudonyms, and is a PBO (paperback original) first edition.

    As an experiment in 1950, Gold Medal books published Mansion of Evil by Joseph Millard,–their only title that was printed in color comic-book form instead of text. The format was not repeated, and this paperback, #129, is among the most difficult to find.

    Mansion of Evil

    Mansion of Evil

     

    Leslie Charteris, creator of The Saint, also wrote screenplays. He wrote Bonded Mystery #1, Lady on a Train, based on his own scenario (which starred Deanna Durbin, Dan Duryea and Ralph Bellamy and was filmed in 1945). Interestingly, Charteris changed,–and improved,–the movie’s ending in this book.

    Lady on a Train

    Lady on a Train

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The Window with the Sleeping Nude

    The Window with the Sleeping Nude

    Robert Leslie Bellem wrote some of the funniest hardboiled mystery stories for the pulps during the 1930s-’40s; his unique and whacky slang has never been successfully imitated.  He contributed to several of the Spicy magazines and his popular character Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective even had a magazine of his own under that title.  Bellem wrote only two books under his own name, Blue Murder and The Window with the Sleeping Nude (a paperback original, PBO:  Handi-Book Mystery #118, 1950).

    Another unusual and very scarce one-off is the first and only title published by Omnibus Mystery in 1944:  Night of Crime by Armstrong Livingston.  Its bizarre cover depicting a reclining blonde, a man in a devil costume and a beautiful witch astride an airborne sword with a jeweled hilt, is credited to Crayath.
    Night of Crime

    Night of Crime

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  • Overboard

    Overboard

    Saint Overboard

    Saint Overboard

    The first Popular Library title, Leslie Charteris’ Saint Overboard, was labeled as being a Popular Book. It was published in 1943 by Ned L. Pines and Leo Margulies. The stylized cover art was created by Lawrence H. Hoffman, who would later collaborate with Sol Immerman; their covers were signed “Im-Ho”.

    Perhaps the best-known and most collectable cover artist for Popular was Rudolph Belarski, whose GGA (Good Girl Art) cover paintings graced some of the most luridly colorful titles for PopLib. The Doll’s Trunk Murder by Helen Reilly, Popular #211, is an outstanding example of his work. His speciality was in depicting beautiful women in deadly danger and revealing costumes; these covers all have a lushly comic-book quality coupled with skillfully rendered and nearly photographic technique.

    The Doll's Trunk Murder

    The Dolls Trunk Murder

     

    Popular Library published the works of many of the best mystery writers of the 1940s and ’50s, including Patricia Wentworth, Jonathan Stagge (aka Patrick Quentin and Q. Patrick), Mabel Seeley, et al.  Hoffman created the striking covers below:

    In the Balance

    In the Balance

    The Stars Spell Death

    The Stars Spell Death

    The Whispering Cup

    The Whispering Cup

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  • Four Frightened Women

    Four Frightened Women

    When George Delacorte decided to expand his comic book publishing field to paperbacks in the early 1940s, he made sure that his line would stand out by hiring gifted artists to produce some of the most striking cover paintings around. Gerald Gregg‘s vivid airbrush technique and stylized illustrations graced most of the early Dells. Another unique feature, beginning with Dell #5, was the mapback–a map of the mystery crime scene on the back cover. Mapbacks continued until 1951, being gradually phased out thereafter.

    Four Frightened Women, mapback

    Four Frightened Women, mapback

     
    Most of the mapbacks were drawn by the talented Ruth Belew:

    The Whistling Hangman mapback

    The Whistling Hangman mapback

     

    Dreadful Hollow mapback

    Dreadful Hollow mapback

    Meat for Murder mapback

    Meat for Murder mapback

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