RARA-AVIS: Re: Gateway Publishers

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 24 Jan 2006

Mark (who knows his Hazlewood) wrote:

> A number of late '70s and '80s PI series had pretty distinctive cover
> art, like those by Arthur Lyons, Jack Lynch, Stephen Greenleaf, etc.

Oh yeah - the first three or so Greenleaf covers, those Tanner novels with cityscape backdrops, with Tanner sort of cropped out and shifted slightly, creating a black void where he should be (and hence a vague and appropriate sense of dislocation)? Those were really good. That's a series I definitely dscovered because I just liked the cover.

And those garish, blinding 3am-in-a-strip-joint Lyons covers? Seems to me the same publisher did the Joseph Hansen Brandstetter novels as well, but in a different -- and more subdued style. Great great designs, and well-done renderings that stand the text of time, and not merely due to nostalgia. The sepia-toned Cain reprints, with their distinctive typeface choices and retro-style photography were solid work, too, even on some of the more negligible Cain books -- thanks for reminding me.

God, is it possible the seventies and early eighties were the last great era of mass market paperback covers worth looking at, at least in the North American mystery field?

Even the occasionally amateurish covers for the Black Lizard imprint had a sense of personal style -- a far cry from the predictable BIG BLOATED TEXT and clipart style currently so in favor.

In the eighties, the Brits started to do some darn good crime stuff with photography and simple, understated typography, and the then-new
"yuppiebacks" in North America started to boast some good airbrush illustrations, even if the overall cover designs were often lame. But mass market in North America, particularly in the crime fiction field? I think it all started to slide in the mid-eighties.

Sure, the Hard Case Crime covers nowadays are good (I love 'em, as a quick glance at almost any "cover" of THRILLING DETECTIVE will tell you), and it's a welcome change from the same old same old -- but they're really (and intentionally) pastiche, whereas the covers Mark and I were discussing -- even the retro ones) juggled illustration styles, photography and typography in distinctive and unique ways.

And of course, it's not like there aren't still some great covers out there, but they seem to be more the exception than the rule these days
-- and the simply mediocre is a lot more mediocre than it used to be
(And don't even get me started on the puke-inducing montages of amateurish Photoshop wankery so prevalent among self-published POD authors).

But overall , browsing a bookstores these days is a lot less exciting, at least visually, than it used to be.

Which is why a good cover can still suck me in.

And that ain't Diddley.

Kevin Burton Smith AT LAST! The Thrilling Detective Web Site January 2006 Issue With Weinman, MacLean, the return of The Thrillies and cover art by pulp legend R.A. Maguire. http://www.thrillingdetective.com

RARA-AVIS home page: http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 24 Jan 2006 EST