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0718 Dress Her in Indigo

March 22, 2021

0718 Dress Her in Indigo 481
  • Title: Dress Her in Indigo
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 1974/75
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • Collection: Gold Medal
  • Collection #: P3014
  • Cover Price: $1.25
  • Cover Artist: Robert McGinnis

Not the best of the otherwise outstanding Shape series but it’s hard to complain much about any cover that combines a submachine gun-wielding Handmaiden with Napoleon in a white suit. Mr. McGinnis was feeling his oats that day and decided to eschew his usual leggy, sartorially deprived lady for an exquisitely detailed Mayan god. “It’s art!” he argued, but of course, the publisher made him add the two figures because who would but the book otherwise?

This cover was used for the 8th, 9th, and 10th printings, which ran from 1974 to 1975.

0717 The Lonely Silver Rain

March 20, 2021

0717 Lonely Silver Rain, The 1817
  • Title: The Lonely Silver Rain
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 2013
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-13: 9780812984125
  • Cover Artist: photo

By now we all know that Random House put all of the McGee books back in print and I, for one, am mightily pleased. No longer do I have to point prospective Travis fans to the execrable Fawcett Crest editions and then suffer the swings and errors of egregious faux gems when they come back to me asking how in the name of all that is holy I could recommend such an atrocious, bilious, cancerous, deleterious, edentulous, falacious, grotty, herniated [snip] yucky,  and … uh … wait a second … ok, I got it … zymolitic piece of garbage like that.

So anyway, no more of that. Now I can point them to these covers which despite being photo covers are surprisingly good. Many in this series feature water like this one does, which makes sense since ole Trav is a water guy. There used to be a thousand dumpy little bridges like this in Florida and for all I know there still might be. There aren’t too many cars like that though, not anymore.

I like the water, the old bridge, the old car, the silvery tone to everything, and the fact that for once a JDM cover has palm trees portrayed correctly. Give this one an upvote!

0716 The Empty Copper Sea

March 18, 2021

0716 Empty Copper Sea, The uk 518
  • Title: The Empty Copper Sea
  • Language: English
  • Country: UK
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 1980
  • Publisher: Pan
  • ISBN-10: 0330258605
  • ISBN-13: 9780330258609
  • Cover Price: £0.90
  • Cover Artist: Langdon Clay (photo)

This otherwise uninteresting Pan effort does have four very slightly interesting things to say about it, if you’re not too picky and are easily impressed.

Since the title is Copper, the exceptionally boring and completely irrelevant photo is shaded in copper tones. That’s the bare minimum required by the recently passed, Brexit-inspired Paperback Cover Relevancy Act of 2020, intended to help the UK compete in the ruthless cutthroat international book cover printing industry.

The cover is also a partial wraparound, which is a rarity in this biz. You don’t have to go looking for it; I present the whole thing right here.

0716 Empty Copper Sea, The uk wraparound 518

Thirdly, this cover is a rare-and-endangered example of a photo cover with a credited photographer.

And last of all, and by every account the most important, the car in the foreground is a Buick. I can’t identify automobiles by their looks but Buicks from about 1950 sported the famous “three holes” (or sometimes “four holes”) just above and behind the front wheels. They served no purpose whatsoever but were strictly a styling feature. Old Buicks had gigantic round ones that looked like they might be boiler exhaust ports on the Titanic, while later ones were more streamlined like this one. The last ones were merely a single strip of faux chrome with three bumps on them. In the 1970s, Buick began phasing them out; the last ones appearing about 1984. And you know what they called them? Cruiserline Ventiports. Those were the days.

0715 The Long Lavender Look

March 17, 2021

0715 Long Lavender Look 794
  • Title: The Long Lavender Look
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 1983/84
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • Collection: Gold Medal
  • Collection #: 12568-8
  • ISBN-10: 0449125688
  • ISBN-13: 9780449125687
  • Cover Price: $2.95
  • Cover Artist: William Schmidt
  • Author of: Cinnamon Skin

Lavender has always been one of my favorites. It takes place in small town Florida, which was where MacDonald really shone. It has the standard JDM Tough-But-Fair-Sheriff™, the standard JDM Let-Me-Whomp-You-Upside-The-Head-Deppity™, and the standard JDM Batshit-Crazy-Villain™. Of course, the last one is a woman this time but I won’t hold it against John D.

I grew up in Florida and the descriptions of the swamplands and 1960s small towns are spot on. I swear I have driven the road where Miss Agnes took an unexpected bath.

I puzzled over the use of a birthday cake on the cover for over a year before I finally broke down and re-read the book. It’s hardly a major plot point but at least I get it now. I’ll display your name in blue pixels if you’re the first one to explain what it is referring to.

Update (03/18/2021): I guess that bit of trivia wasn’t as obscure as I thought it was. Freiler winkled out the answer in a trice. See his comment for more details.

0714 The Quick Red Fox

March 16, 2021

0714 Quick Red Fox, The 1875
  • Title: The Quick Red Fox
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 1981
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • Collection: Gold Medal
  • Collection #: 1-4264-7
  • ISBN-10: 0449142647
  • Cover Price: $2.50
  • Cover Artist: Robert McGinnis
  • Author of: The Green Ripper

The great Robert McGinnis is featured on this 26th printing of Red. The reason for the film is obvious. The peeping Tom is obvious. The beautiful girl is obvious. But why on Earth should there be a red fox on the cover?

And that fox ain’t quick; it looks lazy to me. Get moving!

0713 The Lethal Sex

March 15, 2021

0713 The Lethal Sex 2065
  • Title: The Lethal Sex
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 2018
  • Publisher: unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1726600446
  • Cover Artist: photo

It has been many a year since we have seen Lethal. There just aren’t that many editions of it. But it seems it has recently been reprinted. By whom? Beats me. Amazon is happy to sell me a copy but all they say is “independently published”. Has the copyright expired? Did somebody self-publish a bootleg edition? And where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

All good questions and not a single good answer to be found.

The photo itself doesn’t have that much to recommend it but I really like the way they have made it look like it’s a tattered, much used hardcover. When I first saw it, I was sure I had just found some ancient unknown edition.

0712 The Damned

March 14, 2021

0712 Damned, The 304
  • Title: The Damned
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 1955
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • Collection: Gold Medal
  • Collection #: 481
  • Cover Price: $0.25
  • Cover Artist: unknown
  • It takes brass balls to put “NOT A REPRINT” on the cover of the 4th printing.
  • “She’s beautiful. She’s half-undressed. She’s asleep. I could have my way with her but somebody put this damned quote between us so I can’t reach her.”
  • A cover so good that Fawcett paid Barye Philips to paint it again. Oh how embarrassing; I haven’t blogged Barye’s cover yet so I can’t link to it.
  • “I’m beautiful. I’m half-undressed. I’m pretending to be asleep. He could have his way with me. Maybe if I lift my left arm…”
  • There’s something about a fallen shoulder strap…
  • Everyone says that Lemon was JDM’s first best seller, but The Damned has sold more copies than anything else that he wrote.

0711 Murder for the Bride

March 12, 2021

0711 Murder for the Bride 822
  • Title: Murder for the Bride
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 1978
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • Collection: Gold Medal
  • Collection #: 1-3949-2
  • Cover Price: $1.50
  • Cover Artist: Robert McGinnis
  • Author of: Condominium

I’m reading this one right now. This very copy, in fact; you can see my greasy fingerprints on the cover. It’s never been a favorite of mine. In my opinion, MacDonald was still learning his novelcraft. He is still trying to be James M. Cain and there are lots of short, choppy sentences and mean characters. Still, there are some gems in there like this description of the French Quarter of New Orleans:

I was out of the air-conditioning, walking blindly through the heart of New Orleans in July, the drugged, sodden heat that eddies up out of the swamplands and compounds itself by glinting off chrome and rebounding off stone. A man cursed me as I shouldered him aside.When some of the blindness went away I found myself walking down Canal toward the river. I crossed over and turned down Burgundy and went into a dim bar that was like a dark cave amid sun-blasted rocks. The bartender set my drink in front of me. As my eyes adjusted I saw a sallow girl fiddling with a piano so small it was like a child’s toy. She had a constant dry cough. A tremendous buff-colored cat sat in regal pose on the corner of the bar. It stared at me with leonine contempt.

But there is also this, which is probably a relic of both the times and MacDonald:

One creature came mincing down the sidewalk toward me as I turned in at the sidewalk doorway to the apartment. It wore a pale blue linen suit, a man’s suit, a Panama hat. It wore a blue veil and a necklace of coral beads. The heat didn’t seem to bother it a bit. It smirked at me through the veil.

So it’s a mixed bag, or a Duke’s mixture, as my Southern wife would say, or she would if she read JDM, which she most definitely does not. To her credit, she allowed me to read Travis McGee to her and we went from Blue to halfway through Tan before she let me know that she had had enough of this nonsense, thank you very much.

Oh well, at least she’s a great cook.

0710 L’oeil jaune de la peur

March 9, 2021

0710 One Fearful Yellow Eye - France
  • Title: L’oeil jaune de la peur
  • English Title: The Fearful Yellow Eye
  • Canon: One Fearful Yellow Eye
  • Language: French
  • Country: France
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 1969
  • Publisher: Presses de la Cité
  • Collection: Mystère
  • Collection #: 27
  • Cover Artist: unknown
  • Translator: Marielle Sinoir

I don’t know what the French were putting in their Gauloises in 1969 but it may have affected their cover artists. Today’s unknown artiste was rolling with that whole James Bond vibe. The girl and the amorphous shape around her came right out of an Alfred R. Broccoli opening title sequence, right down to the action projected onto her almost naked body.

I can’t make head nor tail of what is happening on her right shoulder. It’s either a demonic light bulb with a bad toupee or a large-headed robot chasing a man over a hill.

The scene on her belly is much clearer, which is to say, not very. We have Robert Redford on our right … wait, that must be Travis. He’s holding a beer in his left hand … no, it’s a pistol. And there is one is his other hand, too! Travis McGee, the two-fisted drinker … or shooter. There also appears to be a Fear Hand just above her waistband, so maybe Travis has someon to shoot at … or drink with.

“Le Belles de Chicago.” Oh, those bad, bad Chicago girls. Shame on them. And the Darling Bread Boy, too.

0709 Ein Köder für die Bestie

March 8, 2021

0709 Executioners, The ger 570
  • Title: Ein Köder für die Bestie
  • English Title: A Bait for the Beast
  • Canon: The Executioners
  • Language: German
  • Country: West Germany
  • Format: Paperback
  • Year: 1988
  • Publisher: Ullstein Bucher
  • Collection #: 10292
  • ISBN-10: 3548102921
  • ISBN-13: 7983548102924
  • Cover Artist: unknown

Image courtesy of the John D. MacDonald Collection, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

I’ve done my share of whining (“Do what you’re good at,” my mama told me) about how the quality of the cover images I steal isn’t what it used to be, but today’s cover is so high quality that WordPress refused to upload it until I beat them about the neck and shoulders with a stick. There’s not a thing wrong with this one; I believe each pixel represents an individual atom of the original cover.

The design is simple but I like it. A target strung on a tree with bullet holes in it. I don’t think anyone will be confused thinking this is a romance or a children’s book.

If you’re wondering, the blurb says merely “for the first time in German”. Now that will sell a few more copies!

OK, since I’m here anyway, allow me a short rant. This cover reminds me of how weird it is that everyone thinks that tree trunks are brown. Children are taught to draw them that way and nobody ever realizes that the vast majority of tree bark is gray, not brown. The unknown artist got it right on this one and I happily salute him or her with a hearty “Gut gemacht!