TRASHY TUESDAY: LARRY KENT COVERS
The Larry Kent series of crime digests originated in 1954 and ran until 1983. The books were originally based on the Sydney radio show ‘I Hate Crime’, about an American reporter, Larry Kent, who moved to Australia and set himself up as crime busting private investigator. The books (which were under a hundred pages each) moved the hard drinking, tough talking Kent to New York, but kept the ‘I Hate Crime’ tagline on most of the covers. Published by Cleveland Publications, the Larry Kent books were a rival to Carter Brown and were churned out each month.
The series had a couple of authors, most notably Don Haring and Des R Dunn. As James Doig points out in his excellent article in The Paperback Fanatic Number 38, the 1950s and early 1960s covers usually featured striking artwork by Walter Stackpoole (see Blind Date below). By the late 1960s, however, these had largely given way to less classy, more stylised covers featuring semi-naked or bikini-clad young women staring directly at the reader, while mayhem erupts behind them (as with Mourning Glory above).
In a recent a post on the Pulp Curry website, Andrew Nette did a fascinating piece on Larry Kent’s Spanish Connection. From the late 1960s the Spanish syndicated art agency Nova Bossa provided a lot of covers for Cleveland, including those for the Larry Kent books. Using Spanish artists such as Rafael Cortiella and Enrich Torres, Nova Bossa provided covers which were usually more violent and sexualised in their approach. To some extent this can be seen in the unattributed art work for Mourning Glory above, with the woman being viciously assaulted in the background.
Andrew’s article made me look back over my Larry Kent books to see what covers I had by Spanish artists.
The main one I found was Josep Maria Miralles. Miralles was a self-taught artist, who started drawing comics and covers in 1953 and went to provide illustrations for a range of British and European magazines and book publishers.
Ace Of Assassins is reasonably typical of the Miralles covers I have seen, which tend to very busy with lots happening. This one gives us two girls, one caressing a gun, and more weaponry in the background. The polo necked shirt nicely locates the picture in the early 1970s and the guy in mid-flight with a rifle adds a sense of action. The girls are nicely done, but it is not the most effective Larry Kent cover I have seen.
The Big Come-On is another relatively busy Miralles cover. It features the obligatory girl in a bikini looking directly at the reader with a provocative stare. While in the background there is a man, who looks vaguely like Clint Eastwood in ‘Dirty Harry’ holding the equally obligatory gun! The two tone drawing of the policeman/security guard with a torch kneeling over the spread-eagle corpse of a man in the foreground, is quite effective and gives the cover a strong seedy, big city feel. It is well done and adds a gritty tone to the cover. It is also one of the first to do away with the ‘I Hate Crime’ tagline.
Centerfold Be Damned is by another Spanish artist, Fernando Fernandez, who did a number of the Larry Kent covers. It has the typical mixture of violence, guns and a beautiful woman, but has a very washed out tone to it. All the action is on the left of the cover, leaving a large block of vacant, pale pink beige (on the original) to the right, which fades out the picture. The woman is also done in pale hues and is wearing a weird mohair looking coat. The clothing and the positioning of her in a broach-like sphere, also adds an old fashioned feel to it. The action scene is also in washed colours and the effectiveness of it is undercut by the awkward and unrealistic way that one of the men is holding his gun. I do not think it is a particularly good or striking cover, but apparently the people at Cleveland Publications liked it, as it was the second time that they used it.
I do not have a copy, but it seems that the same cover was used some twelve months earlier on Look At Me (Larry Kent 729, 1973?). Apart from the title, the only difference would seem to be the use of the ‘I Hate Crime’ tagline on Look At Me (apologies for the poor copy below).
Finally, I had not been able to find anything on the artist P. S. Albert who did the below cover for Nothing Counterfeit, but a reader of the blog ‘Jussi’ identified it as being by Albert Pujolar Soler. It is a very good cover. The girl in the silver bikini with improbably laced up matching shoes is very well drawn and the scattering of old coins and dollar notes fills up the space nicely. The traveler’s cheque is also cleverly positioned to draw your eye to the girl and gives the impression that she is hanging off it. And for once there is no sign of a gun! It is the only cover by P. S. Albert I have seen, but I like it.
Thanks to James Doig and Andrew Nette for the background on the post and Graeme Flanagan’s indispensable Australian Vintage Paperback Guide.