Friday, July 14, 2006

The Girl Most Likely...


I found these books in a Powell's Books kiosk at the Portland, Oregon Airport in June, 2005, and they cost me a whopping 25¢ apiece!

In the early 1950s Gold Medal Books ran a series on famous murder trials, all featuring the word "Girl" in the title. It was an interesting series, and produced at least one best seller that I know of, The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing, about the murder of turn-of-the-Twentieth Century architect Stanford White by Harry K. Thaw for the love of Evelyn Nesbit. It was even made into a movie.

Three of these covers are by an artist named Barye, of whom I know absolutely nothing. He used an earth-tone palette, with lots of browns and greens. I find it gives these covers, greatly reduced from the original art, a muddy look. I've seen it on other Gold Medal books, and it might have been a personal preference of the art director. In the early 1950s with a lot of paperback covers looking garish and pulp magazine-styled, hoping to catch the eye of the consumer, the more muted tones of these Gold Medal covers might have stood out.

Book #9, Girl On The Lonely Beach, is a departure, using a photograph with posed models.

My favorite of the four is The Girl In The House Of Hate by Charles and Louise Samuels. The Lizzie Borden case, along with Jack The Ripper and a few others, still has interest for the public, and every few years someone comes out with a new book "solving" this century-old crime. The cover of House of Hate is eerie, a visualization of the moment before the events told in the old children's rhyme: "Lizzie Border took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done she gave her father forty-one."

The cover of The Girl On The Gallows might be a portrait of an actress. Maybe Susan Hayward? Book publishers weren't above using movie stars as unauthorized models on their covers. Marilyn Monroe's image was used in an unauthorized manner several times.

Someday someone ought to reprint these books. In today's more sensitive political climate, though, they'd have to substitute the word "woman" for "girl."

Ciao for now, El Postino

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