A few weeks ago, I discussed Cover Me, Colin Larkin's excellent study of Pan paperback cover art. This book is published by Telos (who also publish crime fiction, notably the work of Priscilla Masters) and I've now received from them two more lavishly illustrated books depicting cover art from paperbacks of long ago. Both books deal with the work of one prolific artist, well-known in his day, Reginald Heade.
The two books are: The Art of Reginald Heade by Stephen James Walker, and The Art of Reginald Heade, volume 2, by Walker and Steve Chibnall. The central challenge in publishing books of this kind is to ensure that the quality of the illustrations is of a high standard. And Telos rise to that challenge.
I didn't know anything about Heade or his work before reading these books, though by a coincidence I see that one of his earliest covers was for a paperback original story by Francis Beeding, The Errant Under-Secretary, which was recommended to me recently. During the course of his career, he produced covers for many notable writers, ranging from John Steinbeck, Pamela Hansford Johnson, and Anne Frank to thriller writers such as David Hume and Erle Stanley Gardner. His covers adorned magazines, children's books, romances, and westerns. He produced artwork for comic strips and jigsaw puzzles. He is, however, perhaps most closely associated with the work of Hank Janson, which I have to say doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. Titles like Hotsy-You'll Be Chilled, Slay-Ride for Cutie, and Death Wore a Petticoat speak for themselves. Unfortunately.
But just as you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (though sometimes you can...), so one shouldn't judge Heade by the authors whose covers he designed. He was a highly professional artist, and did what he was tasked to do very efficiently. I find the discussion of his life interesting - and rather sad. I'm not sure I've ever read a story about an artist who specialised in book covers. Thanks to Telos, and these titles, I'm now strongly tempted to write one....