I received an e-mail last week about a new blog called Vintage Sleaze, run by Jim Linderman. Since I have a love of trashy novels, burlesque dancers and exploitations films and even a weekly feature by that same title, I checked it out. And let me tell you, it's a great site.
The site honors the long forgotten art work of Eugene Bilbrew, Eric Stanton, Bill Ward and Bill Alexander. These artists and many others drew perverted, titillating covers for novels few would ever see.
"The publishers of these soft-core novels were hounded by moral crusaders and ultimately put out of business. The owners didn't comply with rules and regulations to begin with (using phony addresses, avoiding tax laws and featuring questionable content) Larger publishers who used "better" illustrators and "real" authors garner the most attention from legitimate collectors and aficionados. More accomplished (that is, more "painterly") illustrators have had their work better documented, detailed and appreciated. As the books here were mob-commissioned, distributed in darkness and displayed under the counter more often than in racks, they are today scarcer than more legitimate and more often seen mainstream paperbacks, even those which fall into the broad "vintage sleaze" category. Printed in editions of around 10,000 copies (a guess) they were fugitive literature, undocumented and born outside more established channels of publication. In fact, more traditional scholars and collectors sneered at them until several folks thanked below brought them back to life.
From 1960 to 1970, the already large paperback book industry grew huge. Having been invented as a way to entertain foxhole parked soldiers a long way from home, by this time pocket books were omnipresent. The books WW2 and Korean war vets were familiar with were now sold anywhere travelers passed...news stands, bus stops, roadside rest areas, even the occasional bait shop. The boys were also starting to age a bit...maybe suburbia was getting boring and the wife a little familiar. It was also a decade with the beginnings of sexual openness, experimentation and aggressive marketing of sexual imagery. The 1950's fetish publications of such pioneer pariahs as Irving Klaw (for whom several of these illustrators had worked) and his spicy Bettie Page layouts may have been coming to an end with prosecution, but the door had opened and "men's magazines" arrived, then followed by a flood of pornography. In the interim, raunchy titillating literature had to rely on aggressive, splashy cover ballyhoo. With nary a swear word between the covers, publishers required eye-grabbing pictures which told a story to the most brief and furtive of shoppers. They didn't have to make sense, in fact they didn't even have to be related to the story inside at all...and these usually don't. But they still did the job."
Hat (and bras) off to Jim for creating a unique and wonderful site. Needless to say, today's Vintage Sleaze was found there.