I have been keen to do a McGinnis related post on this site ever since picking up a copy of The Art of Robert E McGinnis, published by Titan Books, during my travels in the US late last year.
Most Pulp Curry readers will be familiar with McGinnis, whose striking illustrations appeared on the covers of numerous pulp novels and who is still working at the age of nearly ninety, doing the occasional cover for the Hard Case Crime imprint.
One of the main reasons there is so much contemporary interest in pulp fiction of the fifties and sixties is the striking cover art. I find this interesting given that it is often the aspect of pulp fiction we know the least about. The artists behind the wonderfully lurid images that grace the covers of most pulp books are seldom acknowledged and we know very little about most of these people and how they worked.
McGinnis was an exception. His images, including his signature illustrations of femme fatales and other female pulp characters, are well known and have appeared on books by authors as diverse as Lawrence Block, Jim Thompson, Erskine Caldwell and the US editions of Australian pulp writer Alan Geoffrey Yates, aka Carter Brown, to name just a few.
McGinnis had more strings to his illustration bow than just pulp. He did magazine illustrations and work for Hollywood movies, including posters for Woody Allen’s Sleeper and the James Bond films Thunderball and You Only Live Twice.
All these aspects of his astonishing output are represented in the visually incredible coffee table book, The Art of Robert E McGinnis. In addition to some absolutely stunning reproductions of his work there is some interesting behind the scenes information about how McGinnis approached his work. For example, while McGinnis is best known for the highly sexually charged, erotic renditions of the female form, less know is the subtle changes he brought to his work, depending on the outlet and the audience.
While many pulp artists were only able to produce one kind of work, images for lurid male oriented pulp novels, McGinnis realised earlier than most, that this section of the publishing industry was on the wane by the late sixties, and changed his tack to suit the needs of publications such as romance and gothic novels and magazines like National Geographic.
It’s a pity more pulp artists haven’t had their work celebrated in a book like The Art of Robert McGinnis. It’s a must own for any serious connoisseur of pulp fiction.
In the meantime, enjoy the following selection of covers.