Welcome to my first Pulp Friday offering for 2018. Today’s book, The Man With the Brown Paper Face, published by Panther in 1969, showcases one of my favourite forms of paperback cover design, photographic cover art from the late 1960s/early 1970s.
I know the purists among you dig the painted pulp covers from the 1940s and 1950s, and I love them, too. But there is something wonderfully sensational and lurid about photographic cover design from the period I mentioned earlier and, in my opinion, the Brits were the masters of it.
Photographs began to replace artwork on paperback books from the mid-1960s on. Partly this was part of an effort by publishers to be seen to be moving with the times and look more modern. Partly it was a cost cutting measure, as photographic covers were cheaper than painted ones. But despite their cheapness, arguably because of it, many of these covers manage to evoke a dynamic, visceral, fly on the wall atmosphere that could often be quite stunning.
The Man With the Brown Paper Face is a good example. The cover utilises a man with a stocking over his head, posing on top of a scrapyard car, brandishing a star picket, which the photographer probably found nearby. Its nasty and direct and – I don’t know about you – but it instantly made me want to pick up the book.
The main character in the novel, Peter Heyson, is the host of a tabloid TV crime show who goes looking for a nasty divorce detective who has gone missing after appearing. The detective uncovered secrets that soon see Heyson the target of a blackmailer turned killed.
I have never heard of the author, Ian Hamilton, and, digging around have been able to find out very little about him. He was Australian and wrote five crime novels, all of which were published in the UK, and all of which featured the character of Heyson. According to John Loder’s Australian Crime Fiction: A Bibliography, 1857-1993, Hamilton was born in Melbourne, and worked and travelled in London and SE Asia, before setting in Sydney. His last book, The Thrill Machine, was published by Collins in 1972.