Sunday, November 6, 2011

Paul Rader and His Curves

I am referring to Isaac Paul Rader, the illustrator/artist, and not to Dr. Paul Rader, or the evangelist. Isaac Paul Rader was a Brooklyn native and one of the youngest (age 16) artists to have work exhibited at an art museum. He studied instruction in Europe, came back to the US to get married, and began finding work in the periodical market. Redbook, Family Circle, and a slough of men's magazines throughout the 1940s and 1950s helped the man keep his family in bread. This work, often only a two-page spread of maybe an illustration in white and another color, blue or black or gray or red, would have slightly more meaning to the story than his various paperback covers. The hardcore Rader fans, including his daughter (who collects material related to her father), know which periodicals contain his illustrations, what they might be worth, and why they are important. For the average Rader fan, including those for whom sleaze paperback collecting is a hobby or a compulsion, most of the found work comes on the covers of Midwood paperbacks, a publication out of New York, and an imprint of Tower Publications. For an in-depth biographical, and bibliographic(al), account, see Lynn Munroe's Paul Rader checklist.

There are a few things one notices about Paul Rader's paperback artwork, upon initial observation: the subject matter tends to have great depth, the backgrounds are usually one-color backdrops (reminiscent of early color erotic photography), the subjects themselves are usually women...women exuding a mysterious power over you, the observer, or her male counterpart, if there there happens to be one. Often Rader covers  portray a few women, all with stellar bodies and cute faces, although some can be said to radiate a Black Widow-type of eeriness. Another great aspect to the covers, at the least with the Midwood titles, the publisher allowed his artwork to retain his signature. I can think of a few others to whom was granted the same respect: Robert Maguire, Robert McGinnis (rarely), Barye Phillips, Rafael DeSoto....on another note, Robert Bonfils covers almost never display a signature, and one is left to wonder, however with a relative ease as Bonfils stuck to a few publishers. Thankfully, Rader stuck only to a few publishers during his tenure in the sleaze market. Midwood ranks as the publisher with the most Rader covers commissioned, ORIGINAL covers that is; many other publishers had Rader redo the art from Midwood for their "adult" novels. Midwood generated "adult" themes, but more "adult" language and situations adorn the later Rader paperbacks, notably those publications after 1970. For a tasty selection here, I have chosen a few Midwood titles, some I consider to be some of the greatest work by Rader and contenders for great covers of all time. I might tackle that topic another time; I might not.

$ 75 - Near Fine
Pretty Puppet
Dallas Mayo
Midwood Books number F-371, 1964
Referring again to depth employed by the artist, Rader's skin tones give credence to his mastership, perhaps the best of the "realist" paperback illustrators. Here, we have two lovelies, and the expected bland background. Maybe this was a tactic of Rader's, to help draw focus to the tits, the lips, the eyes, and the hair; all great components of a truly erotic Rader cover. Regarding the eroticism of Rader art: to me it seems the man had a uniquely elegant respect of women, chose models to fit his educational expertise, and viewed erotic situations with a sense of humor. With "Pretty Puppet," I am sure the lady up front, perky as hell and slim-hipped, is the bait, and a great feast she is. Afterwards, when you have taken her all in and enjoyed each shadow on her arms and face, and the cute blond curls that incline you to speculate her age, you notice thin blue lines, and they lead up to another delicate hand at the helm, somehow controlling the hot blonde's every move. I like this cover quite a bit, for its bold colors in shadow, its composition which works its magic like Houdini, and its almost theoretical and subtly bondage-themed elements. I view this piece as a Rader variant; straying from the normal "lady with boobs, a hungry dude, and maybe a cigarette or two." This cover plays with the imagination and self-implicative responses more than a lot of other Midwoods, more than a lot of things. Rader knew what a collar bone was and what it meant to the looker, he knew how thin women's fingers were but also was aware of their complete exactitude, and he was not afraid to make the looker mad with arousal, showing everything up to that which makes the looker mad. A lesbian-esque novel with a lesbian-esque cover which beckons the question: does she dance for her or for him?

$ 50 - Very Good plus
Campus Kittens
Joan Ellis
Midwood Books number 32-417, 1964
The red head here (is she the one with the reins on "Pretty Puppet"? my eyes say yes, my heart a hard NO) is possibly my favorite Rader female. Not sure if it's the towel, held mysteriously in place by what? a safety-pin? Yeah...I keep my bath towels secure that way, too...... chip clips work as well, dearie.... or if it's the long red hair this campus cat works, or those killer hips that lead me to believe that in another life I was that towel. She might be the curviest Rader dame I've seen, and he has given the world some curvy fuckin' dames. These twists and turns take you on a ride similar-tho-different from that romp given us by Maguire, McGinnis, and Bonfils, not to mention the really sleazy artists, Eric Stanton (dangerous curves), Eugene Bilbrew (murderous), and Bill Ward (playful and purposeful). The only thing against this cover would be the two other lasses in the background. Yes, the leg up in thigh-highs is nice. Yes, the feline with the short black bob making herself comfortable, in true kitten form, in a mountain of pillows is nice... oh, to be a plush Harem throw pillow! The red background helps against the yellow letters in the title. All of these are nice. But gimme a cover with that rusty wren dead-center, no title text, leave the Midwood club at the top, and leave the other kittens out, and I'm set. The artist's use of light is no ghost here, it's in full regalia, and ready to spank your eyes. The cups on our kitten are enough to give  us spastic arthritis in the hands, but I think, and I might be jumping from a height previously unjumped, I think the hips here are the real peanut butter. They make the whole thing stick.
PS-notice the lack of an "R" or "Rader."

$ 75 - Very Good plus
The Cruel Touch
Alan Marshal (a good chance Donald E. Westlake)
Midwood Books number F-259
This cover is examined on the sole basis of it creepiness. Rader attacked the look of a women in a way it made the reader scared to even hold the damn book, but he did it sparsely. This might be the surest representation of a Black Widow from our artist, the black locks, the thick, THICK lashes and eyebrows, this bitch wants to hurt someone or something. Luckily, the target of her anger, lust, and degradation, has been caught in her web, and she's about to sink in her fangs. To discern her happiness is difficult, and to discern her prey's, more so. Is he about to administer the lucky tongue of death? Is she checking for ticks? A true Widow wants a clean kill. Admittedly, this cover does not turn me on. I dig her cans, and I dig her dress, and her sweet lips, but her jawline and her cringing fingers do frighten me. Not saying a woman can't take control once in a while, in fact it's suggested, but a woman who wants a slave is not my bag. The rear cover does a bit more for me: "The eyes were glowing hotly and her pale-skinned body seemed to be throbbing. 'I want you to do something dirty to me. Something filthy. Something wild.'" Anything you say, my Queen.

I dig Rader. I dig him a lot. I dig his women, his situational humor, his attention to detail otherwise unseen, his precision. The women are always round in the right spots.

CURRENTs: Alexis Texas and Cassandra Cologera, "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," Pantera