Saturday, January 21, 2017
The Art of Reginald Heade
To have all these rare book covers in one place fulfils a collector's dream. I can speak with first hand knowledge of how difficult it is to gather all of Heade's covers into one place, having taken over for some years (2003-06) the Hank Janson website set up by Allan Tagg. Heade was a prolific paperback cover artist in the post war years for some of the cheapest, lousiest publishers around, and to lay your hands on a high quality copy of any of his books is nowadays akin to a miracle.
It was only in the post-war era of cheap paperbacks that Heade thrived again, painting covers for most of the Hank Janson novels and for many of Hank's rivals. His talents were spotted early by Raymond Locker, who employed Heade for his Paul Renin romance novels and gangster yarns by Michael Storme, Gene Ross and Spike Morelli, amongst others. When the Lockers headed across the pond to set up Leisure Library, Heade was one of their major selling points.
A golden age was dulled by the death of his wife and the enforced departure of his daughter; Heade struggled on even as his publishers were gradually forced out of existence through destruction orders and prosecution. He resurfaced as Cy Webb, painting covers for Panther Books and Pan Books, but his health declined and he died at the age of 56.
Whilst larger reproductions in places would be nice, it is a case of wanting more rather than problems within the book.* If I have any complaint to make, it is that the scarcity of some books has resulted in a number of rather poor scans being reproduced. The low quality of the original printing and paper doesn't help matters, but some scans have obvious jpeg artifacts, notably Plaything of Passion (p.53), Girl of the Bordellos (p.78), Don't Fall Sucker (p.98) and elsewhere.
Overall, this is everything the Heade collector could want. There is an author's note at the back in which author Walker mentions a number of titles that might be Heade and a second noting a handful of titles that have escaped his efforts to find. I've racked my brains trying to think of any covers that are missing from the book and I can think of only one – it's unsigned but I suspect this could be Heade.
Telos / Amazon.
* I've found only one actual error: p.106, The Two Red Capsules by David Lindsay was published by John Hamilton rather than Hamilton & Co., the commonly-used abbreviation for Hamilton & Co. (Stafford) Ltd., as used elsewhere in the book.