The Artists Who Made Crime Pay
The general public’s appetite for low-brow sleaze has long been a safe bet for publishers, and while tales of crime and grizzly murders might now feel more at home in a sophisticated prime-time TV series, it was once the mass market crime magazines that ruled the darker recesses of our imaginations.
Spanning 1924-1969, True Crime Detective Magazines by Eric Godtland and Dian Hanson successfully captures the essence of this golden-age in pulp magazines when their pages were gloriously illustrated by artists such as Al Brule and Robert McGinnis, and boasted the exploits of criminal royalty such as John Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde.
The majority of it’s 450 covers (mainly made up of scans from the original covers) betray the genres preference for either femme fatales or femmes in peril, and are a joy for fans of this particular strand of vintage commercial illustration. Like the pin-up magazines of my previous book review, they too seem to lose all charm towards the end of their heyday when photography takes hold, becoming more like the sensationalist and throwaway celebrity magazines we’re all too used to today.
That the publishers have collected so many fine examples of cover art (not to mention plenty of interior spreads too) for posterity is a commendable achievement and Godtland and Hanson’s commentary sets the tone and tells their story perfectly. The aptly titled chapter ‘The Artists Who Made Crime Pay’ conveniently lists of the artists involved in their production along with a short bio for those eager to learn more about these outstanding figures of magazine illustration. Recommended.