Paperback 4: Gold Medal k1405 (unknown, but not a true PBO, 1964)
Title: The Deep Blue Good-By
Author: John D. MacDonald
Cover artist: Ron Lesser (unconfirmed)
Yours for: $8
Best things about this cover:
This seems as good a place as any to talk about the demise of the mass market paperback as a species of popular art. Compare this cover to the last two paperbacks I have featured - the late 50's Gold Medals - and you can see instantly some major differences, none of them good from an artistic standpoint (but very good - crucial - from a marketing standpoint). We see the cover art, formerly the showpiece of the paperback cover, now relegated to a mere artistic gesture, an afterthought, as the author's name and Travis McGee's mug get special highlighting. Note how the girl, and even the title, sort of blend into the purplish background, while the author's name and the McGee portrait pop out because of the use of white. Gold Medal is discovering the secret to book merchandising. Art is nice and all, but we are gonna sell books by name recognition and branding - put the author's name front and center and then create a re-usable icon, rather than an original work of art, to represent the work visually. The girl is nice eye candy, but drawn to a scale too small to be truly hot. Next time you see best-sellers out at Barnes & Noble or wherever, note how many (Danielle Steele, Stephen King, etc.) have the author's name superbig, and maybe even a full-page photograph of the author on the back. Authors' names sell books - hot cover art does not (or not as much - it sells books to dorks like me, but there aren't enough me's in the world to keep a publisher solvent).
So advances in marketing mean disasters in artistry. Brand and replicate. Brand and replicate. It's the fast food model of marketing. Consistency. Familiarity. From a book lover's / collector's standpoint, it's all a bit sad.
John D. MacDonald is one of the first real stars - big sellers - of the P.I. genre, and he has his many, many fans, though I'm not exactly one of them. His plotting is good, but he overwrites, and doesn't have an authorial voice I find appealing. This book is the first in the very popular Travis McGee series. Here's a link to a gallery of covers of John MacDonald's other paperback books.
Peter Mendelsund on WNYC
6 hours ago