Wednesday 15 August 2012

A First Peek - The Art of Denis McLoughlin

A little over a couple of years ago, I first made a posting about the incredible 'noir' tinged art of the late, great illustrator Denis McLoughlin. The response was such that I made a few more posts and as a result was invited to work on a definitive art book with the artist's friend and biographer David Ashford. So in the spring of 2010 I went over to visit David with publisher Geoff West and we immersed ourselves in piles of McLoughlin memorabilia, including many original McLoughlin artworks and rarer than rare examples of his earliest published work, when he was still gunner McLoughlin stationed at Woolwich Barracks, a time when Herman Goering's Luftwaffe seemed to have a particular penchant for destroying any mural that McLoughlin cared to create to enliven the spartan barracks, which were his home for much of the war.

We came away with lots of photographs, which although they were of insufficient quality to serve as illustrations for the book, were to provide a superb guide for all the scans that were to be created over the intervening two years. What was missing on that first visit to David's home was anything in the way of examples of McLoughlin's celebrated hard boiled fiction covers. This to me was a particular concern as, whilst much of his superb Western and comics output is familiar to devotees of McLoughlin (in fact it's still not that difficult to acquire a complete run of his Buffalo Bill Annuals) in contrast, sourcing a complete run of his Boardman Bloodhound covers is well nigh impossible. As far as I was concerned we needed to find a way of presenting these covers which have a resonance well beyond McLoughlin's immediate fan base. But I could see it wasn't going to be that easy. The key to the conundrum came via a San Francisco based purveyor of restored dust jackets. Mark Terry had years of experience working with print and a real passion for 'hard-boiled' fiction, his network of collectors was extraordinary and not only did he know all the relevant collectors Stateside, he also knew all the UK ones as well and was even prepared to visit them with scanner in tow.

In addition to Mark, we had enormous assistance from collectors both in the UK and US and as the project gathered momentum. so did the scope of the book grow to match the ambitions of the project. A chance discovery by David Ashford of a letter from a member of the McLoughlin family elicited a whole new source of remarkable material, much of it never seen before beyond the artist and his immediate friends and family. More memory sticks were exchanged and in addition to all the incredible restorations we were receiving from Mark, we were also seeing for the first time ever Denis McLoughlin's working drawings for several of the murals that were destroyed during the war as well as absolutely pristine high grade printer's proofs of many of his Boardman Bloodhounds and razor sharp proofs of his 'hard-boiled' paperback covers.

The Art of Denis McLoughlin, which at  9" X 12" and 272 pages is a hefty and substantial read, is due to arrive on these shores very shortly and is limited to 950 copies with  a de-luxe edition of 120 copies which comes complete with a painstakingly restored copy of one of our favourite Roy Carson comics and a limited edition print sourced from a printer's proof of the paperback edition of William Campbell Gault's Don't Cry For Me.

I just hope you enjoy the book as much as we did creating it - I am sure you will!


  1. bit late to mention it now but a friend of mine in New Zealand corresponded with McLoughlin and was sent some original art and copies of some crime cover art. He thinks the art is lost now but still has copies of the crime art. Looking forward to the book, we'll be getting a copy each!

  2. Hi Matt and great to hear from you. The story you tell sounds very typical of Denis, he was such a generous guy when it came to sharing his art with his fans. Unfortunately and it was something that Denis would sometimes remark on, not one example of his original hard-boiled art for the Boardman Bloodhounds and Mystery Paperbacks was ever returned to him. Some ended up with the respective authors and some ended up on the publisher's wall but where the rest went no one knows.

    However, I am pleased to say the quality of the proofs we had to work with, as well as Mark Terry's superb restorations, are such that we have images that are often just as good (if not better - depending on how art is often allowed to deteriorate) than than the originals themselves might have been.

  3. I didn´t knew him... What a extraordinary artist!!