Saturday 24 April 2010

More of the Art Noire of Denis McLoughlin

Yikes' it's Saturday and I still haven't got anything up - yet!!!

Partly because I'm chasing my tail in a variety of different directions, endless list of activities, including new pages for "Cloud 109' as I'm getting a bit panicked about the project falling prey to the "Grand Designs" phenomenon - you know the bit when Kevin McCloud visits the Louis Kahn styled edifice rising boldly out of an Irish peat bog only to find that the thirty something couple who made a killing in the city and took early retirement have run out of funds and the whole project is slowly sinking into the slough.

And then on top of that there's "Wrong" which is great fun and the story I'm working on needs completing and to facilitate all these activities I do need to do the occasional bit of paid work, which helps to keep the bailiffs at bay.

But there is one activity that I'm engaged on which is going to come to my rescue and that is the scanning and restoration of some fabulous covers by U.K. purveyor of "noire" fantasies extraordinaire Mr Denis McLoughlin. The covers are going to appear in a forthcoming and long overdue (imo) book on the art of this great man. More of this later.

So here are some very early examples of Denis's artwork for the T.V. Boardman line of "mystery paperbacks". Sluggings and Slayings, Hookers and Homicide, Murder and Mayhem it doesn't get much better in terms of artwork with a stylish take on the dark side than this.

Many thanks to Steven Taylor for supplying scans of TVBs 41 (first of the illustrated covers in the series), 45, 46, 54, 57 and 66.

Here's a sample of the original scans - these little gems are really difficult to source in high grade - so some of the restoration work can be a real fiddle, in fact there's one cover that I'm having to assemble from two different sources - so if you can help with sourcing high grade copies of these books do give us a shout.


  1. I love these covers, which are a story in themselves. And "Lady, That's My Skull" :D I want to read that one!

  2. Yes, I'm with you Dave, I did have a conversation with a second hand book dealer who was somewhat dismissive of the literary worth of these books, but having read a few, I've been mightily impressed with the ones I have encountered thus far.

    The writers included June Truesdell author of TVB'as "Be Still My Love" which was adapted for the film "The Accused" in 1949 and also Leigh Brackett author of TVB's "The Tiger Among Us"who was married to Edmond Hamilton and was a really gifted writer, collaborating on screenplays such as "The Big Sleep" and "Farewell My Lovely" as well as writing really gripping science fiction and crime novels.

    And those two are just for starters.

    Back to "Wrong" now...

  3. Leigh Brackett - one of the greats. Not only did she write a whole string of classic pulp stories (including Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon - not the schlock the title may suggest) but she was also co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back!

  4. ...And if I remember correctly Jim Steranko also painted a memorable cover for Leigh Brackett's book 'The Ginger Star'!

    The remarkable thing about those McLoughlin covers is that after a touch of 'Richardsonization' they have a retro chic that would look perfectly at home in any modern publisher's catalogue (alongside contemporary titles such as Garen Ewing's excellent Rainbow Orchid). Yet, bearing in mind the subject of yesterday's blog, it comes as something of a shock to learn that Denis actually hand-lettered every one of them, disdaining overlays to the extent of brushing oil painted boards in fixative so that text could be superimposed with poster paints.

    It's also hard to believe that the creator of such authentically hard-baked Americana could have been born in Bolton of all places! Going by the work alone one could be forgiven for assuming that he'd grown up on the same mean streets as Hammett, Chandler and Spillane.

    Of course we tend to forget that many British artists of the 1950s were just as influenced by American comics as the likes of Bolland and Gibbons were in the 1960s, with Don Lawrence getting his first break drawing the adventures of Marvelman, while Ron Embleton's early strips were clearly inspired by Will Eisner's Spirit. However, McLoughlin was unique in that he actually seemed more American than most Americans themselves: Embleton may have been inspired by Eisner but Denis actually *drew* the Spirit and Blackhawk - what's more, some of his strips for the classic Buffalo Bill Annuals often look as though they were intended for an imaginary EC Western title that was published right alongside their Horror, SF and War books!

  5. It really is amazing that bearing in mind the sheer volume of work Denis had to bat out for TVB he actually insisted on hand lettering all his covers. Of course the nightmare always is that you screw up on the spelling, which is what happened with Jack Dolph's "Murder is Mutual". Which went to press as "Murder is Mutuel" but it kinda gives it added character and is still a lovely cover.