Saturday, June 10, 2023

Cementing Lesser’s Legacy

Left: Pleasant Places, by Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr. (Fawcett Crest, 1978). Right: Bombshell, by G.G. Fickling (Pyramid, 1964).

Well, it took me a somewhat longer time than I had expected to complete, but I have finally posted—in my Killer Covers blog—a broad interview I did recently with Robert Deis and Bill Cunningham, the brains behind the beauteous new book, The Art of Ron Lesser Volume 1: Deadly Dames and Sexy Sirens (Pulp 2.0).

Now a spry 81 years old, New York resident Ron Lesser is “one of the last of the top mid-20th-century illustration artists who is not only still alive but still painting,” notes Deis. At the height of his career, Lesser’s creations graced magazines, movie posters, and music album jackets, as well as myriad paperback books. Like fellow artist Robert McGinnis (who is also still around and working, at age 97), Lesser specialized in portraying young, curvaceous, and seemingly biddable women. His works graced inexpensive releases by John D. MacDonald, Carter Brown, Edward S. Aarons, Craig Rice, Robert Dietrich (aka E. Howard Hunt), G.G. Fickling, Frank Kane, Harold Q. Masur, Erle Stanley Gardner, Thomas B. Dewey, Robert Kyle, Henry Kane, Richard S. Prather, and other crime-fiction authors who were once popular but have since been all but forgotten. He also created covers for romance novels, westerns, horror yarns, and espionage thrillers. “He did a bit of everything,” Cunningham observes, “and has been doing it well for a very, very long time. That is something to be celebrated.”

(Left) Strange Friends, by Agnete Holk (Pyramid, 1963).

Indeed, Deadly Dames celebrates Lesser’s talent in grand fashion. As I explain in my introduction to the interview, it is “not only … handsomely illustrated with Lesser’s finished pieces, original art, and some of the model photographs to which he referred when creating his canvasses, but it also features comments from Lesser about his artistic techniques and spreads that highlight a selection of his favorite female models, including his wife of four decades, Claudia.” The book goes a long way toward cementing Lesser’s legacy as one of the great commercial illustrators of the last 60 years.

So numerous were the examples of Lesser’s artistry collected by Deis and Cunningham, that they’re already planning sequels (notice that the subhead of this release reads “Volume 1”). I am pleased to have had an interview I did with Lesser included in this book’s mix. I can’t expect to have an influence on the follow-ups, but it can be guaranteed that I’ll pick them up when they go on sale.

You’ll find my conversation with Deadly Dames’ developers here.


Bob Deis said...

Thanks again for the inspiration, support and collaboration you provided for THE ART OF RON LESSER, VOL. 1, Jeff! It literally wouldn't have happened without the interview you posted with Ron on your "Killer Covers of the Week" blog, which is what led me to want to publish the book. And, thanks again for allowing us to use an expanded version of that interview in the book. You rock, sir!

Cunningham said...

Thanks, Jeff!

Your initial interview helped me set the stage for the rest of the book, and we couldn't have done it without your inspiration.