Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Part Two of my salute to Sam Peffer, the brilliant paperback cover illustrator who "invented" James Bond

Sam Peffer (1921-2014) was, arguably, the greatest mass-market paperback cover artist of all time, and it was working as a freelancer at £40-£60 per cover for Pan Books from the late '50s to the late-'60s that he reached...

...the heights of inspiration, bringing an in-your-face, cinema-poster immediacy to Pan books which made them stand out from their rivals' offerings. He wasn't the only Pan artist working  in the Pulp tradition, but he turned the "Pulp" setting up to 11. Interestingly, his work for a range of other paperback publishers during this period seems distinctly mediocre - Pan's house style evidently brought out the best in him. Before the release of the first Bond film in 1961, this is what Ian Fleming's hero looked like - i.e. a sweaty, violent thug, more gangster than Old Etonian: like Sean Connery, he's a big man with big features (he shares Sean Connery's impressively bushy eyebrows), who looks like he really wouldn't give a crap how his bloody martini was prepared - and would, in any case, prefer a tumblerful of neat whiskey, brand immaterial:
Peffer was a working class London boy who left school at 13 and immediately started working for a company specialising in front-of-house cinema displays. He returned to the trade after serving in the Navy during the war (and having his ship bombed out from under him on the Malta Convoys). After two years with Pearl & Dean, he went freelance and started turning book covers into attention-grabbing mini cinema posters:
The gun-toting hoodlum, by the way, is Peffer himself (montage courtesy of MI6):
Paperback covers became duller as the end of the '60s approached and photos started taking the place of hand-drawn illustrations. Finding the work drying up, Peffer returned to filmland, becoming one of the leading British cinema poster illustrators of the 1970s. But, then, you could argue, he never really left filmland in the first place:
I don't think Lord Johnnie was ever turned into a film - pity, because Peffer had already produced the poster for it:
Did I mention his penchant for sex?
And tonight by the look of it!  Here's an example of Peffer's frequently-employed "huge, menacing hand" motif:
He excelled at depicting women in peril:
You wouldn't get away with this sort of racial stereotyping today:
Naughty! But I'm sure even the BBC would have approved of Peffer's engaging cover for what I'm sure was a really riveting read!:
Okay, that's enough of that - back to the violence:
And, of course, menace by the bucketload:
Part One of my tribute to Sam Peffer can be found here. There's a huge selection of Peffer's paperback covers - including the less impressive ones - at The Art of Peff blog. And for those of you willing to sign up to Pinterest (it's painless), my board of Sam Peffer Pan covers is available here. 

Sam Peffer's name is associated with James Bond covers, but he only actually produced four of them before Pan (shamefully) switched to photographic film tie-ins. I'll leave you with my favourite (the folically-challenged Sean Connery couldn't quite manage Bond's trademark lick of hair hanging down his forehead, but he caught the sardonic expression splendidly):

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