Let’s face it: a book cover is a seduction. No one knew this better than the pulp fiction publishers of the 1940s and ’50s, their covers all gussied up with lurid colors, barely clad women, big black guns, and promises of what was between the covers.
But what’s a seduction without a good pickup line?
Much attention has been paid to those boundary pushing images adorning the 25-cent paperbacks, but I also love the tag lines—that extra copy the publisher adds on to give more of a hint about the action, sex and violence inside a book.
They can be simple, like on The Double Take by Roy Huggins: “A hard-boiled mystery story, tougher than a ten-minute egg.”
They can be mysterious and enticing, such as Stone Cold Dead by Richard Ellington: “Make ready: ONE CORPSE FOR SHARK-BAIT!”
And, yes, they use a lot of exclamation points, but admit it, you want to know why a corpse is needed for shark-bait, don’t you?