Dating to 1950, this dazzling colorful original paperback cover was painted by George Gross for Quarter Books #57, The Virgin And The Barfly. Illustrating a scene from the novel by Gerald Foster (one of many likely pseudonyms of the prolific Peggy Gladdis), this is a splashy, trashy, and altogether irresistible example of sleaze paperback art. Quarter Books was a leading publisher of the digest paperback lurid pulp fiction titles which were all the rage in the early 1950s. At the time George Gross created this boldly colorful and eye-catching artwork, pin-up girl cover scenes such as this proliferated news stands and low-brow bookstores across the country. Spanning the era between the pulp magazine heyday and rise of the Men’s magazine genre, (for which George Gross would go on to work) the sleaze paperback publishers gravitated to a particularly reckless and wanton style of cover art, of which this is an outstanding example. A ravishing full-figured brunette who is styled after pin-up bombshell Jane Russell practices her not-so-subtle art of seduction at a swank mid-century modern Tiki bar. After all, as the slug at the bottom of the published cover reads, “There’s Only One Way For A Gorgeous Gal Without Money To Pay A Debt…” and this heroine is looking to get out of the red as soon as possible.
George Gross got his start in the 1940s working for various pre-war pulp titles creating covers for titles such as Action Stories, Detective Book Magazine, Jungle Stories and countless others. After the war George Gross began to sell freelance illustrations to paperback books from such publishers as Dell, Star Books, Lion Books, Bantam, Berkley Books, Cameo Books, Ace Publications and Quarter Books. In the 1950s George Gross shared an art studio with the illustrator, Mort Kunstler, on White Street in the Tribeca warehouse section of Lower Manhattan. He also worked for Men’s adventure magazines, such as Male, Cavalcade, Action For Men, Argosy, Bluebook, Man’s Conquest, Man’s Illustrated, Man’s World, Real, Saga, See, Stag, and True Adventures. George Gross later painted covers for The Avenger series of paperback books, published by Warner Paperbacks, and painted covers for the popular Nick Carter series of paperbacks for Ace Publications.