This is an early and large oil on canvas by Norman Saunders created as cover art for Dell publications, but never used. An electrifying, spicy pulp era entanglement with all the essential pulp elements of peril, danger, terror with erotic excitement. A damsel in distress is held in bondage as assorted toughs and thugs have it out amongst themselves guns-a-blaze in this art deco scene. Set against the backdrop of a machine-age steamroom, filled with modernist and industrial gadgets, this both speaks to the peril of gangsterism in the Great Depression 30s and the dark side of progress.
This original oil on canvas is signed lower right and dates to the mid-1930s, from the collection of Charles Martignette. With information provided by David Saunders, son of the artist, Martignette acquired the artwork in a cache of Dell publications 1933-1935 cover illustrations in a Coney Island warehouse. Most likely, Saunders sold a number of his completed illustrations to Dell (possibly completing them on spec) for future usage, but the company ceased publishing its Black Book Detective and similar spicy titles before the work could appear as a cover. Among the earliest of the artist’s pulp illustrations, this is an unusual example of a master artist’s career origins.