Wednesday, 25 February 2009
What's Up with Gene?
The Mystery League books were a short-lived series in the early 1930s: lurid thrillers created to be sold through cigar shops rather than bookshops. Probably the only one of their writers still remembered today is Edgar Wallace, and even he is barely read these days. It's safe to say that literary merit was not the Mystery League's prime concern.
What they did do well were covers: most of their Art Deco-inspired dustjackets were the work of a man signing himself 'Gene', who may have been one Eugene Thurston (I can't determine this for sure)--or atleast they did them well when they weren't plastering 'Prize Baffle' competition details on the front covers.
These are really nice, though the man on the cover of Sydney Horler's Peril does seem to be undoing his fly in order to surprise the sinister intruder coming through the red-lit doorway.
The mysterious Gene cropped up on a couple of other covers for more legit publishing houses, including one for the extraordinarily demented Harry Stephen Keeler, a Jonathan Cape jacket, and one for Evelyn Waugh.
The Mystery League also launched a short-lived magazine, masterminded by the two cousins better known as Ellery Queen. Though it had interior illustrations by Gene, the covers sadly went for photographs.
More Mystery League covers can be found at this Flickr page, while more on the men behind Ellery Queen can be found here.