Isaac Paul Rader | Midwood
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Summer 2003

This catalog would have been impossible without the aid of many people. Many of them are listed on the Acknowledgements page below. Sadly, one of those people is no longer with us. Lance Casebeer, the Godfather of Paperback Collecting, died in May 2003. Lance was a larger-than-life kind of guy, and we were only half joking when we called him “the legendary Lance Casebeer”. Lance once told me when he made his first trip to the New York Paperback Show, someone saw his nametag and asked if he was “the son of the legendary collector” of the same name. For 25 years Lance hosted a party in his yard every August, known simply as Lancecon. Lance was a world-class teller of tall tales, more on the level of Pecos Bill or Baron Munchausen. To just call him a “liar” would be an understatement. One night at one of the Lancecons a group of us were sitting around while Lance regaled us with stories of his high school triumphs. In Lance’s version he was Captain of the championship football team, academic leader of the class and boyfriend to future 1965 Playmate of the Year Jo Collins. One guy was there for the first time, nobody had warned him what to expect, and finally he had heard enough. He stood up and cried out, “You are one of the masters of bull crap! I suppose next you’re going to tell us how you were elected Homecoming Queen!” Lance never batted an eye. “Oddly enough”, Lance continued, “I WAS elected Homecoming Queen through a series of mix ups, and it makes for an interesting story….” And off he went.
This catalog is dedicated to Lance.

My catalog tells the story of Paul Rader, the American illustrator and paperback cover artist who is still remembered for his series of covers for Midwood Books. In fact, Rader did over 300 covers for Midwood, so many that his style and the entire Midwood output are forever linked in many collectors’ minds. Actually there are hundreds of Midwoods that are not Rader, although his style was so indelible that some of the covers of other artists look like Rader. His was “the Midwood style”. Nobody has ever assembled a checklist of Rader’s covers. I thought if I could find Rader or his family, I could get such a list of his covers. I was wrong. What we have instead is my own checklist from scratch, the first draft of a work in progress. There will have to be corrections and additions as time goes by. I’ve looked at as many Midwoods as I could find over the past 2 years, and this list represents the Rader checklist to the best of my knowledge.

Because Rader did so many covers for Midwood, the story of Paul Rader is also the story of Midwood Books. Midwood’s founder and chief editor are now dead, but I located as many of the remaining cover artists and authors as I could to learn the story of the early years at Midwood.

One of my book customers, a collector named Robert Rutherford, first suggested to me that somebody needed to do a Rader checklist. Certain that there must already be plenty of info on Rader, I looked around for something to send to Robert. There was nothing. Even the Artist’s Handbook on the Internet, under the listing for Rader, was blank. No birth date, no death date. If Rader was dead, that is. Nobody I talked to could tell me. Rachel and I have two friends who are research librarians at Cal State who can find ANYTHING. When they came up with a blank about Rader I started to worry. Was that even his real name? No one in the paperback hobby knew what happened to Paul Rader after he stopped painting paperback covers around 1970.

Of course Rader was not the only artist working for Midwood. One of the best of them was Robert Maguire. I’d met Maguire at Gary Lovisi’s New York Paperback Show, so I called him. Maguire did not remember ever meeting Rader, but he told me the agent who represented the artists at Midwood and Beacon was Ed Balcourt. I located Balcourt, now retired to Florida, and he was the first person I found who had actually met Paul Rader. Balcourt told me he had represented Rader in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and had lined up the work at Midwood for Rader. The editors at Midwood were so happy with Rader’s style that Balcourt made a deal for Rader to work full time for them. Balcourt told me at this point he lost track of Rader’s whereabouts, and was not sure if Rader was still living.

Even though I’d reached a dead end trying to find Rader, I did get some valuable corroboration from Mr. Balcourt, who was kind enough to answer many questions about Rader for me. I now knew Rader had worked in New York City in the 60’s and that Paul Rader was his real name. Balcourt described Rader as a “good-looking bald man in his 50’s”. I asked Balcourt about other artists, including one we were researching for a separate project, “Elaine”. What follows is from an e-mail from Edward Balcourt:

  “I represented over a hundred artists in the paperback field. And Paul Rader was one of them. Paul was with me for 5 to 7 years doing magazine illustrations and paperback book covers. As Balcourt Art Service I handled the cover design at Midwood for Harry Shorten for 13 years. In that time he went from Midwood to Tower Publications to Belmont-Tower. I did a lot of books with Robert Maguire and Rudy Nappi. One of my other artists there was Victor Olson, one of the nicest guys who ever worked for me, who is still living and painting and is now selling a lot of his old paintings through Illustration House. You asked about Elaine Duillo. Elaine is a very high priced romance cover artist. I represented her husband John Duillo and got him started in the field.”

Balcourt got me in touch with Victor Olson and John & Elaine Duillo. None of them remember ever meeting Paul Rader.

Now armed with the verification that Rader had worked in NYC in the 1960’s, I asked the research staff at the New York Public Library to find info on Rader for me. All they came up with was a Manhattan phone book listing for “I. Paul Rader”. Rader being a common name, I couldn’t be sure that was even the artist.

After a year of futility I was almost ready to give up. Then Grandma Munroe died and my wife Rachel and I attended her funeral in Lansing Michigan, where my Grandfathers had both worked for the state government. On the drive from the airport to the funeral home located within sight of the state Capitol building, I explained to Rachel how I was getting nowhere finding Paul Rader.

The break in my investigation came a short time later, when a woman from Michigan named Lauren Turner auctioned a painting by “Michigan artist Isaac Rader” on eBay. The painting, a nude study from the 1920’s or 30’s, looked nothing at all like Rader’s paperbacks, but by then I was calling garage mechanics in Poughkeepsie named Paul Rader. I was growing desperate. By then I was pouncing on anything remotely “Rader”, so I contacted Lauren Turner. She had learned that her artist had been a portrait painter in Michigan some years ago, and that some of his portraits of Michigan judges were still on display in the Lansing area, possibly in the Capitol.

There was one fascinating item for me in the information Lauren had learned about the artist Isaac Paul Rader. “He worked for a while as a commercial artist in New York City”. I remembered the phone book listing “I. Paul Rader”. Could her Isaac and my Paul be the same Rader? Unless by huge coincidence there were two commercial artists both named Paul Rader working in the same city, they had to be the same guy.

They have these people searches now on the Internet that can find anybody, so I tried one. I put in everything I knew about Rader and found an Isaac Paul Rader of the right age listed in Ocala Florida. There are several Rader families in Ocala, and I believe it was the second lady I called, Edith Rader, who told me she was Paul’s widow. And yes he had painted portraits in Michigan in the 20’s, and yes he had also painted hundreds of paperback covers for Midwood Books. And she told me this story...

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