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THE NOTEBOOKS OF PAUL RADER

By Lynn Munroe

Isaac Paul Rader was a brilliant American artist and illustrator who is still celebrated today for the hundreds of vibrant paperback book covers he created over 40 years ago.

A decade ago, inspired by Rader collector Robert W. Rutherford,  I tracked down Paul Rader's widow Edith in Ocala Florida , I told her I was looking for Paul’s list of all of his paperback covers. She told me all his papers had been thrown out after he died in 1986. Disappointed, I tried to create a Rader checklist from scratch for my 2003 paperback list. I utilized the help of many friends in the paperback hobby, and we looked at a lot of book covers, and I used the paperback price guides. Signed Raders (that is, cover art with his distinctive “Rader” signature or sometimes just the letter “R” visible) were a breeze, other covers were just guesswork. I knew some of my guesses were wrong, and I knew there were some covers I was going to miss. But it was a start. After Edith Rader died, I kept in touch with their daughter Elaine. The years went by. And then Elaine contacted me with a big surprise.

Elaine Rader was looking through an old box of stuff in her basement when she found her father’s notebooks. Her mother had been mistaken, she didn’t throw them out, she put them in storage. Covering the years 1920 to 1970, the notebooks listed every painting and illustration he had ever sold, and included information about who bought each one, how much he was paid, and the date of each sale. The notebooks included all his paperback covers and magazine illustrations. Elaine figured this information would be of interest to me. She was right. I compared her father’s notes to my list and was pleased to see we had got a lot of them right. We had also missed a lot, and assigned a few to Rader that he did not paint. We now correct all those mistakes this year with the first ever complete, and authorized, Paul Rader checklist, based on the notes he made in his notebooks.

This checklist covers his commercial paperback and magazine work from 1956 (the date of his first paperback cover) until he retired in 1970. Advertising and portraits and all of his early illustration work in the late 40s and early 50s for magazines like AMERICAN WEEKLY, FAMILY CIRCLE and REDBOOK are outside our sphere of interest here. Around 1957 Paul Rader signed on with the Balcourt Art Service agency, and Ed Balcourt began getting work for Paul Rader in magazines like SWANK and with paperback publishers like Midwood. 

On my 2003 checklist I figured Rader’s first paperback was Gold Medal 716, COME NIGHT, COME EVIL (1957). Later, Robert Wiener shared his Rader cover art for an earlier paperback, FIND MY KILLER (Signet 1448, 1957). So then I decided the Signet was Rader’s first. Now, thanks to the notebooks, I know that FIND MY KILLER was Rader’s third cover, COME NIGHT, COME EVIL was his fourth. Rader’s first cover was GIRL RUNNING (Signet 1347, 1956), an Adam Knight murder mystery. I had never looked that far back and should have. Rader’s notebooks say his second cover was a Berkley he called “Boo Boo” in his notes. There is no 1957 Berkley called “Boo Boo”, but a look at Berkley 371, BUBU OF MONTPARNASSE, reveals Rader’s style. 

The information for each painting in the notebook varies. Some listings give the published title and book number; others are just a description of the art. Some detective work was required to locate the latter, but I think I found almost all of them. You are invited to help me fill in any blanks on this new revised checklist.

The notebooks are amazingly detailed, but they are not always 100% complete. Rader was jotting quick notes as he went along, so there may be book sales that he simply forgot to record, or that he omitted for one reason or another. For example, in February 1963, Rader notes he was paid Second Rights to reprint his art for “My Body, Your Bed”. There is no first appearance of that title earlier in the notebooks. Either he failed to note it, or it appears under some other title. I can guess what it might be, but there is no way to be certain.

All of Rader’s hundreds of Midwood covers are found in the notebooks – except for two which I believe are Raders strongly enough to include here also: the first one, Midwood 8, CARLA; and Midwood 60, ALL THE WAY.  I still think those are Rader covers although I don’t find them entered in the notebooks.

CARLA (1958) is not only Rader’s first Midwood, it is also unquestionably his work, from its style right down to the big “Rader” signature in the lower left corner. He might have just forgotten to list it, except there is a 1958 sale that I find no book for, so I wonder if it might be the painting Midwood used for CARLA.  That listing says “Seductive blonde on floor – ‘Tildy’”. The price paid, $150., matches what Midwood paid him for later covers in 1958. CARLA features a seductive redhead on the floor, and it’s easy to change hair color (maybe she’s a strawberry blonde?), but that title is wrong. Another reason I think this is CARLA is because when CARLA was reprinted three years later, there is a note in Rader’s notebook that reads “Girl on floor - $37.50”. $37.50 was his standard fee for Second Rights payments at that time. So, it might be CARLA. But Rader painted more than one “girl on floor”, so it could also just as easily be a reference to a different painting. Perhaps Rader just failed to make a note for the sale of CARLA.

ALL THE WAY, Midwood 60, is not signed, so technically since it’s not in the notebook there is some possibility that it’s not Rader. The problem is it looks exactly like a Rader, and has been identified as a Rader by collectors since day one. Midwood re-used the art two more times, and when the second appearance was published there is the mystery note: “Second Rights $37.50 “My Body, Your Bed””. Could that be ALL THE WAY? It is a painting of a woman sitting on a bed. Or is there a missing Rader painting called “My Body, Your Bed” yet to be discovered?

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Bruce Black’s great website Bookscans.com includes Grahame Flanagan’s collection of foreign paperback covers. This one, from Finland re-uses Rader’s beautiful cover art for Midwood 64, MILLION DOLLAR MISTRESS. If Rader was ever paid anything for these, he does not make note of it.

Based on the fact that they are not mentioned in Rader’s notebooks, I now believe that the following books from my previous lists (or other sources) are not Rader:

MIDWOOD

31 THE WIFE NEXT DOOR (and its reprint CALL GIRL LOVE, Edka 115.)
38 A DOCTOR AND HIS MISTRESS
45 TWO OF A KIND (this is Victor Olson)
49 FARM GIRL
65 NURSE CAROLYN (and its reprint MATERNITY WARD, All Star 135)
71 A WOMAN
Y128 INTIMATE (and its reprint THE FIRES OF AUTUMN, All Star 139)
F177 LADDER OF FLESH
F198 VOLUPTUOUS VOYAGE (this is Bruce Minney)
F213 SLEEP-IN MAID (and its reprint CINDY, Bee-Line 167)
F233 IMMORAL LADY
F244 BY HER BODY BETRAYED
F267 EVERYBODY WELCOME (reprinted as 33-639)
F290 THE INTRUDER
F296 THE HEAT OF DAY (I now believe this is Victor Olson)
F323 JUST THE TWO OF US (this is Bruce Minney)
F324 SO EAGER TO PLEASE
32-401 DIVORCEE
32-470 PUNISH LESSON
32-479 PRIVATE PARTY (reprinted as 34-903)
32-512 THE LADY AWAITS
43-592 LOST ISLAND
33-639 THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (see F267)
34-736 BREAK THE RULES / CAMPUS AFFAIR
32-903 SIN SORORITY / THE WAITRESS (see 32-479)
34-151 TEACHER’S PET / PRIVATE LESSONS (this is Alvara)

Other publishers:

ACE
D333 STRANGLEHOLD
(My source for this citation was the esteemed online site Ace Image Library, but I don’t find this book listed in Rader’s notebooks.)
BEACON
B300 LINGERIE LTD (this is R Gifford)
B655F SIN DOLL
B905X VELVET JACKPOT (this is Victor Olson)
BERKLEY
G185 WICKED WOMAN (this is Victor Olson)
CHARIOT
CB105 SEX ON TAP
CB175 COMPANY GIRL
CB200 PICK-UP
GOLD STAR
IL7-14 A NICE WAY TO DIE

Also missing from the notebooks are most of the recycled Rader covers found on later publishers like All Star and Private Edition. We were told Rader did these, but if so he didn’t write about it in his notebooks. Perhaps he kept a separate list of those sales? He does mention a couple Bee-Line recycles, but there are many more Bee-Line Raders not mentioned.

Each listing in the Rader notebooks gives the date he finished the painting, who it is for, and, fortunately for us, a short description of the painting. For example, the familiar Rader painting HER PRIVATE HELL is in the notebook as: “Sample – girl pressing against her image in large mirror, dressing gown down to hips.” And then the date he finished the painting: “December 12, 1962”

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Then at the left, Rader later adds the date he sold the painting and the amount he was paid after his agent’s commission. For example, the listing for HER PRIVATE HELL has “Jan 15, 1963, $230.”  Sometimes Rader adds the published title. He did not do so on this book, but there is no mistaking that description. Speaking of HER PRIVATE HELL, I noticed a photograph of Joan Tyler in a 1958 Whitestone photography book called CAMERA STUDIES by Andre De Dienes. Was Joan Tyler the inspiration for HER PRIVATE HELL? 

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Second-page “spot” illustration for “The Girl With the Love Cure” in the March 1960 issue of SEE Magazine.

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Part of Rader’s art for “The Girl With The Love Cure” in SEE (March 1960) was re-used for a story called “Ricochet of Doom” in the October 1962 issue of BRIGADE:

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Illustration for “Belle Santee and her Unique Bordello on Wheels” from

MAN’S LIFE December 1959

The notebooks offer listings for each one of Rader’s men’s magazine illustrations, some almost lost now in obscure magazines, others, like the MAN’S LIFE drawing shown here, uncredited.

The descriptions of each painting are invaluable to us now, allowing us to confirm here the first complete Rader checklist. Sometimes his notes are much shorter (“Couple on bed”) and those books are harder to find. But since they are close to the order Midwood published them in, it is usually easy to identify each painting. Below is a sample page from one of the Rader notebooks. He had his own unique style of spelling (“lying” is usually spelled correctly, but sometimes it’s “lieing”), and he often uses abbreviations that eventually make sense.

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As you might expect, there were several “surprises” in the notes. I have always maintained that Midwood 73, THE SEX PEDDLERS by Clyde Allison, has one of the ugliest covers on any 1960s paperback. They had Paul Rader doing covers then, why not a Rader cover for THE SEX PEDDLERS? The notes show that Rader DID paint a cover for THE SEX PEDDLERS:

For Harry Shorten – The Sex Peddlers – Blond on back –open orange jacket – black leotards, knees apart – blue background. Sold Dec 15, 1960.

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Somehow this cover art wound up on the next Midwood, a “third big printing” reprint of CONNIE. They already had a Rader painting for the original appearance of CONNIE that they should have used, and they would use it again (making me wonder why they switched the art for Midwood 73 to 74).  So instead we get a dark and ugly black cover on the riotously hilarious, light and breezy THE SEX PEDDLERS, and we get the cover Rader painted for it on the reprint of CONNIE. My in-house graphics art designer Rachel Parker-Stephen has imagined Rader’s original intention on this Midwood cover that never was:

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The cover art Midwood DID NOT use for Midwood 73.

I don’t know, maybe somebody decided it looked like she was peddling it just a little too much. The cover model wearing pants doesn’t really fit the horrifying CONNIE (see Midwood 18).

As mentioned above, our interest here covers just the last commercial phase of Rader’s fifty years as a painter. There are many paintings listed from earlier years that are outside our purview here, including for instance a note that Mark Twain’s daughter commissioned a portrait of her famous father. That painting “by Isaac Rader” is cited in the book THE MARK TWAIN ENCYCLOPEDIA, with the incorrect date 1903 (Rader was born in 1906 and never met Mark Twain, who died in 1910). The book says it was Twain’s favorite portrait of himself. The correct story is Rader based his 1937 painting on a 1903 photograph by Thomas Marr, a photograph that was a Twain favorite.

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MARK TWAIN by Isaac Paul Rader

For the full biography of Isaac Paul Rader, see my 2003 article, accessible through my homepage. After WWII, Rader became a commercial artist in New York City. He did hundreds of ads like this:

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And he did illustrations for magazines like these:

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REDBOOK January 1950

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FAMILY CIRCLE October 1950

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“The Turning Point” – FAMILY CIRCLE January 1953

As mentioned above, around 1957 Rader signed on with artists’ agent Ed Balcourt, who was asked by Harry Shorten to supply sexy paintings for a new paperback line called Midwood Books. Rader and Midwood were well-matched. The notebooks show he did around 300 original covers for Harry Shorten, many of which were reprinted.  Rader also supplied interior illustrations for a dozen Midwood doubles. It felt at times like Rader did all the Midwoods, but actually they were over a thousand of them. With his covers highlighting almost a third of their total output, a Rader cover became the face of Midwood Books.

Many Midwoods are collectible today mainly because of the Paul Rader covers. As I wrote ten years ago for my 2003 article, Paul Rader adapted the great American tradition of pin-up art for mass market paperback books covers, carrying on the tradition of the artists who had given us The Gibson Girl, the Petty Girl and the Vargas Girl.

Paul Rader’s painting for Midwood F333, TEACHER’S PET, November 1963

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Rader’s TEACHER’S PET art was recycled for the cover of MAN’S Magazine in July 1969. This rarity was turned up by Johnny Begood on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook page (highly recommended).

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As must be expected, Paul Rader uses a lot of 1950s terminology in his notes, some of it archaic to modern readers. For example, what we would call a “man and woman” is a “man and girl” to him. He meticulously lists every date each painting was finished and each date it was sold, and although that information is certainly interesting I could not think of any reason to include all those dates with the notations I’ve copied for this checklist. The paintings are listed here in the order he completed them, the dates shown here are the months in which Rader sold each painting. There are still a few blank spaces on this list; I need your help to fill those in.

Most of the Midwoods from Rader’s notebooks appear in this checklist, but I need your help to locate the last two, which remain a total mystery to me.

I was convinced Rader’s last Midwood had to be 24-233, PAGAN SUMMER, from 1969. I’ve never seen a later Rader Midwood, and the publisher shifted gears shortly thereafter, printing books with plain text covers. According to the notebook however, there are three more sales after PAGAN SUMMER. The first is on our checklist, it is Rader’s ninth and final LADY FROM L.U.S.T. cover, Tower 45-212, painted after PAGAN SUMMER but, it turns out, published before it. The final two entries baffle me. 

PAGAN SUMMER and LADY FROM L.U.S.T. #9 were sold in January 1969. Then, four months later in April, Rader entered these two paintings in his notebook:

April 1969 – Midwood Lesbian couple – Blonde girl lying on bed, brunette leaning over her. Dark blue background.

April 1969 – Midwood – Blonde girl on bed, hands clasped around man’s neck, he leaning over her. Red background.

The descriptions are very generic; they could almost describe many Rader covers. There are none of the so-valuable indications as to book numbers or titles. But Rader says Midwood paid him $300. for each of these two paintings. It’s hard to imagine Midwood doing that and then never using the art. But I can’t find any Midwoods dated 1969 or later that match these descriptions. Can you? 

 

When I mentioned to Elaine Rader how delighted I was to confirm in her father’s notes for the Midwood cover CHILD BRIDE that he used an airbrush, the tool of his idols Petty and Vargas, Elaine replied:

“As you tell me this I now have memories of exact points in time, in our New York City apartment, of watching my dad doing his air brushing with a mouth piece, blowing gently, with sweeping motions of his hand across the board.”

When I interviewed Paul Rader’s widow Edith a decade ago, I asked her for information about Rader’s models, especially the classic long-haired beauty that appears again and again on his Midwood covers. “Oh that was just a figment of his imagination,” she told me. “That was his dream girl, his fantasy.”

After Edith Rader died, I learned from Ed Balcourt and Elaine Rader that the model was Edith Rader. She was never comfortable talking about Paul’s sexy covers, let alone the fact that she was the nude model riveting our attention on so many of them. She preferred to remain anonymous. But now Paul and Edith are no longer with us, and time has passed, it’s a new century. So I celebrate here the remarkable modeling career of a woman known only to my generation as “The Rader Girl”: Edith Rader.

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Paul Rader’s favorite model

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EDITH RADER (at age 53) by Paul Rader

Rader collector Brian Emrich helped find the November 1962 MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE with a Rader cover that I missed in 2003. Later, my friend Chris Eckhoff turned up two more Rader covers on MSMM: December 1960 and July 1961. Both of those paintings show up in Rader’s notebooks. MIKE SHAYNE re-used the July 1961 cover art again in October 1971 and August 1974.

Michel Hemmingson wrote about Barry Malzberg’s collectible and sought-after Midwood original INSTANT SEX, written under the pen name Mel Johnson, on his blog. I had listed it in 2003 but had never seen a copy. Eric Partoune sent me this cover scan:

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Over the past 10 years, many other Paul Rader covers and magazine illustrations have come my way. I heard from his late brother's son-in-law, who had a couple Rader paintings for book covers in his collection. One of them was not on my catalog, and I was unfamiliar with the book, but I showed it to my friend, Brooklyn bookman Chris Eckhoff, who I suspect has seen every paperback in the world, and Chris recognized it as the cover painting for Beeline 433-Z, a book called 3-FOR-ALL by D.W. Masters.

This is Rader’s original art for 3-FOR-ALL, courtesy of Herschel Fink:

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For more on Paul Rader, including a look at many other paintings, see Elaine Rader’s wonderful website tribute to her father at:

http://www.paulrader.com/

Paul Rader’s legacy, his art, continues to resonate as the years pass. His iconic images have appeared in countless places from refrigerator magnets to postcards. I have a blank journal with SIN ON WHEELS on the cover, with stunning cover model Edith Rader. This is the cover of a 2006 Cleis Press reprint of Carol Caine’s 1968 Midwood WORLD OF WOMEN. The original had a photo cover; this edition uses Paul Rader’s art from 69 BARROW STREET. Paul Rader and his model Edith live on.

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Lynn Munroe Books