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
called “Boo Boo”, but a look at
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
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
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?
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:
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
32-470 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)
(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.)
B300 LINGERIE LTD (this is R Gifford)
B655F SIN DOLL
B905X VELVET JACKPOT (this is Victor Olson)
G185 WICKED WOMAN (this is Victor Olson)
CB105 SEX ON TAP
CB175 COMPANY GIRL
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
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,
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?
Second-page “spot” illustration
for “The Girl With the Love Cure” in the March 1960 issue of SEE Magazine.
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:
Santee and her Unique Bordello on
MAN’S LIFE December
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.
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.
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:
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.
MARK TWAIN by Isaac
For the full biography of Isaac
Paul Rader, see my 2003 article, accessible through my homepage. After WWII,
Rader became a commercial artist in
York City. He did hundreds of ads like this:
And he did illustrations for
magazines like these:
REDBOOK January 1950
FAMILY CIRCLE October
“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
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
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
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,
“As you tell me this I now have
memories of exact points in time, in our
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.
Paul Rader’s favorite
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:
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:
For more on Paul Rader, including
a look at many other paintings, see Elaine Rader’s wonderful website tribute to
her father at:
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.