I’m often astounded by the sheer amount of female nudity that was splattered all over the pulp novels of the 1950s and 1960s. Astounded in a good way, I mean. It’s so very refreshing to know that there was at least a thriving subculture in the prim and proper black-and-white Leave It to Beaver era that relished the pleasures of the flesh. All of us—and particularly those who lean to the right—tend to be revisionist historians about previous generations. No way was my parents’ generation perverse, right?
Turns out, they were probably more perverse than we are! (Well, maybe not as perverse as you. Point taken.)
But look at these things. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that stuff like this couldn’t be published today. That’s probably true of more mainstream presses, but smaller, independent presses do print some truly shocking things these days. So I won’t go that route. But doesn’t it give you a little thrill that our forebears got off on fiction like this? Call ‘em Eisenhower-era guilty pleasures.
Personally, I love that American literature went through its pulp era, and obviously that period of paperback publishing was a big influence on The Naked Dame. There’s a sense of liberal mischief and sexual freedom wrapped up in these lurid covers, not to mention blunt, adolescent prurience, and hey—that’s okay, because the country was going through a kind of adolescence of its own. And if you’ve got that word misogyny rattling around in your head, I’d counter that the dames in these books mostly tended toward spirited and strong and forthright and cunning. It’s the male characters who ended up weak and defeated. And see, there I’ve gone and spoiled the ending of my own book.
But we’re talking about book covers here, and often the art had very little to do with the actual contents of the book! The publishers merely wanted to lure you in with kink.
Is that what I’ve done with The Naked Dame? Sure, while designing the cover with Darin Sanders, we consciously tried to emulate those fleshy covers of yore, in an effort to increase sales. Our intentions might not have been of the highest order, but at least they weren’t unprecedented. Except that in my book, you know what? As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, in The Naked Dame, you actually get not one, but two naked dames. That’s a lot of nakedness.
Truth in advertising! Long live the flesh!