Two Covers for Mort Weisinger Paperbacks

Posted by on September 12th, 2010 at 5:02 PM

Mort Weisinger, aside from being Superman’s editor, led a high-powered career as a freelance writer. He sold hundreds of magazine articles, notably to Parade. He also masterminded a book called 1001 Valuable Things You Can Get Free, a genius project that went thru 11 editions. Weisinger’s wife or son did the writing away for currency charts and wall maps, and Weisinger wrote or edited the blurbs that ran before the necessary addresses. The book’s angle was lowest common denominator: everybody loves free stuff.

Weisinger’s other big success in the book world was a novel called The Contest. Again, he aimed low — the premise was basically to get a lot of hot girls in one place — and again much of the work was farmed out. This time it went to a comic book writer named David Vern (per Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones) or else to a team of comics and pulp writers that included Vern. The second claim appears in a section written by Michael Eury for The Krypton Companion. He adds that “Dorothy Woolfolk reportedly edited the mélange of styles into a seamless whole.”

At any rate, The Contest is a behind-the-scenes tell-all about a made-up beauty contest. It’s like a lot of best-sellers from the time, books about how airports are run and how randy celebrities nail each other in the kip. Whether The Contest was itself a best seller is something I haven’t tracked down. My guess is no, but for Weisinger it generated a $150,000 check. This was either for the paperback rights or the movie rights — people disagree. They just remember the check and the fuss Weisinger made about it.

During the first half of the 1970s, Weisinger would talk about the follow-up novel he planned. This was called The President’s Astrologer, a perfect hack title for 1969, the year before the year he quit DC. The novel never appeared, but at one point he referred to it as “an expose” of astrology.

And now the covers. Here’s The Contest, looking generic:

No artist credit on the book. I should also note that the “Major Movie” never showed up.

And here’s the cover of 1001 Valuable Things You Can Get Free, 1961 edition. Again no credit, but I think it’s a very nice job, a fine example of a style that crops up in paperbacks of the time: playful and pseudo-naive, even pseudo-folk, but charming instead of cloying (charming to me anyway). I hope the guy made good money.

“Free Ear-Muffs.” I love that fish, the bowling pins, the trumpet, but especially that fish.

Now let us proceed to the the back cover, which is just as nice:

Yeah, the flowers, the test tubes, the fake Olde America way the copy is arranged. Oh well, we get nostalgic over silly things.

Glibly awful. A line I made up for a nonexistent TV play of the 1950s: “Sing me no blues in the night. I’ve heard that sweet song before, and to be frank, sir, its self-pity appalls me.” The “sir” is what gives the interjection weight; it keeps the two ends of the sentence from hurtling toward each other.

Daily proverb. Chase, not catch — very sad. But no chase at all — very foolish!

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4 Responses to “Two Covers for Mort Weisinger Paperbacks”

  1. Tom Crippen says:

    You astonish me, Holmes.

  2. WLLilly says:

    …That cover for The Contest sure appears to show some post-Frazetta/other S&S artists influence…

  3. Tom Crippen says:

    It looks like other beach-novel paperbacks I’ve seen from back then. Can’t be more specific because I’m running for the door. But my guess is that it’s no much Frazetta-like as that Frazetta had some traits in common w/ a bunch of other paperback cover artists around at the time.