Friday, October 15, 2021

Jack Gaughan covers for "Three Against the Witch World"

This is a pretty nifty old paperback. The kind that's made it fun to browse the sci-fi/fantasy shelves of used book stores for years (decades) and examine all of the wild stuff produced during the 1950s through 1970s, as the New Wave science fiction, high fantasy and sword-and-sorcery genres came to dominate and the Cold War hovered over everything. In those treasured bookstores, we can admire the covers and titles, smell the pages and perhaps also, for a moment, put ourselves in the shoes of those who were living through those times and reading these volumes when they were new, not yellowed.

What's shown above is, according to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, the 1969 Ace Books edition of Three Against the Witch World, which was first published in the 1965 as the third book in Andre Alice Norton's Estcarp Cycle of the Witch World series.1 

The main reason I'm writing about this book tonight is because the cover artist is Jack Gaughan (1930-1985). He's popped up a fair bit on Papergreat over the years, without me quite realizing it:

Gaughan died at age 54 in 1985, and it seems from what I've read that his career had started to decline a full decade before that. But he was incredibly prolific during his peak period, centered in the 1960s, and he even found time to keep providing work for sci-fi fanzines. In a post for the DMR website last year, Deuce Richardson writes of Gaughan:
"Jack Gaughan is barely remembered today. Like many other fantasy artists of the '60s and '70s, Gaughan's art didn't make it past the Great Divide of 1980. Around that date, art directors started demanding more 'photo-realistic' art. ... The best of Jack Gaughan's work has power and dynamism to burn. Some of his compositions — the placement of elements within the picture — can stand up to many artists considered far better nowadays. Also, Jack was utterly unafraid of using a bold palette of colors to make his paintings leap out at the viewer."
Perhaps the covers Gaughan is best known for are Ace Books' unauthorized (pirated) editions of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy in 1965. If you've seen them once, you've never forgotten them. I have The Two Towers and would like to find copies of the other two some day (perhaps during a shelf-browsing session at some dusty bookstore). Personally, I think the Ace/Gaughan LOTR cover illustrations are better than those for the authorized Ballantine paperbacks that came out later.2

Of all the Gaughan work I've come across, I think my favorite piece might be from the back cover of the dust jacket for the 1974 Andre Alice Norton novel The Jargoon Pard. It's incredibly evocative and wouldn't be out of place alongside those LOTR covers. And to think that this was only a back cover illustration. What an artist!
1. For a couple of interesting analyses of Andre Alice Norton's Witch World series from a feminist perspective, consider these essays by Caroline Furlong and Violette Malan
2. And let me be very clear: Piracy is bad, kids. For a little more about the Ace, Ballantine and later LOTR covers, check out this 2020 post on James Malisewski's Grognardia blog and this 2016 post on We Are the Mutants.

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