Girl With Gun Vintage Cover Art

How can a consumer tell a western novel from a romance one — or a mystery novel? Artists of paperback cover art in the 1940s through the 1960s were faced with that dilemma, so they used certain tropes to illustrate a mystery to distinguish it from other types of genre fiction. One of them was the “girl with a gun” theme, which had its origin in earlier mystery pulp magazines. I will treat other themes in future posts.

Why a girl with a gun? It immediately causes the observer to think that the girl or woman is in danger, but that she is in control of the situation. It also makes the potential reader buy the book to find out exactly what that dangerous situation is. Usually the girl with the gun coupled with the title of the mystery left the reader in little doubt about what kind of book he/she was looking at.

Here are some examples of the “simple” girl with a gun covers.

The title of the novel accentuates the girl with the gun

“Yes, Mam. I certainly won’t do that!”

Vivid Robert Maguire portrait — one of his best

Rudolph Belarski was a pulp artist of great renown.

Here the gun is smoking so she has already fired it. What happened?

Then there is a variation on that theme — bigger guns!

One tough mamma — wouldn’t want to mess with her

“You call that a gun? This is a gun!!”

Another variation — replace the gun with a knife.

This can’t end well!

The Girl with the Gun — Almost.

I wouldn’t hang my holster/gun there if I were you.

This cover leads us into the most puzzling of all — the romantic clinch — with a girl with a gun. What exactly is going on here? I have no idea.

“Kiss my neck the right way or you die!”

“You don’t have to point that thing at me to get a kiss, darling!”

“Did I ever tell you about my pickpocket skills?”

“You do this right or you’re a dead man!”

“Do I have to tie you up and put a gun on you to get a decent kiss?”

This is my favorite of all “girl with a gun” covers. Look at the guy’s hand. It doesn’t look like he’s enjoying the experience. What is going on???

Two small variations on the theme. First, a girl with a gun vs. a man with a knife. Can anyone say, “rock, paper, scissors?”

Don’t you just love the title of the mystery? Two of the Ten Commandments broken at once.

Second, a clinch, but this time the man is holding a smoking gun.

Another great Robert Maguire cover

I hoped you enjoyed this short trip down memory lane. Warning: beware of the girl with the gun– especially if she’s hugging you!!