Here's the earliest Ludlow paperback cover I was able to locate, from 1950.
And here's another from 1951. Martignette and Meisel write that Ludlow did covers for Pocket Books, Dell and Bantam Books.
Here are some more Ludlow covers, all from 1952.
The two authors continue, "All [of Ludlow's] paperback covers had a strong air of sensuality..."
"... and featured sexy pin-up girls as the main figures."
No kidding - and sometimes even purple ones!
In the mid-'50s you begin to notice a change in Ludlow's art. Its probably not a coincidence that when Leonard Leone began art directing for Bantam in 1955, bringing with him a new and modern graphic approach, Mitchell Hooks and Mike Ludlow were among his stable of regular cover artists. Leone worked closely with his artists and Bantam's printers, switching the stock used for covers to a better paper and a finer screen. Leone wanted his artists to be able to draw in pencil and have the fine lines show in reproduction.
Could it be that Leone influenced the new look of mid-'50s illustration to some degree?
Here's a later period Mike Ludlow cover, from 1981. Certainly not his best work, but its kind of nice to see he still had a knack for illustrating beautiful women after all those years.
* Today's post could not have been possible if not for the hard work and generosity of those Flickr members who so diligently archive old paperback covers. Chief among them, my friend Uilke ( AKA UK Vintage) but also swallace99, McClaverty, and Kyle Katz. Thank you to all of them for preserving these rare images and sharing them with us!