Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mike Ludlow, Paperback Cover Artist

Biographical information about Mike Ludlow is very limited. The most comprehensive description I've found is in Charles Martignette and Louis Meisel's book, The Great American Pin-up. The authors write that, along with his pin-up art and his advertising and magazine illustrations, Ludlow "painted many front covers for paperback novels."

Here's the earliest Ludlow paperback cover I was able to locate, from 1950.

Pocket Book 709 _ Mike Ludlow cover

And here's another from 1951. Martignette and Meisel write that Ludlow did covers for Pocket Books, Dell and Bantam Books.

Dell Books 689 - Leslie Ford - The Bahamas Murder Case

Here are some more Ludlow covers, all from 1952.

Dell Books D108 - Jack Lait & Lee Mortimer - Washington Confidential

See You at the Morgue

The two authors continue, "All [of Ludlow's] paperback covers had a strong air of sensuality..."

Dell 625 _ Mike Ludlow cover

"... and featured sexy pin-up girls as the main figures."

Bedrooms Have Windows

No kidding - and sometimes even purple ones!

Dell Books 600 - L Sprague de Camp - Rogue Queen

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.

dell K108

Could it be that Leone influenced the new look of mid-'50s illustration to some degree?

Dell 9541 _ Mike Ludlow cover

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.

bantam 0-553-20091-7

* 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!


  1. great art. bold flair. good colors. drama. action. romance. seedy romance. :)

  2. I find the 1981 cover so depressing.That art direction had dipped so low in comparison to those later 50s pieces.But you see that same mediocrity of approach in 70s Reader's Digests, dismal copies of photo reference.Progress? no wonder realistic art went out of style, who could get excited about that?

  3. Anonymous12:35 PM

    The use of color, light and shadows, and the expressivity...superb. A great illustrator, indeed. Thanks again for your wonderful blog, from Spain!!!