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Monday, July 12, 2010

James Avati, “King of the Paperbacks”

Tally Ho! recently posted images of several favorite paperback covers of William Faulkner novels from the ’50s.

Many of these covers were created by James Avati, the artist frequently credited as having invented the art of paperback covers. A 1998 MetroActive Arts interview with Avati captures how he worked:
. . . [Avati] stood out from the majority of other illustrators of the time by insisting on actually reading every book before designing its cover.

As a result, he read some very good books. Among Avati’s thousand-plus illustrations are those for Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, C. S. Forester’s The African Queen, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place, Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and Robert Anderson’s Tea and Sympathy.

Avati's approach—to capture the book’s overall theme, rather than a specific scene, by employing gritty, boldly realistic characters placed in a sharply detailed setting—immediately proved to have the desired effect: It sold books.
Related LOA works: William Faulkner: Complete Novels


  1. The Ralph Ellison work alluded to is Invisible Man, not The Invisible Man.

  2. Go to Tally Ho! to see more 1950's paperback covers including Invisible Man.

  3. kl, many thanks for that catch. We've made that change.


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