Vintage paperbacks featuring good girl art

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I enjoyed the "carnie girls" collection of vintage paperback covers from the Good Girl Art website. Shown here are covers to two (sadly out-of-print) carnival-themed books I highly recommend: Madball, by Fredric Brown, and Nightmare Alley, by William Lindsay Gresham. (Update: Nightmare Alley is available in the anthology Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s.)

Good Girl Art, usually shortened to GGA, is the term that describes certain types of Vintage Art, and specifically Paperback Cover Art. Richard Lupoff in his The Great American Paperback defines it as "A cover illustration depicting an attractive young woman, usually in skimpy or form-fitting clothing, and designed for (mild erotic interest). The term does not apply to the morality of the 'good girl', who is often a gun moll, tough cookie, or wicked temptress." The GGA designation seems to have originated with comic books and is usually applied to attractive sexy young women who are either in peril or are perpetrating the peril like my favorite gun moll on the right. So it is often politically incorrect but can also be empowering when at the right end of a gun.
Good Girl Art Paperbacks (Via Shane Glines)


  1. As a kid I was mesmerized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series paperback covers, and the martian princess girls.

    Strangely, this was years before puberty, so I guess something fairly primitive/genetic/chemical was already stirring my young loins.

  2. Nightmare Alley isn’t out of print; it’s available in the American Noir of the 1930s and 1940s volume in the Library of America series, along with five other classic noirs. No GGA though.

  3. It’s “William” Lindsay Gresham, not “Willima.” And the book is quite in print, being part of the Library of America’s anthology Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s. (A second volume contains noir from the 1950s.)

  4. Nightmare Alley is a great book. I’m glad to hear it’s back in print. Some years ago it went hand-to-hand through Tor Editorial. I think everyone who worked there at the time will still occasionally use the line, “But it’s just for a while, until we get a real geek.”

    Not to slight Fredric Brown. I’ve never read anything by Fredric Brown that I’d hesitate to recommend to others.

  5. Fredric Brown is one my my all time favorite authors. I love the advice he gave here:

    ‘Once I said to him I needed a model for an antagonist in one of my stories and was trying to think of someone I really hated. “Wrong,” he [Fredric Brown] said. “Base your villain on someone you like. That’ll give him some sympathetic traits and make him much more believable.”‘ (from ‘My Friend Fredric Brown’ by Walt Sheldon in The Big Book of Noir, ed. by Ed Gorman et al., 1998)

  6. I’m stark raving cuckoo for Nightmare Alley. I read it in the Library of America anthology already cited, and it’s simply dynamite that blows the other stories out of the water. And, as good as the movie is – and as hard-fought as it was for Alan Ladd to get the movie made – it too is a bloodless limpid shell compared to Gresham’s hot prose and dark psychic insights. Read this books mutants!

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