I didn’t plan it this way, but two books I co-edited were recently released at the same time on Amazon worldwide: THE ART OF RON LESSER, VOL. 1: DEADLY DAMES AND SEXY SIRENS and THE NAKED AND THE DEADLY: LAWRENCE BLOCK IN MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES.

I’ll be doing posts about both of them here in the weeks ahead.

In this post, I’ll provide a look at THE ART OF RON LESSER, VOL. 1, the first book to focus on the classic artwork Lesser created for paperbacks, magazines, movie posters, ads and galleries.

I owe a huge thank you to J. Kingston Pierce for inspiring this book. Jeff is a man with many credits.

Among other things, Jeff is Senior Editor of JANUARY MAGAZINE, which features book reviews and author interviews, contributing editor to the popular CrimeReads website, writer of the “Rap Sheet” blog about crime and mystery books, and author of a series of history and travel books.

But it was his “Killer Covers of the Week” blog that first made me a J. Kingston Pierce fan. That blog features vintage paperback covers and discusses the artists who created them.

In a 2018, Jeff posted an extensive interview he did with Ron Lesser on that blog.

They discussed Ron’s six-decade-long career as an artist, with a particular focus on his paperback cover art. Jeff followed that with a series of posts about “The Lesser Look.”

I had been aware of Lesser and knew he was a top illustration artist.

But it wasn’t until I saw the Lesser covers and artwork in those posts interview that I focused on how great his artwork is.

I think Ron ranks right up there with other great artists who started out doing illustration art for paperbacks, magazines, and movie posters in the 1950s and 1960s, artists like Mort Künstler, James Bama, Stan Borack, Mel Crair, Jack Faragasso, Gil Cohen, Roger Kastel, Robert Maguire, Robert McGinnis, Frank McCarthy, Lou Marchetti, Rudy Nappi, Tom Ryan, Samson Pollen, and Robert E. Schulz.

When I found out there was no book about Ron’s artwork, I decided to try to fill that void and contacted him.

Happily, he was very receptive to the idea of doing a book. It helped that I could show him examples of other art books I had done previously with my co-editor on the Men’s Adventure Library book series, such as MORT KÜNSTLER: THE GODFATHER OF PULP FICTION ILLUSTRATORS, POLLEN’S WOMEN: THE ART OF SAMSON POLLEN, POLLEN’S ACTION, POLLEN IN PRINT: 1955-1959, and GEORGE GROSS: COVERED.

Since Wyatt was focused on new MAL books we had in the pipeline, I asked book designer and publisher Bill Cunningham if he’d like to do the Lesser art book with me. I’ve been working with Bill, the head honcho at Pulp 2.O Press, for two years on our magazine that showcases MAM stories and artwork, the MEN’S ADVENTURE QUARTERLY. Bill was immediately on board.

During the past six decades, Ron did thousands of paintings for book covers, movie posters, and magazines alone and hundreds paintings for galleries. So, Bill and I decided from the start that a series of books was needed to do justice to his career.

For the first book, we decided to focus on his early illustration art from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s that features sexy women, one of the most common eyeball-grabbing subjects on books covers from those decades.

I asked Bill to create a layout that would give a book showcasing vintage covers and artwork a fresh look, and figure out how to intersperse those visual elements with quotes I put together from phone interviews I did with Ron and reference photos he gave us. Bill succeeded far beyond my expectations.

We published THE ART OF RON LESSER, VOL. 1 in late May. It’s a 145-page, full color, 8.25″ x 11″ hardcover that’s now available on Amazon in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and other Amazons worldwide. You can also get copies directly from me via my eBay listings or the online bookstore linked to this blog.

I’m proud that the book has already received glowing reviews from many people I admire. Here are just a few of the things that have been said about it so far..

“Ron Lesser’s captivating depictions of impossibly beautiful women have always held a magnetic allure for connoisseurs of vintage paperbacks. This long-overdue and meticulously crafted book offers a rich tribute to Lesser’s illustrious career, brimming with an array of his original art, reference photographs, and a treasure trove of vintage artifacts—from paperback covers to movie posters and beyond. This inaugural volume in an anticipated series is an instant ‘must have’ for fans of paperback art, and a particular delight for those who appreciate the timeless charms of deadly dames and sexy sirens!”

Dan Zimmer
Editor and publisher of ILLUSTRATION magazine and of many superb books about artists, including Tom Lovell, Norman Saunders, Jon Whitcomb, Coby Whitmore, Haddon Sundblom, and Reynold Brown

“The remarkable work of prolific pulp paperback and movie poster artist Ron Lesser has long called out for a detailed examination and appraisal, and this book, the first in a planned series, certainly does the subject justice. Beautifully designed and with a plethora of stunning color photos, as well as profiles on some of the artist’s most popular models, the fascinating input from Lesser himself helps make The Art of Ron Lesser Vol. 1: Deadly Dames and Sexy Sirens not just a visual feast, but an essential study which is sure to be devoured by illustration art fans and historians.”

John Harrison
Author of HIP POCKET SLEAZE, WILDCAT! THE FILMS OF MARJOE GORTNER and writer for pop culture magazines like CINEMA OF THE 70S, CINEMA OF THE 80S and many others

“This astonishing book — perhaps the best ever assembled about a key artist of paperback book covers — is a mind-boggling feast for the eyes. What surprised me most was how many books I have purchased over the last fifty years, how many movies I have attended, that were due to Ron Lesser luring me in. Nothing ‘lesser’ about Ron — he is one of the handful of masters, right next to McGinnis and Maguire.”

— Max Allan Collins
Author of a long list of bestselling books, such the ROAD TO PERDITION series, the QUARRY series, and the NATE HELLER series, and SPILLANE: KING OF PULP FICTION and co-author of one of the must have books for fans of this blog, MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES

“It is fucking brilliant! Buy it. Now!”

— Justin Marriott

“With THE ART OF RON LESSER VOL. 1, Messrs Deis, Cunningham and Pierce have cemented themselves as among the foremost fan scholars of pulp. They have put together a book that not only beautifully showcases some of Lessor’s stunning artwork. It executes a deep dive into the mechanics of his work and the economic and cultural forces that influenced it, over a range of mediums – paperbacks, magazines and film posters. It also sheds much needed light on the people who were vital to the lurid appeal of pulp paperback cover art but who have for the most part been erased from its history, the cover models. This is not only a must have for fans of mid-century pulp artwork, but an essential resource for those interested in changing visual and illustration styles more generally.’

Andrew Nette

“The Art of Ron Lesser Vol. 1 isn’t just a beautifully designed collection of Lesser’s exceptional artwork, we also learn about his career — and the mid-20th century illustration business in general — as described by artist himself. For fans of popular culture, genre fiction, and lovers of the best in illustration art of the period, this book is a must-have!”

— Leif Peng
Author of THE ART OF THE REAL TOM SAWYER and creator of the popular “Today’s Inspiration” illustration art history Facebook Group and blog

It’s been a real thrill to have been able to work with him on this first in what Bill and I envision as a series of at least three books. We foresee another volume focusing on Ron’s men’s action/adventure and Western cover art and a third showcasing his book cover and gallery paintings from 1980 to today that feature beautiful women.

Ron has done so much great artwork, there may well be more. Stay tuned.

By the way, in addition to being on Amazon worldwide, you can get copies of THE ART OF RON LESSER, VOL. 1: DEADLY DAMES AND SEXY SIRENS and THE NAKED AND THE DEADLY: LAWRENCE BLOCK IN MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES with free shipping via the “Bookstore” tab on this blog.

To see a cool video review and preview of THE ART OF RON LESSER, VOL. 1 by the retromedia maven Jules Burt on his popular “Collections & Unboxings” YouTube channel, click the image below.