Jeff Cook, illustrator / artist

Over two decades ago, I made a conscious effort to shift from American publications to British, with a focus on wartime and postwar mushroom publishers.

While visiting the house, or, more precisely, the attic of Howard Devore, I purchased a few wartime efforts by the Mitre Press. One was “The Man Who Tilted the Earth” by Justin Atholl. The copy appeared to me desperately distressed, with worn covers and fraying, well-thumbed edges. However, this title is not the point of this article. The point is, I love the crudely executed artwork that burped into existence seemingly only during those war years.

ATHOLL The Oasis Of Sleep

The Atholl cover was not signed, but, I had read the story and began hunting further Atholl books. My next title was “The Oasis of Sleep.” This was signed by illustrator Jeff Cook, and the vibrantly bold style caught my eye immediately. I wanted more by this guy. But, what other books had he illustrated? The Internet was still young back then, I was still on dial-up, and I was on the wrong side of The Great Pond to pursue a research endeavor at the British Library. So, I did it the hard way, and learned that Jeff Cook did not simply appear during the war years.

He began much earlier….

The earliest illustrated effort by Jeff Cook appears to be actually not with books, but, on sheet music covers! His artwork can be found on pieces released by Lawrence Wright Music Company (as early as 1929), B. Feldman & Co., Gilbert & Nicholls, and Cecil Lennox Ltd., etc. The last known piece that I have traced appears in 1935, with perhaps one further in 1940. For the most part, none of the covers are exciting. So, how did he hop from sheet music to book covers? I haven’t the foggiest, but, I hold out hope that someone from his family may one day find this article and fill in the blanks.

Moving along, the earliest known book illustration occurs in 1933, with children’s books for the publishers Art & Humour Publishing:

  • Elfin Adventures
  • Woodland Fairies

He next appears handling a handful of dust jackets for Wells, Gardner & Co., illustrating the covers of the following books:

  • Alice A. Methley “Summer Hours and Summer Flowers” (1937)
  • Alice A. Methley “Winter Days and Winter Ways” (1937)
  • William Rainey “Admiral Rodney’s Bantam Clock” (1938)
  • Harold Bindloss “The Boys of Wildcat Ranch” (1938)
  • Daniel DeFoe “Robinson Crusoe in Short Words” (?)
    cover art by Gordon Robinson, with interiors by GR and Cook

From 1939 to 1941, I have found no evidence of his output. Could be I simply haven’t located them yet, or, perhaps, he enlisted. Cook resurfaces, illustrating several covers for Everybody’s Books and Mitre Press, from 1942-1944.

He then turned his hand to children’s books, illustrating covers and supplying interior art for the Walker Toy Book ‘Dinky Series’ published by Renwick of Otley, with such titles as:

  • Kitchen Capers” (#75)
  • The Old Chimney Corner” (#80)
  • The Old Mill” (#83)
  • Scarum Sam” (#87)
  • Tea Time Tale“(#91)

Also for the same publishers, “Our Boys’ Tip Top” was an omnibus loaded with tales by F. W. Gumley and others. The frontispiece was by Jeff Cook, and internally, he supplied illustrations to tales by Arthur Groom and L. E. Shorter.

Additionally, he supplied art to at least one postcard, for “The White Horse Hotel, Bampton, Devon.”

So, who is Jeff Cook?  With his earliest known piece appearing circa 1930, I wanted to believe that he got into illustrating at a fairly young age, perhaps out of high school or college. With that purely as my basis, this, below, I believe to me by man. If anyone has any further information about Jeff Cook, please contact me.

Jeffrey Cook (11 Feb 1907, died 13 Oct 1979)
son to Frederick COOK and Kate Annie ROWLAND (married 1894)
siblings:
Gladys (10 May 1900; died 1982)
Clifford (Dec 1905)
Bernard (19 Feb 1908; died 1990)
Kate (3 Feb 1910; died 1998)
Elizabeth (20 Dec 1914; died 1999)
It’s also possible he had two earlier sibs, names of Donald and Hilda.

 

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Jeff Cook, illustrator / artist

2015 September 11: “The Man Who Tilted the Earth” by Justin Atholl

Exactly twenty years ago this Fall, I drove to Dearborn, Michigan, and visited Howard DeVore, at his request, to pick over his collection. Only non-American items were optioned, and I walked out with a small bundle, on my first of many visits.

One of the booklets that I left with (that day) was “The Man who Tilted the Earth” by Justin Atholl. It was published by the Mitre Press in 1943. The artwork is unsigned, but may be the work of Jeff Cook, if one were to believe the lower right skyscraper “windows” were actually him cleverly trying to disguise the signing of his name. The formation of a “J” and “e” are readily visible down there.

ATHOLL The Man Who Tilted The Earth 3          ATHOLL The Man Who Tilted The Earth 1

Do not adjust rub your eyes. You aren’t seeing double. You are also not seeing an enhanced image. The one on the left is (was) Howard’s copy. Not too shabby a copy, I think, once the second copy (on the right) arrived, with a tape repaired cover, etc.

Turns out the worn copy isn’t so worn. The left copy was printed on inferior paper stock, thus affecting the quality of the image. The right copy was printed on better paper and properly showcases the cover as it was meant to be.

So, which one is the true first edition? Interior copyright plates are identical, however, the rear cover and rear internal ad pages are entirely different. The copy on the right is the true first edition. It does not advertise other fiction pamphlets published whereas the faded copy does, indicating that it came along after other titles had been published.

The identity of Justin Atholl baffled me for over a decade until a breakthrough occurred. Back around 2005, I was reading one his short stories, when it occurred to me that I had read it somewhere else … in a 1930s horror anthology, under another name, that of Sidney Denham. How the correlation was never drawn prior, since they are recorded side-by-side in weird / horror anthologies, is bewildering, but, these things happen….

I have kept this a secret for the past decade, but since the news just broke this year via another researcher, no point in keeping it mum any longer. The reason I kept it a secret was that I wanted concrete evidence that Atholl had not been used by more than one author. His 1940s novels do not exercise a firm uniformity among themselves. Due to the recently offered-for-sale on ABE of a book noting that T. S. Denham authored “The Perfect Murder,” we now know he did author at least ONE of the 1940s novels, but one short story and one novel does not mean that he is the sole author behind Atholl.

However, not released yet is the fact that he also utilized the alias Arthur Armstrong. Whether this alias was exclusive to Denham is also unknown, but, it was also applied to the very same short story that first united Atholl with Denham in my decade-old discovery!

“The Man who Tilted the Earth” involves the intrepid investigations of reporter John Renvers into Dr. Surrocks claims of having constructed a super weapon. However, ahead of him is multi-millionaire villain Zachavitch (note that wartime villains often had foreign-sounding names). Zachavitch has already latched onto Surrocks and is privately funding his project, with the intent to obliterate a massive iron deposit in the Arctic, thereby causing the poles to shift and worthless lands he has purchased to suddenly become very valuable. Untold millions of people would perish in the explosion, cities will topple, sea level areas vanish under mountain of water, etc. Only Renvers, with the aid of Surrocks lovely (and intelligent) daughter, can possibly try to thwart the evil Zachavitch and the mentally warped Dr. Surrocks from accomplishing their maniacal goal … world domination.

2015 September 11: “The Man Who Tilted the Earth” by Justin Atholl

2015 August 31: “The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke

“The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke (cover art by Jeff Cook)
(aka: Harold Ernest Kelly, of alias Darcy Glinto fame, etc)

YORKE The Case Of The Strangled Seven

NOTE: I read this book years ago and reported upon it to John Fraser, an avid Kelly researcher.  I decided to freshen up on it, and copy the plot herewith as I wrote it up all those years ago.

A beat-weary constable stumbles upon a pair of strangled drug-gang distributors. He requests time off to investigate the area on his own. A lone member of the nefarious gang captures and binds him, and later sets fire to the hideout, with the intention of burning the constable. He escapes, with severe burns.

Meanwhile, our wonderful author abandons any pretext of surprising the reader about who the strangler is. A somewhat well-to-do businessman has lost his daughter to drugs, and has lost his grip on reality. He and some reliable professionals systematically hunt down the seven top members of the gang and strangle them to death.

His secretary learns the truth, so, he kidnaps her.

The constable continues to track the s.o.b.s who tried to snuff him. In the traditional climax he attempts to arrest both the businessman and leader of the outfit, (the former operates under the name of “Optimus One”). “Optimus,” who bizarrely has a sac of poison attached to one of his teeth, bites the businessman and dies a paralyzing death before the constable’s eyes. The businessman announces that there are notes in his office that will clear up the entire case, and then, he too promptly dies.

2015 August 31: “The Case of the Strangled Seven” by Preston Yorke

2015 August 28: “It’s Only Saps That Die” by Buck Toler

Having recently finished reading Buck Toler’s “Killer on the Run,” I was less than thrilled with myself for having decided to chug through yet another Buck Toler title.

TOLER It's Only Saps That Die

And, so, we trudge along to the next thriller, “It’s Only Saps that Die.”

This was published by Everybody’s Books (1944) and features a wonderfully gruesome illustrated cover by Jeff Cook, showcasing a woman being ground to death between two large gears, and, while her blood spews out and her body is broken and twisted in half, a man is seen reaching down (too late) to try and save her life.

Let me spare you the details by stating that no such scene occurs inside….
Disappointed? Don’t be.

Unlike the prior read, which delved exclusively into the mind of a “killer on the run,”this novel is pure gangster-stuff with a Federal Agent thrown into the mix.

The investigation: how is it that while the war is going on, that, in America, with the huge beef rations, that certain companies appear to be functioning well above federal guidelines?

With the newspapers carrying stories of old-fashioned frontier cattle rustling, and beef companies filing cases that their refrigerated trucks are being hijacked by killers, special agent Captain Delane of the FBI is sent by Hoover to investigate, infiltrate, and smash the crooks.

He assumes the fictitious identity of Tex Radnor, a hoodlum looking for employment in Chicago. While there he crosses paths violently with a vicious ex-drug smuggler. He is caught and beaten mercilessly and left for dead; he is rescued by one of the hoodlum’s molls. Instead of fleeing, he waits in the smuggler’s office and beats two thugs [gleefully] into unconsciousness and delivers and impromptu beating onto the lead thug, until he gets the answers he wants.

Now set up to work with a big-time beef distributor, he starts small by driving their rigs. After weeks of inactivity goes by, Delane approaches the lower-level managerial thug-in-charge and presents himself as a thug-for-hire. The guy moves him up to thievery and thus begins the real action, as Delane (Tex Radnor) aids in the hijacking of beef trucks.

But when the head honcho himself learns of Tex, he is immediately suspicious of this young man, and has his boys bring Tex to his office. They torture him, attempting to beat the truth out of him. The boss, Rimmer, is keenly aware that Tex is an alias, and likely a Fed. They beat him near to death, toss him into river-boat sort of structure full of filth and hundreds of hungry rats, and leave him to his fate.

Will Captain Delane live? How will he escape? Will the rats nibble hungrily on all 21 of his digits? Will Delane be able to save face? Is there any sexual interest between he and the moll that saved him? How in hell will you get the answers to these questions unless you read the book?

This is Harold Ernest Kelly (aka: Buck Toler, aka Darcy Glinto, etc) at his very best.

“It’s Only Saps that Die” is gruesome, brutal, unforgiving, and harsh in Kelly’s visual depictions of America in the grips of gangsters willing to die for what they believe in: CASH.

2015 August 28: “It’s Only Saps That Die” by Buck Toler

2015 July 19: Preston Yorke “Gamma Ray Murders”

“Gamma Ray Murders” by Preston Yorke, was published 1943 (UK: Everybody’s Books), with cover art by Jeff Cook. The digest paperback is 128-pages, and a gangster / scientific thriller novel.

YORKE Gamma Ray Murders

The Plot: a scientist is murdered and the plans for his secret “gamma ray” are stolen and turned on London. Inspector Bevis is on the trail and with the aid of a girl, they thwart the heinous plans of “X,” the Master Menace!

Preston Yorke was just one of several pseudonyms utilized by Harold Ernest Kelly.
From the 1940s-1950s, he wrote as Buck Toler (gangsters), Preston Yorke (science-fiction and detection), Eugene Ascher (supernatural and detection), John Parsons (non-fictional social comment), and, marginally, himself. Subsequently he also appeared as Gordon Holt (racing, crime, detection), Lance Carson (westerns), Duke Linton (gangsters), etc. Between 1961 and 1964, he wrote several Hank Janson gangster novels, after the name was farmed out, due to the original writer being sued. Kelly and some other authors then began writing the hard-hitting gangster novels before this fad expired.

2015 July 19: Preston Yorke “Gamma Ray Murders”