How can you top a Robert McGinnis paperback cover? His amazing illustrations did for espionage/mystery/action paperbacks what Norman Rockwell did for The Saturday Evening Post and what Frazetta did for fantasy fiction. The artwork sold the item every bit as much (and often more) as the content itself. And it wasn't due to lurid sexual imagery; it was pure artistic prowess that didn't need to resort to shock value.
Then came the 70s (or you could say the latter part of the 60s), and some would say taste went out the window. Not I; however. I can appreciate the change from the distinctive style of McGinnis and his many imitators to the tawdry photography-based espionage/mystery/action covers that came out during the seventies. Times had changed. We weren't living in the halcyon days of James Bond, Sinatra, and martinis anymore.... it was Shaft, The Ohio Players, and weed. Needless to say, book jackets needed to change accordingly.
So, here is a gallery of espionage/mystery/action paperback covers. I don't separate the three genres because there is such overlap, and I want to avoid any commentors angrily informing me that a certain cover is from an action novel and is most definitely not from an espionage novel. Get it straight, Gilligan.
Please note: I recently did an Espionage & Action cover gallery post, and several of these pictures have been reposted (#24-34). Unlike that one, though, this post features only photographic covers, and a lot of these covers are new to Retrospace (#1-23).
1 (As usual, click on all images for larger size)