Artful Conception #15: Dead Dames

For those not familiar with the "artful conception" posts (it's been a while since the last one); it's basically a look at old school motifs and themes that are repeated over and over in pop culture art.  This one's a particularly grisly concept, but an amazingly common one - dead dames on mystery paperbacks.

Admittedly, it makes sense that mystery novels would regularly feature a dead chick on the cover.  I mean, the stories generally revolve around a murder, and the victim is usually a female.  Hence, the ubiquity of
dead chicks on mystery covers.

Still, it's a pop culture pattern that is just strange enough to warrant the attention of Retrospace.  So, here's a dearth of dead dames from the archives.

You'll note the A Frame, another common artful conception

You'll note that we touched on this subject in an earlier Artful Conception Post; however, as with a lot of old posts, it just didn't do it justice.  It was time to revisit the topic.


  1. James Bond, the braindead man's Johnny Fedora.

    There are some great authors here - Lionel White, Bruno Fischer, Ed Lacy - not to mention the better known ones.

  2. Do I get a prize for spotting "To Find a Killer" twice?

    MAN - some of those tag lines "and now - a hellcat with a halo"


  3. With so many you would have thought that feminists would have risen up and condemned the artists and writers of such books to hell. It can only be misogyny that is the reason for all these tasteful/less covers can't it? ;-)

  4. I'm creeped out by how the women are sexy while being dead.

  5. I know. Usually a dead person is quite lifeless and anything but alluring. They're dead, dammit!

  6. Yeah, where are the leaking bodily fluids and skin discolorations? These all must've been painted seconds after death.

  7. Dead dames is sexy, hence their perennial appeal...

    A few of those covers apparently don't depict dead dames, though -- judging from the cover blurbs.

  8. The cover of "Murder Charge" seems to have added a male figure to a picture of a dead dame that originally graced an early printing of Ballinger's "The Body in the Bed." (What th--! A recycled dead dame?!?) The cover of the Ballinger book above features a body more closely resembling the novel's description -- a dead dame with death stare and wearing a sheer nightie...