They Also Served: Robert E. McGinnis


“I wish I looked half as good as his painting of me!
— Raquel Welch

One of the all-time greats and one of the most influential illustrators of the last century, and a relatively late starter (he was born in 1926), Ohio born-and-bred ROBERT E.MCGINNIS has painted well over 1,500 paperback covers since the 1950s.

Although most of his work (mostly done in egg tempera) was published well after the heyday of the  other mass-market paperback artists mentioned on these pages, McGinnis’ style and subject matter certainly fit in; a sort of illustrative passing of the torch. He’s celebrated for his crime and mystery covers, and his unsurpassed depictions of glamourous, elegant women (no disrespect here, or anything, but some of these women were just drop-dead gorgeous–you could eat some of these covers with a spoon). Often they were the sole subject of his covers, although men—often carrying a gun and a very serious expression, managed to intrude.

But McGinnis did far more than pulp cheesecake. He has also painted a considerable number of covers for several other genres, including westerns, gothics, romance, historicals, movie and television tie-ins and a vast number of iconic movie posters, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Odd Couple, Barbarella and a slew of James Bond flicks (which—surprise, surprise) have been known to feature beautiful women). He even managed to sneak some of his work onto covers by other artists: that’s his portrait of Mike Shayne that was used as a logo in the upper right corner of approximately 5 zillion Shayne covers for Dell. Meanwhile, his illustrative work has appeared in magazines as diverse as Playboy, Saturday Evening Post, and Guideposts, and his celebrated paintings have shown up in major museums and collections around the world.

Still very much in demand into the 21st century, McGinnis has done covers for the Hard Case Crime paperback series, and even more recently several  covers for Neil Gaiman reissues.


“Provocative, seductive, elegant women” is how McGinnis himself describes his favorite subject. Long-legged beauties are the focal point, and often almost the only element on the cover. And check out some of those expressions on some of those women. It’s enough to make a old man itch and a young man faint.



  • Angel’s Ransom by David Dodge (Dell, 1959)
  • Don’t Speak to Strange Girls by Harry Whittington (Fawcett Gold Medal, 1963)
  • Covers for Edward S. Aarons, M.E. Chaber, Frank Kane‘s Johnny Liddell series, Erle Stanley Gardner (including several books featuring P.I.s Cool and Lam, under Gardner’s “A.A. Fair” pseudonym), Richard S. Prather’s Shell Scott, Richard Stark’s Parker novels, Brett Halliday’s Mike Shayne, John D. MacDonald‘s Travis McGee books and standalones, Carter Brown‘s various series, and countless others.
  • Posters for the James Bond films Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun and Moonraker.
  • Other film posters include Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Odd Couple and Barbarella.


  • The Art of Robert E. McGinnis
    The official web site. Maintained by McGinnis’ son, Kyle.
  • Fenner, Cathy & Arnie Fenner,
    Tapestry: The Paintings of Robert McGinnis Buy this book
    (2000, Underwood Books)
    Possibly the first book to focus exclusively on McGinnis, they feature and discuss 120 of his iconic works.
  • McGinnis, Robert E., & Art Scott,
    The Paperback Covers of Robert McGinnis | Buy this book
    (2001, Pond Press)
    Compiled by long-time fan and our good friend Art Scott, and featuring a foreword by Richard S. Prather, this book offers a wide range of covers by one of the truly great paperback illustrators of all time. With close to 300 colour reproductions, if someone you love loves old paperback covers, this is the one for them.
  • McGinnis, Robert E., & Art Scott,
    The Art of Robert E. McGinnis (art book) | Buy this book
    (2014, Titan Books)
    McGinnis did it all: movie posters, magazines and, of course, about a zillion paperback covers by the likes of everyone from Brett Halliday to Carter Brown, and one look at this handsomely presented volume (once again put together by long-time McGinnis aficiando Art Scott) will simply have you howling for more, more, more.
  • Dare to Judge This Book
    Some Other Great Pulp & Paperback Cover Artists
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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