When I was a teenager, I was semi-addicted to the “Nick Carter: Killmaster” paperback spy novels. Written by a vast army of ghost writers, the series chronicled the adventures of American AXE agent Nicholas Huntington Carter, codenamed “N3″ with a “Killmaster” rating, who routinely armed himself with a “stripped-down” Luger pistol he called Wilhelmina, a stiletto knife called Hugo, and a gas capsule named Pierre. He carried out missions around the world for his boss, David Hawk, in over 250 slim novels, published between 1964 and 1990 for Ace (later Jove) Books.
The Killmaster capers were generally action-packed, and liberally spiced with graphic sexual encounters that went far beyond anything I’d read in Ian Fleming. The quality of the individual novels varied widely, depending on which of the publisher’s many ghosts were at the typewriter, and a number of different artists contributed the lurid cover art over the run of the series.
Of these artists, my favorite was George Gross, an old hand at men’s adventure art, who had worked extensively for the old pulp magazines and the later, “men’s sweat” periodicals. He was the primary Carter cover artist from the late 1970’s and through the 80s (he also painted many covers for Warner Books’ “Avenger” series around the same time). Here are a few of his Carter covers, all featuring the same unnamed model….