PAT: The covers didn't set out to be art. No one
really thought of them like that.
PEFF: The thing was to get a cover that would be
PAT: But once in a while one would come along that was
really good in its own right, but so what? Who paid the most, Sam?
Corgi and Pan, but in the 1960s my money was
gradually going down, not up. The most I ever got for my covers at Pan
PAT: Yes, it went up to £60 and that was where it
stopped. Our grievance with Pan was always the low price they paid.
They wouldn't agree to royalties and they wouldn't agree to
second-rights sales [selling reproduction rights to other publishers].
PEFF: I started with Pan in 1956.
PAT: Was Tony Bowen-Davies art buyer at Pan in 1956?
PEFF: Yes, he must have been. One day Tony came round
and knocked on my door when I lived at Finsbury Park.
PAT: What, he came recruiting artists did he?
PEFF: Yes, for his agency, John Martin and Artists,
they were interested in taking me on. Well, I was already established
with Panther Books on my own, without an agent, but I was
in doing the Pan stuff and I let Tony Davies have my connections with
Panther Books. Therefore, I started paying him a commission.
PAT: So you gave him money for nothing?
PEFF: Yes, he was doing Corgi stuff at the time with
Edward Mortelmans and probably Roger Hall. I did five or six covers
PAT: I never knew anything about Tony until 1957 when
I went to Pan to see if I could do any work for them
I met him.
PEFF: Well you would, him being the art buyer.
PAT: But he was an agent as well and this was always
the killer. But being an innocent lad I didn't give a thought to any
of this but years later I realised it lead to endless trouble with the
staff of Pan There was always this resentment.
PEFF: But not any of us really gave a thought to it.
All we were interested in was getting the work doing the painting and
getting paid for it.
PAT: It was usual to have an agent, but the fact was
that Tony was not only an agent taking 20 but he was also employed by
Pan Books as an art editor. It was completely unethical. Because of
that I think a lot of the artists were treated the same way that he
was - with great suspicion, which was a but unfair There was always
this faint hostility between the freelance artists and the staff at
Pan and that was probably the reason.
I did half
a dozen drawings and then I disappeared abroad. I came back in 1960
and started again.
STEVE: How did they decide who to give a commission
to, because they obviously had a lot of artists to choose from?
PAT: Well, there were some artists who could do
anything, and they were obviously given anything to do. There were
some who were better at some things than others but, beyond that it
was really who was available, who could do something quickly. David Tayler, for example, I'm pretty sure I am right in saying he needed
about a month, so what he was given had to be carefully sorted out and
we wouldn't give him what we thought at the time was a trashy old book
to do. He was given books worthy of his ability.
you would do sets - all the books by an author. I did all the Creaseys
at one time.
STEVE: Did you read any of the American pulp
PEFF: I used to read westerns years ago.
STEVE: Not the detectives?
PEFF: I have read quite a number of them.- I used to
take the Colliers and Saturday Evening Post and all those. I used to
like the artwork they produced in those - James McCarthy, Norman
Rockwell, people like that - very good stuff.
STEVE: Did you read the books you illustrated?
PEFF: Yes, I had to read the books to get the
situations to illustrate from the book. Yes, you always got the book
from them and read it.
PAT: I think Pan had a high reputation for this sort
of accuracy. It was old Foreshaw, the chairman, who was a stickler for
getting it right. Even when it was mechanised - someone also would do
a précis and then 2 days a week I would go in there and we would bash
out pencil roughs which were then paraded in front of the chairman -
to speed it up because the process of reading the book and doing a
rough was a long winded process and they were producing so many books
in the sixties that they couldn't keep up. So I went in there
did all the roughs for them and then we would send them out to the
STEVE: So art directors in the fifties didn't do much
PEFF: No, art directors were only interested in seeing
the finished art work.
PAT: They were art buyers. They had very little say.
With the Pans and the Panthers there was very little for them to do.
It was just a case of picking an incident from the book which the
artist had pretty much free choice over.
PEFF: We would base our roughs on those and then the
rough would to go Pan Books and they would say yes or no.
STEVE: So how did you decide which incident to
PEFF: Something that would make an interesting cover,
something with the right ingredients.
PAT: You would show the hero and heroine, that was
almost a must and if they could be doing something interesting
together, that was even better, something relevant to the book without
giving the plot away, and maybe some other sinister character as well.
It was that sort of formula.
PEFF: But we couldn't show violence on covers.
PAT: Its strange that - nothing really bad or nudity.
PEFF: No blood. I remember I did a cover for Pan Books
and the girl was threatening another girl who was coming down the
stairs with scissors I had to take the scissors out. There was no
point to the illustration after taking the scissors out.
PAT: It was censorship. I can remember it happening
with the Tamiko cover (Ronald Kirkbride, Pan G374, cover by S. Oval).
PEFF: Of course it wasn't, but it showed the mood of
the time. I mean, you remember the picture. It had a tiny little bit
STEVE: And someone in Pan's art department got out the
white paint and raised the towel she is wearing a couple of inches.
Apparently, the sales director would have preferred the towel to stay
where it was! It looks as though you could get away with a cosh though
[indicating Peffs cover for Jonathan Latimers The Lady in the Morgue, Pan
PEFF: Yes, that was all right. See, the cosh has not
landed there, has it?
STEVE: The photographs you used for reference, did you
take them yourselves?
PAT: Sometimes, later on, but in the early days they
were taken by a guy named Ken Simmonds, 'Simmy'. He did them all for
us and he always had trouble with the lighting because he only had two
floodlights, no spots, so you could never get really good outside
PEFF: Arthur Brilliant was the photographer that used
to do the Panther sessions. He was in Gerard Street - that's now
STEVE: But you were there directing the sessions?
PEFF: Oh, yes, and they needed directing, some of
them, some of the so-called models. Model fees in those days were two
guineas an hour. But I often modelled myself. My wife, Kitty used to
model, too, and my brother in law.
PAT: Actually, Pan were very good, they provided a lot
of the photography and the models, and top models, professional
models. Many of them were actors, like old Dick Orme and David
Davenport - he loved doing ail the aggressive stuff. And Tony
Bowen-Davies himself. If you've got the Pan book, The Cockelshell
Heroes (CE Lucas Phillips, Pan GP59). The guy in the back of the canoe
is Tony. He used to do quite a bit of modelling, especially anybody
who needed to be shot and lying on the pavement. He specialised in
corpses. He was very lively and enthusiastic sort of fellow who often
made his own rules, he was certainly an unusual fellow old Tony.
PEFF: He went from being a top agent to being a
furniture buyer for Parker Knole.
PAT: From artists' agent and man-about-town to
PEFF: Here, look, that's Sam Peffer and his
brother-in-law on the cover of Scorpions Reef [Charles Williams].
That's me doing the striking. I was nearly a professional boxer, but I
though art was better. I was only an amateur, but I did have people
chasing me to turn professional,. That's my brother-in-law, who was a
top stuntman, falling out of the boat. He would do all kinds of risky
stuff for Robert Shaw, Errol Flynn and all the stars around that time.
He breeds dogs now. That's my first book cover for Pan, The Navy's
Here [Willi Frischauer and Robert Jackson. GP56]. I'm doing all the
posing on that one. And here's a Panther, Moscow [Theodor Plievier No.
611]. That was a costume my wife made, under my supervision.
PAT: You could have gone to a theatrical costumiers
for that, but its very good.
PEFF: We used to get them from Maurice Angel, Bermanns,
and Lathams. I used to have a full Army uniform, a full Navy uniform,
but I never had an Airforce one.
PAT: That model in No Moon Tonight [D.E Charlwood,
Panther 823] is David Davenport.
PEFF: And that's Peter Green, who became art editor at
Panther, on Flying Saucers Have Landed [Desmond Leslie and George
Adamski, Panther 663].
PAT: My brother did a lot of modelling for us too.
STEVE: Did he get standard modelling rates?
PAT: Yes, two guineas was the fee.
PEFF: A couple of those girls who modelled for the Mr
Adam cover [Pat Frank, Panther 688] became film stars.
PAT: It's amazing what these models would do. I mean
these girls would come in and get undressed for a
of pounds. It always mystified me that.
STEVE: How about that signature, Sam? Was 'Peff' a
name you were always known by?
PEFF: Yes, I just shortened my name.
STEVE: When you were in the Navy, did people call you Peff?
PAT: Did they [the publishers] ever mention the
signature to you?
PAT: I never remember being told not to sign things,
but there was the odd grumble - not grumble, mutter - but this was
probably just part of the general resentment.
STEVE: Were there any that you decided not to sign
when you worked for Pan?
PEFF: I always signed for Pan and Panther and, when I
was pretty pleased with what I had turned out, I signed for other
companies as well. But, in the main, I didn't sign for Digit. Why I
decided not to sign them anymore was because I was getting less and
less work. My name was all over different publishing houses. I
was always doing book jackets but I stopped because they dried up.
They just stopped giving me work at Pan.
PAT: I think it must have been Tony Bowen-Davies,
because he and Forshaw decided who worked and who worked and who
PEFF: I carried on with Digits after Pan. I did their
War Picture Library as well - I got £10 for those covers. They didn't
pay much for those covers those people.
PAT: I worked for Pan for ten years, but I reached the
point where I had just had enough. I couldn't bear the sight of that
141/2" by 9" space anymore. I just did the jackets day after
day. I suppose ten years is not bad going really. In the sixties there
was a lot of stuff coming over from Italy for next to nothing - very
slick westerns and that sort of thing - for £25 a time.
PEFF: Oh yes. Italian artists took over I PC more or
PAT: Fratini, he did a lot for Fontana.
PEFF: He was good, though. He did a lot of Cinema
PAT: He was a very good artist, but there was a lot of
stuff that was churned out in Italy and sent over here to be sold on
PEFF: Just to get the foot in the door.
PAT: And so cheap it ruined the market here for us.
PEFF: It did.
PAT: And also there were second rights drawings over
from the states.
PEFF: Especially for women's magazines.
STEVE: Panther started doing this as well with their
westerns - they paid between £17 and £20 for the use of American
PAT: To do Pan credit, they would have nothing to do
with that. They were tempted at one stage, I think but they didn't.
STEVE: And they did not put the artwork on the same
PAT: Oh no - any old book. I've actually seen the same
cover on two different books on sale at the same time in England.
PEFF: Artists were ripped off all the time.
STEVE: Did you have any Association in the 50s - like
the Association of Illustrators?
PEFF: Oh no.
PAT: We were individuals really. It's difficult to
understand now but back in those days we were isolated individuals
trying to make a living and we met through our work.
PEFF: That's right. Pan Books, at the end of the year
used to throw a little party for their reps who were all over the
country taking our covers around with them, and they used to invite
the artists as well, and that's where the artists used to meet each
PAT: I was certainly never invited. We were all very
isolated. You worked at home. You worked on your own. Really there
were no social gatherings - no associations, no clubs, no anything
STEVE: Were the art colleges important?
PAT: Not in my day they weren't. No, it was left to
you. If you wanted to be an illustrator you had to go about it in your
own way. At Brighton College of Art the first thing they told you was
that you would never make any money out of painting, and illustration
wasn't recognised anyway. Curiously now they are the best college for
illustrators. In those days they taught basic, classic drawing and you
had to make of it what you could. I had a few seminars with a guy
called Herrick who was a pre-war illustrator - a real old gent he was
- and there was another guy called Lance Cattermole who I think had
done some commercial drawing. They would just tell you what they knew,
but there was no course on illustration as such. You just had to learn
to draw and get on with it as best you could. You had to go and get a
job in a studio to learn the procedures, and then, if you felt up to
it, you risked all and became a freelance. You either went to Artists
Partners or Tudor Arts. There was no real commercialism in it at all.
STEVE: But there was plenty of work for illustrators
in those days.
PEFF: Bags and bags of work.
STEVE: It had gradually dried up in the 60s though.
PAT: Yes. My agent approached Pan Books to try to get
them to pay us some more money, because we had been getting 60 guineas
for about 5 years. But the comment came back that we were overpaid in
the first place. The comment was that - we can go and get a photograph
for 25 quid, why should we give the guys 60?
PEFFWhich is what they started doing. Eventually all
covers were photographs.
PAT: But for some strange reason it never worked, and
they could never figure out why it was. It was like the old film
posters. There was an element of drama in the painted film poster that
wasn't there in the film still. So something got put into it in the
process of doing the drawing that wasn't there in the first place.
PEFF: What happened on film posters was that they were
getting more and more expensive and they wouldn't pay the money for
PAT: How much did they pay. I never did a film poster?
PEFF: Sometimes I got £200 quid in the 1970s. I must
have done a couple of hundred film posters. I did a lot for Stanley
Long. I was noted as a painter for "the raincoat brigade".
STEVE: You didn't sign those!
PEFF: No. I only signed the decent posters.
Reproduced from PAPERBACK,
PULP AND COMIC COLLECTOR Number 8
1991 by kind permission of the Author and Zeon Publishing