Barbary Devil – Blog #003 of the 160 “Pretty faces” book cover Challenge

This is book #029 on the list of 160 books that Gardner Francis Fox wrote from 1953 to 1986. This is the third book cover I scratched.

Barbary Devil Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction Italian and North Africa Tripoli Ottoman empire
Blank bookcover with clipping path

This story immediately caught my fancy when I read that the main character, Stefano da Siena, has quite the skill-set. The cover-catchline: “Stefano was a magnificent rogue—artist, harem slave, deadly swordsman and lover of women.” What can’t this guy do and what hasn’t he done yet?

Mr. Fox wrote Barbary Devil in 1961. He wrote this book under the pseudonym, Jeffrey Gardner. I transcribed this book in 2019 with Douglas Vaughn.

The story takes place during the 16th-century when the Moslem corsairs ruled the Mediterranean. The story is a historical fiction/romance. This is how the original back cover sold Barbary Devil in 1961:


Barbary Devil vividly takes you back to 16th-century Mediterranean battlegrounds where brave Italian princes and their men fought the roving Algerian pirates of the Ottoman Empire while the West and the Muslim world struggled for supremacy. The Barbary Devils were red-blooded men like Stefano da Siena, an artist whose blade withstood all that the Barbarossa’ could do to a man, a patriot who triumphed over jealous nobles who maligned his honor; and lusty women, graced with magnificent bodies and sharp minds, two of whom—Mariyahnah, the Algerian seductress, and Renata, the beautiful well-born Italian slave—are passionately involved with Stefano, the man, the hero and the lover.

Barbary Devil Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction Italian and North Africa Tripoli Ottoman empire

Originally published in August 1961 by Pyramid Books

The cover Artist: Raymond (Ray) Johnson

Like so many of these illustrators who did the covers, there is very little about them on the internet.

Was Stefano da Siena a real person? There were Benvenuto Cellini and Stefano di Giovanni (Sassetta).

Benvenuto Cellini was a magnificent rogue in real life and he even had a romanticized movie made about him called The Magnificent Adventurer (1963) Made two years after Barbary Devil was published. I recently watched it on Amazon Prime Video.

Even the movie poster tagline sounds similar to Mr. Fox’s Barbary Devil book cover tagline. “Benvenuto Cellini knows no obstacles when it comes to creating a work of art or conquering the heart of a woman.”

cinema poster of an Italian movie The Magnificent Adventurer

From the 1950s through the 1960s the movie industry relied heavily on the book publishing world. They fed into each other. The stories were all the same template. A male hero is driven by guts and glory, only to end up in the arms of the beautiful damsel. These stories never go that deep, but they sure knew how to take you on an adventure!

In real life, he was pretty vicious. Only to be rivaled by the life of Caravaggio. I pulled this from Cellini’s Wikipedia page:

In 1529 his brother Cecchino killed a Corporal of the Roman Watch and in turn was wounded by an arquebusier, later dying of his wound. Soon afterward Benvenuto killed his brother’s killer – an act of blood revenge but not justice as Cellini admits that his brother’s killer had acted in self-defense. Cellini fled to Naples to shelter from the consequences of an affray with a notary, Ser Benedetto, whom he had wounded. Through the influence of several cardinals, Cellini obtained a pardon. He found favor with the new pope, Paul III, notwithstanding a fresh homicide during the interregnum three days after the death of Pope Clement VII in September 1534. The fourth victim was a rival goldsmith, Pompeo of Milan.

Stefano di Giovanni (Sassetta) the painter didn’t live such a rogue-ish life, but he did create some admired works of art in the 15th-century.

Cellini’s most recognized work of art is Perseus with the Head of Medusa he sculpted in the period 1545-1554. It is located in the Loggia dei Lanzi of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy. I have personally seen this masterpiece with my own eyes.

Cellini's Perseus with the Head of Medusa in the Loggia dei Lanzi of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy

These books written in the 50s and 60s were classified as “sleaze”. When we think of sleaze nowadays, we think pornography. But sleaze in the 50s and 60s was more centered around fooling around outside of marriage. Stefano goes around “painting the portraits” of wealthy men’s wives. In Barbary Devil, while Elena del Santo “…the most beautiful woman in Christendom.” and Stefano da Sienna are working on her portrait, they get themselves captured by Redbeard the corsair captain, Khair ed Din.

They don’t get themselves captured without a fight, but they do eventually get sold into slavery. Elena isn’t the only one who needs saving by Stefano, there is Mariyahnah and Renata, as stated above in the back-cover book description.

I’ll state the obvious. Mr. Fox took Cellini’s life story, Sassetta’s Name and stewed it in a pot of historical fiction. I wonder if he hoped someone would make one of his books into a movie?

I’m a sucker for these “good time” stories. I just can’t seem to get enough of them. Hence my current obsession to transcribe 160 of them. I bet some could find themselves outraged by these “vintage sleazy stories”.

Barbary Devil Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction Italian and North Africa Tripoli Ottoman empire

I create the cover illustrations to size. I work on 6 x 6 black Ampersand Scratchboard. The book covers are 6 x 9, which leaves 3 inches for text. I want a clean, “Penguin Books” look and feel to the covers. The back cover has an image of the original cover, the date it was originally printed, and the original story description.

I used the painting Turkish Woman by Théodore Jacques Ralli (Greek, 1852–1909) as the reference.

veiled harem woman Orientalist painters like Jean-Léon Gérôme

I’m a big fan of the Orientalist painters like Jean-Léon Gérôme and Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Here’s a short video I put together of me working on the scratchboard process.

I have had many positive comments about the “new” covers. I feel pretty positive I will be able to do all 160 book covers.

Stay tuned and find out. Join my Newsletter to get notifications of when I’ve posted a new blog entry.

The original framed scratchboard art is for sale.

Barbary Devil Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction Italian and North Africa Tripoli Ottoman empire

Click here if you are interested in owning the Original?

I will not be working on books in the order as Mr. Fox wrote them. I am doing the book cover designs based on when the transcribers who are assisting me, finish one. As they complete a book, it will be the newest release, so it will get a new book cover design. I also have to go back and replace the photo-bashed covers I made when I first started the Gardner Francis Fox Library in 2017.

Thank you for stopping by and finding out more about what I’m doing. If you are interested in reading Barbary Devil, please click over to The Gardner Francis Fox Library to read Chapter One.

Order eBooks Here and Reprints Here


Kurt Brugel

Custodian & Illustrator