Helen of Troy – Blog #008 of the 160 “Pretty Faces” book cover Challenge

This is book #050 on the list of 160 books that Gardner Francis Fox wrote from 1953 to 1986. This is the ninth book I scratched out a cover for.

The face that launched a thousand ships, the body that enslaved a thousand men!!

Kevin Mathews Helen of Troy Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical Greek tragedy fiction

Mr. Fox wrote Helen of Troy in 1965 under the pseudonym Kevin Mathews/Matthews. Mr. Fox wrote eleven books under this pseudonym.

The original back cover description…

 HELEN Queen of Sparta, daughter of Aphrodite, a disciple of Eros—“Never has there been such a woman as you…? Words whispered in the perfumed shadows of a palace bedchamber, before the altar of a pagan god, within the seclusion of a forest glade … words were spoken in awed adoration by kings and generals and heroic warriors, to a woman whose uncontrollable passion would change the course of history!

The story takes place during the Greek Trojan War. The story is based more on the legends than any real events.

I’m going to assume that everyone knows of Helen of Troy. There have been many books, comic books, and movies inspired by Homer’s Iliad and the Odessy.

Mr. Fox’s version is one that is on the list and worth the read. Here’s a nice little excerpt from the story.


She was bathing when she saw Paris for the first time. Tiny droplets clung to her arms and shoulders, to the heavy mounds of her breasts. Through the water, her lush body seemed fashioned of pink marble. She froze as Paris gazed at her in honest admiration. His huge shadow fell across the edge of the forest pool. A long sword hung at his hip. He carried neither shield nor helmet, for the day was warm.

She found her voice. “If anyone were to find you here there would be trouble. You may not know who I am–“

“Aphrodite,” he breathed.

She lowered her gaze and ran her fingers through the water, eyeing him from under her long blonde lashes, knowing that the motion of her arm made her breasts jiggle. La, he could not keep his eyes off them. No, she mustn’t think such thoughts. As a queen she had a certain dignity to maintain.

“I came for a drink of cool water,” he said.

“The water is sweet and cold,” she purred.

He knelt on the grassy bank as Helen made a cup of her white hands, filled them with water and held them out to his lips.

First he kissed her fingertips and then he sipped the water. Helen protested softly and drew away her hands. “I am queen of Sparta,” she whispered.

“You’re a woman before you are a queen.”

“My name is Helen. I am wife to Menelaus.”

“Menelaus is a fool,” he snarled, dropping his tunic and sword.

“Oh, no,” she protested.

He lowered himself into the water and drew her up against him. “This will be our secret,” he whispered.

This was some racy stuff for the 1960s. Some would have damned it as pornography! Now it is relegated to being referred to as vintage sleaze.

The original cover is a perfect example of the art used for historical fiction books popular at the time. Mr. Fox wrote this book in an era of time that most men believed they were superior to women. The paperbacks written at this were primarily created for men. Mr. Fox always wrote strength in his female characters. He never allows them to fall into a subservient position, instead, they are always are a guiding force like a wife/mother to the hero.

original Kevin Mathews Helen of Troy Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical Greek tragedy fiction

Originally published in 1965 by Tower Books

The cover Artist: Uncredited

I transcribed this book in 2018 with Douglas Vaughan.

original Kevin Mathews Helen of Troy Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical Greek tragedy fiction

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. I’m using the pretty faces motif to keep a unified look and feel to the whole library. The back cover has an image of the original cover, the date it was originally printed, and the original story description.

I used this photo of a sculpture of America located at the Harvard Art Museum as a reference.

photo reference of America sculpture at Harvard Art museum

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.

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The original framed scratchboard art is for sale.

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 Helen of Troy, please click over to The Gardner Francis Fox Library to read Chapter One for free.

Order eBooks Here and Reprints Here


Kurt Brugel

Custodian & Illustrator