One Sword for Love – Blog #007 of the 160 “Pretty Faces” book cover Challenge

This is book #007 on the list of 160 books that Gardner Francis Fox wrote from 1953 to 1986. This is the eleventh book I scratched out a cover for.

God and glory led them on to conquer the pagan hordes.

One Sword for Love Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction Prester John Christian Crusader Knight

Mr. Fox wrote One Sword for Love in 1953. It was the second paperback novel Mr. Fox wrote.


He grew into legend, this exultant young giant whom historians call Prester John, the blond, gray-eyed Christian knight, swordsman of fabled prowess, who roused the nomadic hordes of the waste country in a great crusade to capture the Holy Land.

Prester John’s bloody quest for power in the name of God ranks with those of Marco Polo and Genghis Khan.

Gardner F. Fox, historian extraordinary, now identifies the fabulous Prester John as Sir John of Lincoln, a Knight Templar out of England, whose love for an Eastern princess, Shirzade, led him to glory.

This great novel of the twelfth century echoes the barbarism, ecstasy, and cruelty of the time when men proudly gave their lives as monuments to their faith.

The story takes place during the Second Holy Crusades of 1141.

One Sword for Love Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction Prester John Christian Crusader Knight

Originally published in December 1953 by Gold Medal Books

The cover Artist: Unknown

I transcribed this book in 2018 with Douglas Vaughan.

One Sword for Love’s John of Lincoln reads like a blonde-haired Conan of Cimmeria. This is an excerpt from the story of how Sir John crushes his enemies.

Ahmed knew his eyes were bulging in his head. The night was growing blacker all around him and now there was a roaring lifting up from somewhere deep inside him. Again he tried to claw at the infidel face so close to his own, but his fingers merely brushed at empty wind. Forgotten now was his task of killing. Life for Ahmed became more important than death.

Now the Crusader was standing, swinging the helpless Assassin with savage fury. He shouted, “Go back to Imadeddin Zengi now, slayer of men. Show him how you failed him!”

At the third swing, his neck broke, and John of Lincoln dropped him. As he sprawled limply in death, his torn caftan opened and a little leather sack came loose to spill its contents onto the sand.

I have first-hand knowledge that Mr. Fox’s greatest literary passion was sword and sorcery. One of his grandchildren told me he couldn’t get enough of it. He read everything sword and sorcery and anything closely associated with the genre. His grandchild also told me they were brought with him to see John Milius’s 1982 Conan the Barbarian movie the week it opened in the theaters.

One of the reasons I’m transcribing Mr. Fox’s entire paperback catalog is to get closer to his sword and sorcery passion. One Sword for Love could easily be turned into an amazing sword and sorcery tale. All one would have to do is add the sorcery.

Was Prester John a real person? From his Wikipedia page:

Prester John (Latin: Presbyter Johannes) was a legendary Christian patriarch, presbyter (elder) and king who was popular in European chronicles and tradition from the 7th through the 19th centuries. He was said to rule over a Nestorian (Church of the East) Christian nation lost amid the Muslims and pagans of the Orient, in which the Patriarch of the Saint Thomas Christians resided. The accounts are varied collections of medieval popular fantasy, depicting Prester John as a descendant of the Three Magi, ruling a kingdom full of riches, marvels, and strange creatures.

At first, Prester John was imagined to reside in India; tales of the Nestorian Christians’ evangelistic success there and of Thomas the Apostle’s subcontinental travels as documented in works like the Acts of Thomas probably provided the first seeds of the legend. After the coming of the Mongols to the Western world, accounts placed the king in Central Asia, and eventually, Portuguese explorers convinced themselves that they had found him in Ethiopia.

Whether he was real or not really doesn’t matter. What matters is he has a long breath of legends surrounding him so others can imagine him into new adventurous tales.

The other most notable Prester John stories for me is Norvell W. Page’s Flame Wind and Sons of the Bear God.

Norvell W, Page Flame Winds and Sons of the Bear Gods Prester John Crusader knight adventures

Then Prester John came to Turgohl–the red-bearded ex-gladiator now wandering the East to win a fortune with his sword. He saw Turgohl as ripe for the plucking, in spite of the Wizards’ magic–for, to Prester John, a flashing broadsword was more than a match for any sorcery!

Here’s what one Goodread reviewer had to say about One Sword for Love:

It’s actually A Princess of Mars in the middle east. Man in a strange land, saves princess, has running fight with enemies over large geographic area…you get the picture.

  • Richard

Mr. Fox was in the popular current of the paperbacks making there way from the pulp and comic book industry. This longer form of writing would allow him to flex his muscles and imagine stories, although cliche at times, his own personal account of taking a fantastic journey in a men’s adventure novel.

Here’s a great book review of One Sword for Love by the author Howard Andrew Jones.

One Sword for Love Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction Prester John Christian Crusader Knight

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 reference from Elisa Navacchi’s stock library to inspire me.

photo reference of a woman with a sword standing outside in armor

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.

Here’s the one I did for One Sword for Love in  2018.

Photoshop One Sword for Love Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction Prester John Christian Crusader Knight

Thank you for stopping by and finding out more about what I’m doing. If you are interested in reading One Sword for Love, 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