Woman of Kali – Blog #005 of the 160 “Pretty faces” book cover Challenge

This is book #005 on the list of 160 books that Gardner Francis Fox wrote from 1953 to 1986. This is the seventh book cover I scratched.

In her temple of exotic love, the fate of an empire was decided.  

gardner francis fox vintage paperback men's adventure book cover illustration kurt brugel scratchboard

Mr. Fox wrote Woman of Kali in 1954. I transcribed this book in 2019 with Douglas Vaughan.

The story takes place during the year 1765 (The beginning of the Seven Year War) when the British and French were occupying India. The story is a historical murder mystery.

Barbaric India, land of languor, intrigue, strange appetites, exotic women, cruel and scheming men!

It was in this India that the woman of Kali spun her silken web.

She was Sharita, high priestess of the cult of death, mistress of forbidden rites, who used her strange powers in a plot to seize the throne of this great Eastern empire and destroy the foreign invaders.

Then she met the tall, blond Pritchard, captain of the Madras Light Horse, whose great strength and fame as a soldier had traveled the length and breadth of India.

In her pagan temple, with every wile of the Orient, Sharita sought to break this Englishman to her will and make him as a traitor to his king.

original vintage paperback men's adventure historical fiction romance gardner francis fox book cover kurt brugel scratchboard illustration

Originally published in August 1954 by Gold Medal Books

The cover Artist: Herman Bischoff

This is a sensationalized story about another culture. A game of intrigue. Secrets must be uncovered to save a man and a country.

Our hero is Captain Timothy Pritchard of the Madras Light Horse

Our heroine is Princess Muhreen Bahirama, daughter to His Royal Highness the Maharaja of Barimahali.

Pritchard’s situation goes from bad to worst in the first chapter of the story. Accused of murder, his “prison sentence” is to be held as a Royal-captive;

Pritchard smiled grimly, checking his uniform details in the mirror set in the wall. His heart was pounding savagely. He did not know the Naik, though he knew something of him, as he knew something about almost every ruler of every state in India. Shiringar Lal was a Hindu prince who governed the hill country of Changrapore, which lay northwest of Madras, between Hyderabad and Guntur. He held himself aloof from the quarrels of the French and English, but he was friendly with the new Nawab of Bengal, Suraj ud-Daula. And the Nawab of Bengal was frank to admit that he hated the English.

Some of the evil-doers come from the local religious “cult”, which the English make out to be devil-worshiping the goddess Kali. Here’s a good descriptive from the third chapter of Pritchard’s first run in with Sharita;

Pritchard straightened in his saddle. Rumor had come to Madras of orgiastic rites in these temples of Kali, where the goddess with the long red tongue was worshiped with dreadful customs. The English were new in India these days and were discovering awesome facts about this sprawling land at every turn.

“I know that they exist,” he said slowly.

“These Thugs are killers, sahib! They slay all those pointed out for death by the goddess.”

Pritchard stared. “Surely this isn’t a warning? Would Kali select me to die when I’ve never been in Changrapore before?”

The Dewan shrugged carelessly, but his black eyes glistened. “There is a woman of Kali at the court of Shiringar Lal. She is the priestess of Kali at the cave temple you see yonder against the cliffs. Her name is Sharita. Beware her anger, sahib. You may never incur it, but my duty is to warn you that it exists.”

painting of Kali the deity goddess of life and death
An image like this one had to have scared the Bejesus out of those stuffed-shirts.

Here’s a great line from the story showing-off Fox’s ability to describe an emotional setting.

“Burning incense flared, and in its red light, Beetham’s face seemed made of wet fire. His black eyes burned fiercely, madly, behind the untiring arm that swung his saber so savagely.”

The ending is troped with happy-ever-after, but the entire story is filled with action and adventure. Woman of Kali is well worth the read.

Here’s what one Amazon reviewer had to say:

Simply great fun, with characters you do care about enough for the whirlwind ride. Not five stars because some of the plot twists are a bit of a stretch, but the central, non-stop action is well-written stuff (whether the historical period was strictly portrayed was not important to me).

  • Bruce Davidson

This story is worth the ride. It’s nice to just sit back and go on an adventure.

Woman of Kali Gardner F Fox scratchboard cover art Kurt Brugel historical fiction East India ruled by the British and French

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 image of Kali to inspire me.

original reference image of the goddess kali for book cover illustration by kurt brugel

I used another photo reference of an Indian woman’s face for structure but let myself go to come up with the final image.

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 in 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.

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 Woman of Kali, please click over to The Gardner Francis Fox Library to read Chapter One.

Order eBooks Here and Reprints Here


Kurt Brugel

Custodian & Illustrator