If it wasn’t for Milton Charles, the book covers could of been so much different for it was he , who came up with this much loved and much copied idea.
His genius thought of a plain, stark house cover with a peephole that when opened revealed a hauntingly beautiful scene of terrified children threatened by a malevolent force which had been painted by the exceptionally talented artist Gillian Hills started a tradition for V C Andrews covers …and spawned a number of copies.
So what do we know of the man who bought so much pleasure to so many fans ?
Very little unfortunately, for a man who was so influential with his trendsetting designs for it wasn’t just Flowers in the Attic that was a design hit , Milton also designed the infamous Jackie Collins “Hollywood Wives” and the Locket covers of Judy Blume Novels.
I was lucky enough to speak to Milton s son Robert in regards to his father and the production of the Flowers in the Attic cover .
“These book covers would have been a bit later in his career while I was about to leave home for college. I don’t know much about the series except for the fact that Milton spoke fondly and proudly about them.
Sorry, my parents divorced when I was about 12 years old and so he was not around much before then. I am in possession of 100 paintings and a dozen or so illustrations.”
“I created a very simple website which a simple search should bring up. When his estate was settled all his artwork was appraised. There’s some interesting reading there at: “aboutmiltoncharles.com” “
It is Robert s site that provides us with information about this man and his remarkable career.
Born in New York, NY in 1921, Milton studied at Pratt Institute, New York, NY, the Art Students League, New York, NY, and Zurich Institute of Design, Zurich, Switzerland.Before becoming Art Director of Jaguar Cars in New York, NY from 1959-1964 he taught painting in various New York universities.
In 1964 he started his own company Milton Charles Design.
From 1969-1973 Milton Charles was the Creative Director of World Publishing, A Times Mirror Company in New York, NY. In 1973 to the early 1990’s Charles was the Art Director and Vice President of Pocket Books Inc,. a division of Simon and Schuster in New York, NY. Milton Charles had a very successful career as an Art Director winning in excess of 500 awards from American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), Art Directors Club, The Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts Annual, Creativity in America and American Book Publishers (ABA) all in New York, NY.
Milton Charles died in Califon, New Jersey in 2002.
After this initial contact, I soon managed to speak to Milton s widow , artist Lisa Falkenstern who had this information for us :
“It pleases me that people still think about Milt and write about his work. He was an amazing designer and teacher. He taught illustration at Parsons’ night school for several years just so he could find the kind of artists he needed. I believe that over forty of his students (myself included) became professional illustrators. Paula Joseph, who painted My Sweet Audrina, was another ex-student.
He designed the V.C. covers and art directed the setback art. When I did the covers with him, I saw how much work and thought he put into them. He would spend nights and weekends at home working on a tracing pad that had the measurements of a paperback book printed on it, with markers, coming up with one design idea after another, until he came up with an idea that would entice people from across a store (when books were only sold in stores!). Then he would commission setback art that would show the family dynamics of that particular novel. ”
Lisa has been extremely helpful in piecing together the vision Milton had and also very kindly provided this photo of him in their garden.
Personally I thought it was important of myself and AtticSecrets to highlight this talented man and his career as these Stepbacks mean so much to the fans and are so beloved and without him they never would have been known .