This is the cover for Space Hawk, the first Science Fiction book Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers ever read.
John found it in their school library. Hardcover Science Fiction was hardly a staple for school libraries in those days. This one had just come in, the first hardcover Science Fiction book in the library's collection. John read it and passed it along to Gary.
As the two friends grew older, Gary and John frequently discussed their continued mutual fondness for Science Fiction stories, books, movies, and TV series. During these conversations, they often spoke nostalgically of the book which first got them addicted. Space Hawk. They traded verbatim quotes of its flowery prose. Here's an example. "The Vesuvian quivered, his face still contorted with his last desperate emotion. Then he sagged to the deck. His body twitched and rolled over in a spasm. Almost square between his eyes was a crisp, smooth-burned hole. The air reeked from the smoky stench of charred flesh."
Here's the copy from the Space Hawk book jacket.
From the 1920s to 1950s news stands carried a broad variety of pulp science fiction magazines (so-called because they were printed on coarse pulpy paper.) Some of the best known had lurid titles such as Amazing Stories, Astounding Stories, Planet Stories, and Weird Tales. They featured fast paced, imaginative, and exciting science fiction adventures. They were as well known (some would say notorious) for their colorful action-oriented covers as for their stories.
What red-blooded, action-loving reader could resist exciting stories like The Cave Dwellers of Saturn, After World’s End, Vassals of the Lode-Star, Citadel of the Green Death, The Last Martian, The Thing of Venus, and Thralls of the Endless Night.
Some of Science Fiction’s most famous authors began their careers in the puls. Such key shapers of the field as Leigh Brackett, Poul Anderson, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, William Tenn, and Ray Bradbury were proud veterans of the pulps.
It only takes a glance at the ads in the pulps to appreciate that the stories were aimed at grown-ups rather than children. The ads promoted correspondence courses for radio-television and auto repair (special rates for World War II veterans,) techniques to preserve thinning hair, nostrums to cure “the heartbreak of psoriasis”, and devices to ease the discomfort of hernias. Full-color back cover ads, usually for cigarettes, helped to defray the costs of the full-color front covers.