Thursday, 5 May 2016

Sarah Gainham, Time Right Deadly (Arthur Barker, 1956 / 1957)

No. 10 in a series of posts on books I've bought but haven't got round to blogging about properly – indeed may never get round to blogging about properly – so this will have to do.


What is it?
The 1957 Arthur Barker Dragon paperback edition of Sarah Gainham's debut novel, Time Right Deadly, originally published in hardback by Barker in 1956.

Who illustrated the cover?
I'm afraid I haven't the foggiest.

Where and when did I buy it?
Online, four years ago.

Why did I buy it?
As I mentioned in this 'books I've bought but haven't got round to blogging about properly' post, I'm interested in Sarah Gainham's early spy novels – not least because she herself was a spy – and Time Right Deadly is the earliest of those early spy novels, being, as it is, her debut. It's also extremely uncommon in British first, hence why I bought this paperback rather than a first edition... although during the course of drafting this post I noticed, whilst double-checking online that it is still uncommon in first, a first edition for sale, modestly priced, and best of all still in its splendid John Dugan-designed dust jacket. (The scant few other British firsts I've seen for sale online have been sans jackets.) Naturally I snapped it up.


Have I read it yet?
No.

Will I be updating this post as soon as I have that aforementioned first edition in my clammy hands?
You bet I will.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train (Pan, 1968)

No. 9 in a series of posts on books I've bought but haven't got round to blogging about properly – indeed may never get round to blogging about properly – so this will have to do. NB: linked in this Friday's Forgotten Books roundup.


What is it?
The 1968 first Pan paperback printing of Patricia Highsmith's 1950 debut, Strangers on a Train.

Who designed the cover?
I'm not sure, but from the mid- to late-1960s (and onwards) Pan's covers changed from being largely illustrative in nature to largely photographic, at the behest, according to the Pan Paperback Collectors site, of editor David Larkin, so it's likely Larkin had something to do with it. The same styling, incidentally – a photo of a collection of objects to do with the novel's plot – can be seen on the 1967 Pan printings of Highsmith's The Glass Cell and A Suspension of Mercy.

Where and when did I buy it?
I didn't. My mum bought it in, I believe, a charity shop, and gave it to me when she last visited a couple of weeks ago.

Why did my mum buy it?
To read it; like me she's a Highsmith admirer, although she didn't get on with this one. Mind you, it's by no means my favourite Highsmith either, even among the non-Ripley books. Still, as Highsmith's debut, and arguably the template for much of her work, Strangers on a Train is an important novel in the writer's oeuvre, and certainly deserves its own dedicated post on Existential Ennui, something that, remarkably given my Highsmith obsession, it hasn't had heretofore.

Have I read it yet?
I have, a few years back, in its 1952 Corgi first British paperback edition.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Donald Hamilton, Death of a Citizen (Gold Medal/Frederick Muller, 1960)

No. 8 in a series of posts on books I've bought but haven't got round to blogging about properly – indeed may never get round to blogging about properly – so this will have to do.


What is it?
The first British edition of Donald Hamilton's debut Matt Helm spy novel Death of a Citizen, published in paperback by Frederick Muller – using plates supplied by Fawcett/Gold Medal – in 1960.

Who illustrated the cover?
There's no cover credit in the book, and the artwork is unsigned, but I would guess that it's by Bill Johnson, who also illustrated the cover of the fourth Matt Helm novel, The Silencers (1962), among many other Gold Medal titles.

Where and when did I buy it?
Leigh Gallery Books in Leigh-on-Sea, either last year or the year before.

Why did I buy it?
Well. I already had in my possession first and second printings of the 1966 Coronet paperback edition of the novel when I bought this copy, so there's no excuse really. But this edition is the true British first – and almost identical to the true American first – and it was only three quid, so... No, it's inexcusable, isn't it?

Have I read it yet?
Yep.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (Signet, 1960)

No. 7 in a series of posts on books I've bought but haven't got round to blogging about properly – indeed may never get round to blogging about properly – so this will have to do.


What is it?
The first American paperback edition – at least under its original title – of Ian Fleming's debut James Bond novel, Casino Royale, published by Signet/New American Library in 1960.

Who illustrated the cover?
Barye Phillips, whose extensive cover credits include novels by Peter Rabe, Edward S. Aarons and Donald Hamilton.

Where and when did I buy it?
At the Lewes Book Fair, last year.

Why did I buy it?
I spotted it on the table of a dealer who was new to the Lewes Book Fair and couldn't resist it, despite already owning British Pan and Panther paperbacks of the novel. In my experience it's unusual to come across vintage US paperbacks at British book fairs, so that was one reason for picking it up; plus there's that great Barye Phillips cover. Furthermore, this 1960 Signet printing represents the first time Casino Royale appeared in paperback in the US under that title; previously it had been published in paperback under the title You Asked for It by Popular Library in 1955.

Have I read it yet?
Of course.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest (Panther, 1958)

No. 6 in a series of posts on books I've bought but haven't got round to blogging about properly – indeed may never get round to blogging about properly – so this will have to do. NB: linked in Friday's Forgotten Books, 8/4/16.


What is it?
The first British paperback edition of Dashiell Hammett's classic 1929 noir novel Red Harvest, published by Panther in 1958.

Who illustrated the cover?
John Vernon, who also illustrated the 1957 Panther edition of The Maltese Falcon; perhaps that's why the Continental Op on his Red Harvest cover bears a passing resemblance to Humphrey Bogart (who played Sam Spade in the 1941 John Huston film adaptation of The Maltese Falcon).

Where and when did I buy it?
On eBay, last year.

Why did I buy it?
It was a bit of an impulse purchase. I'd been on the hunt for an affordable first edition/first impression of the The Dashiell Hammett Omnibus (Cassell, 1950), and managed to find one, in its dust jacket, on Amazon Marketplace for under twenty quid (see previous post). At the same time I spotted this paperback of Red Harvest on eBay, and even though Red Harvest is one of the novels in The Dashiell Hammett Omnibus, I couldn't resist snapping up this rare first British paperback edition of Red Harvest too. In my defence, at least it means John Vernon's cover is now freely available to view online – possibly the first time that's been the case.

Have I read it yet?
I have.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

The Dashiell Hammett Omnibus (Cassell, 1950)

No. 5 in a series of posts on books I've bought but haven't got round to blogging about properly – indeed may never get round to blogging about properly – so this will have to do. NB: linked in Friday's Forgotten Books, 1/4/16.


What is it?
A hardback first edition/first printing of The Dashiell Hammett Omnibus, published by Cassell in 1950. Running to nearly a thousand pages, it contains six of Hammett's Continental Op novels and stories – Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, "Dead Yellow Women", "The Golden Horseshoe", "House Dick" (a.k.a. "Bodies Piled Up") and "Who Killed Bob Teal?" – along with the Sam Spade novel The Maltese Falcon and the novels The Glass Key and The Thin Man.

Who designed the dust jacket?
Couldn't tell you – it's uncredited – but although it's a little wordy – and a little scruffy, condition-wise – it's still stylish enough, I feel, to be added to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s under "Designer Unknown".

Where and when did I buy it?
Online, last year.

Why did I buy it?
I'd never read any Hammett, and wanted to try some of his hardboiled and noir classics, and The Dashiell Hammett Omnibus seemed a good way to do that; it's an uncommon edition, especially in first/first and in its dust jacket, even a scruffy one (I can only see two or three jacketed first impressions online at present), and represents the first British publication of many of the stories within.

Have I read it yet?
Some of it...