(NB: a version of this post also appears on The Violent World of Parker blog.)
Always nice to start the week with a massive pistol, I find.
Now, chances are, you won't have seen this particular Parker cover before. It's a hardback-with-dustjacket, it dates from 1973, and it's one of three Parker novels issued by the same publisher in that year which, together, rank among the most elusive – and expensive – editions of any of Donald E. "Richard Stark" Westlake's books.
Allow me to elucidate.
Last week I blogged about a 1986 Allison & Busby hardback edition of The Jugger, in which post I explained that, for anyone wishing to collect Richard Stark's Parker novels in hardback (a foolhardy endeavour, believe me, but there are people unhinged enough to wish to do so), the British Allison & Busby editions represent almost the only way to obtain hardcovers of the initial twelve Parkers – from The Hunter/Point Blank to The Sour Lemon Score – all of which have otherwise only been issued as paperbacks. The key word there being "almost". Because three of those twelve Parkers were published in hardback long before Allison & Busby got their mitts on them – again by a British publisher. And that publisher was Gold Lion Books.
I've not been able to establish much about Gold Lion Books, but I gather they were a London-based outfit who, so far as I can determine, operated from 1972 to 1975. Their modus operandi was reissuing American paperbacks as hardbacks: they began in 1972 by publishing Westerns from authors like W. C. Tuttle, Stetson Cody and Robert MacLeod, before branching out into crime and spy thrillers the following year with Richard S. Prather, Dan J. Marlowe and Edward S. Aarons, as well as Richard Stark. Gold Lion's approach to publishing these authors was somewhat erratic – although not atypical for the period – resulting in seemingly random instalments from the writers' various ongoing series being issued, notably Marlowe's Earl Drake novels (which have been compared to the Parker books) and Aarons's Sam Durell series.
The same fate befell Richard Stark's Parker series. To my knowledge, Gold Lion only published three of the Parkers. The 1973 photographic cover to The Split (a.k.a. The Seventh; Parker #7, 1966) you can see up top, but the other two Stark novels Gold Lion published that year were Parkers #10 and 12, i.e. The Green Eagle Score (1967) and The Sour Lemon Score (1969). And those sported illustrated dustjackets, which look like this:
I can't tell you who the illustrators were on these – Jamie Sturgeon, who kindly gave me permission to reproduce the covers from his Flickr stream, scanned a fellow collector's copies, but he didn't believe the art was credited anyway – but they're not bad at all (I particularly like The Sour Lemon Score one). However, all three Gold Lion editions are extremely hard to come by: AbeBooks does currently have at least one of each of them listed worldwide, but most are on sale for around £150 each, with the single copy of The Green Eagle Score on AbeBooks going for over £300. (I did once see a copy sell on eBay for just under £100, but even that was too rich for my blood.)
Suffice to say, then, that the Gold Lion editions of these three Parker novels are pretty bloody scarce, and pretty bloody pricey. But thanks to the aforementioned Mr. Sturgeon, at least their little-seen covers are now freely available on Existential Ennui (and The Violent World of Parker) for us all to gaze upon...*
Next up: a review of a Len Deighton novel set in the aftermath of World War II... except, this is a WWII that finished rather earlier than the actual conflict...
Update 6/8/16: Five years on, that very same Mr. Sturgeon sold me those very same copies...