All of these British paperback first editions have appeared on Existential Ennui before, in various permutations, but they're worth showing off again, I feel, especially as I've rephotographed them all from previous appearances. Additionally, this time out I've included some bibliographic details: the unique Corgi or Pan number for each title, along with cover artist (if known), original UK publisher, and pub date. Enjoy.
Strangers on a Train, Corgi #905, 1952; originally published in hardback in the UK by The Cresset Press in 1950. Highsmith's debut novel, her abiding theme of two men becoming inexplicably and dangerously fascinated by one another is established right from the outset, as well as her fondness for chance and coincidence in her plotting. I've never been able to establish who the cover artist is on the Corgi paperback, but I can tell you it's an uncommon edition – certainly a lot scarcer than the Cresset Press or US Harper & Brothers first editions.
The Blunderer, Pan G153, 1958; originally published in hardback in the UK by The Cresset Press in 1956. The cover art here is by James E. McConnell, a selection of whose work can be found over at Pulp Covers. I'm not as keen on this, Highsmith's second novel (under her own name; as Claire Morgan she published The Price of Salt in 1952), as I am others of her works, but the game of cat and mouse between Walter Stackhouse and bookshop owner Kimmel does have its suspenseful moments. From here until Penguin picked up her softcover rights in the 1970s, Highsmith would be published in paperback in the UK by Pan, and the Pan editions of her next three books boast, to my mind, some of the best covers ever to grace her novels.
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Pan G397, 1960; originally published in hardback in the UK by The Cresset Press in 1957. David Tayler is the cover artist here, doing a terrific job of depicting Tom Ripley, Dickie Greenleaf and the fateful murder in the boat. As fellow Pan cover artists Sam Peffer and Pat Owen reveal in this interview, the Pan stable of artists always read the novels they were slated to illustrate the covers of, and were pretty much left to their own devices in choosing which scenes to depict.
Deep Water, Pan G435, 1961; originally published in hardback in the UK by Heinemann in 1958. A glorious cover painting by the aforementioned Sam Peffer for this, Highsmith's fourth novel under her own name – one of only a handful of Highsmiths from the 1950s and '60s I've yet to read. I really must rectify that soon.
A Game for the Living, Pan G548, 1962; originally published in hardback in the UK by Heinemann in 1959. Highsmith's fifth novel wasn't by any stretch the final Highsmith to be published in paperback by Pan, but it was the last to sport a fully painted cover, which again is by Sam Peffer. By this point, Pan covers were starting to become either more photographic in nature or more design-led; painted illustrations still appeared, but usually incorporated into an overall design, as on the next two Highsmiths that Pan published in paperback: This Sweet Sickness, which they issued in 1963, and The Cry of the Owl, in 1965. By the time of the Pan editions of The Glass Cell and A Suspension of Mercy in 1967, Highsmith's covers too had become photographic.
Even by the late 1960s, however, Sam Peffer was still painting the odd Pan cover, as I'll demonstrate in the next post, with a pair of John D. MacDonald paperbacks...