Friday, 30 November 2012

Elmore Leonard's Debut Crime Novel: The Big Bounce; First Edition (Gold Medal, 1969); Robert McGinnis Cover Art; Review

NB: A Friday Forgotten Book.

From a Gold Lion original sporting a Robert McGinnis cover, next in this series of posts on paperbacks, another Gold Medal original, once again sporting a Robert McGinnis cover:

Elmore Leonard's The Big Bounce, published straight to paperback in the States by Fawcett/Gold Medal in 1969. This copy came from the basement of a Cecil Court secondhand bookshop, for less than a tenner – quite a nice find, considering the only copies I've seen online are in the US and listed for rather more than a tenner (and with postage on top), and the book's significance. Because The Big Bounce was Elmore Leonard's first crime novel – or, more accurately, his first contemporaneously set novel. Up to this point in his career, Leonard had published only westerns – novels and short stories – pretty successfully in the 1950s, with two of them, 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T (alias The Captives) – more on that one later – being made into films in 1957. As soon as he decided to leave his ad agency job in 1960, however, the western market died on its arse; as Leonard explains in his introduction to the 1989 Armchair Detective Library edition of The Big Bounce, for most of the rest of the decade he "wrote ads, promotional material, industrial and educational films, everything but cocktail napkins and not a word of fiction". Eventually, the movie rights for his 1961 novel Hombre sold, and Leonard used the money to fund the writing of his "first novel with a contemporary setting, Mother, This is Jack Ryan".

Eighty-four (!) rejections, one rewrite and a title change later (although the line the original title was inspired by is still in the book), The Big Bounce found a home as a novel at Gold Medal and as a movie at Warner Bros. The film, directed by Alex March and starring Ryan O'Neil and Leigh Taylor-Young, is by all accounts a bit of a stinker – and the 2004 version isn't much better regarded – but the novel is terrific; not Leonard at his absolute best – that would come later with the likes of Stick, Get Shorty and Pronto – but not far off. Even at this early stage in his career, Leonard had a prose style all his own: lilting, deceptively easygoing, yet focused and intense; clever, lightly handled but thorough character work; and that gloriously naturalistic and yet still idiosyncratically Elmore-esque dialogue.

The plot isn't terribly complicated, but then Elmore Leonard plots rarely are; that aspect of writing just isn't that important to him. A young drifter, Jack Ryan (no relation to Tom Clancy's later CIA analyst-turned-president), takes a job working as a handyman at a Michigan lakeside cabana complex owned by local justice of the peace Walter Majestyk (no relation to Vincent Majestyk from Leonard's own Mr. Majestyk). Majestyk has seen film footage of Ryan using a baseball bat in a fight and so knows he has a self-destructive streak; but he also sees something worthwhile in the younger man, and does what he can to help him out – with a certain amount of resistance on Ryan's part. But then Ryan, who has a string of minor robberies in his past and has already turned over one local property, gets mixed up with Nancy, the manipulative mistress of Ray Ritchie, the rich farm owner for whom Ryan briefly worked as a picker – and Nancy has a plan for stealing fifty grand from Ritchie.

Everything flows from character in an Elmore Leonard novel: the decisions the protagonists take and the ramifications of those decisions; the things they say or do to one another and the consequences of those actions. It helps that Leonard has a forensic eye for character – not in an overwritten, overly intrusive sense – for really, how well can we truly know one another (something that Leonard-through-Ryan reflects on late in the novel: "What good was being cool if you weren't you? Whoever you are, Ryan thought") – but in the way he observes the little details: a certain look shot across a bar booth; the cocked head and corner-of-an-eye glance when combing one's hair in the mirror; the idle daydreams of a bored female holidaymaker, fantasizing about Ryan sweeping her off her feet.

Ryan is the archetypal Leonard male lead: quick-tempered, ready to stand up for himself (there's a memorably bruising but ultimately amusing encounter with Ray Ritchie's right hand man, Bob Jr.), sometimes kind of dumb, unselfconscious for the most part, but also self-aware and thoughtful. In fact, so archetypal is Ryan that Leonard admits in that 1989 introduction to The Big Bounce (reproduced here) that "All of my male leads... even in the westerns, resemble Jack Ryan in that they have much the same basic attitude about their own existence, what’s important and what isn’t", adding, "Jack Ryan might possibly have become a continuing character aging along with his maker, if it were not for the fact that each time you sell a film rights to a studio, they own the character for a specified number of years. So I change the names." Or rather, some of the names: like Raylan Givens and Ernest Stickley, Ryan would be granted the honour of another starring role, this time in 1977's Unknown Man No. 89.

The one character in The Big Bounce I struggled with was Nancy. She's so bored, feckless, destructive and malicious it's a wonder any man falls for her, let alone Ryan, who has to constantly fight the urge to boot her in the behind and bugger off out of it. As it turns out, though, Nancy has her basis in a particular type of Los Angeles lass, characterised in a February 1967 issue of Esquire as "The New American Woman", and described by Hollywood literary agent H. N. Swanson as girls looking for "the bounce". The bounce in this case being the scheme to grab Ritchie's money – although latterly Nancy concocts an even bigger, rather more deadly bounce.

The Big Bounce marked the end of one phase of Elmore Leonard's career and the beginning of another, one which would come to define him as a writer. Appropriately, there's a sly parting farewell to the wild west form in the novel: during one of their misadventures, Ryan and Nancy spy on Walter Majestyk while Majestyk is watching television in his house. Ryan recognises the Randolph Scott horse opera the older man is engrossed in – "a good one", Ryan recalls, and then listens intently to "the part where Randolph goes in the cave after the guy named Billy Jack... jams the sawed-off shotgun under Billy Jack's chin and wham the guy's face disappears quick, the way it would happen, without one of those fakey fights." The western in question? The Tall T.

Next in this run of paperback posts: things take a turn for the science fictional...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Westlake Score: The Green Eagle Score (Parker #10) by Richard Stark (Gold Medal, 1967); Robert McGinnis Cover Art

NB: A version of this post also appears on The Violent World of Parker.

As trailed at the end of that post on Edward S. Aarons's Gold Medal spy novel Assignment to Disaster, I've got lots more lovely paperbacks lined up for you over the coming weeks – terrific books by the likes of Patricia Highsmith, Richard Matheson and Elmore Leonard; published by such iconic imprints as Pan, Corgi and Gold Medal; and featuring spectacular cover illustrations by the likes of Sam Peffer, Harry Bennett... and the man responsible for the cover art of this latest Westlake Score:

Robert McGinnis, here painting to my mind one of his best visualizations of Donald E. "Richard Stark" Westlake's taciturn antihero Parker. Published straight to paperback in the US in 1967, The Green Eagle Score was the tenth novel to star Parker, but only the second to be published by Fawcett/Gold Medal (second new one, anyway; Gold Medal also reissued the first Parker outing, The Hunter, in 1967, as Point Blank); the eight novels prior to the preceding Parker, The Rare Coin Score, were all issued by Pocket Books.

I'm not sure how many "Top Five Parkers" lists The Green Eagle Score would feature in, but it's a solid Top Ten, I think, at least once you get your eye in as regards the greater series. In his brilliant book-by-book overview of the Westlake canon, Ethan Iverson memorably recalls how The Green Eagle Score was the first Parker he read, and how he "could not understand how dry as dust, simple, and matter of fact it was". By this point in the series, Westlake/Stark's prose is so stripped back, so deadpan and impassive it's almost zen-like in its doggedness: just the facts, ma'am. And yet this is deceptive; the novel's opening paragraph is a perfect example of the Stark less-is-more approach, of how much Westlake crams in with so few words:

Parker looked in at the beach and there was a guy in a black suit standing there, surrounded by all the bodies in bathing suits. He was standing near Parker’s gear, not facing anywhere in particular, and he looked like a rip in the picture. The hotel loomed up behind him, white and windowed, the Puerto Rican sun beat down, the sea foamed white on the beach, and he stood there like a homesick mortician.

I shared some other thoughts about the book back in 2010, so I shan't go over old ground again here, except to note that I like The Green Eagle Score enough that spotting and then winning this copy of the Gold Medal first edition on eBay was an unexpected thrill. As I've mentioned before, it's unusual to see US paperback firsts of the Parkers on this side of the pond, and nabbing them gives me the opportunity to hold little pieces of publishing history in my hands; to discover things about them – for example, the opening page of The Green Eagle Score:

Which affords a glimpse into Fawcett's marketing strategy for the book, positioning master thief Parker alongside other characters in the Gold Medal stable: two spies – Philip Atlee's Joe Gall and Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm – and a salvage consultant. Matt Helm I've blogged about before, but it just so happens that Messrs Gall and McGee – the latter created, of course, by John D. MacDonald – will be appearing later in this run of paperback posts. But next: another Gold Medal novel, published a couple of years after The Green Eagle Score, one which again boasts a Robert McGinnis cover, and marks the crime fiction debut of one of America's greatest writers.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Notes from the Small Press 15: Spandex #7, by Martin Eden; Mini-Comic Review

In the two years I've been posting these intermittent small press comics missives, the name of one comics creator in particular has remained conspicuous by its absence: Martin Eden. Martin's been a leading light in the British small press scene for over a decade, first with his epic superhero soap opera The O Men, more recently with his gay superhero saga Spandex; but more than that, for twelve years he's been one of my closest friends – which is why, quite frankly, it's an outrage that it's taken me this long to get round to featuring him.

I haven't ignored him completely, mind: I wrote about the publicity storm surrounding Spandex's launch in 2009, and I've mentioned the comic a couple of times since – plus I reviewed this year's splendid Titan Books hardback collection of the first three issues of Spandex. Still, an appearance in Notes from the Small Press is not only long overdue but, I have little doubt, eagerly awaited by Martin himself (ahem), so the recent publication of the seventh issue of Spandex strikes me as the perfect opportunity to right a wrong.

That said, if you haven't yet read Spandex, this issue is a perfectly ridiculous place to start, seeing as it's the culmination of over two years' worth of plots and subplots, with questions answered, motivations revealed and, ultimately, lives lost. The confidence of Martin's artwork and storytelling, however, is plain for all to see: clean lines, bold blocks of colour, and a tale that moves from clever fight scene to quiet character moment to explosive climax with admirable aplomb. By this point in the story the cast has become so extensive as to be verging on the unwieldy, but Martin still finds space for individual character moments (some very touching), the tying up of character arcs, and even a discussion between team leader (and cross-dresser) Liberty and Spandex stalwart Prowler on the potential ramifications of God being a lesbian.

That's actually something of a spoiler if you haven't got this far in the series, an audacious twist which provided the cliffhanger at the end of Spandex #6 and prompts a number of philosophical debates and metaphysical excursions in this issue, perhaps the best of which being a two-page sequence illustrating Martin's notion of heaven: cherry blossom falling onto a tiny, floating island where one is reunited with one's soul mate. But if that makes Spandex #7 sound a bit highfalutin, fear not: the comic's innate sense of fun is never far from the fore, whether it be a disgraceful misappropriation of the "Fastball Special" or indeed a special guest appearance by Wolverine himself, telling Liberty in no uncertain terms what she can do with her invitation to join the team.

In "Little Notes from Martin" at the back, Mart is at pains to point out that this isn't, in fact, the final issue of the series; there's another one to come, a Spandex Special, due in the second half of 2013. But Spandex #7 does mark the end of this particular storyline, and so Martin has included not only a bonus mini-comic, Spandex Black and White, featuring interpretations of the team by small press stars like Paul Rainey, Grant Springford and Graham Pearce, but one of ten different badges as well (mine sports a picture of Pussy).

Spandex #7 is available to order for £3.20 for UK readers and $7.00 for US ones (both those prices including postage and packing) from the official Spandex website, along with all six previous issues. I can't recommend them highly enough – and I'm not just saying that because Martin and I are mates. Well, not entirely...

Previous Notes from the Small Press:

Notes from the Small Press 1: Fast Fiction Presents the Elephant of Surprise

Notes from the Small Press 2: Monitor's Human Reward by Chris Reynolds

Notes from the Small Press 3: Small Pets

Notes from the Small Press 4: Anais in Paris by Mardou

Notes from the Small Press 5: The Curiously Parochial Comics of John Bagnall

Notes from the Small Press 6: Ed Pinsent's Illegal Batman and Jeffrey Brown's Wolverine: Dying Time

Notes from the Small Press 7: The Comix Reader #1

Notes from the Small Press 8: A Help! Shark Comics Gallery

Notes from the Small Press 9: Some Gristavision Comics by Merv Grist

Notes from the Small Press 10: Some Sav Sadness Comics by Bob Lynch

Notes from the Small Press 11: a Review of Illegal Batman in the Moon

Notes from the Small Press 12: The Sky in Stereo by Mardou

Notes from the Small Press 13: First by Tom Gauld and Simone Lia

Notes from the Small Press 14: Planet 4, a Monitor Story by Chris Reynolds

Friday, 23 November 2012

Assignment to Disaster (Sam Durell #1) by Edward S. Aarons (Gold Medal / Muller 1955/59); feat. Charles Binger Cover Art

NB: Featured as one of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

For this final post on Edward S. Aarons and his Sam Durell-starring Assignment spy novels, let's head right back to the beginning of the series, with Durell's debut adventure:

Published straight to paperback by Gold Medal in the States in 1955 and Frederick Muller in the UK shortly thereafter, Assignment to Disaster is, as others have remarked, atypical in comparison to the Assignment series as a whole, as it's set firmly within the USA (the vast majority of the forty-eight Assignment novels are set in exotic overseas locales). The story sees Sam Durell, agent of super secret CIA department K Section, tasked with locating missing scientist Calvin Padgett, who, before he disappeared, was working on a project to launch a nuclear missile into orbit. Durell's only lead is Padgett's sister, Deirdre (a name which, for me, never fails to bring to mind this Deirdre), but she's being hunted by the same nefarious agents who apparently kidnapped her brother. And so Sam is forced to go on the run with her, pitting him against not only his own colleagues in the CIA, but the FBI as well.

Essentially, Assignment to Disaster is one long pulse-pounding perspiration-drenched pursuit across the States, punctuated by bursts of violence – Sam is really put through the wringer – and a curious stopover at Sam's grandpa's beached bayou paddle steamer. As Doug Bassett notes, though markedly different to what would come after, the book sets up the basics of Sam's world, from his job description to his Cajun heritage and "improbable grandfather"; it's a decent little spy thriller, and a key work in that it helped ignite America's postwar passion for Cold War espionage fiction.

As is tediously frequently the case in my book collecting endeavours, through little-to-no fault of my own other than an inability to not buy books when I see them, I've ended up with multiple copies of Assignment to Disaster. Not only do I own the copy of the Muller edition seen above – the front cover art of which is uncredited; shout if you know who it's by – but two others besides; this:

A 1959 second printing of the Gold Medal edition, featuring cover art by Charles Binger; and this:

Yet another copy of the Muller first printing. I can't recall the correct order of events now, but I suspect I bought this copy first – probably at last year's London Paperback and Pulp Bookfair – before finding the other, rather tidier copy later. I elected to keep this one, though, for the express purpose of blogging about it. You can see on the cover that someone's decided that ravishing redhead Deirdre would look immeasurably sexier sporting spectacles, but that same someone evidently thought Assignment to Disaster would be the perfect book within which to practice their handwriting skills. They've made a tentative start on the half-title page:

with a couple of attempts at drawing what I think are swords on the inside front cover, before properly knuckling down on the inside back cover:

Weirdly, I'm sort of loath to part with this copy; I can't help wondering who it was who elected to use Gold Medal's sales blurb as a basis for learning to write. That's if that was the intention; I guess it could have been a trainee copywriter soaking in the deathless prose of a sales and marketing master.

Anyway, while I'm done with Edward S. Aarons for the moment, I'm not quite done with the paperbacks. Because I'll be staying with the humble softcover for at least the next few weeks to bring you books by, among others, Richard Stark, Patricia Highsmith, Elmore Leonard and John D. MacDonald – coming right up, after a Notes from the Small Press...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Edward S. Aarons and the Sam Durell / Assignment Series of Spy Novels (Gold Medal, Coronet, Herbert Jenkins, 1950s/60s/70s)

In 1955, two years after Ian Fleming's James Bond made his debut in Casino Royale, America gained its very own globetrotting secret agent: Sam Durell of the Central Intelligence Agency. Debuting in Assignment to Disaster (Gold Medal, 1955), Durell would go on to star in a further forty-eight adventures over the next twenty-eight years – all bearing the legend "Assignment" in their title, all published by Gold Medal in the States, and all but the final six written by Durell's creator – Edward S. Aarons.

Given that Sam Durell is arguably America's first proper postwar fictional series spy – beating another, rather better remembered US agent, Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm, into print by five years – it's perhaps surprising that he's slipped so comprehensively from the collective memory. In their day, the Durell/Assignment novels were hugely popular, going through multiple printings and selling in the tens of millions. They're characterised by a pacy, urgent style and display a convincing grasp of the exotic locales – researched in person by Aarons himself – that would become a hallmark of the series after the initial domestically set stories. Many of them stand up well even today; those critics that do still recall the books – Doug Bassett et al; Spy Guys and Gals (both those pages boasting bibliographies, the latter annotated) – hold at least some of them – Assignment Suicide (1956), say, or Assignment Tokyo (1971) – in high regard. But the series as a whole fell out of print years ago, and beyond this biography by Sergio Rizzo (scroll down) and the sites already linked, you'd be hard pushed to find much of substance about either Durell or Aarons online.

Born Edward Sidney in Philadelphia in 1916, Aarons attended Columbia University, working as, among other occupations, a reporter, a salesman and a fisherman, and in 1933 winning a collegiate short story contest. In 1938 he published Death in a Lighthouse, the first of around thirty hardboiled mysteries and thrillers written under the pen name Edward Ronns, many starring newspaper editorial cartoonist Jerry Benedict. Aarons's writing career was interrupted when, following Pearl Harbor in 1941, he enlisted in the coast guard; upon returning to civilian life he gained a bachelor's degree in literature and history from Columbia, and resumed penning the Ronns novels, publishing at least one a year, and sometimes two or three, until 1962. He also, from 1948, began publishing novels under his own name, and once the Assignment series commenced in 1955, his already prodigious output increased even further, with the Sam Durell stories also appearing two or three times a year.

All of the Durell novels were published straight to paperback in the States by Fawcett/Gold Medal, under covers illustrated by the likes of Robert McGinnis, Barye Phillips and Charles Binger. In the UK, Frederick Muller issued the earlier Sam Durell adventures in paperback editions virtually identical to the US ones (only the cover price and prelims were changed), before Coronet picked up the softcover rights in 1966, publishing a good chunk of the series under photographic covers over the next ten or so years. But a number of the Assignments also made it into hardback in the UK. I wrote about the ones published by Gold Lion and White Lion in 1973/4 the other day, in particular Assignment Black Viking, but another British publisher beat Gold/White Lion to the punch, issuing half a dozen Durells in hardback in the mid- to late-1960s: Herbert Jenkins.

I speculated in that Black Viking post that Gold Lion had some kind of rolling line-wide deal with Gold Medal, and Jenkins evidently had a similar, earlier arrangement: they published dozens upon dozens of Gold Medal crime and spy fiction paperback originals into hardback around this period. Sometimes the dust jacket designs would take cues from the American covers – see Peter Rabe's My Lovely Executioner or Frank Castle's The Violent Hours – but the jackets for the Jenkins editions of the Assignment novels forged their own direction, ranging from the fully painted, to the design-led, to photographic treatments.

As far I've been able to determine, Jenkins's earliest Durell offering (they'd published a non-Durell novel, The Defenders – a tie-in to the old TV show – in hardback in 1962) was Assignment Suicide, the third Sam Durell mission (originally published by Gold Medal in 1956), which they issued in 1964 under a wrapper designed by Bill Payne. The story sees Sam Durell parachuted into the USSR to deal with an attempt by rogue Russian elements to launch a nuclear strike on the US, a plot that Barye Phillips interpreted rather more literally on the Gold Medal cover:

The only other Jenkins edition I've got my hands on to date – like Assignment Suicide, courtesy of Jamie Sturgeon – is Assignment Zorya, the eleventh Durell adventure, published by Jenkins in 1967 (Originally published by Gold Medal in 1960).

The jacket design is uncredited, but again it's markedly different to Charles Binger's Gold Medal cover art:

Other than those two hardbacks and the Gold Lion edition of Assignment Black Viking, my burgeoning Edward S. Aarons collection consists mainly of various paperback editions, most of which I acquired at this year's and last year's London Paperback and Pulp Bookfair:

And it's to the book on top of that pile that I'll be turning next: the debut Sam Durell thriller, Assignment to Disaster...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Assignment Black Viking (Sam Durell #25) by Edward S. Aarons (Gold Lion Hardback, 1973)

The third and final Gold Lion hardback I acquired from international jet-setting book dealer Jamie Sturgeon also marks the beginning of a short series of posts on the novel's author and lead character: Edward S. Aarons, and CIA secret agent Sam Durell:

Published in hardback in the UK by Gold Lion in March, 1973 – originally published in the US in paperback by Fawcett/Gold Medal in 1967 – Assignment Black Viking was part of British publisher Gold Lion's first wave of thrillers, alongside Richard Stark's The Green Eagle Score and Dan J. Marlowe's Operation Drumfire, both of which also arrived that March. As ever with Gold Lion books, the cover painting is uncredited, but I suspect it's the same nameless artist who illustrated the dust jackets of pretty much all of Gold Lion's republished-from-American-originals thrillers in the first half of 1973.

If anyone has any idea who the artist is/was, get in touch; I'd love to learn his (or her) identity – and to find out some more about Gold Lion, for that matter: who they were; how long they were in business; who was responsible for hoovering up all those US Gold Medal titles they published into hardback (did they have some kind of rolling deal with Gold Medal, a la Frederick Muller in the 1950s and '60s?) – anything, really.

Gold Lion would go on to publish a further two Aarons novels in 1973, seemingly selected just as randomly from the author's backlist as Assignment Black Viking was: a standalone suspense work, The State Department Murders, which was originally published in the States by Gold Medal in 1950; and Assignment Helene, originally published by Gold Medal in the US in 1959, and dating from much earlier in the same series as Assignment Black Viking. An additional Durell Assignment, Assignment Budapest was published in hardback in 1974 by White Lion – who may, or may not, have been part of the same setup as Gold Lion.

Indeed, Aarons published an astonishing forty-two instalments in the Assignment/Sam Durell (often misspelt Durrell, including by Gold Lion on the jacket front flap of Black Viking) espionage series, from 1955 to 1976, the year after his death, with a further six – credited to Aarons's brother, Will B. Aarons, but actually written by Lawrence Hall – following on after. And over the next couple of posts I'll be exploring the series in a bit more depth, looking at different editions of the books, and reviewing the first instalment, Assignment to Disaster...

Friday, 16 November 2012

Operation Drumfire (Earl Drake #6) by Dan J. Marlowe (Gold Lion Hardback, 1973), Plus More Marlowe Lions

NB: Featured as one of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

With that tedious custom domain name change update out the way, let's pick up the threads of the last-post-but-one, on the 1973 Gold Lion hardback edition of Richard Stark's Parker novel The Sour Lemon Score, which, you might recall, I acquired from book dealer to the stars (ahem) Jamie Sturgeon. Because as I mentioned in that post, that's not the only Gold Lion hardback I've bought off Jamie this year; I've taken two others off his hands besides, one of which looks like this:

A British hardback edition of Dan J. Marlowe's Operation Drumfire, published by Gold Lion in 1973, published that same year in paperback in the UK by Coronet, and originally published in paperback in the US by Fawcett/Gold Medal in 1972. I wrote about Marlowe earlier this year, in a series of posts on his 1960s/70s twelve-book crime-cum-spy series starring violent criminal-turned-secret agent Earl Drake (those posts also available on The Violent World of Parker), of which Operation Drumfire marks the halfway point. I haven't yet read this far in the series, but unlike other critics and commentators, who single out the, admittedly brilliant, opening one-two crime fiction punch that is The Name of the Game is Death and One Endless Hour, I actually rather like the ensuing espionage-leaning Drake adventures – those that I've tried, anyway. And I'm not alone: the excellent Spy Guys and Gals site has a lot of time for them as well.

All twelve of the Drake novels were published straight to paperback by Fawcett/Gold Medal in the States, and almost all of them were given the same treatment in the UK by Coronet. But Gold Lion also got in on the act in the UK, publishing the first six Drake adventures (out of sequence) in hardback across 1973, initially under illustrated wrappers, then under photographic ones. It was the only time the books ever appeared in hardcover, and consequently they've become rather scarce: as I write, AbeBooks has just five listed, four of those being Operation Breakthrough, the other being an ex-library copy of The Name of the Game is Death, which, despite being the first book in the series, was the last Drake that Gold Lion issued. I'd never even seen a copy of Operation Drumfire before I came across it whilst rifling through Jamie's boxes at his house, so I was dead pleased to find it – and it brings my Marlowe/Gold Lion collection up to four books.

I've no idea who the dust jacket illustrator of the Gold Lion edition of Operation Drumfire is, but it's not outside the realms of possibility that it's the same chap who illustrated the wrapper of The Sour Lemon Score and indeed Operation Breakthrough (see above), an individual whom Gold Lion appear to have kept fairly busy, at least in the first half of 1973 (their jackets as a whole becoming more photographic in nature in the back half of the year). The modus operandi of Gold Lion, who were only in business for, I think, three or four years, seems to have been reissuing American paperback originals in hardcover; their initial offerings, in 1972, were westerns, and Operation Drumfire was among the very first batch of crime fiction/thrillers they published, in March of 1973 (handily, Gold Lion books sport the month of publication on their dust jacket front flap). The other two books in that first batch can be seen on the back cover of Operation Drumfire:

Sadly, I don't yet own a copy of The Green Eagle Score (well, not the Gold Lion one, anyway; obviously I own one or two other editions of that particular novel)... but I do, thanks to Jamie Sturgeon, own the other spotlighted Gold Lion book, Edward S. Aarons's Assignment Black Viking, which I'll be turning to next, beginning a short series of posts on Aarons and his best-known creation...