Wednesday, 1 July 2015

A Tom Ripley / Ripliad TV Series, and Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley: British First Edition (Cresset Press, 1957)

Obsessive Patricia Highsmith/Tom Ripley nut that I am, it would be remiss of me, I feel, not to comment in some fashion on the recent(ish) news that Highsmith's Ripliad could well be heading for television. Except that, as yet, there's not much to comment on. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the proposed series is to be produced in partnership with Highsmith's literary executor, Diogenes Verlag, with Philipp Keel – son of the late Daniel Keel, founder of Diogenes – serving as an executive producer, and that the "vision for the TV series is to expand on Rene Clement's 1960 feature Purple Moon and Anthony Minghella's Matt Damon-starrer The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) – both of which were based on the first book in the series – and explore the depth, sophistication and complexity of the character of Tom Ripley". But the magazine does also state that the producers will be bringing not just The Talented Mr. Ripley to television but Highsmith's "five-book series", so there's reason to suppose that the Ripliad as a whole will be televised.

I'll be keeping a keen eye on developments there, but in a curious case of coincidence, one of which Highsmith herself would surely have approved, shortly before the announcement of the Ripley TV series I finally got my hands on a copy of the one Ripley book – indeed the one book above all others – that I've had at the top of my wants list ever since I started collecting books:


A British first edition of The Talented Mr. Ripley, published by the Cresset Press in 1957. Now, I should point out that while the book is the genuine article – a first impression of the British first edition, as denoted by the title and copyright pages:


– the dust jacket, well, isn't. It's a facsimile dust jacket, which I ordered from the appropriately named Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC after winning the book on eBay for not much more that fifty quid – an absolute bargain considering the cheapest jacketless copy of the Cresset edition currently on AbeBooks is an ex-library affair with both endpapers removed (and replaced) offered at north of £100. And even factoring in the price of the facsimile jacket, which set me back an additional twenty quid (including shipping from America), it's still quite the steal, especially when the only other facsimile jacketed copy of the book on AbeBooks at present is priced at £175. (British first editions in their original jackets are more like £700–£1,000.)


Value aside, though, the real pleasure for me, as a Highsmith and Ripley fanatic, comes in simply owning the thing – the one Ripley novel that I didn't own in British first, and one of only two Highsmith novels that I didn't own in British first (the other being Strangers on a Train, Highsmith's debut). Oh, I own other editions of The Talented Mr. Ripley which I prize – a lovely 1960 Pan paperback, a striking 1959 Dell paperback, a 1973 Heinemann hardback – but to finally have in my hands – and, when it's not in my hands, on my Highsmith shelf – a true British first of the novel, even one in a facsimile jacket, is especially thrilling.


The dust jacket design is uncredited – it could be the work of Joan Hassall, Kenneth Rowntree, Hugh Walker or possibly even Hans Tisdall, all of whom were designing wrappers for Cresset Press around this period – or it could be none of those designers – so I've added it to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s under 'Designer Unknown'. In the Existential Ennui Patricia Highsmith First Edition Book Cover Gallery, however, it has assumed its proper place in between my Cresset Press edition of The Blunderer and Heinemann edition of Deep Water.


Tom Ripley has been much in the news of late, no doubt in part for the reasons outlined at the start of this post, but he's also been much on my mind – even more so than usual – and not merely because of the proposed TV show. Obviously my acquisition of this copy of The Talented Mr. Ripley is one reason for that, but I've also acquired a very special copy of a later Ripley novel, one which I'll be writing about before too long, plus I came across an article, written by Patricia Highsmith in 1989, on the real life inspiration for Tom. And I'll be blogging about that article soon.

9 comments:

  1. Fascimile? You're mellowing, Nick, just like Parker when he hit Gold Medal. ))

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    1. Haha, what can I say, Ray: I'm a man of modest means, so a facsimile is all I can afford.

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  2. You tease. I want to know more about those latter two items RIGHT NOW.

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  3. Could the cover art be by Edward Gorey? The lettering style on Highsmith's name reminds me a lot of his style. In fact that whole landscape looks like something he might have done. Quite a find.

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    1. Possibly, but I think Gorey mostly designed jackets and book covers for American editions rather than British ones (I'd quite like to get my hands on the two US editions of P. M. Hubbard novels he did the wrappers for). Still, it's as good a guess as mine!

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  4. I'm a big fan of Patricia Highsmith, too, and I've read four of her books already this year. Do you mind sharing your favorites? Thanks.

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    1. Certainly. Of the novels I've read – there are four I haven't got to yet – I think my favourites are This Sweet Sickness, The Two Faces of January, The Cry of the Owl, The Tremor of Forgery, possibly A Suspension of Mercy and Those Who Walk Away (they've both grown on me since I read them), and definitely all five books in the Ripliad, but especially Ripley's Game, which is not just my favourite Highsmith novel but my favourite novel full stop.

      Which ones have you read so far?

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    2. I've read: This Sweet Sickness, The Blunderer, Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. I'm reading the second book in the Ripliad series next.

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