Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s

Presenting a permanent Existential Ennui gallery page of some of the most gorgeous British dustjackets ever to wrap around books in the 1950s and 1960s (and beyond, in some exceptional cases), especially crime and spy thrillers and science fiction. Most of these books are from my personal collection (except where otherwise stated), and to my mind each of these dustjackets evinces a very particular, instantly recognizable approach to British wrapper design during that glorious '50s/'60s era (something of a golden age for cover artwork and illustration, in my opinion), encompassing such attributes as: a keen sense of hierarchical design coupled with a willingness to experiment; elegant hand-cut lettering which is intrinsic to the overall cover; accomplished draftsmanship; bold and dynamic deployment of silhouette, chiaroscuro and limited palette; and even, in some cases, screen printing, linocut, woodcut, photography and collage. But above all, these jackets are all striking, evocative and memorable works in their own right, ones which should, I feel, be considered as art, as well as design.

I'll be adding to this gallery as and when I find further suitable examples, so do check back regularly for updates (although I will be posting reminders on the main blog when I update). The jackets – which are all, unless otherwise stated, from the British first edition of each book – are arranged alphabetically by designer (unless the designer is unknown, in which case they're grouped at the bottom of the page; do please leave a comment if you have any information on those ones), with links to whatever (if anything) I've written or found out about that particular title or author or cover artist – including, in many cases, full wrappers and back covers. Oh, and should you stumble upon this page in an image search and decide to 'borrow' a cover or two for whatever purpose, by all means do (within reason: don't take the whole blummin' lot), but please link back to the page and to Existential Ennui. Since I went to the trouble of photographing the covers, researching them and assembling the gallery, I figure it's the least you can do.

This, then, is Existential Ennui's Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s. Enjoy.

UPDATE 4/4/13: Now with well over 100 dust jackets!

Existential Ennui's companion pages:

Patricia Highsmith First Edition Book Cover Gallery

British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s

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Eric Ayers


The John Wyndham Omnibus by John Wyndham (Michael Joseph, 1964)

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Cecil Walter Bacon


Cold Waters by P. M. Hubbard (Geoffrey Bles, 1970)

Death in the Lebanon by John Tyndall (Geoffrey Bles, 1971)

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John Bance


The Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1963)
The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1964)

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Margaret Benyon


The Red and the Green by Iris Murdoch (Chatto & Windus, 1965); cover courtesy Rachel Day

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Dennis Beytagh


A Kiss Before Dying by Ira Levin (Michael Joseph, 1954)

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Val Biro


Secret Ministry by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1951)

A Time to Kill by Geoffrey Household (Michael Joseph, 1952)

In the Wet by Nevil Shute (Heinemann, 1953)

Requiem for a Wren by Nevil Shute (Heinemann, 1955)

The Big Pick-Up by Elleston Trevor (Heinemann, 1955)

A Dread of Burning by Rosemary Timperley (James Barrie, 1956); image courtesy Mike Ripley

The Dragon Tree by Victor Canning (Hodder & Stoughton, 1958)
The Burning Eye by Victor Canning (Hodder & Stoughton, 1960)

A Delivery of Furies by Victor Canning (Hodder & Stoughton, 1961)

Black Flamingo by Victor Canning (Hodder & Stoughton, 1962)

I Would Rather Stay Poor by James Hadley Chase (Robert Hale, 1962)

The Hour of Maximum Danger by James Barlow (Hamish Hamilton, 1962)

A Spy in the Hand by Henry Talbot (Robert Hale, 1966)
Ladders by Rosalind Wade (Robert Hale, 1968)

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Bernard Blatch


The Quest by Frederick Karl (Heinemann, 1961)
Xenophon's Adventure by Geoffrey Household (The Bodley Head, 1961)

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S. R. Boldero


Johnny Goes South by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1959)

Kinds of Love, Kinds of Death by Tucker Coe, alias Donald E. Westlake (Souvenir Press, 1967)
Murder Among Children by Tucker Coe, alias Donald E. Westlake (Souvenir Press, 1968)

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Oliver Brabbins


Danger in the Dark by Patricia Carlon (Ward Lock, 1962)

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James Broom-Lynne


A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (Heinemann, 1962)

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Graham Byfield


Anna Highbury by P. M. Hubbard (Cassell, 1963)

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Peter Calcott


The Naked Runner by Francis Clifford (Hodder & Stoughton, 1966)

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Chambers (First Name Unknown)


Johnny Goes North by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1956)

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Patricia Davey


The Mission by Ferreira de Castro (Hamish Hamilton, 1963)

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Michael Dempsey


The Damsel by Richard Stark, alias Donald E. Westlake (Hodder & Stoughton, 1968); cover illustration by Ken Sequin

The Tremor of Forgery by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1969)

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Craig Dodd


The Dame by Richard Stark, alias Donald E. Westlake (Hodder & Stoughton, 1969)

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A. S. Douthwaite


The Spy's Bedside Book by Graham Greene and Hugh Greene (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1957)

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 John Dugan


The Mythmaker by Sarah Gainham (Arthur Barker, 1957)

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A. H. Eisner


Dead Man Falling by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1953)

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Oliver Elmes


Assassins Road by Simon Harvester (Jarrolds , 1965)

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Lacey Everett


A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene (Heinemann, 1961)

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Kenneth Farnhill


Hunting the Bismarck by C. S. Forester (Michael Joseph, 1959)

Flush as May by P. M. Hubbard (Michael Joseph, 1963)

Picture of Millie by P. M. Hubbard (Michael Joseph, 1964)

Third Girl by Agatha Christie (Collins, 1966); cover courtesy Rachel Day

Endless Night by Agatha Christie (Collins, 1967); cover courtesy Rachel Day
By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie (Collins, 1968); cover courtesy Rachel Day

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Klim Forster


Feramontov by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1966)

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Henry Fox


Dragon Road by Simon Harvester (Jarrolds, 1956)

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Patrick Gierth


A Rough Shoot by Geoffrey Household (Michael Joseph, 1951)

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John Strickland Goodall


Rat Trap Island by P. M. Hubbard (Cassell, 1964)

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Charles Gorham



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Graphics Partners


The Blackbird by Richard Stark, alias Donald E. Westlake (Hodder & Stoughton, 1970)

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 Donald Green


The General by C. S. Forester (Michael Joseph, 1958 re-set; first published 1936) NB: credited to "Ronald" Green on jacket flap, but "DG" initials on cover suggest it is indeed by Donald Green

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank (Constable, 1959)

Most Unnatural Murder by Fiona Sinclair (Geoffrey Bles, 1965)

The Tower by P. M. Hubbard (Geoffrey Bles, 1967)

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Simon Harvester


Unsung Road by Simon Harvester (Jarrolds, 1960)

Silk Road by Simon Harvester (Jarrolds, 1962) 

Red Road by Simon Harvester (Jarrolds, 1963)

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Michael Harvey

To Catch a Spy by Eric Ambler et al (The Bodley Head, 1964)

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John Heseltine

The Golden Rendezvous by Alistair MacLean (Collins, 1962); image courtesy Mike Ripley
Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean (Collins, 1963)

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Gavin Lyall


The Wrong Side of the Sky by Gavin Lyall (Hodder & Stoughton, 1961... and yes, that's correct: Lyall painted his own cover)

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Christopher Macartney-Filgate


The Stone Roses by Sarah Gainham (Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1958)

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Denis McLoughlin


A Man from the Past by Andrew MacKenzie (T. V. Boardman, 1958)

The Missile by Andrew MacKenzie (T. V. Boardman, 1959)

The Doom-Maker by B. X. Sanborn, alias Bill S. Ballinger (T. V. Boardman, 1959)

Epitaph for a Blonde by Ian Mercer (T. V. Boardman, 1960)

The Mercenaries by Donald E. Westlake (T. V. Boardman, 1961)

The Time of Terror by Lionel White (T. V. Boardman, 1961)

The Big H by Bryan Peters, alias Peter Bryan George (T. V. Boardman, 1961)

Killing Time by Donald E. Westlake (T. V. Boardman, 1962)

361 by Donald E. Westlake (T. V. Boardman, 1962)

The Siamese Coup Affair by Sidney Weintraub (T. V. Boardman, 1963)

Killy by Donald E. Westlake (T. V. Boardman, 1964)

Amateur Agent by Christopher Adams, alias Kenneth Hopkins (T. V. Boardman, 1964)

The Fugitive Pigeon by Donald E. Westlake (T. V. Boardman, 1966)

The Busy Body by Donald E. Westlake (T. V. Boardman, 1966)

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Mick & Ging


Game Without Rules by Michael Gilbert (Hodder & Stoughton, 1968)

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John Minton


The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1952)

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M. Mohan


The Glass Cell by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1965)

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Charles Mozley


The Loving Eye by William Sansom (The Hogarth Press, 1956); cover courtesy Rachel Day
The Bell by Iris Murdoch (Chatto & Windus, 1958); cover courtesy Rachel Day

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Leslie Needham


The Light of Day by Eric Ambler (Heinemann, 1962)

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Sheila Perry


Watcher in the Shadows by Geoffrey Household (Michael Joseph, 1960); image courtesy Mike Ripley

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Bruce Petty


Pray for a Brave Heart by Helen MacInnes (Collins, 1955)

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Peter Probyn


Time is an Ambush by Francis Clifford (Hodder & Stoughton, 1962)

The Green Fields of Eden by Francis Clifford (Hodder & Stoughton, 1963)
 The Hunting-Ground by Francis Clifford (Hodder & Stoughton, 1964)

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William Randell


A Question of Time by Harry Carmichael (Collins, 1958)

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Victor Reinganum


Nuncle and Other Stories by John Wain (Macmillan, 1960)

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Ian Robertson


Where Eagles Dare by Alistair MacLean (Collins, 1967)

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John Rose

H.M.S. Ulysses by Alistair MacLean (Collins, 1955); image courtesy Mike Ripley

The Watering Place of Good Peace by Geoffrey Jenkins (Collins, 1960); image courtesy Mike Ripley

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Evadne Rowan


Ti-Coyo and His Shark by Clement Richer (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1951)

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John Rowland


The Killing-Ground by Elleston Trevor (Heinemann, 1956)

On the Beach by Nevil Shute (Heinemann, 1957)

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Peter Rudland


The Tall Dark Man by Anne Chamberlain (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1955)

A Cold Coming by Mary Kelly (Secker & Warburg, 1956)

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Stephen Russ


Sometime Never by Roald Dahl (Collins, 1949)

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Brian Russell


Undertow by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1962)

At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie (Collins, 1965); cover courtesy Rachel Day

The Tin Men by Michael Frayn (Collins, 1965)

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Jim Russell


 
Alfred Hitchcock's Sinister Spies by various (Max Reinheardt, 1967)

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"BGS"


The Quiet American by Graham Greene (Heinemann, 1955)

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Roy Sanford


The Silver Locusts (The Martian Chronicles) by Ray Bradbury (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1951)

The Night of the Hunter by Davis Grubb (Hamish Hamilton, 1954)

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Derrick Sayer


Peregrination 22 by Philip Purser (Jonathan Cape, 1962); images courtesy Mike Ripley

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John Sewell


Anatomy of a Killer by Peter Rabe (Abelard-Schuman, 1960)

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Stein


Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1958)

A Game for the Living by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1959)

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Abis Sida Stridley


Timelock by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1967)

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Ray Theobald


The Head by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1960)

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Michael Trevithick


Dance of the Dwarfs by Geoffrey Household (Michael Joseph, 1968)

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Hugh Walker


The Accomplices by Leonard Cooper (Cresset Press, 1960)

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Barbara Walton


The Pass Beyond Kashmir by Berkely Mather (Collins, 1960)

The Zebra-Striped Hearse by Ross Macdonald (Collins, 1963)

Vote X for Treason by Brian Cleeve (Collins, 1964)

The Man from Destiny by Ian Mackintosh (Robert Hale, 1969)

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Eileen Walton


After the Fine Weather by Michael Gilbert (Hodder & Stoughton, 1963)

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Jack Whitsett


This Sweet Sickness by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1961)

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Brian Wildsmith


Fellow Passenger by Geoffrey Household (Michael Joseph, 1955)

White August by John Boland (Michael Joseph, 1955)

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Alan Williams


Snake Water by Alan Williams (Anthony Blond, 1965); jacket designed by author; images courtesy Mike Ripley

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Designer Unknown


Honour the Shrine by Francis Clifford (Jonathan Cape, 1953)

The Blunderer by Patricia Highsmith (Cresset Press, 1956)

Be Shot for Sixpence by Michael Gilbert (Hodder & Stoughton, 1956)

The Cold Dark Night by Sarah Gainham (Arthur Barker, 1957)

Slow Burner by William Haggard (Cassell, 1958)

Venetian Blind by William Haggard (Cassell, 1959)

Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler (Heinemann, 1959)

The Man Who Sold Death by James Munro (Hammond, 1964)

Midnight Plus One by Gavin Lyall (Hodder & Stoughton, 1965)

Shooting Script by Gavin Lyall (Hodder & Stoughton, 1966)

Black Money by Ross Macdonald (Collins, 1966)

13 comments:

  1. A British author whose book covers (during the 1950s) are displayed is Desmond Cory at:
    http://www.desmondcory.com/Gallery/Desmond__Cory__Book_Gallery_-_1950s1.htm

    I notice you selected the cover to his first novel already, 'Secret Ministry', but for my money 'This Traitor, Death" or "This is Jezebel" are the best.
    You can see the covers in full glory by simply clicking on them on the above url.
    There is also something very nice about "Pilgrim at the Gate" that captures the Cold War spirit with simple design at
    http://www.desmondcory.com/Gallery/Desmond__Cory__Book_Gallery_-_1950s2.htm

    In contrast if you look at many British book covers of the 1960s when they used photography more, you see a big deterioration in the quality of the covers:
    http://www.desmondcory.com/Gallery/Desmond_Cory_Book_Gallery_-_1960s3.htm

    I hope you select "This Traitor, Death" to add to your gallery.

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  2. I'm more than familiar with the covers on the Desmond Cory site, Ricardo, and I do have a couple of other Cory jackets waiting in the wings to be added – not the ones you mention, unfortunately, as I don't have those yet, but the ones I do have are very nice examples of 50s Cory cover art...

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  3. I appreciate the effort you took in presenting this. I have a slow internet connection, however, and it took *forever* to load this single page. It would have been nice if you spread the images out over several pages or perhaps used thumbnails. Thanks for the "gallery."

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  4. Apologies for the slow load, Anonymous, but there's not much I can do about that. The point of the page is to gather the best of the disparate covers scattered about the rest of the blog in one place, but you can still find many of them in their original posts (those that I've blogged about, that is). Use the "search" box just under the permanent link to the page from the main blog, and you'll be able to see many of the jackets in individual blog posts. Glad you enjoyed the gallery, though – once it actually loaded!

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  5. Very interesting selection, some of which I remember, and one or two I even read at the time.

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  6. Interesting that you think it worth noting that Tucker Coe is a pseudonym of Westlake, but not Richard Stark! A foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but a mindful consistency is the friend of bibliographers everywhere.

    That said, there's lovely design work there. For a little more on the breadth of design, might I ask for one of the Gollancz yellow jackets (some interesting typography on e.g. the Kenneth Giles thrillers)? One doesn't need many (they're all so similar) but a sample would be nice. I'd send you a scan of Margery Lawrence's Master of Shadows but mine has some smoke damage -- it's a really lovely Dali-esque picture signed "Biro". Thanks for some amusing moments!

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  7. Just looked it up, Tom – very nice. That'll be Val Biro, a designer already heavily featured on this page, and who you'll find a number of posts about on the main Existential Ennui blog; just click on his tag in the right hand column.

    You have a point on Richard Stark, but I've written about Westlake and Stark so many times, not just on EE (again, click on their tags) but over on The Violent World of Parker, where I'm co-blogger, I guess I just didn't think there'd be anyone reading EE who DIDN'T know Westlake was Stark. But on reflection, the Beautiful British Book Jacket page has received well over 7,000 hits now, many of whom I expect haven't visited the main EE blog itself. So for those folk, it's not a bad idea to make the connection plain, which I'll do as soon as I finish typing this.

    Interesting idea on the Gollancz jackets too. I do have a good number of those, some of which I may well add to the gallery. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  8. I can't say enough about the fantastic work that you do over here on EE (and VWOP). This new 100 covers page really brings together some beautiful illustration and design that could very easily be lost without folks like you highlighting it.

    I'm envious of your collection and would love to see another 100 hardcovers although I must admit that I am preferential to paperback covers of the era. I think a page featuring paperbacks would be great especially for us North Americans who don't get to see too many of the British editions.

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  9. Cheers, Jason! Interesting idea on a British paperback page. It's an area that Steve Holland's covered fairly extensively on his Bear Alley site, but I might be able to offer something different. I'll have a think.

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  10. Very good Jason, there are some crackers there. Some are definitely 'of their time' but others quite timeless. Not sure about Graham Greene' "A Burnt-out Case" though on account of the typography.... how could they put the line break there?

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  11. I have just been made aware of this collection and am very happy because Brian Russell was my uncle. Very sadly he was killed in a car accident aged 33; a terrible loss to us as a family, and also a waste of an wonderful talent. I am fortunate to own a small collection of his work.Thank you!

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  12. No, thank you for leaving a comment, Allison. Very sad indeed that Brian lost his life at such a young age; from the evidence I've seen he was indeed a talented chap.

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