Thursday 1 April 2010

Deadly Edge/The Damsel/The Glass Cell

A bumper delivery today – three books, all with their own little stories (as well as the stories inside the actual books that is; oh you know what I mean).

First up, we have this:

The 1990 Allison & Busby paperback edition of the thirteenth Parker novel, Deadly Edge (originally published in the US in 1971). Take a good look at that cover. Why? Two reasons. The first is that, as of now, so far as I can tell, there are no copies of this particular edition for sale online anywhere. There were two copies available on Amazon, and therein lies the tale: this being a later Parker novel, I figured I'd collect the earlier books in the series first (in Allison & Busby editions, as noted many, many times before) and come back and pick up one of those two paperback copies of Deadly Edge down the line. (I also wasn't sure exactly which edition the two listings were; I think the publication date in both cases was given by Amazon as 1992, which, according to Fantastic Fiction – often the only decent online guide to particular editions of books – would've made them Atlantic Large Print editions, and therefore of much less interest to me. Yes, I know, I'm sad. I think we've established that already.)

But of course I forgot the golden rule: if a book is for sale online, it's for sale online, i.e. anyone can buy the bugger. And over the weekend, whilst lazily checking Amazon, I noticed that one of the copies had gone. And it was the one I had my eye on. Eek! So I put in an order for the other one sharpish, even though I wasn't sure which edition it was and the only clue to condition were the words "some creasing". Gulp. Luckily, it's fine – it's the right edition, and the creasing's really minimal, with just a few stains to the page edges.

As for the second reason for taking a good look at the cover... Well. Never having seen the cover before (there are no scans online), as soon as I had the book in my hands I realised there was something familiar about it. A quick google later, I understood why: Allison & Busby used the same cover illustration (that angular, expressionistic painting by Stephen Hall) for their 1997 Parker Omnibus Vol. 1. Regardez-vous:

Fascinating stuff, eh? Anyway, Fantastic Fiction reckon that A&B published a hardback of Deadly Edge two years after this paperback in 1992. I can't find any kind of record for that online, but even if they did, this paperback predates it, so... actually I'm not sure what my point here is. Let's move on.

So what else was in today's bumper delivery? Why, since you ask, there was also this:

The 1968 first UK edition of Richard Stark's The Damsel, published by Hodder & Stoughton (originally published in the US in 1967 by Macmillan), and sporting a lovely, rather elegant jacket designed by Michael Dempsey. Now, regular reader (hello, Martin, and welcome back from Japan) might possibly recall my having banged on about the Parker novels at length on this blog (juuuuust possibly...), but what I haven't mentioned before is that there's a parallel series of Stark novels, set in the same universe as the Parker books, and starring an occasional accomplice of Parker's: Alan Grofield. Grofield first pops up in The Score (which I haven't read yet), the fifth Parker novel (originally published 1964), then again in The Handle (Parker #8, 1966) before spinning off into his own series of four books, of which The Damsel is the first. Apparently they're lighter in tone than the Parker books, so it'll be interesting to read this one.

(For the record, the other three Grofield novels are The Dame (1969), The Blackbird (also 1969) and Lemons Never Lie (1971). He also appears in two further Parker books: Slayground (1969) – which crosses over with The Blackbird – and Butcher's Moon (1974).)

The nice man who sold me The Damsel must've only just put it online – he told me he'd just picked up slightly better condition copies of that and the other book I bought off him (which I'll come to in a moment, although I've just realised that this sodding post is approaching a fairly epic length now) for his own collection, which is why he was selling those two. At any rate I know there aren't any other copies of this edition of The Damsel for sale online in the UK. Bully for me.

And so we finally reach the third book in the bumper delivery – I'm bloody exhausted now – which is this:

My god! It's not a Parker book! No, it's my other obsession: Patricia Highsmith, and a 1965 first UK edition of The Glass Cell. I noticed the nice man who had The Damsel for sale also had a copy of this for sale, for four quid. It's ex-library, but not in too bad a shape considering. A little grubby, but you can't really complain at that price. When I first started collecting Highsmith UK firsts, this was one of the first ones I saw in a bookshop, in Cecil Court in London. It looked like a good read – I think it's about a guy in prison, which is a bit different for Highsmith, and also who doesn't like a good jail tale? – but it was too expensive, so despite fondling it on a number of visits to the shop, I never bought it.

But now I have it. So thank you to the nice man who sold me this and The Damsel – a kindred spirit by the sounds of it (he too collects both Stark and Highsmith; funny how we're both attracted to novels featuring amoral sociopaths...). And with that, this post is at an end. Sing hosanna.

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