Tuesday 23 November 2010

The Eighth Dwarf by Ross Thomas (Hamish Hamilton First Edition) and a Bit on Beverley le Barrow

An admission: at the beginning of Ross Thomas Week, I stated that I'd be blogging about the Ross Thomas books I have to show you in the order they were originally published. And when I wrote that first post, I had every intention of doing just that. Unfortunately it seems I'm not as fast a reader as I thought I was, because I haven't quite finished reading the Ross Thomas book I should really – chronologically speaking, that is – be blogging about right now – i.e. 1978's Chinaman's Chance – and I'd like to be able to discuss that particular book in reasonable depth as well as bang on about its cover design etc. So instead I'm skipping ahead to the next book in Thomas' oeuvre – again, chronologically speaking – which is this:

A UK hardback first edition of The Eighth Dwarf, published under that utterly glorious dustjacket by Hamish Hamilton in the UK in 1979 (published the same year by Simon & Schuster in the US). Now, I should point out before you get the wrong idea that I haven't read this post-World War II-set espionage thriller yet. But that magnificent cover promises such sublime delights. I mean, just look at that dustjacket photograph. Truly, there's some kind of blunt, twisted cover design genius at work here. On the one hand, when it comes to cover design, there is a good and valid argument for a literal approach, for a straightforward interpretation of a book's title or subject matter on a cover. And on the other hand... there's taking a photo of a dwarf and sticking that on the front.

The lunatic intellect behind the dustjacket design of The Eighth Dwarf is, of course, '70s glam photographer Beverley le Barrow, whose work I spotlighted in this post last week and this post last month, and who I've become slightly obsessed with. And not even in an ironic way, either (well, not entirely). Usually I much prefer illustrated or painted covers on the old books I buy, but I genuinely admire the brazen obviousness of Beverley's photos. I applaud her chutzpah. I like the cut of her jib.

In the '70s Hamish Hamilton editions of Ross Thomas' books, Beverley le Barrow is always credited as Beverly (no era 'e') Lebarrow (one word), but in pretty much every other book I've seen her work on, not to mention online, she's credited as Beverley le Barrow, so I think that one's correct. I'll have a post on the James Bond covers she created for Panther in the late 1970s soon, but for now, take a moment to click on that Eighth Dwarf cover and admire it a while, and then join me again later today. Because if you like this one, just wait till you get a load of what's coming next.


  1. Yes, I must agree with your enthusiasm for that cover. Most awesome. There is no way such a cover would be allowed on the shelves today. Here's a challenge for you. Is it possible that the guy on the cover was an actor? If he was a photo model, is there not a good chance he worked in film or television? Perhaps you could find out who he actually was!

  2. Believe me, I've looked! I'm pretty sure he was an actor too; I'll be returning to him (and the star of the next cover) in the next post, but I've yet to work out who either of them were. This guy in particular is really familiar...

  3. I run the Stanley Morgan website at stanleymorgan.co.uk and Beverly LeBarrow did quite a lot of his book covers in the 1970’s. I tried to track her down and at one point found a photography agent who offered to pass on my details. I never heard any more. However the agent did correct me, and so I shall pass the correction on – Beverly is a man not a woman!

  4. Aha, I suspected as much, Francis, as I mentioned in this follow-up post:


    I also wondered in that more recent post if Beverley le Barrow might in fact be Page 3 photographer Beverley Goodway...

  5. Update: I got in touch with an American photographer who worked as Beverly's assistant in the 1970's and asked him if Le Barrow was a pseudonym. He confirmed it was and that he's pretty sure his real surname was Goodway..

  6. Good Lord. Don't tell me my guess was right! That's rather exciting. Thanks Francis; I think I'll update that other post accordingly...