It may be a new year – in fact, it is a new year; there's no 'maybe' about it, you blithering idiot – but so far as me 'n' this blog are concerned, 2011 will be much like 2010 in at least one respect: there'll be plenty of Donald E. Westlake/Richard Stark posts over the next twelve months. I've got about ten Parker Progress Reports to get through – there'll be one on Plunder Squad along soon enough – plus around the same number of Dortmunder Dazes, and around the same number again of random Westlake novels. With all the other non-Westlake reading I plan on doing this year, that lot alone would see me well into 2012, and that's not even taking into account a Grofield File (on Lemons Never Lie), whatever cover galleries I can conjure up, and any further Westlake Scores over the course of the year.
That's right: brand new year, same old rubbish on Existential Ennui.
So, to begin what looks set to be as Westlakey a year as last year was, I thought I'd do something similar to that post on the development of the UK Coronet '60s/'70s paperback editions of the Parkers, except with the UK Allison & Busby editions instead. And with the aid of a cheeky cheapo Westlake Score or two (you see the lengths I go to for you? Buying editions of books I already own simply so I can write posts like this? I hope you appreciate it, you ungrateful wretches), one of them little-seen online:
I can demonstrate how Allison & Busby's various editions of the debut Parker novel, Point Blank (originally, of course, The Hunter) developed over twenty-plus years. Exciting stuff and no mistake.
To recap: here in the UK, just four publishers have issued Richard Stark's Parker novels in the nearly fifty years since the series began. Coronet/Hodder-Fawcett were the first of those, publishing all of the initial fourteen-book series beginning in 1967 and ending in 1977. And then in 1984 Allison & Busby picked up the series again, bringing many of the Parkers into hardback for the first time and issuing them in slightly larger trade paperback too. (The third and fourth publishers were Robert Hale and Quercus, who issued the later Parkers throughout the 2000s.) And as with the Coronet editions, the A&B editions went through a number of different styles of cover design, beginning with this design:
That's the 1984 hardback edition of Point Blank. As I showed in this post, Allison & Busby published eight of the Parker novels in hardback in this style in 1984/85, all with dustjackets designed by Mick Keates. Keates designed a good many covers for Allison & Busby in the 1980s, for novels including A&B's editions of Ross Macdonald's The Barbarous Coast and The Blue Hammer and Chester Himes's Cotton Comes to Harlem. He's still designing books today: his design for French Porcelain for English Palaces was commended in the 2009 British Book Design and Production Awards.
Keates also created the second iteration of Allison & Busby's cover designs for the Parker novels, which began in 1986. These books comprised both new-to-A&B hardbacks and paperbacks of Parkers A&B had already published in hardback. But whether hardback or paperback, the styling was the same:
That's the 1986 paperback edition of Point Blank. Some of these second wave of cover designs incorporated movie stills, as on this edition, which uses a still from the John Boorman movie of Point Blank, acquired from image library The Kobal Collection. Only one of the covers from this period, for the 1987 edition of The Green Eagle Score, isn't credited to Keates; that one is credited instead to Aubrey Warner, even though the styling is almost identical to the other Keates-designed covers from the same era. Bit of a mystery that.
Anyway, almost all of the Allison & Busby editions of the Parkers fell out of print in the 1990s. (There was one final short-lived style of cover design, or rather cover illustration, around 1990/1991, which I'll be dealing with in a separate post.) I think Allison & Busby itself went under and was swallowed up by another publisher, although it still exists in some form today, as evidenced by our third and fourth styles of cover design for Point Blank. Because, while all the other Parker novels were abandoned by A&B, in 2001 they once again brought Point Blank back into print in the UK:
This 2001 Allison & Busby paperback uses the same still from Boorman's 1967 movie (again from The Kobal Collection), but the cover this time was designed by boxharry, who, bizarrely, seem to be a Brighton-based web consultancy. Annoyingly, the copyright and title pages were removed from this copy, so the only way I can determine the publication year is by gleaning the information from Amazon and AbeBooks, neither of which are always the most accurate of sources. I think I only paid about £2 for it though, including postage, so it's not worth complaining about. I'll be donating it to a Lewes charity shop shortly, so at least someone will get some use out of it. Keep an eye out for it if you live or work in Lewes.
Which leaves one last Allison & Busby edition of Point Blank, which is this one 'ere:
This paperback edition was published by A&B in 2008. I can't tell you who designed the cover of this most recent version, because even I'm not deranged enough to buy yet another edition of the same bloody book to find out. So if anyone has a copy and can fill in the blanks, feel free to leave a comment.