Tuesday 3 May 2011

Charing Cross Catch: A City on a Hill by George V. Higgins (Alfred A. Knopf First Edition, 1975)

From two Higgins novels – one by Jack, one by George V. – to another Higgins novel, which in this instance is by George V. rather than Jack:

This is the American hardback first edition of A City on a Hill, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1975. I bought this book only very recently – less than a week ago, in fact, on a sojourn to that there London. And to prove it, here's a picture of me riffling through some books outside one of the bookshops in Cecil Court:

Where, incidentally, the shop which used to house the late lamented Nigel Williams Rare Books is now inhabited by crime specialists Goldsboro Books, who've moved down from slightly further along the Court. But anyway, this copy of A City on a Hill didn't come from a Cecil Court shop; rather it came from the basement of Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road, a couple of minutes' walk from Cecil Court. The dustjacket, as you can see, is rather tatty (that missing piece at the top on the front was present when I bought it, but has since floated off somewhere), and it appears to be ex-library:

But considering I only paid two quid for the thing, I can't really complain. A City on a Hill was George V. Higgins's fourth novel, following The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972), The Digger's Game (1973) and Cogan's Trade (1974), and it marked a change of direction for the former journalist/Assistant D.A. Whereas his previous novels were set in the Boston underworld, A City on a Hill moved the action to the political arena of Washington, D.C. – with mixed results, if this contemporaneous New York Times review is to be believed. Take a gander at the dustjacket flaps blurb if you'd like to know a bit more about the novel:

If you click on the back flap you should be able to see that the jacket was designed by Paul Bacon, who, as luck would have it, I've blogged about before, in this post on James Jones's The Merry Month of May. Bacon is best known for his record sleeves for Blue Note and Riverside, but in book design he was the originator of the "big book look", whereby title and author name were featured very big on the front cover. His cover for A City on a Hill isn't a prime example of that style, but I do have another book waiting in the wings with a jacket designed by him – the novel that did, in fact, make his name as a book cover designer.

That's not the next post, however. The next post – indeed the next few posts – will be on Len Deighton's series of novels starring his unnamed British spy – all of which feature jackets designed by the legend that is Raymond Hawkey...


  1. Look forward to your thoughts on the 'spy with no name' novels, in particular, which novels you would include within that group - there's still some discussion amongst readers about whether Spy Story has the same character.

  2. Thanks Rob. I can't promise I'll have anything dramatically new to add to your thorough appraisals (which I'll be linking to), but I'll be concentrating largely on the look of the books rather than the content, so hopefully I'll have something interesting to offer.