Tuesday 1 November 2011

Three from P. M. Hubbard: The Dancing Man, The Graveyard, The Quiet River (Macmillan, 1971 / 1975 / 1978)

I would say we've left the doom and gloom which (understandably) characterized my just-finished series on post-apocalyptic prose behind now, but the subject of this next (mercifully shorter) series of posts isn't the cheeriest of souls either...

Cult British writer Philip Maitland Hubbard had eighteen novels published from 1963 to 1979, the majority of them works of adult suspense fiction. I blogged about Hubbard in a run of posts back in May, reviewing his 1965 classic, A Hive of Glass, and a 1963 short story, as well as looking at one or two others of his books, noting his preoccupation with environment and nature and how his often unnerving rural settings reflect the fractured psychologies of his characters. The dustjacket you can see up top is from the 1967 Geoffrey Bles first edition of The Tower, which I showcased during the aforementioned dystopian series as part of this post on the British first of Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon – both covers being illustrated by Donald Green. And it was the writing of that post which prompted me to recall I still had some Hubbard books to blog about, and led to me stumbling upon something very special indeed from the author, which I'll be revealing later this week.

But to begin, let's have a look at a trio of Hubbard first editions, all published in the UK by Macmillan in the 1970s, and all of which I came across when I was hoovering up Hubbard books around the time of that initial run of posts...

The Dancing Man (Macmillan, 1971) was P. M. Hubbard's eleventh novel, and like A Hive of Glass is a tale of obsession, this time of an archaeological kind and set in rural Wales (an environ which Hubbard aficionado Wyatt James reckoned was the author's "most creepy"). The dustjacket on the Macmillan edition was illustrated by Bush Hollyhead, one of the partners – with George Hardie and others – at noted design agency Nicholas Thirkell Associates (NTA Studios). Like almost all of Hubbard's books, The Dancing Man has been out of print for years; AbeBooks does have fourteen copies of the Macmillan first for sale presently, but only one of those is from a UK seller, for £12.

The Graveyard (Macmillan, 1975), Hubbard's fifteenth novel, is set in the Scottish Highlands (where Hubbard moved to in 1973 and lived until his death in 1980), and is as much about deerstalking and the hardships of life around the slopes and lochs of Scotland as it is about a secret buried on a hillside. The Macmillan first of this one is in even shorter supply than The Dancing Man (although there are a lot of BCA book club editions around): AbeBooks has just seven copies listed worldwide at the moment. (It's also worth noting that the pages in the Macmillan edition are prone to browning; evidently the publisher was using inferior paper stock around this time.) The customarily – for Hubbard novels, that is – weird and unnerving jacket illustration is by Cheryl Drower, about whom I've been able to determine virtually nothing other than she provided some illustrations for Science Fiction Monthly in the mid-1970s.

Finally, The Quiet River (Macmillan, 1978), which I found in an actual, physical secondhand bookshop (as opposed to buying it online) – Colin Page Antiquarian Books in Brighton – and which came with a review slip inside it:

The Quiet River was Hubbard's penultimate novel, and is about the relocation of a married couple to a remote country house. There's no mystery to speak of, merely an examination of the disintegration of an unstable relationship, reflected in the mundane, flooded Midlands setting. The jacket photo is by Chris Yates, one of a handful of British book cover photographers whose pictures are typified by a flat, 1970s style (see also Beverley le Barrow). I blogged about Yates previously in this post on Geoffrey Household's Rogue Justice; these days Yates is better known as an angler than as a cover designer. The Macmillan first of The Quiet River ranks somewhere in-between The Dancing Man and The Graveyard in terms of availability; currently there are nine copies for sale on AbeBooks worldwide.

Next from P. M. Hubbard, a book from very early in his career: the second of his two children's novels...


  1. I've not seen a single UK edition of any of Hubbard's books so this was very educational for me. Those UK DJs are far better than the dull ones (both unimagintive and drab in pallette) that sport the US Pantheon editions. THE DANCING MAN in particular is nicely done and very attractive. I'm almost tempted to hunt them down to be a Hubbard completist, but sadly I am forced to put a moratorium on antiquarian and collectible book purchases. The mortgage takes priority and the property taxes in Chciago continue to increase (ugh!) forcing me to get very tight with my money if I want to keep my home.

  2. My copies of The Dancing Man and The Graveyard are by Atheneum. The Graveyard's cover is drab but I quite like the cover of The Dancing Man, especially the font. And the stick figure is grinning which is a nice touch. The Dancing Man is properly creepy, too. I rarely find books scary but I could easily imagine the fear Mark Hawkins felt wandering around in the woods in the dark looking at runes. Hubbard does scary and plausible very well.

    I still have to tackle The Graveyard and The Quiet River.

    PS: John - on your recommendation - I just read The Rembrandt Panel and loved it. Thanks for reviewing it.

  3. John, I feel your pain. There are countless books I'd love to buy, but the mundane realities of life to tend to get in the way. Grr.

    I'd like to see the Atheneum covers, BG. You should stick 'em on your blog. I've got an Atheneum edition to round off this current run of posts, but the publisher is probably the least interesting thing about it...

  4. Oops, I meant Atheneum not Pantheon.

    Glad that one of my FFB recommendations paid off, Book Glutton.

  5. faithful researcher29 May 2012 at 19:31

    Cheryl Dower also did interior art for this book

    How did I grow? /​ written by Claire Chovil ; drawings by Cheryl Drower. Published London : British Broadcasting Corporation, 1977.

    "Cheryl Drower" is not a particularly common name. She - or someone with the same name - was born in November 1951 and died of cancer in April 2010.

    1. Chery Drower, the illustrator, was the woman who died of cancer in 2010. Born 1951 and came from Aberdare in South Wales. Despite having a remarkable singing voice, she did not take up a career in music as did her twin sister Meryl.