Friday 28 October 2011

The Children of Men by P. D. James: First Edition (Faber and Faber, 1992), Irene von Treskow Cover Art

It's the penultimate post in this lengthy series on post-apocalyptic novels; I had intended to carry on even longer with the series by looking at some other end-of-the-world books from my collection, but to be honest I'm starting to lose interest in the theme, and we're reaching the last of the "new" – as in, fairly recently bought – books now, plus writing this post on Pat Frank's Alas Babylon made me realise there were still a handful of books by suspense novelist P. M. Hubbard I hadn't blogged about – to be joined hopefully by something very special indeed from Hubbard. So with the end of the month fast approaching, time to draw a line under the end of the world and move on to pastures new, I reckon. But there's still a couple of post-apocalyptic books to come, the first of those being:

A 1992 first edition/first impression of P. D. James's The Children of Men, published by Faber and Faber in 1992. This, like yesterday's copy of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was bought during the second week of my summer hols, in this case in Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road in London. It's not exactly hard to find first editions of The Children of Men – there are umpteen copies on AbeBooks, for example – but it's a novel I've wanted to get hold of for a while now, so it was a serendipitous find.

That said, I haven't read it yet; I've only seen Alfonso Cuarón's adjectiveless 2006 film adaptation, which I really like but which I gather is quite different to the novel (although according to Wikipedia P. D. James was pleased with the movie). This 2006 New York Times piece compares and contrasts the two versions, but one notable difference is that the book takes the form of, by turns, first-person diary entries by Theo Faron and third-person passages.

While The Children of Men isn't exactly an obscure work in P. D. James's canon, the author is much better known for her crime novels, especially those featuring Detective-Chief-Inspector Adam Dalgliesh. At least one of those, 1989's Devices and Desires (Faber), also boasts a dustjacket illustration by Irene von Treskow, who illustrated the jacket of The Children of Men, and who I've blogged about briefly before: one of her paintings appears on the 1988 Faber first of Michael Dibdin's debut Aurelio Zen outing Ratking. A former art director of advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi (and an Anglican priest), her work also graces the jackets of a couple of other non-Zen Dibdin books: The Dying of the Light (Faber, 1993) and Dirty Tricks (1991), the latter of which Olman reviewed in glowing fashion fairly recently.

Ephemera and paraphernalia have loomed large on Existential Ennui of late, and this copy of The Children of Men came with a clutch of cuttings included:

Contemporaneous reviews of the novel and interviews with James, clipped from local and national newspapers. In the internet age, a collection of clippings like this might strike one as being superfluous, but you'd be surprised how little newspapers have archived online, particularly contemporaneous book reviews dating from before the internet was widely available.

And with that, we've just one last post-apocalyptic novel to look at: an idiosyncratic, gloomy affair from 2006 which quickly became a celebrated, cultish classic, and consequently quite valuable in first. Before that though, a Violent World of Parker cross-post...

Thursday 27 October 2011

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: a 1980 BCA Edition, and How to Recognise the 1979 Arthur Barker True First Edition*

This run of post-apocalyptic posts has been a relentlessly gloomy affair thus far, but here's a book that proves the end of the world needn't necessarily be a downer:

Douglas Adams's The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy was first published in hardback in the UK by Arthur Barker (sometimes misspelt "Baker") in 1979. The copy above, however, isn't that edition: it's the BCA edition from the following year, which I bought for six quid in Kim's Bookshop in Chichester over the summer. Now, regular readers – yes, I'm looking at you two – might be aware of my general distaste for book club editions, but in this instance I'm perfectly happy with a BCA edition rather than a first edition. Reason being, the vast majority of the copies listed on AbeBooks as being the Arthur Barker first edition aren't the first edition either – or at least, not the true first. If we take a look at the back of the dustjacket on this BCA edition:

We can see it's a plain blue. That's also how the back cover appears on what's frequently described on AbeBooks, Amazon Marketplace and eBay as the first edition. But the back cover of the true first edition is different (as are the jacket flaps), which I can illustrate using a dustjacket I "found" online:

You'll notice there's a blurb on the back for Barker's 1979 hardback novelisation of Peter Hyams's 1978 movie Capricorn One, adapted by one Bernard L. Ross – better known as Ken Follett. That is how the jacket of the true first of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy should look; the copies with the blue back cover (and lacking a price on the front flap) are either book club editions or export editions, which, to my mind, shouldn't really be classed as first editions – and certainly shouldn't command the same prices as the much scarcer true first (around £400 to £600).

Anyway, that little lecture done with, enough of the boring bibliophiliacal balderdash. The method of mankind's demise this time out is, of course, the destruction of Earth in order to make way for a hyperspatial bypass, leaving a single human, Arthur Dent, to be spirited away in his pyjamas by his friend Ford Prefect. If you haven't read Adams's Hitch Hiker's novels – of which there are five in total, plus an additional, rather good 2009 continuation by Eoin Colfer – or seen the TV show, or heard the radio series, or seen the film... well, frankly, I'd be astonished. But I'd also recommend you do so immediately, as they rank among the funniest books (and TV shows, and radio series... maybe not films, though) ever written. The first two in particular – the second being 1980's The Restaurant at the End of the Universe – are utterly brilliant, stuffed with daft ideas, dreadful puns and memorable characters (Zaphod Beeblebrox, Marvin, the paranoid android). I read them (and saw the television series) years ago, and can still recall them vividly.

Let's press on to our penultimate post-apocalyptic post, which will be on a book by an author who, like H. R. F. Keating, is much better known as a crime novelist than as a writer of dystopian fiction...

* UPDATE 28/10/13: Except the true true first edition, according to the British Library Reference Team – commenting on Twitter regarding this Bleeding Cool post by Rich Johnston – is the 1979 Pan paperback edition. So there.

UPDATE 23/11/18: And I now own a copy of that true true first edition, having chanced upon a nice copy of the Pan paperback first printing outside a Lewes bookshop for a quid.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

A Long Walk to Wimbledon by H. R. F. Keating: First Edition (Macmillan, 1978)

Returning to the dystopian stories following a Violent World of Parker interlude, here's a largely overlooked book by an author who's rather better known as a crime fiction writer:

H. R. F. Keating's A Long Walk to Wimbledon was first published in the UK by Macmillan in 1978, under a dustjacket sporting a front cover painting by Paul Wright – who, I think, is the noted maritime painter Paul Wright, whose pictures also appear on Patrick O'Brian's book covers (among others). Set in the near-future – or I suppose the past now, since the novel's over twenty years old – in a London devastated by riots, looting, fires and artillery battles (yep, sounds like the London I know... and left three-and-a-half years ago) and largely deserted save for marauding gangs and crazed individuals (now it sounds like Penge...), the book charts the progress of Mark, who is forced to leave the comparative safety of Highgate (plus ça change...) in north London in order to trek across the city on foot to Wimbledon in the south west to see his dying, estranged wife.

Keating, who died in March of this year, is much better known as a crime novelist than as a chronicler of post-apocalyptic London; his Inspector Ghote mysteries in particular earned him a loyal following. But A Long Walk to Wimbledon was identified by Julian Symons as perhaps Keating's best book, while fellow crime writer Mike Ripley – who left a comment on the second part of my interview with spy novelist Anthony Price in August – wrote about the novel in his Shots column shortly after Keating's death, calling it "a remarkable feat of imaginative writing, all the more impressive for its downbeat and un-sensational approach to the urban apocalypse which has simply crept up and destroyed London in a frighteningly ordinary way – no alien invasions, no bubonic plague, no zombies." Ripley also reports that at Keating's funeral P. D. James – who'll be featuring in this series of posts very soon – also highlighted A Long Walk to Wimbledon, again noting its "breathtaking imagination".

For a while A Long Walk to Wimbledon was uncommon in first, but it's in plentiful supply at the moment: AbeBooks currently has twenty copies of the Macmillan edition for sale, mostly around £15–£30 mark, although there is one on there right now for £6 (remarkably, I found one for even less than that). I've yet to read the novel, but by the sounds of it, it should be a good one.

Moving on, and whereas the apocalypse in A Long Walk to Wimbledon seems to have taken place in a gradual, creeping manner, the one in our next novel is very sudden and very final. Or is it...?

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Point Blank! by Richard Stark: the 1967 Fawcett Gold Medal Paperback Edition (Slight Return)

(NB: a version of this post also appears on The Violent World of Parker blog.)

Interrupting the ongoing post-apocalyptic posts, just a (not so) brief follow-up to my examination of the 1967 Fawcett Gold Medal edition of Richard Stark's debut Parker crime novel, Point Blank! (retitled from The Hunter, originally 1962). If you've seen the comments on the version of that post on The Violent World of Parker, you'll know that TVWoP regular Jeffrey Goodman mentioned he had in his possession a piece of paraphernalia related to the Gold Medal edition, which he kindly agreed I could reproduce:

It's a very scarce, highly prized (by collectors; Jeffrey reports that a vintage paperback dealer offered him "quite a bit of money for that piece of paper"), original Gold Medal review slip, which Jeffrey found inserted in his copy of the book, and for me it sheds light on a number of issues surrounding both that edition and the wider publishing strategy of Gold Medal...

The bits of ephemera you sometimes find in secondhand books are always fascinating to me, and publicity info and press releases especially so – partly because I work in book publishing myself, but also because they afford a glimpse into an aspect of publishing which is largely invisible to the general public: marketing. How a book is marketed and sold in to the trade directly affects how it's perceived by booksellers and, in turn, readers. The Point Blank! review slip tells us a few things. For one, it confirms that this edition was, despite what the likes of AbeBooks would have you believe, published in 1967 (you'll recall from that previous post that there's no pub date inside the book, merely a 1962 copyright date). For another, it demonstrates that Gold Medal were very definitely marketing the novel as a tie-in to John Boorman's 1967 movie adaptation, despite not featuring any images from the film on the (Robert McGinnis-illustrated) cover.

Finally, it shows how publishers are perfectly happy to muddy the waters as regards the running order of a series if it suits their purposes. The review slip states: "In POINT BLANK! Parker, the cool and successful thief of THE RARE COIN SCORE, becomes a determined and deadly police force of one and shakes down an entire continent as the hunted turns hunter." That subtly suggests that Point Blank!/The Hunter is a sequel to The Rare Coin Score, whereas, in fact, it's the first novel in the series. As if to emphasize this, there's no mention of any of the other seven Parker novels that had been published by this point – and even inside Point Blank! itself, the only other Parker novels listed are The Rare Coin Score (Parker #9, 1967) and The Green Eagle Score (Parker #10, also 1967):

Of course, Gold Medal only picked up the rights to the series with The Rare Coin Score – previously the Parkers had been published by Pocket Books – so it's understandable that they only wanted to promote their editions. But it's no wonder that with the lack of information about the Parker series, and the retitling of a couple of the novels, the correct running order of the Parkers was, for many years, especially in the pre-internet era, a matter of some confusion.

That's something I'll be returning to in my next Violent World of Parker cross-post (which, I warn you now, will be horrifyingly nerdy – even moreso than this one – and consequently highly tedious and trying). Because when I saw this review slip, I suddenly made a connection that in turn answered a question I had about the British editions of the Parker novels around this period. On reflection that answer was blindingly obvious, but, well: I've never been the sharpest tool in the box... Look out for that later this week, but next here on Existential Ennui, it's back to the dystopian fiction...

Monday 24 October 2011

Only Lovers Left Alive (Pan, 1966, Pat Owen Cover Art), the Unfilmed Rolling Stones / Nicholas Ray Movie, the Mystery of Author Dave Wallis, and The Long Blondes Live

Much as I did with this post on the first edition of Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon and its subsequent post on the Pan paperback of that novel, next in this series on post-apocalyptic books I'm following up this post on the 1964 Anthony Blond first edition of Dave Wallis's Only Lovers Left Alive... with this:

The 1966 Pan Books paperback edition. Bit of an impulse purchase this one; I realised whilst researching the previous Dave Wallis post that the Pan paperback of Only Lovers Left Alive was just as scarce as the Pan edition of Alas, Babylon – possibly even scarcer. There are currently no copies of the Pan paperback of Only Lovers Left Alive for sale on AbeBooks (I bought the only one – sorry) and only two copies on Amazon Marketplace, neither of which look to be in great condition (and they'd set you back at least fifteen quid plus postage anyway).

I had a few reasons for buying this Pan edition. For one thing, I saw its cover online and was intrigued by its similarity to the cover of the Blond first edition. The artist on the paperback is Pat Owen, a Pan mainstay who created covers for various James Bond novels, among others. His Only Lovers Left Alive cover doesn't copy Bruce Fleming's reportage-style dustjacket photo on the Blond first edition, but it clearly draws inspiration from it:

Similar sort of pose for the feral youth in the foreground, similar submachine gun, and the clobber worn by the figures in the background is comparable, too – not to mention the typography, which, on the Pan cover, omits the heart in place of the "o" in "Lovers" in the original and is a little more angular, but is otherwise identical.

Mind you, it's not uncommon for paperback cover artists to draw inspiration from a hardback – or indeed vice versa:

That's the 1960 US Gold Medal paperback of Peter Rabe's My Lovely Executioner and the 1967 UK Herbert Jenkins hardback there. As for my other reasons for acquiring the Pan edition of Only Lovers Left Alive, well, I had a bit more I wanted to write about the novel and its author, but rather than throw it all into one unwieldy post, securing the Pan paperback afforded me the opportunity to pen a follow-up piece (er, the one wot you are reading right now, in case you were wondering). And one thing worth illuminating is that, in the mid-1960s, The Rolling Stones had plans to film the novel.

In 1964 The Beatles starred in their debut celluloid outing, A Hard Day's Night, and naturally the Stones wished to follow suit. According to Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones' manager, at first he and the band attempted to secure the rights to Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, but Burgess had already sold the rights to Stanley Kubrick. Evidently keen to star in something of a dystopian bent, Oldham and the Stones settled instead on "a second best novel" – Only Lovers Left Alive. There were persistent stories in the press in 1966 that the movie was underway, and that Nicholas Ray was attached to direct, but according to film historian David Kalat in his 2001 book The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse, although Ray apparently got as far as writing a script, in the end he "was unable to find financial backing, and the Rolling Stones stars lacked confidence in Ray, and the whole matter dissolved".

Had Jagger, Ray et al managed to film Only Lovers Left Alive, it's safe to say the novel would have become rather more than a mere post-apocalyptic footnote – it would probably still be in print for one thing – but instead Mick Jagger wound up starring in one of the most iconic films of the 1960s, co-directed by a differently spelled Nicolas – Performance (1968) – and the movie version of Only Lovers Left Alive was forever consigned to "best films never made" lists.

Certainly if the movie had been made, the profile of Only Lovers Left Alive's author, Dave Wallis, would have been elevated. Nobody seems to know much about Wallis, nor indeed what became of him. He had one further novel published after Only Lovers Left AliveBad Luck Girl, by Macmillan in 1971 – and another two earlier in his career: Tram-Stop by the Nile (Heinemann, 1958) and Paved with Gold (Heinemann, 1959). This thread enquiring after his whereabouts suggests that he was possibly a schoolteacher in north London, and also mentions that there's a bit of biographical detail in others of his books (there's nothing about him in either the Blond or the Pan editions of Only Lovers Left Alive). Unfortunately, not having access to those books, I can't shed any light there. If Wallis was, as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction maintains, born in 1917, it's doubtful he's still with us, but if anyone chances upon this post and has any further information – not a completely unknown occurrence here on Existential Ennui – please do leave a comment.

UPDATE 3/6/13: Steve Holland has since put together a thorough biog of the – as it turns out – late Dave Wallis over at Bear Alley.

One last note before we move on: when I saw the Anthony Blond first edition of Only Lovers Left Alive in the British Library's "Out of this World" exhibition over the summer – a visit which in turn inspired this current run of post-apocalyptic posts – I was struck by how familiar its title was. It was only later I realised that was because it's also the title of one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands – the late, lamented Long Blondes. So here, as a special treat, are The Long Blondes – featuring the divine Ms. Kate Jackson – performing "Only Lovers Left Alive":

Next up in this dystopian series, a 1978 novel by an author who sadly died earlier this year, and who is rather better known as a crime writer. Ahead of that, though: a Violent World of Parker cross-post...