Monday 21 May 2012

The Phoenix Sings by Desmond Cory (Corgi Paperback, 1956)

Having added a couple more Desmond Cory dustjackets to my Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s page (alongside eight other new additions, bringing the total up to fifty), I figured it was about time I returned to Mr. Cory and his Johnny Fedora spy novels, chiefly because I've tracked down some more hard-to-find Fedora first editions, which I'll be showcasing later in the week. Before we get to those, though, let's take a look at a non-Fedora novel:

This is the Corgi paperback edition of The Phoenix Sings (cover art uncredited), published in the UK in 1956, a year after the Frederick Muller hardback. A standalone work, it's the first-person account of Adam Vane, a down-on-his-luck former British intelligence operative in Antwerp, who is recruited by a shady associate to smuggle diamonds to Amsterdam, consequently finding himself caught up in a deadly game of espionage. The official Desmond Cory Website has a little more about the novel here, including the fact that it was turned into a movie, Mark of the Phoenix, in 1958, directed by Maclean Rogers.

I spotted this copy on eBay and managed to nab it for £1.20 (plus postage, obviously, which took the total up to a staggering £2.35), which was quite the bargain, not least because The Phoenix Sings is virtually impossible to find in any edition; there is currently one copy of the Muller hardback on AbeBooks, but it's lacking a dustjacket, and there are no copies for sale whatsoever on Amazon Marketplace. See, as I mentioned in my initial Desmond Cory post in January, although Cory's novels are slowly being turned into ebooks, physical copies of many of his books are in decidedly short supply – with the honourable exception of the later Johnny Fedora novel Undertow, which is available as a print-on-demand paperback (and ebook) courtesy of Mike Ripley's Top Notch Thrillers imprint.

Certainly the next Desmond Cory novel I'll be showcasing – a very early Johnny Fedora first edition, one of three Fedora firsts I'll be blogging about in quick succession – is extremely uncommon, so much so that I had to go all the way (electronically speaking) to New Zealand to secure a copy...


  1. I think i managed to get the last Hardback version with cover when i purchased it about 7 weeks ago. Nice cover typical of the 50s book cover art you are covering. The plot centres around a special metal whose properties include radioactive protective qualities. Very typical when the book was written with the Communists and the West competing to get it. The book reminder me of The 39 Steps with Adam Vane at the cenre of things with all chasing him. i could imagine the book being made info a film screenplay if modernised a little; perhaps the metal could be undetectable by normal metal detectors making airport security checks vunerable. Cory's plots seem to stand the age of time with a little imagination

  2. Thanks for the additional insight into The Phoenix Sings! I certainly don't begrudge you your Muller first edition – my paperback'll do me fine – but if you'd be willing to take a picture of the jacket or scan it, I'd love to add it to the Beautiful British Book Jacket gallery. Drop me a line on if so.