Wednesday 13 June 2012

Westlake Score: The Split by Richard Stark (Gold Medal, 1968); Robert McGinnis Cover Art

NB: A version of this post also appears on The Violent World of Parker blog.

After a run of Patricia Highsmith posts, it's time for a Westlake Score – and further evidence, as if any were needed, of the madness which consumes me. Because despite already owning three different editions of the seventh Richard Stark Parker novel – both under its original title of The Seventh (the 1966 US Pocket Books paperback first edition) and its later title of The Split (a 1969 UK Hodder movie tie-in paperback, and a 1985 UK Allison & Busby hardback) – I've now acquired a fourth edition on eBay:

A 1968 US Gold Medal paperback printing. Really, I can offer little in the way of defence here. I mean, The Seventh/The Split is one of my favourite Parkers, and this edition does boast Robert McGinnis cover art (featuring Parker modelling a fetching roll-neck), and furthermore copies of the Gold Medal paperback aren't easy to come by here in Britain; but even given all that, I'm still not sure I can justify this purchase – except that it does give me an opportunity to point out that, as with the 1967 Gold Medal edition of Point Blank, which is often mistakenly credited as being published in 1962 due to the appearance of a "Copyright © 1962" line in the indicia, the Gold Medal paperback of The Split – which, again like Point Blank, was retitled in order to tie in to its then-forthcoming movie adaptation – often suffers a similar fate; just take a look at the listings on AbeBooks, half of which are currently incorrect. Reason for that being the same as for Point Blank

The only indication of pub date is the copyright line from the original publication.

...Yeah, I'm clutching at straws for justification even there, aren't I?

No matter. At least this post gives us another opportunity to gaze at that great McGinnis cover art. And next week I should have a pair of much more interesting Westlake Scores, neither of which, to my knowledge, have ever been shown online before, making them Violent World of Parker/Existential Ennui exclusives. Mind you, I haven't seen the covers of either of the books yet (they're currently en route), so we could all be in for a crushing disappointment if they turn out to be the same as the American editions...

Next on Existential Ennui, though: it's the return of Anthony Price...


  1. I couldn't resist this one either--even though the one I got was far from mint--would have certainly paid less for a brand-new U. of Chicago edition (with the correct title). And I wouldn't be afraid to lend that one out, either.

    It's not McGinnis' best Parker cover art--and actually, the Parkers as a whole are far from the best examples of McGinnis cover art--but it's still McGinnis cover art. Gotta have it.

    And yes, the turtleneck looks ridiculous on Parker. Actually IS that Parker? Suppose it's the killer? He definitely strikes me as the turtleneck type. He wouldn't be holding a gun at this particular moment, but neither would Parker. Oh well, odds are it's meant to be Parker.

    No such possible confusion exists with the unfortunate Elly, my favorite by far of all Parker's short-term lady friends. Laconic and raven-haired--so unlike the chatty blondes Parker usually bedded down with. She deserved a more flattering portrayal than this, but of course they would have commissioned McGinnis to draw this particular scene, which calls for the lurid more than the lascivious. Pity.

  2. I reckon that's Parker, Chris; it's not the most Parker-like of McGinnis's Parkers – I picked my favourites of those in this post from 2010 – but it is, as you say, McGinnis.

    Isn't Elly skewered to the headboard of the bed in the book, rather than the bed itself? Maybe that would have been too gruesome for McGinnis to depict, even on a Gold Medal cover.

  3. I think it's more a matter of needing to avoid showing too much of the naughty bits. These books were on the revolving racks in pharmacies and such. I was probably a bit too young to notice them at the time (I remember plenty of later lurid paperbacks), but in the America I grew up in, public depictions of nudity were more of a problem than depicting the aftermath of violence. Sadly, this is still the case. :(

    I've often wondered about the process that went into creating these covers--McGinnis could hardly have read all of the books he did art for, so how specific were his instructions, and how much artistic freedom did he have? Even the best commercial art is still commercial art, so you have to figure he just did what they told him, much better than almost anyone else ever did.

    I still think his portrayal of Parker in "The Black Ice Score" is a self-portrait. Probably the art department at Gold Medal never even noticed. ;)

  4. Yeah, I did wonder if McGinnis had depicted Ellie upright, it would have been harder to drape her in those sheets. And yep, nudity is still more of a problem for Americans than violence – or at least is perceived as such by publishers. We've come up against that issue with some of the books we publish at Ilex: our US co-publishers are often more prudish than us. Not that our books are littered with nipples, of course. Ahem.

    I don't think I've ever seen a photo of McGinnis. Are there any online? Wouldn't surprise me if he did use himself as a model though – that's a common tactic with commercial (and non-commercial for that matter) artists.

  5. None from that era, but I found one more recent pic, and aged it backwards in my mind--

  6. I'm nostalgic now for all the old Parker's I got rid of after reading!

    I've still got the "newer" Parker's after his 20yr hiatus to get to, plus the Grofield's so I'll probably cope!

    They were some nice books though, that had a lot of character. I especially liked the Allison and Busby's and the few paperbacks I had that had like a bullet hole in the cover, with a stiff under cover beneath - can't remember the publisher for the life of me - memory isn't what it was!

  7. Chris: I see what you mean about McGinnis using his own likeness! Even with a few years under his belt, you can see his face in the face of Parker on some of those Gold Medals. Fascinating!

    Col: Ah, well if you search for Allison & Busby in the "Search Existential Ennui" box near the top of the right hand column, you'll be able to chart my crazed quest to collect the A&B editions of the Parkers. And if you search for Parker Coronet, you'll find a wealth of information about those Hodder/Coronet Parker paperbacks!

  8. You just don't know what to think--does this mean McGinnis was a Parker fan? I'm pretty sure he never based any of his 007 portraits on himself. ;)

    It's a very old tradition in art, of course--the artist putting himself in the picture.

    I wonder if Westlake and McGinnis ever communicated? They had more than Parker in common, I'd imagine.

  9. Interesting question. Probably not at the time I wouldn't have thought – McGinnis painted so many covers for Gold Medal, Avon, etc, that the Parker novels were more than likely just another assignment to him; but they might have met at some point. Anyone reading this who knows of the answer to that one, get in touch!

  10. No need to fret about acquiring a fourth copy of this book. In fact, the subtext of this novel clearly indicates you will need to obtain seven copies of this title.

  11. Hmm, well, the Gold Lion hardback's a little too rich for my blood, so I'd have to get a Gregg Press edition, an Avon paperback and a UCP printing to make it up to seven. My dedication to the cause, however, isn't strong enough to go to those lengths.

    By the way, received your package, so thanks for that, and the clippings!