Monday 1 October 2012

Denis McLoughlin Designs: The Doom-Maker by B. X. Sanborn, alias Bill S. Ballinger (T. V. Boardman Bloodhound Mystery #278, 1959)

There are still two posts to come in the Great Tom Ripley Reread, but to mix things up a bit, and to give me a chance to finish rereading the final two Ripley novels; and since the Existential Ennui Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s page has been stuck at 90 covers for nearly a month; and seeing as I reviewed The Art of Denis McLoughlin last week, I thought I'd showcase some of the T. V. Boardman crime and spy first editions sporting Denis McLoughlin wrappers I've acquired over the past month or so, peppering them in amongst the final two Ripley posts and thus nudging the total number of dust jackets in the Beautiful British Book Jacket gallery a bit closer to the magic 100. And by Christ that was a ridiculously long sentence with which to begin a blog post. So let's get straight to the first of the books in question while there are still a few readers left:

The Doom-Maker by B. X. Sanborn, published in hardback in the UK by T. V. Boardman in 1958, and #278 in Boardman's Bloodhound Mystery series. This copy came from noted book dealer and all round good egg Jamie Sturgeon, who brought it and a couple of the other Boardmans I'll be blogging about along to the last Lewes Book Fair especially for me (along with those signed Colin Forbes books) after I'd browsed through his Boardmans via a selection of photos Jamie emailed to me. I was on the hunt for espionage novels for the most part, of which Boardman published a small quantity in amongst their standard mystery and suspense fare, but The Doom-Maker caught my eye, chiefly because of its terrific dust jacket, which is a fine example of the kind of duo-tone, high contrast cover Denis McLoughlin was creating for Boardman in the late-1950s and 1960s, but also because the title and author intrigued me.

Turns out B. X. Sanborn is a pseudonym of Bill S. Ballinger, a screenwriter and novelist who penned scripts for Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Ironside and published around twenty-five crime and spy thrillers from 1948–1975. All of those novels appear to have fallen out of print, but there's a great website dedicated to Ballinger, boasting a detailed biography and bibliography. The Doom-Maker – which was retitled The Blonde on Borrowed Time for its 1960 US Zenith paperback printing – is narrated by John Perseus, an artist living in a Greenwich Village boarding house who meets the "extraordinary and sinister" Marcolf, a man who "claimed the power of prophecy", shortly after which "death struck three times in the boarding house". As is often the case with the Boardman books one encounters, this copy is ex-library, but since it came a from a public library in south Croydon, not far from where I grew up, I don't mind that at all.

I shan't bang on about the brilliance of Denis McLoughlin again; you can read all about him in that Art of Denis McLoughlin post. Interestingly, however, on this particular wrapper he seems to have been influenced by the dust jacket of the American E. P. Dutton edition (also published in 1959) – or possibly vice versa; I haven't been able to determine which cover artist saw which artist's cover first. Either way, evidently one of them did; the two jackets are just too similar for it to have been happenstance:

For me, McLoughlin's is the superior effort: I love the appropriately jagged typography; the subtle highlights on Marcolf's face, the hint of devilish horns in his hair and the way he occupies almost half the cover, making him more imposing; and the two planes of the cityscape in the background, which speak to McLoughlin's background as a cartoonist. But I'd be intrigued to learn if McLoughlin did indeed take inspiration from the US cover – or if the reverse is true. (Update, 2/10/12: Jamie Sturgeon just told me that the Dutton edition was published in March 1959 while the Boardman edition was published in October, which suggests that it was McLoughlin who was the one who was influenced.) 

The Doom-Maker has now joined the other McLoughlin covers in the Beautiful British Book Jacket Design gallery – and it'll be followed in fairly swift succession by another striking restricted palette McLoughlin dust jacket, this one wrapping a 1960 spy thriller...

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