Wednesday 12 December 2012

A Patricia Highsmith 1950s and '60s Corgi and Pan Paperback First Edition Cover Gallery

NB: see also the Existential Ennui Patricia Highsmith First Edition Book Cover Gallery.

With the science fiction segment of this run of posts on paperbacks done, it's back to the crime fiction, and a Patricia Highsmith paperback cover gallery, which I've assembled by way of an apology for the non-appearance of the next instalment in the Great Tom Ripley Reread. That series of posts, you might recall, stalled at the midway point of the Ripliad, Ripley's Game, back in September; I do still intend to finish off the Reread, but it'll have to wait till next year now. To tide us over, then, I thought I'd showcase the first five Highsmith novels to be published in paperback in the UK.

All of these British paperback first editions have appeared on Existential Ennui before, in various permutations, but they're worth showing off again, I feel, especially as I've rephotographed them all from previous appearances. Additionally, this time out I've included some bibliographic details: the unique Corgi or Pan number for each title, along with cover artist (if known), original UK publisher, and pub date. Enjoy.

Strangers on a Train, Corgi #905, 1952; originally published in hardback in the UK by The Cresset Press in 1950. Highsmith's debut novel, her abiding theme of two men becoming inexplicably and dangerously fascinated by one another is established right from the outset, as well as her fondness for chance and coincidence in her plotting. I've never been able to establish who the cover artist is on the Corgi paperback, but I can tell you it's an uncommon edition – certainly a lot scarcer than the Cresset Press or US Harper & Brothers first editions.

The Blunderer, Pan G153, 1958; originally published in hardback in the UK by The Cresset Press in 1956. The cover art here is by James E. McConnell, a selection of whose work can be found over at Pulp Covers. I'm not as keen on this, Highsmith's second novel (under her own name; as Claire Morgan she published The Price of Salt in 1952), as I am others of her works, but the game of cat and mouse between Walter Stackhouse and bookshop owner Kimmel does have its suspenseful moments. From here until Penguin picked up her softcover rights in the 1970s, Highsmith would be published in paperback in the UK by Pan, and the Pan editions of her next three books boast, to my mind, some of the best covers ever to grace her novels.

The Talented Mr. Ripley, Pan G397, 1960; originally published in hardback in the UK by The Cresset Press in 1957. David Tayler is the cover artist here, doing a terrific job of depicting Tom Ripley, Dickie Greenleaf and the fateful murder in the boat. As fellow Pan cover artists Sam Peffer and Pat Owen reveal in this interview, the Pan stable of artists always read the novels they were slated to illustrate the covers of, and were pretty much left to their own devices in choosing which scenes to depict.

Deep Water, Pan G435, 1961; originally published in hardback in the UK by Heinemann in 1958. A glorious cover painting by the aforementioned Sam Peffer for this, Highsmith's fourth novel under her own name – one of only a handful of Highsmiths from the 1950s and '60s I've yet to read. I really must rectify that soon.

A Game for the Living, Pan G548, 1962; originally published in hardback in the UK by Heinemann in 1959. Highsmith's fifth novel wasn't by any stretch the final Highsmith to be published in paperback by Pan, but it was the last to sport a fully painted cover, which again is by Sam Peffer. By this point, Pan covers were starting to become either more photographic in nature or more design-led; painted illustrations still appeared, but usually incorporated into an overall design, as on the next two Highsmiths that Pan published in paperback: This Sweet Sickness, which they issued in 1963, and The Cry of the Owl, in 1965. By the time of the Pan editions of The Glass Cell and A Suspension of Mercy in 1967, Highsmith's covers too had become photographic.

Even by the late 1960s, however, Sam Peffer was still painting the odd Pan cover, as I'll demonstrate in the next post, with a pair of John D. MacDonald paperbacks...


  1. Wow, these are spectacular. The photo of Highsmith is lovely too.

  2. You don't normally see photos of the authors so prominently featured on the covers of books in this genre, but of course most authors in this genre never looked that good. Or wrote so well, but that's hardly the point when it comes to promotion. ;)

  3. DEEP WATER is rather a good one, Nick. I count it and THE BLUNDERER among her best pre-Ripley books. That cover for DEEP WATER puts toshame the graphic intensive US 1st edition DJ design I posted a hiwle back on my blog.

    Highsmith was a looker in her youth. I think her bitterness and misanthropy began to show more and more in her face as she aged. She kind of just said to hell with everything...except her cats.

  4. Kelly, Chris: I think that's my favourite photo of Highsmith; I sang its praises in another post which I can't be arsed to look up now, but I believe the gist of it was: by God she was a fox back then. (I think I'm just about allowed to say that, given how many words I've expended on her brilliance as a writer.)

    John: I suspect I've been subconsciously saving Deep Water, as I had a feeling it was a good one. Bit of a weird thing to do... although maybe not that weird: I recall Book Glutton telling me there was a Ross Thomas novel he was saving for similar reasons. Wonder if he's read it yet...?

  5. I am still saving The Porkchoppers and Voodoo, LTD. Voodoo I have a bad feeling about but The Porkchoppers feels like it will be wonderful and a good way to finish reading Ross Thomas. Plus Olman always uses Porkchoppers as the standard by which he judges all Ross Thomas novels and it always compares favorably. Which means it must be really good.

  6. Aha. Well, I can't comment on Voodoo Ltd. – I haven't got there yet – but Porkchoppers is a good one. Out of the Thomases I've read – which is to say nowhere near as many as you – it certainly boasts some of his more memorable characters.

  7. Chris (another one)13 December 2012 at 16:55

    The Andrew Wilson biography has some topless photos of Highsmith, perfectly tasteful (they were taken by a chum of hers); she was very attractive. I've a vague memory of The Guardian using one of them when they reviewed the biography.

    Her latter days remind me vaguely of one of Simenon's intense loners. I don't know if she read Simenon, or vice versa.