Thursday 21 June 2012

The Damsel by Richard Stark (alias Donald E. Westlake); Alan Grofield #1, 1968 Hodder & Stoughton First Edition, Michael Dempsey Cover Design

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

Having showcased two never-before-seen Hodder & Stoughton British hardback first editions of Donald E. "Richard Stark" Westlake's Alan Grofield-starring Parker spin-off novels – The Dame (1969, Grofield #2) and The Blackbird (1970, Grofield #3) – it seems only fair I should shine the spotlight on the other Richard Stark novel Hodder published in hardback: the debut Grofield solo outing, The Damsel.

Published by Hodder in the UK in 1968 – the year after the US Macmillan edition – The Damsel is almost as uncommon in British first edition as The Dame and The Blackbird: at present AbeBooks has just three copies listed, one lacking a dust jacket.

That jacket was designed by Michael Dempsey, and is quite different to the jackets of the other two books:

Dempsey was very active in British publishing in the late-1960s and throughout the 1970s: he was art director at both Heinemann and Fontana/Collins, and in 1978 set up Carroll & Dempsey with freelance designer Ken Carroll. You can read Mike's own account of the history of Carroll & Dempsey on his excellent Graphic Journey blog, along with all manner of other fascinating posts on design matters; Mike's recent, righteous tirade against a Raymond Hawkey rip-off cover caught my eye, but the blog has been going for four years now, and is absolutely stuffed with wonderful reminiscences drawn from across Dempsey's near-fifty year career.

Certainly Dempsey's dust jacket for The Damsel is elegant enough, I feel, to join the Existential Ennui Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s gallery, where it has now taken its rightful place alongside his cover for the Heinemann edition of Patricia Highsmith's A Tremor of Forgery; and though they're not quite as refined – and I'm not sure they could be convincingly described as "beautiful", either – I've also added Craig Dodd's dust jacket for The Dame and Graphics Partners' one for The Blackbird – even though The Blackbird dates from 1970. What the hell: any excuse to include more Westlake books, I say.

And there'll hopefully be a couple more jackets from Westlake books joining the gallery before too long – one gracing a book I've already blogged about as a Westlake Score, but will be reviewing shortly; the other wrapping a brand new Westlake Score. Keep 'em peeled for those.

Next on Existential Ennui though, and with the summer blockbuster season in full swing: a series of posts on books which begat perhaps more famous films...

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Westlake Score: The Blackbird by Richard Stark (alias Donald E. Westlake); Alan Grofield #3, 1970 Hodder & Stoughton First Edition

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

On to the second of two exclusive, never-before-seen-online Westlake Scores; and as with yesterday's Score – a 1969 British Hodder & Stoughton first edition of Donald E. "Richard Stark" Westlake's second Alan Grofield novel, The Dame – today's offering is also a Grofield book, and again boasts a particular provenance...

First published in hardback in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton in 1970 – the year after the US Macmillan edition – The Blackbird is the third of Westlake/Stark's Grofield-starring Parker spin-off novels, and is, of course, of particular interest to Parker completists due to the fact that it shares its opening chapter with Slayground, the fourteenth Parker novel. The Hodder edition of The Blackbird is just as scarce as the Hodder edition of The Dame: there's currently only one copy on AbeBooks, offered by an Australian seller, although it is, at least, priced slightly more attractively than the lone (ex-library) copy of The Dame.

I acquired this copy of The Blackbird from the same dealer as The Dame, and again it's Hodder & Stoughton's file copy:

But although its dust jacket design evidently takes as its inspiration Craig Dodd's design for The Dame:

It's actually credited to Graphics Partners, about whom I know virtually nothing, other than they also designed the wrapper for Sheila MacLeod's The Snow White Soliloquies. Whoever they were/are, however, by splitting the "Blackbird" in the title in two, they've made Westlake's pun rather blunter. Mind you, the later Foul Play Press paperback committed the same sin, but at least there they had the excuse that the design style they'd established for their covers meant they couldn't fit the "Blackbird" on one line.

Comparing the 1969 US Macmillan edition of The Blackbird to the Hodder edition, I think in this instance, unlike with The Dame, the British cover wins it. Jack Wolf's wrapper for the Macmillan Blackbird always struck me as a little ugly, although as my copy of that Macmillan edition is signed, I shan't be divesting myself of it anytime soon.

I mentioned in the previous post that Hodder & Stoughton published three out of the four Grofield novels in hardback in the UK. I've shown you two of them, but I also own the other one as well, and it strikes me that I've never really showcased it properly (aside from the odd shoddily photographed guest appearance). So, to complete the set, I thought we could take a look at it in the next post...

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Westlake Score: The Dame by Richard Stark (alias Donald E. Westlake); Alan Grofield #2, 1969 Hodder & Stoughton First Edition, Craig Dodd Cover Art

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

This week, as promised, I've a pair of very special Westlake Scores for you. Both of the books in question are incredibly scarce British first editions of Richard Stark novels; both boast strikingly psychedelic dust jacket artwork; and neither one, to my knowledge, has ever been seen online before, making them Existential Ennui/Violent World of Parker exclusives. Moreover, they're not just any first editions; they're first editions with a very particular provenance... And the first of them... is this:

A UK hardback first edition hardback of The Dame, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1969. It is, of course, the second of Donald E. "Richard Stark" Westlake's four pseudonymous Parker spin-off novels starring actor-turned-thief Alan Grofield, and was originally published in the States by the Macmillan Company in the same year as the British edition.

Copies of the Hodder first are very hard to come by – AbeBooks, for example, currently has just one listed, an ex-library copy going for £120 – which is why when I trailed this post last week, I mentioned that we might all be in for a disappointment as regards the dust jacket. Reason being, I hadn't seen the cover when I bought this copy (for rather less than £120, I hasten to add), and so didn't know if Hodder had simply taken the US jacket artwork. Turns out they didn't, instead assigning the cover to Craig Dodd, who also designed the wrappers of the 1979 Jonathan Cape first edition of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff and, less appealingly, the 1980 Hamish Hamilton first of Isabel Colegate's The Shooting Party.

It's interesting to compare Dodd's cover design to Muni Leiblein's artwork for the US Macmillan edition of The Dame. Both opt for a dame – naturally – holding a pistol, but whereas Leiblein's broad is sketched in pencil and has the book's title emblazoned across her dress (shades of Michael Gillette's much later covers for the 2008 Penguin editions of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels there), Dodd's dame is composed of heavy black lines, her swimsuit picked out by the reversing of the orange and red concentric strips. Of the two, I think I still prefer Leiblein's cover, but I do like Dodd's jacket, especially the psychedelic font used for the author name and title – echoed in the strange gun in the girl's hand – and that red-and-orange target.

My copy of the Hodder first of The Dame is in lovely condition, seemingly unread – probably because it almost certainly never has been. You see, it's not just any run-of-the-mill first edition – if one can use a phrase like "run-of-the-mill" in reference to such a scarce book; it is, in fact, the publisher's file copy, as evidenced by the stamps on the front endpaper:

and the title page:

Making it a one-of-a-kind item.

Hodder & Stoughton were Westlake's primary British publisher around this late-1960s/early-1970s period, but while they published many of the novels Westlake wrote under his own name as hardbacks, his Richard Stark novels, at least the Parker ones, were all initially issued as paperbacks – with the exception of the three Parkers that Gold Lion picked up (Allison & Busby later issued most of the Parkers as hardbacks in the UK, but that's another story entirely). The Grofield novels were a different matter, however: Hodder published three out of the four as hardbacks – including the next book I'll be blogging about, which again has never been seen online before...