Thursday 6 September 2012

Little Tales of Misogyny by Patricia Highsmith: Signed and Inscribed First Edition (Heinemann, 1977)

NB: Featured as one of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.

Let's return to the signed editions again (after a Richard Stark cover gallery) with a book which is among my most prized signed novels – up there with the signed US first edition of P. M. Hubbard's A Thirsty Evil (with its accompanying letter – and not forgetting that special copy of the UK first as well); the signed and inscribed (to Byrne Fone) UK first of Donald E. Westlake's debut novel, The Mercenaries; the signed and inscribed (to his friends) UK firsts of Gavin Lyall's Blame the Dead and Spy's Honour (and a signed Lyall letter, too); and those signed and inscribed (to me!) UK and US firsts of Anthony Price's The Labyrinth Makers, The Alamut Ambush and Our Man in Camelot. (Phew.) All of those books share in common personal inscriptions from their authors, an attribute that, to my mind, makes them more interesting, and therefore more special, than just a regular signed edition, and such is also the case with this book:

A British first edition of Patricia Highsmith's Little Tales of Misogyny, published by Heinemann in 1977. It's a collection of (very) short, amusing, dark and disturbing stories in which a procession of women meet sticky ends at the hands of of a variety of men and, indeed, themselves. It's all deliciously, delightfully evil, and Olman posted a pithy review of it a couple of years ago (and there's a longer one by Cory Pung here which is also worth a read).

I saw this particular copy on AbeBooks (having already bought the same edition previously in Much Ado Books in Alfriston a few years ago; I know, I know... there's a long and complicated story surrounding why I went looking for another copy – I was actually looking for signed Highsmith novels in general having been stiffed on eBay – but I shan't bore you with the details), and the listing caught my eye. It stated that there was an inscription inside the book, but it was a little uncertain if said inscription was by Patricia Highsmith or not. I asked a question or two of the seller, and then decided to take a punt, as it was only a fiver. Turns out that it was indeed inscribed by Highsmith, and also boasts a little drawing (demonstrating a smidgeon of the talent she must have at one time deployed as a comics creator):

The inscription reads:

"With New Year's greetings to Champak and Amrit from Pat – with love – 29 Dec. 1977 (sour reading – for sweet spirits)"

Who Champak and Amrit are/were I haven't been able to determine; I checked my copy of Andrew Wilson's 2003 biography of Highsmith, Beautiful Shadow, but to no avail, and I don't have Joan Schenkar's more recent biog; if anyone reading this does, and is willing to have a butcher's at its index, let me know if you have any luck.

Patricia Highsmith is, as I've stated more than once, one of my favourite authors – especially her five Tom Ripley novels (see here for a graph representing my appreciation of them) – so to own an evidently fondly inscribed (and illustrated!) book like this one is quite a thrill. There are roughly eighty or so signed Highsmith editions listed on AbeBooks, but many of those are the limited-to-250-copies editions produced by Otto Penzler's Mysterious Books in the late-1970s and 1980s – a 1986 American edition of Little Tales of Misogyny among them. Prior to that Highsmith did sign the odd book, but not too many, and this is the only non-Penzler signed copy of Little Tales of Misogyny I've seen. Not bad for five quid, then.

And I'll be staying with Highsmith for the next few posts, with some intriguing editions of a couple of the Ripley books I've come into possession of, and some thoughts thereon...

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Richard Stark's Parker Novels: UK Coronet First Editions (Plus Some Reprints), 1967–1970

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

Right then. There'll be another signed edition along soon enough, this one bearing a lovely personal inscription – and even a little drawing – from one of my favourite authors. But before we get to that, last week I posted a Westlake Score – a 1969 Hodder Fawcett/Coronet paperback of Donald "Richard Stark" Westlake's Parker novel The Sour Lemon Score – which, for me, completed a run of British first editions of the Parkers – i.e. those editions Coronet published in the UK in the late-1960s before switching to the "bullet hole" style of cover design. And since I now have all of those – plus a couple of reprints – I reckon it's time for a Parker/Coronet cover gallery.

I'm arranging the covers in order of original publication (a publication order which did, in fact, follow Coronet's American counterpart company Fawcett/Gold Medal's order), even though that means The Split breaks up the nice run of illustrated covers. Hey – don't blame me: blame Coronet; you can always grab the images and rearrange them to your heart's content. And by the way, a few of these covers haven't yet made it into the Violent World of Parker cover galleries, so this may be the first time some VWoP regulars have set eyes on them. Click on the covers to enlarge, and enjoy.

Point Blank, Coronet, 1967; original US publication 1962 (as The Hunter)
The Rare Coin Score, Coronet, 1968; original US publication 1967
The Green Eagle Score, Coronet, 1968; original US publication 1967
The Split, Coronet, 1969; original US publication 1966
The Black Ice Score, Coronet, 1969; original US publication 1968
The Sour Lemon Score, Coronet, 1969; original US publication 1969
Point Blank (second impression), Coronet, 1970
The Rare Coin Score (second impression), Coronet, 1970

Monday 3 September 2012

New Beautiful British Book Covers: Most Unnatural Murder by Fiona Sinclair; A Spy in the Hand by Henry Talbot; Death in the Lebanon by John Tyndall

Time, I think, for some more Beautiful British Book Jacket Design. The addition of Victor Reinganum's wrapper for John Wain's Nuncle and Other Stories to the BBBJD gallery on Friday brought the number of dust jackets on the page up to 87, which, let's face it, is no kind of number to leave the total at. So I've now added a further three jackets to take it up to 90 – getting ever closer to the magic 100 – all of which wrap books I bought on a visit to secondhand bookshop Dim and Distant in Heathfield, East Sussex, and all of which were created by designers already represented in the gallery. Let's take a look at 'em in order of publication, shall we?

Most Unnatural Murder by Fiona Sinclair, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1965. The dust jacket on this one was designed by Donald Green, and to my mind it's every bit as good as his distinctive wrappers for C. S. Forester's The General, Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon and P. M. Hubbard's The Tower. For her part, Sinclair is an overlooked but intriguing author: she wrote a series of crime novels starring Superintendent Paul Grainger and one or two standalone works – Most Unnatural Murder being one. Many of her books were published posthumously, Sinclair having died at a fairly young age in 1961; Most Unnatural Murder was apparently found among her papers after her death.


A Spy in the Hand by Henry Talbot, published by Robert Hale in 1966. There aren't many photographic covers in the Beautiful British Book Jackets gallery, but this one is worth including, I think, for a couple of reasons: it's nicely balanced – typographically simple but effective – and it was put together by a designer of whom I'm a great admirer and who's much better known for his illustrative covers: Val Biro. I was surprised when I saw Val's name listed as jacket designer on the front flap, but I've since discovered that he designed other photographic wrappers besides this one; David Schutte, Val's agent, thinks that possibly the photographs were supplied by the publisher and Val simply arranged the typography, but I must admit the other covers I've seen are quite similar, so I wonder if Val did in fact take the photos himself.

The author of this one, Henry Talbot, is even more obscure than Fiona Sinclair. There's very little information about him online and A Spy in the Hand is, I believe, his only novel under that name, but as Henry Talbot Rothwell and H. T. Rothwell he seems to have written a handful of other espionage thrillers for Hale in the mid- to late-1960s, including Exit a Spy (1966), Duet for Three Spies (1967) and No Honour Amongst Spies (1969). Of course, I might have got my wires crossed there, so do let me know if you happen have any further information on Talbot/Rothwell.


Death in the Lebanon by John Tyndall, published by Geoffrey Bles. Now, this one actually dates from 1971, which should, by all rights, put it beyond the remit of Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s. But its dust jacket was designed by Cecil Walter Bacon, who I wrote about in this post on P. M. Hubbard's Cold Waters, and whose work, I'd suggest, owes more to the approach to dust jacket design in the '50s and '60s than it does to that of the '70s. Plus Bacon's wrapper for Death in the Lebanon is a splendid piece of design and illustration, and it's my gallery and I'll include it if I want to, so ner.

As for the author of Death in the Lebanon, John Tyndall, again there's practically nothing about him online. He seems to have written just two novels – this one and Death in the Jordan (1970), which also stars the lead of Death in the Lebanon, detective Roger Turnbull. However, there is quite a famous John Tydnall – the onetime leader of the National Front and founder of the British National Party – and on his Wikipedia page Death in the Lebanon is listed as one of his published works. Of course, Wikipedia isn't always the most reliable of resources, so that could just be a mistake – and as commenter C points out below, it seems fairly unlikely. But if anyone can confirm or deny one way or the other, do please drop me a line or leave a comment.

Anyway, I'm aiming to get the Beautiful British Book Jacket gallery up to 100 covers over the course of the next month or so, so stay tuned for further additions. But I've some book covers of a different order lined up for the next post: a gallery of the British paperback first edition covers for Donald "Richard Stark" Westlake's Parker crime novels in the late-1960s...