Tuesday 24 September 2013

Barbara and Eileen Walton Book Covers for Berkely Mather, Ross Macdonald, Michael Gilbert, Brian Cleeve and Ian Mackintosh

As the Existential Ennui Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s gallery has expanded – as of this post it stands at 119 wrappers – the dearth of female dust jacket designers represented therein has become ever more noticeable, at least to me. (That there's a dearth of female authors too is a whole other kettle of fish, and one best dealt with another time.) Whether or not there were fewer women than men designing dust jackets back then I couldn't say – my sense, based on the books in my collection, is that there probably were – but even so, it's certainly the case that there were a good many talented female jacket designers working during that golden age, and two of the most prolific, distinctive and, to my mind, best, were sisters Barbara and Eileen Walton.

I became aware of the Waltons courtesy of book dealer Jamie Sturgeon, who has been collecting examples of their work for years; his Barbara Walton Flickr stream can be found here, and his Eileen Walton one here. Little is known about the sisters beyond the covers they designed – paperbacks as well as dust wrappers – and the years they were in operation; Steve Holland at Bear Alley collated what scant information he could find back in 2011, and all I can add to that is that Eileen did some illustrations for Woman's Own and some advertising work in the 1950s (see here, here and here for examples).

I only own five books sporting Walton-designed dust jackets myself – one by Eileen, four by Barbara – but they're all terrific, and all deserving of a place in Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s. And since the only one of them I've posted thus far is Barbara's jacket for Ross Macdonald's The Zebra-Striped Hearse, I thought I'd gather them all together in a mini-gallery to mark their entry onto the Beautiful British Book Jacket Design page. To wit: 

The Pass Beyond Kashmir by Berkely Mather, published by Collins in 1960, dust jacket design by Barbara Walton. Mather – a pseudonym of John Evan Weston Davies – is fairly well regarded in spy fiction circles, and this is his second novel, although the first in his Idwal Rees series. It was reissued by Mike Ripley's Top Notch Thrillers last year, and reviewed at that time by John at Pretty Sinister Books. I have every intention of returning to Mather at some point, although given that I first teased a Mather appearance two years ago, who the hell knows when that will be. 

The Zebra-Striped Hearse by Ross Macdonald, published by Collins in 1963, dust jacket design again by Barbara Walton. I covered this one last week, so let's move swiftly on to:

After the Fine Weather by Michael Gilbert, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1963, dust jacket design this time by Eileen Walton. The similarity of style with sister Barbara is self-evident, although it is, I think, still possible to tell the two apart (most of the time). Gilbert I blogged about quite recently and plan to return to before too long – possibly with this very novel.

Back to Barbara with this one, the 1964 Collins first of Brian Cleeve's Vote X for Treason, although her work is marred somewhat by the Boots Library sticker (I'm too scared to peel it off having damaged other covers during previous such rescue attempts). Vote X for Treason is the first entry in Cleeve's Sean Ryan spy series, and Cleeve is another author I'll be returning to (same caveat as Berkely Mather applies; I first teased a Cleeve appearance over a year ago) – as is the writer of this final book:

Count Not the Cost by Ian Mackintosh, published by Robert Hale in 1967, dust jacket design again by Barbara Walton. This is an ex-library copy – from the City of London Police Library, no less:

But all five of the novels Mackintosh wrote from 1966 to 1970 (not including a later novelisation) are so scarce, any copy is to be treasured. As to why they're so scarce, that's the combined consequence of each of them only ever having one printing and the level of interest in Mackintosh, a cult figure best known for his TV work – he created and wrote the BBC TV series Warship and the ITV espionage series The Sandbaggers – and for the fact that he disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1979. All of which, I feel is definitely worthy of further investigation – and it so happens I'll shortly have the means to do just that.

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