Friday 8 November 2013

Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer in Black Money and The Underground Man: British First Editions (Collins, 1966 / 1971)

As is her occasional wont, Patti Nase Abbott is running another of her author-specific Friday's Forgotten Books round-ups today, the author this time being Ross Macdonald. The previous recipient of this honour was Patricia Highsmith, and for that Friday's Forgotten Books – in September – I managed not only a review of Deep Water (and an accompanying prolix account of how I came into possession of a first edition of that novel) but a Highsmith shelf porn post and a Patricia Highsmith First Edition Book Cover Gallery too. By comparison, my contribution to the Ross Macdonald round-up is paltry: I haven't had a chance to read any Macdonald so you won't be getting a review, so all I can proffer is a pair of recently bought British first editions, both of them late-ish instalments in Macdonald's eighteen-novel Lew Archer private eye series, both impulse online purchases (they were cheap, basically) and both sporting striking restricted-palette dust jacket designs. Like this one:

The sadly uncredited jacket wrapping the 1966 Collins edition of Black Money, the thirteenth Lew Archer novel. Quite an uncommon edition this one – there are just four copies available on AbeBooks at present – which is partly what prompted me to acquire this copy from Brighton book dealer Alan White – that and that it's reportedly one of the better novels in the series, a "watershed", according to Thrilling Detective, "modelled on (or a homage to) Macdonald's favourite book, The Great Gatsby".

Perhaps more acclaimed, though, is this:

The Underground Man, the sixteenth Archer novel, seen here in its – not especially uncommon, which is why I managed to nab this copy for a few quid – 1971 Collins edition, with a dust jacket designed by the unfortunately named Roy Belcher. Frequently pinpointed as one of, if not the, best Lew Archer novels – see, for example, Malcolm Forbes' Daily Beast review, or Prof. William Marling's article – it was reviewed on publication by the author Eudora Welty, whose laudatory front-page New York Times Review piece (excerpted here) helped break Macdonald into the mainstream, turning The Underground Man, according to Robert L. Gale in A Ross Macdonald Companion, into "Macdonald's biggest bestseller".

In keeping with the general drift of book cover design from the mid-1960s on, post-Black Money the dust jackets of the Collins editions of four of the five remaining Lew Archer novels – The Instant Enemy (1968), The Goodbye Look (1969), Sleeping Beauty (1973) and The Blue Hammer (1976) – were photographic in nature – the exception being The Underground Man, the wrapper of which is very much of a piece with that of Black Money: an arresting, simplified design using bold blocks of colour. But as the two books fall either side of the dividing line between my two galleries – Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s and the recently established British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s – I've added Black Money to the former (under "Designer Unknown" down the bottom) and The Underground Man to the latter, thus illustrating the point I made in the introduction to British Thriller Book Cover Design that the division between design styles of particular eras isn't as clear cut as one might suppose.

I guess those four Collins editions with the photographic covers would have been a better fit for British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s than The Underground Man, but I don't own any of them (my Ross Macdonald collection is highly selective, comprising just a handful of books). I do, however, own this:

The 1971 second impression of the 1966 Fontana paperback edition of the debut Lew Archer novel, The Moving Target, which I bought over three years ago in Kim's Bookshop in Arundel. Fontana – Collins' paperback imprint – introduced this style of photographic cover design across their range of Macdonald titles in the early '70s, all variations on the same titillating theme of a close-up of part of a woman's body in conjunction with a target or a gun or a badge or somesuch. This one appears to feature the woman's buttocks – which, as I'm sure many would agree, makes the cover eminently suitable for the load of old arse that is British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s. (I thank you.)


Wednesday 6 November 2013

Andrew York, George V. Higgins, Brian Garfield and Charles McCarry in British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s

When I established Existential Ennui's new permanent page, British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s, at the end of last week, I did so partly with the purpose in mind that it would afford me the opportunity to blog about some of the many secondhand books I've collected but haven't yet found the time to read (and probably won't for a while), thus at least allowing me to clear them from my groaning 'to blog about' shelves and instead move them to boxes in the loft – my reasoning being that though they may be out of (direct) sight, I can always refer to their posts on Existential Ennui when I'm pondering what to read next. Of course, what will probably happen is I'll forget all about this and instead do what I usually do when pondering what to read next, which is to stand before my bookcases (often in my pants) and study the books therein; but that's the idea, anyway. Cases in point are the books below, all of them by authors already represented in British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s. And they are:

The Dominator by Andrew York – an alias of author Christopher Nicole – published in hardback by Hutchinson in 1969, jacket photograph by George Coral. This is the fifth novel in York's nine-book series starring Jonas Wilde, a.k.a. the Eliminator, and not only is it now in the British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s gallery, I've also added it to this Jonas Wilde cover gallery, where a number of other George Coral wrappers can be found (Coral's work can also be found on the jacket of the 1968 Jonathan Cape edition of Kingsley Amis's I Want it Now). Strictly speaking, as it was published in 1969 it really falls outside the purview of the former, but stylistically I'd say it's very much a child of the '70s rather than the '60s, so I'm bunging it in anyway, alongside the 1984 Severn House edition of York's non-Wilde novel The Combination, which sports a jacket photograph (of a mosque in Isfahan, Iran) by Michael Lancaster, and which I picked up on holiday in Suffolk.

The Digger's Game by George V. Higgins, published in hardback by Secker & Warburg in 1973, jacket design by Tom Simmonds. Higgins has made a few prior appearances on Existential Ennui, the last time being in 2011; The Digger's Game was his second novel, following 1970s's classic The Friends of Eddie Coyle, which I blogged about in its 1972 Secker edition back in 2010, and which also boasts a Tom Simmonds dust jacket, beneath which The Digger's Game now resides in British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s. And very fetching they both look too.

The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry, published by Hutchinson in 1975, jacket illustration by Ian Robertson (who also illustrated the wrappers of the Collins editions of Alistair MacLean's Ice Station Zebra and Where Eagles Dare). This is the spy novel sequel to McCarry's debut, The Miernik Dossier, which I wrote about in its 1974 Hutchinson edition in 2011 in relation to how plagiarist Quentin Rowan had nicked chunks of McCarry's – and other authors' – novels for his debut novel Assassin of SecretsThe Tears of Autumn being, I believe, one of the McCarry books Rowan lifted passages from. Rowan later turned his experiences as a plagiarist into, you guessed it, a book, which was published last year to little acclaim.

Death Sentence by Brian Garfield, published by Macmillan in 1976, jacket photograph by Steve Puplett. Another sequel here, this time to Garfield's 1972 classic Death Wish, which I wrote about last year in its 1973 Hodder & Stoughton edition. The wrapper of this one intrigues me, as in its styling and setting it seems to be playing on the Michael Winner-directed Charles Bronson-starring 1974 film adaptation of Death Wish. A natural thing for a publisher wishing to shift books to do, I suppose, even though Garfield's Death Wish is a far superior best to its movie offspring: challenging, nuanced and thought-provoking as opposed to undemanding, bludgeoning and ham-fisted. And by the sounds of this Pulp Serenade review, Death Sentence is just as good, "a desolate but distinguished suspense novel".

There'll be further additions to British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s over the coming days and weeks, including a couple of covers from books by the subject of my next post: Ross Macdonald.

Monday 4 November 2013

Parker Mega Score Finale: Richard Stark Joins British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s Gallery

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

If you missed the announcement on Friday, some (relatively) exciting news: I've established a brand new Existential Ennui permanent page:

British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s

A companion page to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s – the dark flipside to that gallery, if you will – it gathers together dozens and dozens of covers from '70s and '80s editions of thrillers and crime fiction and spy fiction and the like. Already in the gallery are a bunch of Donald E. Westlake dust jackets – along with contemporaries like Ross Thomas (and his Oliver Bleeck alias), Elmore Leonard, Max Allan Collins and Dan J. Marlowe – and now Westlake's alter ego, Richard Stark, makes his entrance, stalking through the doorway (the door having been kicked down by Parker, naturally) to take his place – in his own right, not under Westlake's name – with seven paperback covers, plus one hardback.

Some of those covers hail from the Parker Mega Score, that haul of Coronet paperback editions of the Parker novels I've been blogging about on and off for over two months – there are a couple more, the 1971 Coronet Printings of The Mourner and The Jugger, randomly illustrating this post – and which after four posts (five if you include this one) I think we've probably all had enough of by now (accordingly, this will be the final post to make mention of it). I've picked four books from the Mega Score to represent Raymond Hawkey's Parker bullet hole double cover design – The Steel Hit (Coronet, 1971, alias The Man with the Getaway Face), Run Lethal (Coronet, 1972, alias The Handle), Deadly Edge (Coronet, 1972, which shows a hand holding a gun on the inner cover, rather than the novel's title) and Slayground (Coronet, 1973, which boasts a gold rather than a silver outer cover) – plus the 1977 Coronet edition of Butcher's Moon, which sports a very '70s photographic cover which may or may not have been by Hawkey's design (I don't know for sure either way).

(Incidentally, I already owned copies of two of those Coronet editions before I came into possession of the Parker Mega Score – Deadly Edge and Butcher's Moon – but the Mega Score copies are in slightly better condition than the others, so I'll be divesting myself of my original copies in due course.)

As well as those, I've included the 1970 Coronet second printings of Point Blank! and The Rare Coin Score, both of which sport entirely apposite photographic covers, and my copy of the very scarce 1973 Gold Lion hardback edition of The Sour Lemon Score. By my reckoning that brings the number of book covers on the page up to 100, although it won't dally at that milestone for long: I'll be adding even more thriller covers as the week wears on, and there'll be yet more Westlake and Stark in there before too long. Needless to say, I'll update both The Violent World of Parker and Existential Ennui when that happens. And that link to the gallery again is:

British Thriller Book Cover Design of the 1970s and 1980s