Thursday 27 August 2015

God Save the Mark by Donald E. Westlake (Michael Joseph, 1968): a Westlake Score

NB: A version of this post also appears at The Violent World of Parker. Linked in Friday's Forgotten Books, 28/8/15.

Well, I reckon it's about bleedin' time I pulled me bleedin' finger out and posted something at The Violent World of Parker, yeah? I mean, it's not like I've exactly been prolific on Existential Ennui of late, but at VWoP I haven't posted anything since October of last year. (I suppose I do have the excuse of a work-related upheaval at the tail end of 2014 and into 2015, but that's only going to get me so far as a defence.) I have, however, still been (sporadically) collecting Donald E. Westlake books, with the consequence that I've built up a bit of a backlog of Westlake Scores. Case in point:

God Save the Mark, first published in hardback in the UK by Michael Joseph in 1968 (the year after the US Random House edition). The fourth of Westlake's comical 'capers' (the preceding three being 1965's The Fugitive Pigeon, 1966's The Busy Body and 1966's The Spy in the Ointment), God Save the Mark is a curious entry in Westlake's British publishing backlist in that it was the only one of his books to be published in the UK by Michael Joseph. Up to this point his principal British publisher had been T. V. Boardman (who issued all eight of the prior novels penned under his own name in hardback in the UK); after this point his principal British publisher would be Hodder & Stoughton (heralded by Hodder's paperback imprint, Coronet, picking up the rights to the Richard Stark-written Parker novels in 1967 with Point Blank). But for one book, Westlake's principal British publisher was Michael Joseph, making Westlake a very brief stablemate of, among others, Dick Francis, Geoffrey Household, Ira Levin, John Wyndham, Adam Diment and Len Deighton (whose Only When I Larf is advertised on the back cover of God Save the Mark).

Why Joseph only published the one Westlake I couldn't say, but the transitory partnership did at least produce rather a nice dust jacket – not as striking perhaps as Denis McLoughlin's ones for Westlake's Boardman-published books, but certainly better than anything Hodder would come up with. The jacket design is credited to Carol Smith, about whom I can establish virtually nothing other than she possibly designed the cover for the 1965 Viking Press edition of Michael Faraday's The Chemical History of a Candle (originally published in 1861), bizarrely enough; but I've added her simple, stylishly typographical God Save the Mark wrapper to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s nonetheless.

I've yet to read the novel itself, so I'm afraid I can't offer a review, but anyone wishing to read such a thing can always head over to The Westlake Review, which continues to do a sterling job in reviewing Westlake's oeuvre at length (sometimes extreme length). But I have read, and so can review, the next Westlake Score I'll be unveiling: the only one of those aforementioned Boardman-published Westlake novels that's heretofore been missing from my collection.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

It's a Battlefield, A Gun for Sale and Continental Paperbacks: Graham Greene Library Edition (Heinemann, 1959–60)

The response to my post last month on the 1959–60 Heinemann Library Edition of the Works of Graham Greene continues to be a source of unexpected delight. First there were the initial commenters on the post; then came additional images of Peter Edwards's wonderful wraparound wrappers for the edition from Henk Konings and Peter's daughter, Martina Weatherley; and now yet more images from Chris Fisher, Guy Pujol and Henk again.

Let's take a look at the images sent to me by Chris first – of the two Library Edition dust jackets that heretofore were missing from the original post (due to the fact that I don't – as yet – own either of these books myself):

It's a Battlefield, published into the Library Edition in 1959 (originally published by Heinemann in 1934), edition number L6, and A Gun for Sale, published into the Library Edition in 1960 (originally published by Heinemann in 1936), edition number L10. Chris reports that he acquired all thirteen books in the Library Edition in one fell swoop four or five years ago from an eBay seller, paying about $80 for the lot, which sounds like a bargain to me. (Chris also reports that he's a Graham Greene collector rather than a book collector, and hadn't realised the Library Edition had become so scarce.) I've added his two wrappers to the Library Edition post, and to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s, so now a complete set of all thirteen of Peter Edwards's dust jackets can be found in both those places.

Someone else who owns all thirteen books in the Library Edition is Guy Pujol, who left a comment on the initial Library Edition post recounting how he began collecting the edition two years ago and had managed to secure all twelve of the novels within two months (it took him another year to track down the sole non-fiction book, The Lawless Roads, mind). Guy also helped me fill in the Library numbers I was missing, and made mention of a variant binding in the edition – slightly smaller, and with pictorial boards rather than dust jackets. And, at my request, Guy kindly sent a couple of photos of his magnificent collection:

Something else Guy mentioned in his comment was the existence of continental paperback editions of Greene's novels which used Peter Edwards's Library Edition dust jacket illustrations for their covers. Thus far Guy's been able to identify two such paperbacks – The Power and the Glory and The Heart of the Matter – and lo and behold, shortly after Guy's comment appeared, Library Edition recidivist Henk Konings emailed me with photos of those very two books, which were published in 1961 by Heinemann/Nederland N.V.

My thanks to Henk, Guy, Chris and everyone else who's contributed to the Graham Greene Library Edition discourse. Keep those comments and updates coming.