Paperback 869: Dell 187 (1st ptg, 1947)
Title: N Or M?
Author: Agatha Christie
Cover artist: Gerald Gregg
Estimated value: $10-15
- The cigarette is puzzled. “What the hell does ‘NORM’ mean?” it wonders.
- Design on this is so bizarre. Everything’s laid out at odd angles, the cigarette ashes have an eerie, vermiform look to them, and the whole thing kinda looks like a white whale with “NorM” tattooed to the side of its face is trying to fight the scourge of smoking by devouring all related paraphernalia in its sight.
- Gerald Gregg is a cover artist god. As early, non-sexy paperback covers go, his weird abstractions are my favorite.
- Mappington! Backington! These never get old.
- If you call your place “Smuggler’s Rest,” the cops *are* going to find you.
- “Road.” LOL. Thanks, map!
- If the devil doesn’t live at Sans Souci, he will soon.
“Friends of friends of yours, I think you said?” Tommy suggested mendaciously.
Tommy always was a mendacious little bastard. I’ve always said that about him.
Paperback 867: Pocket Books 2202 (11th ptg, 1958)
Title: The Dutch Shoe Mystery
Author: Ellery Queen
Cover artist: Jerry Allison
Estimated value: $10-15
- This cover says a lot of things, but one of the things it does *not* say is “Dutch Shoe.”
- “But she could be number! NUMBER!”
- Pretty sure that’s not a regulation police hold—at least not with gun drawn. Does look cool, though.
- Ooh, signed by quote-unquote Ellery Queen. How elegant.
- “The patient was rich Abigail Doorn, whose money ran the hospital.” Yeah, see, you would never introduce anyone “rich so-and-so,” and also “whose money ran the hospital” kind of covers that.
- Also maybe don’t put “more than life-size portrait of a heroic doctor” next to a super-tiny portrait of a doctor.
Djuna leaped out of his kitchen at the shrill br-r-ring of the telephone bell. “For you, Dad Queen.”
I really, really want to believe that a Dad Queen is some kind of sex thing. Something men named “Djuna” would be in to. Please don’t shatter my illusions, thanks.
Paperback 866: Popular Library 100 (1st ptg, 1946)
Title: African Poison Murders
Author: Elspeth Huxley
Cover artist: Uncredited
Estimated value: $12-17
- “Here, African. Put this on. That’s better.” Hashtag racist.
- Actually, maybe the green guy is a sick European. He looks like a 17th-century actor who has eaten some bad mutton.
- If you stare too long at that foreshortened thumb, you will begin to get queasy. It’s… not right. Kind of like the relationship between green head and blue body. Not right at all.
- Read that second sentence as “Feces were smashed.” Was briefly intrigued.
- A “native boy” wrapped in “baling wire.” Hmm. That’s a bit on the nose, as Slave-Trade metaphors go.
- This book should’ve been called “Leopard Trap!” That, or “All’s Veld That Ends Veld.”
“It is the way of Europeans,” the house-boy said philosophically.
“You gotta read a lot of Kant to deal with these motherfuckers,” he added.
The House of Crime and Mystery: You went from journalist to ghostwriter to novelist; how would your fiction be different today if you’d started as a novelist?
Michael Robotham: Twenty-eight years ago, when I was still a journalist, I wrote the great unpublished Australian novel. It was more literary in style and quite worthy in tone, without a murder in sight. The novel was almost published by Penguin in the UK, missing out by a single vote in a final publishing meeting. Looking back, I’m glad that it wasn’t picked up. If I had been published at twenty-five, I would probably have thought I was God’s gift to writing and been quite obnoxious. I would also look back now and cringe at that first effort.
I am a better writer today for having been a ghostwriter. I know how to capture someone’s voice and hopefully make a character leap from the page and live and breathe in a reader’s imagination. I have the discipline and the tools to be a writer, but I have lost the ego. Every new book is a blessing. Every new reader is a joy. Life is good.
HoCaM: Do you have a long-term plan for your series or do you go one book at a time?
Robotham: It’s definitely one book at a time. I finish each one convinced there won’t be another. I tell my wife that every “description, one-liner, plot twist, setting and bit of dialogue has been used up, it’s gone. I’m an empty shell, a hollow human being, I will never write again.” Then I follow her around the house for two hours until she tells me to go away. She finds me a few hours later, back at my desk. “What are you doing?” she asks. “I’ve just come up with an idea.”
Paperback 864: Dell 411 (2nd ptg, 1st thus, 1950)
Title: A Man Called Spade
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Cover artist: Robert Stanley
Estimated value: $30
- Spade’s tie is super-excited for battle.
- If you looked in a 1950 encyclopedia under “Private Dick”: this picture. Chiseled. Determined. Behatted. Textbook.
- Fear Hand Photobomb!
- The scale / perspective is All wrong on this, but given that awesome green shirt, I’m gonna allow it.
- “She screamed as Spade dashed up the stairs”—get it? “Dashed”? Yeah, you get it.
- I have a friend whose kid is named Dashiell. Art Spiegelman’s son is named Dashiell. This concludes the Dashiell-shout-out portion of my the program.
- Whoa. You know, sometimes we forget that 1940s apartments were all long couches and putting greens.
- Max Bliss is the best unintentional porn name I’ve come across in a Long time.
- I love a pitcher of Bloody Marys as much as anyone, but maybe ease up on the celery there.
- Wow, Max Bliss’s daughter is taking that “50 Shades of Grey” thing a bit literally.
Page 123~ (from “Too Many Have Lived”)
She was short, square, as if carved economically from a cube.
Talk about economical. That is some haiku-esque objectification right there. Classic.
The amazing Robert McGinnis, nearly 90 years-old and not missing a trick, provides this gorgeous cover for Max Allan Collins’ latest “Quarry” novel from Hard Case Crime. I just got this book and it’s right on top of the reading pile. Collins’ “Quarry” novels, which chronicle the life of a hardboiled professional killer, are among my favorite books – and Quarry one of my favorite protagonists – in the genre.
Paperback 861: Pocket Books 4527 (8th ptg, 1963)
Title: The Case of the Cautious Coquette
Author: Erle Stanley Gardner
Cover artist: [Robert McGinnis]
Yours for: $10-12
Best things about this cover:
- Here’s the thing about McGinnis women: dead eyes. They freak me out a level at the face level. At a certain other level (Not Pictured), I find them delightful. So, in short, this cover does little for me from a Great Girl Art perspective.
- From a Holy Crap Pink perspective, it’s quite arresting.
- Also, from a hair perspective.
- Also, with the exception of a small tear on the back cover, this book is in like-new condition. Shiny and crisp. The pink is a pure ’50s variety rarely seen in the wilds of today.
- Also, a “Girls With Guns” cover is a “Girls With Guns Cover”—I’ll take it. Check out these other covers of the same title:
And now today’s back cover:
Best things about this back cover:
- Tire tracks! That’s a pretty damned good design element, especially as a way of introducing the idea of a “hit-and-run.”
- This is the last time in U.S. history that “$100.00!!” was presented as a compelling figure.
- Della goes next-level with her wordplay banter (from metaphorical “angles” to literal “curves”). And then the cover copy brings the imagery full circle back to the tire tracks. Well done, everyone.
“Della, run out and scout the corridor. Let me know if it’s clear.”
In case you were wondering who the badass was in this little relationship.