Something just a little out of my usual realm today: a journey through some paperback cover art.
I kinda sorta collect old mysteries, particularly Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, and a small handful of others, plus a few sci-fi books here and there. Most of these books are paperbacks, because a) I'm cheap, and b) they tend to be far more common than hardback editions. Paperbacks aren't as durable, of course, *but* they do have one bonus feature: while hard cover volumes tend to have long ago lost any dust cover and thus their original artwork, paperbacks can't ditch the original cover, for better or worse. They're stuck with their original artwork, cheesy or lurid or bizarre as it may be.
Old sci-fi paperbacks in particular are known for being...odd. There are many with strange, brightly colored covers, often with motifs that seem to have no real connection to the actual story. Heinlein covers tend to be especially odd, in my experience. This particular one is tame compared with the last library book of his I checked out. Woo-hoo for pink sea-dragons!
Then there's C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength. I've read this book practically every other year since high school, and I still couldn't tell you what the cover is supposed to be about. I mean...what's with the painting of what is apparently bouncing orange balls and bolts of flying black lightning? No clue.
Mysteries seem to do different things by decade and depending on the publisher's whims at that point in time. There is a whole series of Nero Wolfe books with cover art that could *all* be titled "Still Life With a Gun". Usually a revolver, but not always. They liked to mix things up, those cover artists of old.
My favorite in this series: revolver plus chocolate. Nice.
There's another whole series of Nero Wolfe books with gobs of fake blood as a major component of every single cover picture. Apparently there was a special on red paint that decade. Or something.
Many of the older Agatha Christie covers go along with the classic Still Life With a Gun motif, though in painting form rather than photography. And no, I cannot explain the GIGANTIC syringe and watch and revolver on Appointment with Death's cover. Or maybe they aren't gigantic, in which case that's a very tiny maze and skeleton and gate and trees. I tried to figure it out, but it just gave me a headache.
Revolver and dagger and jooolry. And burning candle. All carefully balanced without falling over. And without setting the house on fire.
Because of the cover art, I sometimes end up with two copies of the exact same book. This is partly because it means I can't remember if I already own a given book, since they look completely different, and partly because it's just fun to compare. For example, here's an old copy of Agatha Christie's Ordeal by Innocence. It's very worn, but if you look closely, you can make out the sort of 1930s style car, the woman's elegant hair style.
And, for contrast, another edition. Can you guess which decade this is from? (Nice hairdo, huh?)
And then there is this little gem, one glimpse of which is sure to make a teetotaler of even the hardest drinking guest.
A closeup of the scary cover thing. Isn't she lovely?
I'll finish off with a Dashiell Hammett cover, which I love just for its complete over-the-top-ness.
It's like an old movie trailer in one image: "Guns! Girls! Fast cars! Kidnapping! MURDER!!!"