Sunday, July 17, 2011

Paperback 439: The Dark Tunnel / Kenneth Millar (Lion Books 48)

Paperback 439: Lion Books 48 (1st ptg, 1950)

Title: The Dark Tunnel
Author: Kenneth Millar (Ross Macdonald)
Cover artist: E. Walter

Yours for: $28


Best things about this cover:
  • It's like we've caught her midway through morphing into a snake.
  • Why is she looking at us? Her potential killer is ... there. Over there. To your left, lady. Stop looking at me, Serpentina!
  • Of all the gay taglines I've seen, this one of the weakest. Tells me nothing about what happens. No sense of story. No sense of action. Tagline doesn't clearly go with picture. Yuck.
  • "Dark Tunnel" is a not-very-subtle title for a novel pre-occupied with homosexuality.


Best things about this back cover:
  • The dark tunnel is all of a sudden a bright doorway.
  • Lion deals with male homosexuality on its covers more frequently and earlier than most other publishers. It's truly remarkable how obsessed the cover copy is with the gender/sexuality of this spy—which is not even an important issue in this book until the end, and even then seems more tacked-on than essential (if I'm remembering correctly—I could be conflating it with "I, the Jury").

Page 123~

I went into this inner room to look up 'taillour.' My throat was constricted with excitement. For the first and last time in my life, I knew how philologists must feel when they're on the track of an old word used in a new way.

And this immediately becomes the nerdiest thriller of all time. Sidenote: This scene takes place at the Middle English Dictionary, housed at University of Michigan, where both Kenneth Millar and I earned Ph.D.s in English (50+ years apart). The Dark Tunnel was his first novel (orig. pub'd 1944).


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L. said...

I had to laugh when I first saw this cover photo. With arms bound and a gun pointed at him/her (unless the homosexual is the guy at the end of this hand), that facial expression just says to me "You have got to be kidding me."

Deb said...

She's a man, baby!

[lrf] said...

Also, that is a very small gun he's holding.

(No innuendo intended.)

DemetriosX said...

The weird thing is that, when I started reading the second half of the back cover copy, I thought I was reading your snark. It was only after the exclamation point that my brain noticed I was still looking at the scan. Somehow, I don't think that's quite the reaction they were going for.

Retro Hound said...

Would the intended readers of this even know what a philologist is? Oh, I forget, Homosexuals are stereotypically above average intelligence, love the arts and culture and ancient word usage.

Doug Brunell said...

When will see a resurgence of the homosexual spy genre?