Saturday, March 3, 2012

Paperback 507: Guilty Bystander / Wade Miller (Penguin Signet 677)

Paperback 507: Penguin Signet 677 (1st ptg, 1948)

Title: Guilty Bystander
Author: Wade Miller
Cover artist: jonas

Yours for: $10


Best things about this cover:
  • It's like someone threw a vase painted with a decorative seascape right into this dude's eye. That, or his right eye is a kind of dream projector. And he dreams of ... a boat.
  • Was Jesus crucified on that boat? There are three crosses. And blood.
  • I love jonas's work. More surreal and abstract than the representational style that would come to predominate in the '50s (James Avati covers would come to define the Signet aesthetic once Signet was no longer in this weird hybrid phase with Penguin)


Best things about this back cover:
  • Wacky photo!
  • Ugh, early pb designers really did flounder—picture should be at least three times its current size and the absurdly long bio + extensive summary of critical history should be cut to ... virtually nothing. This was back when publishers imagined that paperback consumers cared about things like "critics." I mean, can you imagine someone using the word "encomiums" on a crime fiction (or romance or thriller or western) cover today?
  • When did people start using the phrase "Hammett-Chandler school" and can we go back in time and unstart using it?
  • Boucher was essentially the only critic taking all this crime stuff seriously, so you see him quoted A Lot. He was a big fan of "unexaggerated hardness." But who isn't!?

Page 123~
Ham and eggs and two cups of coffee cost sixty-two cents. Max Thursday put them away at an all-night joint on Market Street and strode in to the Bridgway, jingling three pennies in his pocket. Despite the beating, he felt fairly good. 

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Titus Groan said...

I love that page 123 quote. Especially the last sentence. I suspect Boucher was probably right about this book! Anyway, I think I would like it.

Rex Parker said...

Yes, I love the quote. That's why I left it alone. Good stuff.


DemetriosX said...

Boucher was pretty much the only critic who took any genre fiction seriously. He had a huge impact on the development of both genres and helped bring them more mainstream attention. The fact that they used him twice on the back cover is fairly indicative that his opinion carried some weight. He probably wrote that when he was still reviewing for the SF Chronicle, and they cited him not the paper.

The back cover is overly wordy (I would guess taken from the back inside flap if it had a hard-cover release), but it does explain the awkward "new mystery writing sensation" above the title. I was wondering what was wrong with "sensational new mystery writer" or something like that. The art is awesome and reminds me a little of the cover for "In the Court of the Crimson King".

Anonymous said...

He kept the 3 cents change? You stiff some waitress working in an all-night for 3 cents of a tip? Man, that's hard-boiled.

Pat said...

Nothing makes a hardboiled guy feel better after a good beating then a filling breakfast of ham and eggs.