Sunday, May 11, 2008

Paperback 94: The Man from Scotland Yard / David Frome (Pocket Books 153)

Paperback 94: Pocket Books 153 (1st ptg, 1942)

Title: The Man from Scotland Yard
Author: David Frome
Cover artist: uncredited

Yours for: $7

Best things about this cover:

  • You can tell this cover was produced before sensationalism (sex and violence) became unstoppable forces of commodification in the paperback industry. This corpse is practically polite. In fact, I think he might just be sleeping after a tough day of pawn-brokering.
  • Trench-coated woman! You don't see many of those. I love how incognito she is with her strategically placed umbrella. Is she going to pawn something, or just passing by?
  • This book is from 1942, just three years after Pocket Books began. That is, the mass market paperback was exactly three years old when this book came out.
  • The painting is subtle, smooth, understated, moody, detailed, elegant. Fantastic and respectable. Makes me sick - where's the action? the blood? the gratuitous partial nudity!?
  • Books just held up better in the olden days. This book has been heavily read, but it is square, tight, solid. You could read it a million more times and it wouldn't change its appearance much. Eventually Pocket Books and all paperback producers lowered their quality standards, and books became much more susceptible to decay, fall-apart, and other cheapness-related injuries. I'm telling you, the interior pages on this thing are still Astonishingly white. Red color of the page edges has barely faded. This book may be quaint-looking, but it's tough.
  • I love how the author's name is incorporated into the painting itself, made to look like the name of the dead/sleeping guy's pawn shop. That's just beautiful. Too bad that light fixture kind of ruins everything with its potent combination of insectiness and testicularity.

~PAGE 123

Leighton pressed the bell on his desk. A callow young man came in and took the paper. The firm had dispensed with the services of women in their offices since an attractive young lady typist had become the senior Mrs. Doubs, stepmother of the two younger Messrs. Doubs, each some ten years her senior.



Michael5000 said...

True, she's insufficiently nude for the coming decades, but she is showing quite a bit of lovely gam for such a blustery day.

That's not a light fixture; those are the three hanging golden balls that are the ancient emblem of the pawnbrokers trade.

Love the composition. Caravaggio would be proud of the use of illumination to accentuate the importance of the, uh, stiff.

Anonymous said...

I really like this cover for some odd reason - its not sensationalist or gaudy or fun in a traditional sense...but something about it just has a quiet beauty about it. I'm also a big fan of how the white lines function both as the rain, and as the reflectiveness of the glass, with no break in continuity.

Anonymous said...

michael5000 said: "That's not a light fixture; those are the three hanging golden balls that are the ancient emblem of the pawnbrokers trade."

I think the reference is to the light fixture directly over the corpse/sleeper.

I like this cover, it reminds me of an Anton Pieck illustration.

Rex Parker said...

No, I am in fact ignorant and thought the Balls were a light fixture.


Anonymous said...

rex, if you didn't know about the pawnbroker symbol, how did you know the corpse was (formerly) a pawnbroker? Was it on the back cover?

Rex Parker said...

Well, it doesn't take a genius (I don't think) to tell that that is a pawnbroker's. Look at all the disparate stuff in the window...


Anonymous said...

Rex and all

Which sounds like a drug store, but anyway, by some strange coincidence I just posted a review of David Frome's HOMICIDE HOUSE on my blog, along with a few more covers.