Monday, July 6, 2015

Paperback 899: Messer Marco Polo: a love story / Donn Byrne (Penguin 611)

Paperback 899: Penguin 611 (1st ptg, 1946)

Title: Messer Marco Polo
Author: Donn Byrne
Cover artist: jonas

Estimated value: $9-12

Best things about this cover:
  • Honestly I have no idea what's happening here, on any level.
  • The palette, the art, the word "Messer" (!?), it's all so ... uncharacteristic of my smutty collection.
  • It looks like he's holding an asp in the crook of his left arm.
  • This book represents that stage in Penguin's American publishing when it's about to morph into Penguin-Signet and then, finally, Signet.

Best things about this back cover:
  • "Punched cows." That's pretty hardboiled.
  • If you google, in quotation marks, ["gang of howling literary brigands"], this book, and only this book, shows up. Joyce Kilmer wrote "Trees." Don Marquis is (by total coincidence) my newest literary crush—he wrote light verse in the voice of a cockroach named Archy (who used no capitals or punctuation because cockroaches can't possibly use the Shift key). His books of Archy verse were often illustrated by the legendary George Herriman (of "Krazy Kat" fame).
  • Wait, "Messer Marco Polo brought him fame and fortune"? Can that be right?!
  • Car crash. Dang.

Page 23~ (book's only 116 pages long!)

And suddenly there's a headsman in a red cloak and a red mask, and the axe swings and falls. The head pops off and the body falls limp.

Somehow the word "pops" sucks all the seriousness out of the situation.


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vintagehoarder said...

Hmmm.... is the whole book written in the passive voice?

DemetriosX said...

Well, with the art style they're obviously going for some sort of vaguely Chinese thing, which might have also influenced the palette. But it is pretty weak overall.

Messer is just an Italian version/cognate of monsieur or mister.

I don't know how much of that bio you can really believe. Byrne apparently had a very casual relationship with the truth.