Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Paperback 963: An Air That Kills / Margaret Mllar (Bantam A1979)

Paperback 963: Bantam A1979 (1st ptg, 1960)

Title: An Air That Kills
Author: Margaret Millar
Cover artist: Uncredited

Estimated value: $10-12
Condition: 6/10 (upper cover smashing—rest tight/square)

Best things about this cover:
  • An Air That Kills, eh? Well, I will say that a car plummeting off a cliff is an interesting way to represent a fart. Bold. I like it.
  • That embrace is impressive in its awkward realism and urgency.
  • Margaret Millar was a successful mid-century crime writer, married to Kenneth Millar (aka Ross Macdonald)

Best things about this back cover:
  • That's a glamorous ampersand.
  • Never did like giving over a third of the back cover to ads for other books. All space for art!
  • I'm not sure what's going on with these vaguely rectangular shapes that look like imaginary U.S. states (see white block here, red block on front cover). Odd aesthetic choices.

Page 123~

Harry wiped his face on a corner of the bed sheet, then held it against his mouth to stem the flow of hiccoughs. "My head hurts. I broke something. Did I—broke something?"

I like Harry. Harry seems nice.


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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Paperback 962: The Case of the Smoking Chimney / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 6014)

Paperback 962: Pocket Books 6014 (3rd ptg, 1960)

Title: The Case of the Smoking Chimney
Author: Erle Stanley Gardner
Cover artist: [Charles Binger]

Estimated value: $8-10
Condition: 9/10

Best things about this cover:
  • She's got something of the saloon about her.
  • Those gloves are off-the-chart hot.
  • So weird how they've given the curtains that hourglass shape. Actually, the longer I stare at the whole curtain scenario, the more it starts looking like ... something else entirely.
  • Text is as if written on surface of invisible floating sphere. Strange.
  • Most gigantic artist signature in cover art history and Of Course it gets cut off.

Best things about this back cover:
  • Ooh, I like this. It's a great, simple, quick way of visually representing the Big Red Text.
  • Sideeye!
  • "The story they told was clear and obvious." No need to give you details. Your brain is doing fine providing those on its own.

Page 123~

"Well, you see it's this way," Gramps explained. "I've always been interested in crime stuff."

I feel you, Gramps.


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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Paperback 961: The Chocolate Cobweb + Who's Been Sitting in My Chair? / Charlotte Armstrong (Ace Double G-511)

Paperback 961: Ace Double G-511 (1st / 1st, 1962)

Title: The Chocolate Cobweb / Who's Been Sitting in My Chair?
Author: Charlotte Armstrong / Charlotte Armstrong
Cover artist: Uncredited / Uncredited

Estimated value: $15
Condition: 7/10 (because of warp—else 9/10; square, shiny, unread)

Best things about this cover:
  • "Come away from the cobweb, dearie. I'm saving that one for company."
  • "It's chocolate!" "It's pica, dearie."
  • This isn't the first time Charlotte (Armstrong) has been associated with Webs...
  • Mystery writers are frequently praised for their "skill" (here, twice) as if they were performing a parlor trick as opposed to, you know, writing well. I just read a conventional mystery (by Helen Nielsen—Sing Me a Murder) and it was painfully contrived, as most puzzle-mysteries are (though Nielsen is a fine writer, in general). Chandler's "Simple Art of Murder" has made it virtually impossible for me to take the whodunnit seriously, or even enjoy it. Too much improbable nonsense and implausible, unprofessional, downright stupid gimmickry, all to make a complicated plot work out just so. Pass.

Best things about this other cover:
  • I love her so much.
  • She knows how to get comfortable. Kicked off the heels and curled up on the chair, just relaxing. Arm across the body says "Please &*%# off, I'm trying to enjoy my cigarette in peace, thanks."
  • The Girl Who Dreamed of Some Square Guy Holding What is Clearly a Desk Mic
  • "Authentic witches"?!—I don't know what you're on about, Anthony Boucher, but I'm intrigued.

Page 123~ (from The Chocolate Cobweb)

The little paw touched his tired head in a brief caress.

In a not-too-distant future, when dogs and humans have switched positions ... The Chocolate Cobweb!


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Friday, July 8, 2016

Paperback 960: Bedrooms Have Windows / A. A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner) (Dell 0511)

Paperback 960: Dell 0511 (1st New Dell ed., 1963)

Title: Bedrooms Have Windows
Author: A. A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)
Cover artist: Darryl Greene

Estimated value: $15-20
Condition: 10/10 (a time-travel kind of copy, like it's 1963 again; unread, square, shiny, bright blue page edges, ridiculous)

Best things about this cover:
  • She looks worried. Maybe she needs Yet Another Cigarette.
  • How big is her bed? The headboard appears to start in the far corner of the room. Is her room just one big bed? That's pretty cool.
  • This cover is exquisitely balanced and demonstrates a nice attention to detail. I'm somehow transfixed by the latches, like miniature sentries at the bottom of the sill.
  • Gauzy curtain, also lovely. And that tension between the tightly enclosed, highly segmented left half of the window and the dramatic, animated, border-bursting right half—love it.

Best things about this back cover:
  • Ooh, close-up. Normally I don't like recycled back covers, but this one makes nice use of that window gridding, covering the horizontally-lined left pane with horizontal lines of text, while leaving the right half airy and open.
  • God bless Dell for *clearly crediting* cover artists more than most other publishers.
  • I've written about this book before, in an earlier (1952) edition. Here's the cover:

And the write-up (Paperback 211!)

Page 123~

The taffy-haired blonde who was standing in front of the mirror, surveying her partially clothed figure with quite evident approval, was the girl who had picked me up the night before as her escort, and had taken me to the motor court. 

Aw, how quaint. "Motor court." You can do all kinds of illicit things in a "motor court" and still feel pretty good about yourself. It's positively Arthurian. "Casual sex, m'lady?"


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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Paperback 959: Fools Die on Friday / A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)

Paperback 959: Dell R105 (1st thus, 1961)

Title: Fools Die on Friday
Author: A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)
Cover artist: Bob McGinnis

Estimated value: $10-15
Condition: 9+/10

Best things about this cover:
  • It appears that either I hit some perfectly preserved AA Fair / Erle Stanley Gardner motherlode at some point in my collecting journeys, or someone sent me box of same. These books are exceedingly common, but no less glorious, art-wise. And in this condition, mwah!
  • I love McGinnis's work, though I don't always share his, uh, aesthetic. There's often an icy, angular quality to his women, and the hair, dear lord, the hair. There be dragons.
  • The shoes, though. The shoes. Gotta be the shoes.
  • All covers are improved by martini.

Best things about this back cover:
  • Math!
  • Crazy calligraphic math!
  • This back cover does nothing to convey how charming the Lam/Cool mysteries are.

Page 123~

She pushed back her stenographic chair, walked over to a shelf, whipped out a map, and placed it on the counter.

OK, I don't know who she is, but I'm in love.


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Monday, July 4, 2016

Paperback 958: Top of the Heap / A. A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner) (Dell D309)

Paperback 958: Dell D309 (1st thus, 1959)

Title: Top of the Heap
Author: A.A. Fair (Erle Stanley Gardner)
Cover artist: Robert McGinnis

Estimated value: $8-10
Condition: 8/10

Best things about this cover:
  • Well, *not* the hair. That's some full-on Cruella Deville nonsense.
  • If you stare at her boobs (and why not?) it's like you're looking at a very fancy black cat waiting to pounce on the spinning ball.
  • I've seen some opera gloves in my time, but those are the operaiest.

Best things about this back cover:
  • Oh, there she is again.
  • "Was" ... and the reason we dropped the "Was" was ...?
  • Is this a poem. This feels like a poem. I mean ... it's not Roethke, but it's OK.

Page 123~

"How was the money secured for the development work?"

I swear to you that that is the most exciting line on this horribly boring page. It was that or "Something about the name appealed to the investing public." Or, "Permission was given to sell the stock at par value zzzzzzzz..." etc.


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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Paperback 957: The Case of the Golddigger's Purse / Erle Stanley Gardner (Pocket Books 4505)

Paperback 957: Pocket Books 4505 (8th ptg, 1962)

Title: The Case of the Golddigger's Purse
Author: Erle Stanley Gardner
Cover artist: Robert McGinnis

Estimated value: $6-10
Condition: 8/10 (shiny and unread but mildly, uh, storage-smushed in a couple places)

Best things about this cover:
  • Honestly, this is ridiculous. It looks like she's somehow killed a fancy, jewel-encrusted parrot and is preparing to devour its carcass. The bones!
  • There are precisely two great things about this cover: a. orange! and b. that left shoe and whatever story lies behind its location.
  • I have never seen McGinnis's talents put to poorer use. A huge Perry Mason logo, but only a teeny tiny half-shod McGinnis girl?! Priorities, man.

Best things about this back cover:
  • This way to dish!
  • I'm guess a guy named Harrington Faulkner doesn't work at the docks.
  • Now I ain't sayin' she a goldfish-digger...
  • So ... Goldfish ... that explains the color. I think.

Page 123~

With every simulation of candid surprise, Dixon raised his eyebrows.


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