Murder must advertise ! The Victor Gollancz Crime Series and consuming culture


Dorothy L. Sayers, Great Short Stories of Detection, Mystery and Horror, Second series, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1931 (7th printing 1949)

Starting in 1928, Left-wing publisher Victor Gollancz devised some of the most eye-catching covers for the books  it published.  Their vibrant yellow colour stood out on the bookstalls. Gollancz had a special  paper shipped from Germany to produce dust wrappers whose yellow would not fade (although it is obvious from the pictures here  that it eventually did). Amongst these were a good number of Crime Fiction books, including those of Dorothy Sayers, who had herself worked in the advertising industry. The title of her novel Murder must advertise  worked  both as a description (it is set in the world of advertising) and as a commentary on the aggressive commercial signal sent by the conditioning of her books. Fittingly, the Sex Pistols would later use the same colours as the Gollancz publications for the packaging of their own attack on consumer culture.

Sayers cheap

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Five Red Herrings, Victor Gollancz Ltd.,  1931

Murder must advertiseDorothy L. Sayers, Murder must advertise, 1933, .


Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night, Victor Gollancz Ltd.,  No 484, 1935.


slayer and slainMcCloy

Helen McCloy, The Slayer and the Slain,   Victor Gollancz Ltd,


The John le Carré Omnibus, Victor Gollancz Ltd,  1964


Further Reading :

Sheila Hodges, Gollancz: The Story of a Publishing House 1928–1978, Littlehampton Book Services Ltd, 1979


    1. Thanks ! I guess it is for maximum effect and visibility, but there is an interesting theory on the cultural meanings of colours (and the yellow colour too) by Historian Michel Pastoureau. There is a link with disease and trouble.


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