Paperbacks

Avon’s art of the Macabre

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Founded in 1941 and based in NYC, Avon Books was one of the early publishers of  paperbacks in America, following closely the industry-changing model set in 1939 by Pocket Books (also in NYC), with their pocket-sized publications. But while Pocket Books publications emphasized literary recognition of the works they republished, Avon chose to rather stress their popular appeal. Illustrations played a large part in this. Beyond the promise of a pleasurable read, the audience’s fascination with death is an equally reliable marketing force. Continue reading

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British Golden Age Authors and the classic age of the American Paperbacks

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Raymond Chandler once wrote “The English may not always be the best writers in the world, but they are incomparably the best dull writers”. Himself a British subject for most of his life and career, one of his most obvious targets, conversely, was eminent author of “British-style” mysteries, John Dickson Carr (alias Carter Dickson), who was in fact an American. This is of course not strictly about nations, rather it is about sub-genres of crime fiction and the different forms and interpretations of its evolution. It is also against a well-recognized literary coterie; “the famous Detection Club, which is a Parnassus of English writers of mystery”. The statement helps to build an opposition, mostly between 1920s English mystery novels (and their authors and their readers), and American Pulp magazines of the same decade (and their authors and their readers). Continue reading

Art for the Millions : The Signet Books covers

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(Iconographic Source; http://bookscans.com/Publishers/signet/signet.htm)

The New York based publisher, The New American Library was formed in 1948 and soon became the biggest American publisher of paperbacks. Both of its founders, Kurt Enoch and Victor Weybright had experience with the European pioneers of the mass market paperback industry, the British Penguin and the German Albatross, which Enoch had launched  in 1932 and directed. Signet fiction was a particularly successful imprint of The New American Library. The paperback reprints it published included (but were by no means restricted to) a number of classics in the noir genre. The series’ distinctive visual style owed much to the influence of the artist James Avati. Dubbed “The Rembrandt of Paperback Book Covers”, often reminding one of Hopper’s bleak style, he drew many of the series’ covers and inspired the other illustrators commissioned by Signet.

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