Saturday, March 21, 2009
I love it when publishers issue multiple books from an author in similarly designed editions. We’ve seen a number of such releases lately, celebrating the works of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, James Bond, Earl Derr Biggers, Richard Stark, and others. However, the best example I’ve seen yet of series artwork comes from a pair of British paperback editions of Timothy Harris’ Goodnight & Good-bye (1979) and Kyd for Hire (1977), both memorable novels featuring Vietnam War vet turned Los Angeles private eye Thomas Kyd.
The books shown above, while certainly attractive individually, can only really be appreciated side by side. They were apparently put out in 1981 by Pan Books. The image divided between their covers comes from an oil painting by Paul Roberts, an England-born but Wales-reared artist, who was once a member of the rock band Sniff ’n’ the Tears. It’s apparently the second of two canvases titled “Bodyguard,” done by Roberts in the late 1970s. (The first of those canvases can be studied here.) While I don’t recall the particular circumstances suggested by this work being played out in either of Harris’ first two Kyd stories, the hard-boiled tone, the man at the window with a gun holster, and the suggestion of women wielding beauty as power all fit perfectly.
It’s easy to see why Roberts’ work would appeal to a publisher of crime novels. Many of his pieces are ominously shadowed, explicitly sensual, and tread an often fuzzy line between being criminal and being erotic. He has an appreciative eye for the female form and a taste for scenes that combine exhibitionism with banality. His works would seem to be so ideal for paperback crime and mystery novels, especially those bearing a noirish edge, that I’m surprised they haven’t been featured on more genre jackets in the past. But if spotted too frequently, his work might wear out its welcome.
Sadly, these Pan editions of Harris’ first two novels have gone out of print (though they’re still found easily through online used books sites). Of course, since their publication, the author has turned out another entry in the Kyd series, 2004’s Unfaithful Servant, and it wouldn’t do at all to split artist Roberts’ “Bodyguard 2” in three.
(Hat tips to Art Scott and Bill Crider.)
Posted by J. Kingston Pierce at 8:29 AM