Thursday, January 4, 2018

To the Nines

Robert McGinnis’ name has come up one or two times in this blog, I know (OK, maybe one or two thousand times), but that’s because even now—approaching his 92nd birthday on February 3—he continues to turn out excellent work. This coming October, for instance, a new painting by McGinnis will be featured on Hard Case Crime’s reissue of Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Count of Nine, shown above.

That book, you might remember, is the 18th original entry in Gardner’s series starring clever but oft-comical Los Angeles private investigators Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. The author saw it reach print initially back in 1958, under his by-then-familiar pseudonym, A.A. Fair. This is how Hard Case describes the plot: “Hired to protect the treasures of a globe-trotting adventurer, Bertha and Donald confront an impossible crime: how could anything be smuggled out of a dinner party when the guests were X-rayed coming and going—least of all a 6-foot-long blowgun? But that’s nothing compared to the crime they face next: an impossible murder …” The publisher goes on to promote its reissue of The Count of Nine as the novel’s “first appearance in bookstores in half a century!”

Hard Case has already brought out paperback editions of three other Cool and Lam yarns over the years: Top of the Heap, The Knife Slipped (apparently intended as the series’ second installment, but not released until 2016), and Turn on the Heat. McGinnis provided the cover image for The Knife Slipped; and now an even more beautiful example of his art will introduce this year’s trade-size edition of The Count of Nine. But that’s nine months away yet! In the meantime, let’s revisit four earlier fronts for Gardner’s tale.

Click on any of the images below to open an enlargement.

Clockwise from upper left: Pocket Books edition from 1962, artist unknown; Pocket edition from 1969, with cover art by Mitchell Hooks; Heinemann UK edition, 1959, with art by Stein; and Pocket edition from 1966, with an illustration by Harry Bennett.

Incidentally, you can read a Count of Nine excerpt here.

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