Monday, July 23, 2018

“Sleep” Covers Worth Waking Up For

Today marks the 130th anniversary of author Raymond Chandler’s birth in Chicago. There have been lots of posts written in association with this occasion, including several in The Rap Sheet (see here, here, and here). One of the most interesting tributes, however, at least for those of us who appreciate classic book covers, is CrimeReads’ look back at 25 classic covers from The Big Sleep, Chandler’s 1939 first novel, which includes the premiere of Los Angeles private eye Philip Marlowe. Featured in CrimeReads’ gallery is the retro-style front from Vintage’s 1976 paperback release of that book, shown above. (Artwork by Richard Waldrep.)

Another of the Big Sleep fronts CrimeReads showcases is the 1978 Vintage movie tie-in edition (a better scan of which can be appreciated here). The façade art for that one was created by American Richard Amsel (1947-1985), whose illustrations are familiar from a wide variety of covers he developed for books and TV Guide, as well as from film posters. The Amsel painting that graced the placard advertising Robert Mitchum’s version of The Big Sleep was the source of the artwork found on Vintage’s softcover. Below, I have embedded the final poster—overlaid with performance credits—followed by Amsel’s preliminary design for the notice. Observe that the earlier variant shows Mitchum with a somewhat neater hairstyle, and actress Candy Clark (who played nymphomaniac daughter Carmen Sternwood) with a less-fearful expression on her face.

Curiously, while CrimeReads highlighted more than two dozen Big Sleep covers, it failed to mention the attractive specimen displayed below: a 1973 edition from The Netherlands. Credit for the cover illustration on this one goes to Jos Looman.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! I was afraid you retired.

Thomas Parker said...

All of those Chandler paperbacks published by Vintage had covers in that style. They were indeed striking and beautiful, and played a big role in my picking up these books and falling in love with Chandler and hardboiled mysteries.

Kevin Burton Smith said...

If only the Mitchum version of The Big Sleep had been as good as its poster -- or its cast. I didn't mind the aged Marlowe so much, but as an aged ex-pat in England?

Rich Harvey said...

"(Sadly, the artwork is uncredited.)"

No longer, mon ami! Richard Waldrep is credited as the illustrator of the Vintage edition, here:

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Thanks, Rich. I have corrected my post accordingly.