Friday, December 20, 2019

Grisly Adams: Artistry Meets Mystery

Well, this is certainly sad news to have to deliver just before Christmas: Tom Adams, the Providence, Rhode Island-born illustrator and painter perhaps most famous for creating the covers for paperback reprints of works by Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, died in Great Britain on December 9. He was 93 years old and had enjoyed an active, in-demand career that spanned more than half a century. As The Gumshoe Site notes, Adams’ cover work had been collected in two volumes: Agatha Christie: The Art of Her Crimes (1981) and Tom Adams Uncovered: The Art of Agatha Christie and Beyond (2015). He had also contributed his talents to Julian Symons’ Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations (1981), a large-format book that offered new cases for some of mystery fiction’s foremost sleuths—Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Nero Wolfe, Ellery Queen, Jules Maigret, and Philip Marlowe.

Even if you’ve never heard of Adams, you may recognize his artistry. In tribute to this man who once thought to become an architect, but instead wound up building a career around “meticulously detailed artworks with grisly themes,” Killer Covers will roll out a series of Adams’ book fronts, at least one per day through the end of this year. We begin, below, with one of his most recognizable covers, from Death in the Clouds, by Agatha Christie (Fontana, 1976).

Adams included this book on the gallery page of his Web site. With it he added the following comment: “I am besotted by old aircraft. My father flew one in the First World War. The Imperial Airways biplane was certainly one of the most marvellous aircraft ever built. The name is a stupid mistake. It should have been Prometheus!”

Meanwhile, a poster on the photography/art site Flickr wrote, “This is the book that the Doctor had in the [May 17, 2008] Doctor Who episode, ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp,’ and the cover inspired the incorporation of the giant alien wasp in that episode featuring Agatha Christie with the Doctor and [his then companion] Donna.”

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