Sunday, December 29, 2019

Grisly Adams: Interpreting Chandler

Part of a series honoring the late cover artist Tom Adams.

I frequently kick myself for not having had the foresight to purchase—long ago, when they were new—certain books that I now wish were part of my personal library, and that are considerably harder to dig up in ideal condition all these years later.

For instance, I was just old enough (though not savvy enough) in the early 1970s to have bought all 10 of the paperback editions of Raymond Chandler works for which Tom Adams painted covers. That particularly handsome line, originally released by U.S. publisher Ballantine Books in 1971 and ’72, is today much prized by paperback collectors, with copies going for considerably more money than their original 95-cent asking price. No wonder: Adams’ Chandler illustrations are striking, dramatically composed and marginally surreal, and they manage to incorporate familiar features from the individual stories—such as “the nasty meaty leaves” of General Sternwood’s tropical orchids, from The Big Sleep, and a fish tank from “Goldfish,” one of the four lengthy yarns collected in Trouble Is My Business. It seems likely that Adams actually read Chandler’s work, rather than merely taking suggestions from an art director as to what elements his imagery might incorporate.

Naturally, I have all of Chandler’s books in my collection, in various editions—but not a single example from Adams’ Ballantine series. If I could travel back in time to tell my younger self to pick up all of those paperbacks and save them, you can rest assured I would.

Although I previously posted the front from The Simple Art of Murder as part of Killer Cover’s Tom Adams tribute, I am including it again below for the sake of comprehensiveness.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I bought the Adams cover version of THE BIG SLEEP when it came out, primarily due to the cover. Besides being an introduction to Chandler, it led to a fascination with Adams' cover art. Although I didn't buy the rest when they came out, I eventually hunted them all down and have pretty good copies. The most difficult cover to find was the one for THE LONG GOODBYE, maybe since the movie tie-in cover was so prevalent.