Thursday, March 14, 2019

Getting Hooks into Archer

During the 1970s, American artist Mitchell Hooks painted fresh covers for Bantam paperback editions of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer detective novels. This rubbed some readers—including me—the wrong way, as we had come to love that same publisher’s previous, near-iconic versions of the Archer yarns. It would be many years before I, for one, would learn to accept, appreciate, and even grow to love Hooks’ vision for the series—his usually central portraits of a youngish Archer packing a pistol, surrounded by smaller images of secondary characters and events from the stories. Regrettably, that early resistance meant I missed purchasing new copies of the Hooks editions when they first hit bookstores; I have since had to resort to tracking down used copies at higher prices.

Since I recently showcased, in Killer Covers, UK publisher Fontana’s rather sexually exploitative, 1970s fronts for the Archer series, I thought it would be a good idea to also assemble a gallery of Hooks’ handsome books. Leading off with the detail image above, from Bantam’s 1978 version of The Wycherly Woman, you can see below all 14 of the Macdonald paperbacks definitely painted by Hooks.

Notice I made a point of saying those paperback fronts were “definitely painted by Hooks.” I did that to separate them from half a dozen other Bantam editions of Archer novels, released during that same era and with the identical cover format, but boasting illustrations I believe were painted by someone else.

All 14 of the books shown above clearly feature the artist’s signature—either “Mitchell Hooks” or “M. Hooks.” However, that’s not true of these final four covers. I can’t find a signature anywhere on the artwork, and at least to my eye, the illustrations appear stylistically different and somewhat less polished than those clearly credited to Hooks, though I can’t tell whether the same artist was responsible for all four. Perhaps there are additional clues to be found in the two Archer works from this same line that I don’t yet own—The Barbarous Coast and The Name Is Archer—and that I am also convinced were created by a hand other than Hooks’. But I won’t bet on it.

If anyone reading this post can help me to identify the artist or artists who were responsible for the paperback fronts displayed below, I would greatly appreciate hearing from you.

By the way, the front shown here of Meet Me at the Morgue indicates it’s “A Lew Archer Novel.” Anyone who’s read the book knows that’s incorrect; the first-person protagonist in this standalone yarn is instead a probation officer named Howard Cross.


Unknown said...

The only one of the four that looks like it MIGHT be Hooks is FIND A VICTIM. The art for the other three uses the same basic scenario, as you said, but doesn't look like Hooks' work at all to me.

Thanks for exposing me to these versions of MacDonald's books. I started reading in the late 60's, and the covers of those books weren't what attracted me.

Rick Robinson said...

I still prefer the previous covers.

Andrew Nette said...

Beautiful work. Both these covers and your posting of them.

Thomas Parker said...

Very nice! Thanks for posting these!