Exciting times ahead! There’s quite a lot to be told about this book and how i got a hold of it and i don’t really know where to start. But i’ll start with how i first became aware of it. I started my book collection sometime in the early summer of 2013 and based on what little information i could find online i thought there were maybe ten or so dust jackets to be found. I also put up a saved search thing on ebay for “Warhol book cover” or something like that which didn’t result in anything even remotely interesting for the first couple of months. But then finally in the beginning of september i woke up to find this listing for a book that i had never seen or heard of before. This was of course quite intriguing as i thought that the articles i had found on the subject pretty much covered all known dust jackets, but apparently this was not the case.
Somewhere around this time i also got an excellent list from Guy Minnebach with various books that Warhol had either designed the jacket for, published privately, done illustrations for and so on… Of course this book – The Runaway Pigeon – was on this list among with maaaaany more dust jackets that i had no idea about, making the total around twenty. Anyways, as i remember it the auction generated quite a bit of interest and it quickly became obvious that i would not be able to win it and the closing bid was eventuelly around $215. This is the first and only time i’ve ever seen this book anywhere. And trying to find anything about this cover has proved to be almost impossible, no images (except for the ones from that old auction), no mention in any articles, no nothing really… So it almost feels a little bit like i’m breaking new ground or steering through uncharted waters here. Not really though, but kind of…
Anyways, that’s that about how i found out about the books existence and on to what i know about the cover, which besides the obvious isn’t much. It was published in 1953 by Doubleday and as with The Saint in Europe and Pistols For Two this was part of the Crime Club series. I’ve been able to piece together a little bit more about the design. At the National Gallery of Scottland’s website there are a couple of drawings from a series that Warhol did specifically for this book cover, see images here, here and here. Most of these as well as the design used for the actual cover show the same kind of featureless faces and some also with various namnes of cities, note the misspelling of “Chicago” in the first image where it’s spelled “Chiggo” or something like that. The first two drawings look like, at least to me, somewhat finished designs that would be ready to put on a dust jacket. And i quite like the first one. There has also been a supposed original of one of these drawings on ebay for over $20 000 for a long, long time. And it’s still there now. The name “The Runaway Pigeon” was as far as i can tell only used in the US whereas the title “Diamonds Spell Death” was used outside America. I have no further details on the non US edition other than that there’s two listings on Amazon UK. The first one has the publisher as “Barker” and the other one has it as “Arthur Baker”, both published in 1954. I guess one of these might just be a typo and that the publisher is actually the same. I also have no idea what the cover for this other edition looks like, but it would be interesting to find out.
So… where did i find this? Well, i didn’t really. It kind of found me. Sometime last autumn after i got a hold of the booklet to On Record: 11 Artists i was offered a trade by Guy Minnebach. I’m not goind to reveal the details just yet since that will spoil what’s to come but as i remember this book was not part of the initial deal. Anyways, even though i was tempted to accept this initial offer i had just gotten my hands on the booklet and felt that i wanted to play around (read: look at it) with it a bit more. It was also the first thing that i had found that the other members of the WCCC had not seen before, with the exception of Guy of course, so for some reason i kind of liked the feeling of just having it around. Then as time went by i started to get a hold of more and more of the dust jackets. This was of course a lot of fun but at the same time it became obvious that a couple, like this one, would prove extremely difficult to find. And as with the record covers i’m trying to do this thing on as tight a budget as possible. I can’t remember when or exactly how things played out really but a couple of months ago or so i think Guy came back to me with a new and improved offer. I still really liked the booklet and i think it’s a really cool item but this time i just couldn’t turn down what i was being offered. So, this is part one of a really great and exciting trilogy of stuff to come… Well, it’s in fact more like 3½ but let’s say it’s three amazing items and ½ that’s a little less heart raising.
Thanks so much for this amazing trade Guy, and i was very glad to hear you were also more than happy with it at your end!
Finally something about the condition. There’s really not much to say since i think it’s in spectacular shape! Without a doubt one of the best ones in my collection so far. The only thing (and i’m not really sure this even is an issue) is that compared to the images in the old listing on ebay the pink typography on my copy is much brighter. I find it a bit strange that just the text should be faded since the colors on the rest of the jacket are still bright so i don’t really know what to make of it. I did play around a little in Photoshop with my images and it’s an easy thing to brighten the text so maybe that’s what the seller on ebay did to improve the look of his copy. It’s hard to tell since i haven’t seen any other images of this cover online. Whatever the case this is nothing that bothers me at all and i think it’s an amazing looking cover and when it comes to “rareness” i definitely have a new number one in my book collection. Thanks again Guy, love it!