Doubleday and The Crime Club

The few frequent readers of this blog most likely know that i’m slightly obsessed with finding a yet discovered Warhol record cover or dust jacket. Though still highly unlikely regardless of what area i think my chances to succeed are best when it comes to the books. It’s hard to know where to start though, and it requires a lot of time at Googles image seach. Perhaps to much time i suppose. Anyways, since there’s a couple of different publishers to chose from i decided to start with the most frequent one – Doubleday. For some reason i started looking for images from the Dolphin Books imprint thing where both The Red and the Black and Manon Lescaut were published.

DDMB1Even though i found quite a few images of books not many sparked my interest. I’m by no means an expert on Warhol’s style but i’m slowly learning as time goes by. The only one i could find that really made me have a second look was this one here with the simple and easy to remember title of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and Suspiria De Profundis. Even though it felt wrong in almost every way i saw some hands and other small drawings. And just hands alone can sometimes be enough to justify a closer look. But nah, not this time. This is definitely not the big break i was looking and hoping for.

So where to go next? I really enjoy the jackets that Warhol did for the books in the Crime Club series published by Doubleday so why not go there and see if there are any clues…   The known ones so far are The Saint in Europe, The Runaway Pigeon and Pistols For Two. I had a feeling this was popular publication at the time but i must admit i had no idea exactly how popular it was. For over 60 years Doubleday published almost 2500 titles, 2492 to be exact. Perhaps most famous (not to me though) are the 50 books of The Saint by Leslie Charteris where Warhol did the cover to one of them – The Saint in Europe published in 1953. And with this bulk of books to go through it’s safe to say i’ve got my work cut out for me should i decide to take on this task.

I’ve also learned that despite the name the Crime Club wasn’t a book club in the traditional sense of the word. Each month one title of all the books published would be selected by the Crime Club Jury as that months featured story. Then members would receive this book a couple of days before it became available in bookstores or libraries. Apparently the books were also known for their high quality binding, high-end paper and sharp colors where the standard was black cloth covers with red text. For members in the club and their featured book of the month the use of colors was reversed with red cloth covers and black text. However this does not make sense to me since two of my three books have plain grey cloth with no text on as far as i can tell. Getting a good look under the jacket of the third one was a little tricky so i don’t know what’s there yet. Maybe this grey color was for libraries? Who knows…

I’ve also found a book that might be quintessential in taking on this task and it’s this one titled Doubleday Crime Club Compendium 1928-1991 by Ellen Nehr. I doubt the book has images of all 2492 books in the series, or maybe it does. But i’ve at least figuered out that it does, perhaps obviously, contain a complete record of all titles and authors. Impressive work… But with a lowest possible price tag of $125 at the moment i might have to settle for Googles image search.

DoubledayIt was also with the help of the cover to this “compendium book” that i understood that the logo was actually made up of the letters in “C R I M E”. To me the logo has always been a strange looking guy pointing a gun at someone. But now i see that it could also be a man falling head first and with arms raised to maybe try and break his fall, a very clever and cool design!

This has nothing to do with Warhol but i’ve also learned that a number or stories from the books were used as basis for two runs of radio shows in the 30’s and 40’s. The first of these was called The Eno Crime Club and broadcast on CBS, and the second was called simply The Crime Club and broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System. The episodes of this last run is available to listen to at this site. And then in the late 30’s when radio apparently wasn’t enough Universal and Doubleday reached a deal for 11 mystery films based on books in the series.

Even if going trough all these 2492 books and find images of the covers to each and every one will be basically impossible i’m looking forward to giving it a try. At least i can easily narrow it down a bit by excluding the ones from the 30’s and 40’s. A good project for 2015… Although i realize that should there be a forth Warhol jacket among them the chance of me being the one who finds it are… well, in lack of a better word – low. I did however find one title this last weekend that actually made me jump a little bit. I’ve emailed about 10 or so sellers and all but one have replied to me with the same answer – no one is credited with the cover design. I haven’t decided yet if i’m going to pick up a copy so i could have a better look at it up close, but i probably will just because i’m so intruiged by it. But more on that in a future post…

Oh, i almost forgot the coolest thing i read about the Crime Club. Besides the dust jackets by Warhol of course. Anyways, sometime in the mid 30’s they, together with Einson-Freeman, started to produce jigsaw puzzles that were sold together with an original crime story with an open/unresolved ending. Then solving the puzzle gave clues that were needed to figure out the mystery from the book. Such a great and cool concept! Apparently there were three of these things sold – The Torch Murder, The Death Safe and The Ringer’s Revenge. All seem to be very rare and highly sought after by collectors. I found one on AbeBooks and a complete set is at $300 whereas just the box with he puzzle will put you back $175. I wonder what one of these with a puzzle and/or dust jacket designed by Warhol would be priced at?

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A year of reading Andy Warhol…

It’s about time to look back at the past year and try and make some kind of summary of my first year collecting these Warhol dust jackets. And maybe also give some tips and pointers to anyone interesting in starting collecting them. I don’t remember exactly when it got started but the first post i ever did on the subject was about Three More Novels in August last year. So i guess i’ll put that down as some kind of actual start date… So this post is a little bit overdue, but there is a reason for that – and that’s the fact that i wanted to wait until i received the books that was part of my trade with Guy Minnebach. And right after those arrived i found my lucky listing of Pistols For Two and wanted to wait so i could include that one also…

So, how did it all get started? I guess you could call it luck or just some random thing but as i remember it i stumbled upon Three More Novels on ebay. When this happened i had no idea Warhol had designed dust jackets but i thought it was a pretty cool book, and for $50 or whatever it was i figured what the hell, why not!? But after that it was a little tricky getting the ball rolling. Finding good information on this area of Warhol’s work was not an easy thing, and finding some kind of definite list of all the covers would prove impossible. A couple of guys have tried though it seems, after a bit of looking around the first article on the subject was this one in Rare Book Digest. The title mentions they are overlooked, and that is very true but more on that later… For me, finding this article was almost the same feeling as i imagine the development of DNA profiling was for the investigators of the Enderby murders – a revolutionary breakthrough!

Besides the jacket to Three More Novels this article mentions, and shows images of, six more dust jackets. There is also a seventh one mentioned in one of the comments to the post – The Grand Mademoiselle. So, it quickly danwned on me that not only were there obviously enough books to start a collection but that they also seemed to generate such low interest that it might actually be possible to find a couple even on a somewhat tight budget. I’ve often regretted that i started my record cover collection as late as i did but here was an opportunity to get an early start…

Around the same time i also found this article in an online publication called Polari Magazine. There is not much written about the actual covers but it does show images of an additional three jackets that i didn’t know about so that helped add a couple more to the list. There is no name of the author nor a date when the article was published but looking at the source code of the page i think it’s from late November 2011, so it seems that guy got off to an even earlier start… Some of the ones that were “new” to me at this time was The Saint in Europe and Who Cooked Mother Goose?

Then a couple of things happened in rapid succession, first off i found this listing on ebay of a book i had not seen before called The Runaway Pigeon, so that added yet another one to the list. Then at about the same time Guy Minnebach emailed me and thought it was great that i had also started a book collection. Of course he had been collecting these for quite some time already and had already found most of them, if not all… but he was also very kind and generous and shared his list of dust jackets with me. At the same time he also mentioned that there was an ongoing exhibition called Reading Andy Warhol at The Brandhorst Museum in Munich, Germany. I think Guy also tipped me off to this site where you could buy the exhibition catalogue. Of course i’d gone over Guy’s list and seen a couple i didn’t know about and some of these were shown in some sample images on that site like Manon Lescaut, The Madhouse in Washington Square and The Red and the Black.

In other words, after a pretty slow start during which it seemed tricky to find information on what to look for it only took a couple of months for me to get an almost complete list together, with the help of these articles and Guy of course. There was still one or two books on Guy’s list that i couldn’t really find anything about and those were According to the Evidence and The Butterfly Tree but i later got some images from Guy of both of these so that helped me know what to look for, i’m still looking for the latter though…

So, that’s that about how it all got started. And where am i now? Well, to say that i’m at the end of the line is perhaps a tad dramatic. But i’ve posted all the books that i currently have in my collection so no more surprises coming up and i’m still missing four books to make the collection complete(?). When i started i made the selfish decision of not posting all the ones i knew about but instead keep adding to my list as time went on. But i guess it’s not really a big secret which ones i’m looking for but i’ll still keep one or two a bit secret. One of these is quite obvious if you have been paying attention and the other one i’ll stay quiet about just because it was not that long ago that it was “discovered”. Even though i keep a lot of saved searches on ebay on different Warhol things i somehow managed to miss this book when it was on there but of course Guy Minnebach (who apparently has better eyes than i do) was able to get it. But anyways, the other two that i’m missing are Forbidden Childhood and The Butterfly Tree, both of these are available at various sites but the price tags on both of them makes me a bit hesitant, at least on the latter. And besides, part of the fun with this is the chase for bargains…

And while on the topic of fun, i think i’ve actually had more fun with these dust jackets than with the record covers in the last year. And this is mainly due to two reasons – first there’s the fact that interest and thus the price tags are as low as they are and secondly it’s the fact that ebay is pretty much useless and that you have to look elsewhere. Maybe i’m just bitter after loosing auctions for both Cool Gabriels and Nocturnes yesterday but when it comes to ebay it’s basically just to keep a couple of saved searches, play the waiting game and then at the end the guy with the most money wins. The possibility of making a bargain or finding something that’s flying under the radar is pretty much non-existent. But with the books it a whole other story, there are soooo many sites to keep track of and try your luck on and even though there are sites like BookFinder around you can still never be 100% sure and just trust that such a site catches everything from everywhere. Then of course there is also the fact that the prices are in a totally different league. I was going through a couple of my old post and i don’t think i’ve spent more than $50 on any of the books so far, and some i’ve even been able to find for around $10. And the way i see it that’s for an original price of Warhol’s work in what has to be a pretty limited edition these days, try finding a The Nation’s Nightmare or a Trombone by Three for $50…

So why is interest in these books so low and why are they so overlooked? I’ve been thinking a lot about this and i haven’t been able to come up with a good answer. I guess record covers and vinyl is generally considered a much cooler medium than books. And maybe also more of a conversation starter or whatever since you can turn on some music and then talk about both what you are listening to as well as what you are holding in your hands. There is also the fact that i guess vinyl in general and maybe also record collecting has seen somewhat of a renaissance in later years. And has reading ever been considered cool in any way? I doubt it. Some of the record covers are also for some very rare jazz albums so of course they generate interest from both us cover collectors as well as from those that are more into what’s actually on the wax itself. There is also the fact that there has been a lot more exhibitions featuring the record covers which of couse raises interest. The only show featuring the dust jackets and book covers that i know about is the one i previously mentioned in Munich that Guy Minnebach told me about. There is also the fact that there are quite a few sites dedicated to Warhol’s record covers, not to mention the great book by Paul Maréchal, whereas sites about the books are a rare find. So as i said i don’t really have a good explanation but that’s my basic thoughts on the matter… It’s a strange thing though, my general feeling is that there ought to be fewer of these books (with jackets that are in at least decent condition) that have survived during the years compared to the record covers. I assume that people in general took better care of their records than of their books. But if there is any truth to this assumption that would rather have had the opposite effect on both interest and prices, so i don’t know what to make of it all…

So… in conclusion i’m pretty amazed at the amount of books i’ve been able to find during this first year. Right now i think i have 15 of a total of 19 dust jackets/book covers that i know of. Even though i got a lot of help along the way through the trade with Guy Minnebach that made me get to include two of the most rare ones i’m still both thrilled and surprised at how fast this collection has come to grow during just a single year. And as i’ve said before i actually have high hopes of someday getting to call this collection complete.

Oh, i almost forgot… Some tips and tricks to anyone interested in starting a collection? Well, i’ve already shared the few links that i know of and as time has moved on this blog has now also become a source of information on the topic. Maybe not so much when it comes to the story behind each and every cover, but at least there are some pretty pictures to look at… The best piece of advice that i would give anyone interested is just to stay persistant. Sooner or later you’ll find something in your wish lists / saved searches thingys.

I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring and what i’ll be reading next…

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