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?

2 thoughts on “Doubleday and The Crime Club

  1. Magnificent post Niklas. If you keep on digging like this, for sure one day you will find a previously undetected Warhol cover. I agree the crime club logo is great, showing culprit and victim in one image. I already suspected it was composed with the letters of CRIME, but could not really see the M and I. Thanks to the scheme on the book you found, it’s very clear now!

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