Saturday, March 6, 2010

Vintage espionage II

Kendrick, Baynard. Odor of Violets (aka Eyes in the Night). N. Y. : Dell, 1947. No. 162. Mapback. Cover art : Gerald Gregg. Map : Ruth Belew. Blind detective Duncan Maclain matches wits with agents of a certain foreign power. Gerald Gregg contributes a stunning, whimsically creepy deco cover which depicts a severed woman’s head on platter, with ax in background.

Greene, Graham. The Third Man. New York : Bantam 1950. No. 797. The classic novel The Third Man is not, strictly speaking, a spy story but it has enough ingredients – a post-WWII black market milieu, shady characters, Cold War tensions, and that most quintessentially intriguish of cities, Vienna – to merit inclusion. The cover for Bantam 797 is a collage-like combination of movie tie-in photo of Alida Valli and Joseph Cotton, with menacing figure of shadow nicely superimposed in background.

MacDonald, John D. Murder for the Bride. [Manchester], UK: Fawcett Gold Medal, 1951(?). Paperback. First edition thus. “Printed at the Philips Park Press and published in Great Britain by Frederick Muller, Ltd.” Murder for the Bride is John D. MacDonald’s second novel and dates from his pre-Travis Magee period. Very much a product of its time, it’s a good example of how the tough school of writers could give the hard-boiled treatment to a Red Scare story. Bride is the story of a man who unknowingly marries a communist agent. She is killed a week or two after their honeymoon, and, Mike Hammer-like, the righteous, bereaved husband searches for her murderer[s], who ultimately turn out to be a nest of reds.

This version is a rare British paperback reissue. The cover art – by Barye Phillips – is the same as the American Gold Medal release: an attractive blonde, presumably the title character, reclines on the floor and wears what appears to be a wedding gown. Cover artist Phillips usually emphasized glamour in his portrayals of women, and this woman has the glamour but a sharp edge as well. Contributing touches are the shadows in the background and a menacing gigantic red hand superimposed over the [anti] heroine, which seems to suggest the Red Menace.

Kirk, Lydia. Postmarked Moscow. New York : Scribner, 1952. "Wife of the ambassador to the USSR, 1949-1952." Cover design by Emil Antonucci. Postmarked Moscow is notable for its breezy style which nicely captures authentic U.S.-U.S.S.R. diplomatic atmosphere during some of the Cold War’s hottest years. Postmarked is not exactly an espionage book and was never released in paperback, but the Scribner hardcover original is worthy of consideration due to the author’s impeccable credentials and the striking cover design (love that red lettering!). See also the author’s Distinguished Service : Lydia Chapin Kirk, Partner in Diplomacy, 1896-1984, Syracuse U. Pr., 2007.

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