Saturday, June 9, 2012

JACKET REQUIRED: Highsmith in the U.S.

Nick Jones at his blog Existential Ennui posted several striking examples of Patricia Highsmith dust jackets on the far better UK editions of some of her books.  I think the artwork on A Game for the Living, a book she has personally called her worst effort, is exceptional.

In response I'm posting some rather uninspiring examples of typographic DJ art (something I'm not a fan of) and some simpler examples of dust jacket illustrations on Highsmith's American editions. These all appear on the first US editions of her books, nearly all of which came after the UK firsts.

The contrast in DJ art design is radical.  Once upon a time US DJ art was evocative and vibrant and attractive.  Here are some early examples of what how DJ art devolved (in my opinion) when post-modernists and digital designers entered the realm of jacket illustration.

And just for the hell of it I'm adding a photo of her lesbian novel The Price of Salt published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan.

All images can be clicked to enlarge.  Deep Water is already at full size.

Harper & Brothers, 1957
Doubleday / Crime Club, 1964

Lippincott & Crowell, 1980
Knopf, 1974

Knopf, 1992 - Her last novel


  1. Love the blurb from the NYT. Suitably patronizing for the time.

  2. Bantam's The Price of Salt is a favourite, if only because the man's stance reminds me of The Walking Dead. The back cover copy is even more amusing, but only if you can forget for a minute the obstacles that faced those whose "LOVE SOCIETY FORBIDS":

    "[Claire Morgan's] people are neither degenerate monsters nor fragile victims of the social order. They must – and do — pay a price for thinking, feeling and loving "differently;" but they are courageous and true to themselves throughout."

    (Sorry, had to delete that last post because I accidentally wrote the author "Claire Martin". Yep, I'm a stickler.)

  3. The DEEP WATER cover is very Saul Bass isn't it? Great collection John - the reprint of SALT that I own, retitled CAROL, is a riff on Hopper's NIGHTHAWK, once again putting bland 'good taste' ahead or any graphic merit ...

  4. I suppose the one woman is supposed to look like a "predatory lesbian sophisticate" (I'm putting this in quotation marks to make clear I'm trying to capture the mindset of fifties publishers), but I agree with Brian, the man looks like an extra from "The Walking Dead."

    Deep Water has such clean and simple but effective graphics. Glass Cell is interesting. Not much to say for the other three. The 1980 is godawful! what is that even supposed to be illustrating? It looks like the upper half of a lollipop.

  5. I love seeing these covers, John. Based on the bio I've read of Highsmith, she would no doubt have had strong feelings about some of these.

  6. I quite like that Deep Water jacket, but as ever, the British Heinemann wrapper is even better. Copies of the Heinemann first are bloody expensive though, so unless I suddenly come into some money, I won't be blogging about that anytime soon! The British jackets for those three Ripley novels are nicer as well, I think, but they're all photographic, and so a lot more literal than the earlier British Highsmith wrappers.

    That third Highsmith/Heinemann jacket I mentioned is up now as well, John: This Sweet Sickness, never-before-seen online (far as I know, anyway).