Sunday, May 8, 2016

IMPRESSIVE IMPRINTS: Inner Sanctum Mysteries, 1936 - 1969

Here's the first in what I hope to be a year long celebration of the mystery imprints for American publishers. I plan to do these in as close to chronological order as possible. Years ago I wrote about Doubleday Doran's famed imprint when I reviewed the Crime Club Compendium. Crime Club books are constantly popping up on this blog so much that I added a "Crime Club" tag. So I'm skipping them altogether as the first notable and longest running mystery imprint and moving on to the second longest running one, Inner Sanctum Mysteries from Simon & Schuster.

You can find a few posts on Inner Sanctum mysteries elsewhere on this blog (here and here) and I'll not repeat any of that information. I will add that I recently learned that radio producer Hiram Brown licensed the name for his classic radio show from Simon & Schuster under the condition that the latest monthly mystery released under the Inner Sanctum imprint be mentioned at the end of each broadcast.

The first Inner Sanctum book was I Am Jonathan Scrivener by Claude Houghton in 1930. There was no DJ art per se, rather the dust jackets featured an enlargement of the S&S colophon of the strolling figure against a sunrise and were color coded to signify the content of each book: blue for mainstream fiction, red for romance and comedy, green for mystery and detective stories. Only with the success of the radio program did the imprint become exclusively reserved for detective and mystery novels published by Simon & Schuster.

The imprint had two logos. The first was two capital S letters surrounded in a circle by Inner Sanctum Mystery (see above) and lasted from 1935 through 1941. Then it was replaced with the hair raised reader logo which remained with the imprint through the late 1960s when it came to an end. Initially all the books themselves had a uniform binding of black cloth with gold stamped titles. Between 1939 and 1944 there were occasional variations in the bindings like red cloth with black titles, orange cloth with black titles and in the case of Trial by Fury by Craig Rice, an unusual tricolor binding with striped boards and a three quarter glossy orange cloth around the spine.

Below are several examples shown in order of publication date ranging from Puzzle for Players by Patrick Quentin (1938) to A Queer Kind of Death by George Baxt (1966). Click to enlarge on any of the images. Enjoy!

Puzzle for Players - 1938

The Big Midget Murders - 1942
Having Wonderful Crime - 1944

Home Sweet Homicide - 1944
The Deaths of Lora Karen - 1944
Puzzle for Puppets - 1944
The Red Right Hand - 1945

Net of Cobwebs - 1945
The Outsiders - 1945
Puzzle for Fiends - 1946
Armchair in Hell - 1948
The Bridal Bed Murders - 1953
A Queer Kind of Death - 1966


  1. A couple of very odd dust jackets there - I mean the ones for THE OUTSIDERS and ARMCHAIR IN HELL. Creepy but interesting!

    1. The Outsiders is a very good detective novel set in an Australian travelling carnival with the primary cast is made up of the sideshow freaks. Not shown on the cover is the armless woman!

      Lawrence Hoffman who is the artist on four of these DJs (two of the Quentins and the Rogers book are the other three) did the artwork on the Henry Kane book. Hoffman was influenced by the surrealists. His work on some of the early Popular Library paperbacks is just as creepy and strange.

  2. Lots of lovely Quentin and Baxt covers- really enjoyed this John, being a reader than a collector this is all new and really interesting to me so look forward greatly to the next episodes!

  3. I have the Bridal Bed Murders...unfortunately without dust jacket.