Sunday, August 21, 2016

IMPRESSIVE IMPRINTS - Armchair Mystery


David McKay Company, another publisher based in Philadelphia (see previous Main Line Mystery and Lippincott Masked Man posts), joined the post-World War Two era mystery imprint mania around the mid 1940s. They seemed to have copied their line of crime fiction imprints along Doubleday's Crime Club 1940s model which used a set of cartoon drawings to denote the subgenre of each of the books being sold ranging from a magnifying glass to signify "Favorite Detective" to a grinning skull for "Comic Crime". McKay Company also chose to broaden the definition of detective fiction to include spy novels and adventure thrillers that supposedly also include detective novel elements. On the rear panel of each book included in the imprint there was a key to help the buyer determine what kind of crime novel they were holding in their hands. But while Crime Club used distinctive icons McKay used a subtle system of color coding employed in the imprint's very clever logo of man reading in an armchair. And if you couldn't figure it out for yourself they just told you as shown in the example below.


The "Armchair Mystery" dust jackets began with a uniformly designed dust jacket at the start in 1945. The entire DJ had a yellow background with full color art work on the front panel, an ad for another Title on the rear panel, and the logo key explained on the rear flap along with another ad for the upcoming book in the series. The imprint logo or title was placed on the front board and spine of the book and on all panels of the DJ: front, both flaps, rear panel and spine panel. In the years after 1945 this formula was dropped and DJ art no longer used the yellow background and the logo key was eventually eliminated as well.

The leading writers in the "Armchair Mystery" imprint were Bruno Fischer, W. T. Ballard, and "Edward Ronns" who writing under his own name, Edward S. Aarons, became one of the bestselling writers for Gold Medal when he created the "Assignment" series featuring Sam Durrell, a CIA agent.



The imprint, however, was extremely short lived and ran from 1945 to 1948. I can find no sign of any of David McKay's detective, crime or espionage fiction after 1948 published as part of the "Armchair Mystery" imprint. If anyone knows that this one lasted longer, I'd appreciate knowing of some or all of the later titles.















4 comments:

  1. The last book of An Armchair Mystery series was Gift Of Death by Edward Ronns published in November 1948.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing I didn't already know. I asked if anyone found anything AFTER 1948.

      Delete
  2. To me, this seems unnecessarily complicated, with the 4 different color combinations. I doubt it did much for sales.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. It took me a minute or two to see the subtle differences in the colors of the words surrounding the cartoon logo. And the key they printed is way too small. Why didn't they at least enlarge the logos?

      Delete

Comment Approval is turned on for this blog. I review all comments prior to publishing them.