Looking over my vintage paperback loot from the recent 32nd Annual Paperback Show, I found myself reading the first paragraphs of each book in succession just to get a taste of the writers style. They were surprisingly different. In fact, the one book that I bought on a whim (The Mark of Pak San Ri) with little expectation of the book being any good or not, actually turned out to have the best opening of all six books (see below)
I did cheat a bit with Nobody Dies in Paris as the picture makes more sense with the first two paragraphs (sue me). All of the books are interesting and I hope to read them in one big jag over some lazy weekend. McGivern is probably the most accomplished of the writers listed (justifiably so) with Odds Against Tomorrow being made into a fine movie with Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan. I'm also intrigued with the Jack Ehrlich title (Parole) as his name keeps popping up in lists by other writers and booksellers of paperback crime.
I was also attracted to the covers of the books. All of them are colorful and striking. I love the old graphic/painted design style of fifties and sixties cover design. Something I think publishers like Penguin are getting back to (thank God). Gunman's Harvest front cover is particularly interesting with a great dramatic pose and use of muted greens and golds. Even the back cover is nicely done. The front cover painting is by Mal Thompson.
Published in 1965 by Book Company of America, #10
No cover artist listed
"The taxi careened out of nowhere. The little man crossing the street with the bundleunder his arm never saw it. It caught him dead center and flung him a good twenty feet.The bundle flew from the man's arms and broke open. then the hit and run taxi, a rattling monstrosity which looked like it had been built out of a hundred junkers, sped on,screeched around a corner and was gone".
From Nobody Dies in Paris by Jerry Weil
Published by Signet, #1449. 1967
No cover artist listed
There was a girl lying on the bed midst a pile of undone sheets and blankets. She was wearing green silk pajamas that were faded by too many washings. She was smoking a cigarette."
From Stop Time by Frank Conroy
Published by Dell, #8211, 1969
Cover art by James Bama
"When we were in England I worked well. Four or five hundred words every afternoon. We lived in a small house in the countryside about twenty miles south of London. It was quiet, and because we were strangers, there were no visitors. My wife had been in bed for five months with hepatitis but stayed remarkably cheerful and spent most of her time reading. Life was good, conditions were perfect for my work"
From Gunman's Harvest by James Keene
Published by Dell, #A205, 1960
Cover artist Mal Thompson
"As ranchers went in South Texas, Jim Asher's place was small, only four thousand acres, but he liked it because he was the kind of man who held dear the things he had to work hard for. Six of his thirty-two years had gone into the place, and four years of that at a loss or barely breaking even. These last two, there had been some profit, but the scent of trouble was on the wind, a whisper in the warning venters of his mind."
From By-Line for Murder by Andrew Garve
Published by Dell, #765, 1961
Cover artist Robert Stanley
"At the wetter end of Fleet Street, close by the Crown Inn and not far from the famous Cheshire Cheese, there is a five-story, red-brick building which houses the London Morning Call, a national newspaper with a certified daily net sale of nearly two million copies. Though the paper is popular, no one has ever been known to say a good word for the building in which it is produced - a late-Victorian monstrosity of classic ugliness which an incongruous flesh-pink filling where a hole blown in the structure by a delayed-action bomb in 1941 has been repaired."
From Odds Against Tomorrow by William P. McGivern
Published by Pocket Books, #C-316, 1959
Cover artist not listed
"For what seemed like a long time he couldn't make himself cross the street and enter the hotel. he stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and frowned at the revolving doors and canopied entrance, indifferent to the nighttime crowd drifting past him, his tall body as immobile as a rock in a stream. People edged around him carefully, for there was a look of tension in the set of his shoulders, and in the appraising frown that shadowed his hard even features"