BEAR ALLEY BOOKS

BEAR ALLEY BOOKS
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Paperback Cover Cavalcade 1

I don't often find pre-decimal paperbacks in charity shops these days, so I tend to grab them when I do see them. To me they look so much better than the paperbacks you see in the shops today, too many of which are blurry photographs. The old painted covers are much more to my taste.

So here are a couple I picked up recently, both Arrow Books from 1960. First up, at the top of the column is Edgar Wallace's The Hand of Power, an old-styled thriller, originally published in 1927, of cowled figures, kidnap and a rainy Dartmoor setting. The cover is by James McConnell, one of the finest artists to ever grace a cover. I've had the good fortune to have worked on quite a few McConnell illustrations when I was putting together the picture gallery for Look and Learn.

The second is unsigned and was in a bit of a state before I attacked it in Photoshop. It's the biography of Stefan F(rancis) Gazel, a Polish officer whose early childhood memories were of invading German, Austrian and Russian armies during the Great War and who, during the Second World War, fought his way through Hungary and Jugoslavia to England, where he joined the Free Polish forces under General Anders. Post war, he settled in England as a linguist.

As far as I can tell, he published only two books: Z morta i portow [From Sea and Port] (London, M. I. Kolin, 1942) and To Live and Kill (London, Jarrolds, 1958). He also translated Bomby i myszy by Mina Tomkiewicz (London, Gryf Publications, 1966) as Of Bombs and Mice. A novel of war-time Warsaw (London, Allen & Unwin, 1970).

I suspect from the photographs included in the book (the above comes from the rear cover) that the cover artist had little knowledge of the book as the author appears to have sported a beard during his days in the Polish Navy. The cover looks like it belongs on a thriller set amongst the docks of Marseilles with the German soldier painted over another figure, perhaps an unsuspecting civilian about to be mugged by the knife-wielding man and his slinky female partner.

But that's another story entirely, possibly involving hand-reduction surgery as the guy's left hand is twice the size of his right. And she has had her hands grafted to her hips as part of a Nazi medical experiment to see if German soldiers are attracted by that kind of thing. Like I said, another story entirely.

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