The Tuesday Night Bloggers: Book scouting Ngaio Marsh (Post 2 of 3)

12306031_10206402692678970_1432065432_nA group of related bloggers who work in the general area of Golden Age Mysteries has decided to collaborate and publish a blog post every Tuesday as the Tuesday Night Bloggers. We began in the spirit of celebrating Agatha Christie’s 125th birthday anniversary. We’ve now going to continue with a different Golden Age mystery writer every month; Tuesdays in December will be devoted to Ngaio Marsh.

Book scouting Ngaio Marsh (Part 2 of 3)

I was going to do a post about my favourite paperback editions of Ngaio Marsh, until I started pulling together cover photos and found I actually had quite a few more than would easily fit into a single post.  So I’ve divided them in three, simply for your convenience.

Book scouting is the process of finding books that a bookseller wants and selling them to her so that she can supply her customers.  My experience is that all booksellers will have a “want list” generated when customers say, “Hey, if you ever get in a copy of THAT, give me a call.” Some people want reading copies, but collectors frequently want a specific edition of a specific book.  You won’t have a very enjoyable hobby if you try to scout first editions with jackets — you might find one book in five years that you can afford to buy at a price that a bookseller can afford to buy and then resell.  But you can have a lot of fun trying to find specific paperback editions to suit particular collectors.

So these three posts comprise three editions that I know are collectible — and actually collected. Post #1 is here — this is post #2 — and post #3 will be here in about a week (Fontana “corpsebacks”).

Berkley Medallion (late 50s/early 60s)

It doesn’t seem like this company was doing anything groundbreaking, but believe me, it was quite avant-garde to create a line of paperbacks by the same author that were all kind of the same … visually linked, as it were. A pretty girl, a large title, a quote from a critic, and something menacing that might be a weapon. Berkley realized that people like to “collect” books and, at least for a certain kind of reader (like me), it’s very appealing to have a complete edition by the same author that all look somewhat the same on your shelves. It makes your library look purposeful and curated, rather than, “Oh, I haven’t read that one.” Many paperback companies had branded their books with a “look and feel” — Pocket, for instance, and certainly Penguin greenbacks in the UK.  Berkley at this point was distinguishing its paperbacks in the US marketplace by increasing their height to the same as Penguins, and every other US publisher soon followed suit. But for at least Ngaio Marsh and Elisabeth Daly, Berkley gave them the prestige of bringing their novels to the public as a “group”, so that if you had liked the last one, you might pick up this one.  A forward move that has found favour among collectors.

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3 thoughts on “The Tuesday Night Bloggers: Book scouting Ngaio Marsh (Post 2 of 3)

  1. That’s a very specific style and theme, isn’t it, woman and large (possibly pointy) object. I quite like the unifying elements, but I don’t think I’d be expecting the actual books that are behind those covers.

    • Noah Stewart says:

      (smiling) This was not a time when publishers were too worried about what the reader might find as long as they could get the book purchased. I have a handful of Wentworth’s Miss Silver novels published at about the same time that are packaged like classic Gothics: “Peril for a lonely heiress leads to romance and Murder!” type of thing.
      Aren’t these dresses great, though? I’ve never seen anything that I was so sure would have been marketed as a “sun dress”, a style-name that seems to have gone out of usage.

  2. […] that I know are collectible — and actually collected. Post #1 is here — post #2 is here — and post #3 is […]

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