The Tuesday Night Bloggers: Book scouting Ngaio Marsh (Post 3 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, and in January to Rex Stout.

Book scouting Ngaio Marsh (Part 3 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 — post #2 is here — and post #3 is below.

9780006131588-uk-300 Fontana “corpsebacks” (late 60s-mid 70s):

I’ve always been a fan of this cover art idea, to the great dismay of some of my blogging friends with better taste. 😉 The concept has been executed a number of times in the history of detective fiction paperbacks; essentially, the publisher creates a posed photograph with a model and a set, carefully constructed to show the prospective reader the corpse around whom the action revolves. I call them “corpsebacks” but I admit nobody else will be familiar with this terminology unless they’ve been listening to me extolling their virtues over the years! I’ll hasten to add that there’s nothing extremely gory about this set — nobody’s missing half their skull or anything vulgar like that. This is, relatively speaking, tasteful … okay, not tasteful. But decorous.  It’s Ngaio Marsh, not Mickey Spillane. (I understand, on no authority that I can confirm, that a question was asked about these books in the British House of Commons, along the same lines as investigations into horror comics not long before. The government apparently did nothing about them.)

10082401564_faf051a920The apprentice book scout should also note that this edition offers one of the most fertile fields for book scouting; the variorum edition. Whenever you have a situation in which more than one version of the same book was done, the true collector’s ears prick up and both versions must, of course, be obtained. Here, many of the books were published as wrap-around photographs, and a few were cropped for a different edition into the same front cover but a type-only back cover. Death at the Bar — I’ll show you the particular volumes first to give you the idea — is different in the front-only shot and the wraparound shot, as is Died in the Wool.

The impetus for the series deteriorated as time went by, the wraparound covers disappeared, and Fontana signalled its intention to move forward with the first paperback edition of Last Ditch, which featured the murder weapon surrounded with lots of blood, but no corpse. Below, I’ll show you the front covers followed by the wraparounds. Personally I think the wraparounds are more collectible, but collectors should want both styles, as I’ve said. I have nothing to back it up except memory, but I’ve seen a lot of these books go through my hands and the rarest one seems to me to be Singing in the Shrouds.

10082534523_19b78c0ff5 11961253463_f2f85e9ce4 9780515060157-us-300 images-5 images-6 mJ-vte3MjLlU2nD_JRCEvsA
scales The Nursing Home Murder 1970 Unknown6a00d8345216fc69e2010534d39077970b-550wi 10082406364_833ca929b2_b 10082481346_17be17006aClofCo 11960910255_f8ee9beb11 11960917175_f7edbf6f2b 11960950765_d766f16e99 11961230873_67b110e84a

11961361714_14c0da31e9_b images-1 images-4 images

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

  1. Great post. I could identify with this one as I actually have some of these editions (in paperback), one of which is a paper back wrap around (the rest just have the front cover but not the wrap around).

    • Noah Stewart says:

      As you can imagine, I always buy these when I see them … I like to have a set of Ngaio Marsh on my shelves and this is my favourite take on the uniform edition idea.

      • I can see the appeal of collecting specific editions, but I guess as I have only been reading a lot of crime fiction in the last three years or so I’m still at the stage of wanting to get hold of books to read for the first time regardless of the edition.

  2. So many of her deaths are not just violent but grotesque and gruesome – and these covers certainly do justice to that. I’ve got several of them. my Surfeit of Lampreys, though, is not that one, but ridiculously has a Gainsborough incorporated – reflecting incorrectly a very minor mention in the book.

    • Noah Stewart says:

      Marsh was always good at coming up with gruesome and unusual deaths; brained with a champagne bottle from above, asphyxiated in a wool press, shot by a booby-trapped piano … the same sort of quixotic inventiveness as Erle Stanley Gardner had for story hooks.
      But I don’t think I know the edition of Lampreys with a Gainsborough … who published that?

  3. cmikolj says:

    I’ve got a couple of these in my collection of battered yet treasured paperbacks but it was great to see more of the series. Some of them are ridiculously funny because there is no attempt to portray them realistically – I especially like Colour Scheme! Or is that just my warped sense of humour…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s