Book scouting for mysteries: An unlikely juxtaposition

51bvz910z0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The name of mystery writer George Bagby came up in my Golden Age of Detection Facebook group yesterday, and it brought something to mind that I thought I’d share with my readers … who might like to make a little money book scouting if the opportunity arises.

George Bagby was a pseudonym for Aaron Marc Stein, who received the Grand Master Award from MWA in 1979.  He wrote four different series over his long career, under his own name as well as by George Bagby and Hampton Stone.  The Bagby series is about
2cfa3db80045d40e135f39f508ff59d7Inspector Schmidt, a New York City cop who has a sidekick named … George Bagby, mystery writer.  (Like my post of yesterday, a little bit meta.) As Hampton Stone, he wrote about Jeremiah Gibson, a New York ADA. There’s a series about a construction engineer named Matt Erridge as by Aaron Marc Stein, and another series about a pair of archaeologists who are also amateur detectives under his own name as well.

Stein, under whatever name, is not generally considered to be in the first rank of mystery writers; I’d suggest he has a strong position in the second rank but opinions vary. He was certainly a hard worker and wrote a lot of books; many of the George Bagby novels are generally available in paperback for a few dollars.

21159451520The point of this post, though, is that if you can find a copy of the first edition of a single one of his books — Pistols For Two from 1951 (from the series about the archaeologists, under his own name) is selling as of today on ABE for $400, $500, and $650 (and for copies which are NOT of an excellence one would expect for those hefty sums). And this for an author whose other books generally don’t bring a tenth of those prices.  Why?  It’s all about the cover art.  According to the volume, the artist’s name is Warhaw — but it’s really the only mystery dust jacket designed by Andy Warhol before he revolutionized the art world. (Added a week later; this is not the case, as a more knowledgeable person notes in the comments below.  John Norris knows his stuff and his blog is an excellent source of information on rare books.) So this volume might be one of your few chances to afford a genuine Andy Warhol print.

41wnCDBcI0L._CR83,0,333,333_UX175Yes, Andy Warhol used to design book covers, in an identifiably naive style that I think is quite charming; he did the typography as well. He also did other kinds of commercial illustration to keep Campbell’s soup on the table, including shoe ads for New York department stores. Any of his book jackets is worth a lot of money these days. Possibly the oddest Warhol
Amy Vanderbilt Cookcbookspieces that you should keep your book-scouting eyes open for are two volumes from the same author; Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Cookbook and Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette.  The little illustrations of how to cut up lemons to decoratively garnish fish, or where to seat the officiating clergyman at the parents’ table at a wedding dinner, were drawn by Warhol and sometimes others. (These little drawings are sometimes called “interstitial art”.)

h-ANDY-WARHOL-COOKBOOK-640x362It’s important to know that not every edition of either of these books has the Warhol drawings — check the first pages to make sure that his name is there (as Andrew Warhol). For these two in particular, you won’t make much money; they’re more widely available and much less valuable. But you can leave them lying around to impress your friends with your original Andy Warhol drawings!

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Book scouting for mysteries: An unlikely juxtaposition

  1. Warhol’s never really moved me. Rather, I absolutely love the cover of Coffin Corner that you have above. Do you know if it’s any good?

    • Noah Stewart says:

      I don’t remember Coffin Corner in particular; I don’t remember any particular one of his titles as being a standout. I like the dyspeptic Inspector Schmidt and the atmosphere of urban grit.

  2. J F Norris says:

    Warhol did more than one mystery DJ. Three that I know of, in fact. Andy Warhol is his credit (got rid of his real name by then) with the art on The Saint in Europe by Leslie Charteris (Doubleday Crime Club, 1953). Admittedly, this one is not very exciting. It’s a brown map with handwritten labels of the countries and cities along with the iconic stick figure so often used on Saint books. Perhaps that’s why the two copies available online are so cheap. Plus, he did the cover for a paperback crime thriller (OK, not really a DJ, but related): The Strange Case of Lucile Clery by Joseph Shearing. It was part of Doubleday’s trade paperback imprint Dolphin Books. For those interested in more about Warhol’s dust jacket art there is an informative article at the Rare Books Digest website.

    • Noah Stewart says:

      Thank you John; I wasn’t aware that the Joseph Shearing book was a crime novel and had never heard of that Saint edition. Your expertise is always appreciated. More things to keep my eyes open for LOL. I have a couple of other Warhol books; somewhere I know I have a copy of the first paperback edition of A.

  3. How fascinating about Warhol and the etiquette book – I have quite a collection of them, but sadly not that one. (the reason I have them is because in another lifetime I wrote my own etiquette book. I do not believe a mint condition is worth very much though… )

    • Noah Stewart says:

      Oh, I’d surely like to see your take on etiquette!! The Amy Vanderbilt ones are not difficult to find, or brutally expensive when you do find them … the cookbooks are tough to find with good jackets, though. They tend to get stained in the kitchen during use as well.

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