Friday, 10 April 2009

Paperbacks with good covers that I'll never actually read

I will never read either of these books, but I like the covers. Which can be something of a dilemma, when you're short of space, and you have tended to live the life of the hobo. Is it worth keeping books purely for this reason? Who else will ever see them, except me? Do I want them just to look at them? Would I ever look at them anyway? Do I want to carry them, like bricks, for the rest of my days, from one rented room to another? I guess so.

In the case of Art Colony, a pulpy US paperback of the 1950s, you just know that the story inside will never be able to compete with the saucy shenanigans going on on the cover. That roguish chap may be wearing an "artistic" spotty shirt and mauve neckerchief, but we all know that his mind is not on his paintbrush (incidentally he reminds me somewhat of Heinz, pop protege of mad 1960s British record producer Joe Meek - I've attached a picture of him so that you can compare). If you hadn't already guessed it, he must be a delinquent - just look at those biker-jeans. But I must confess I'm jealous - both those chicks look pretty hy-tone to me. You know, he shouldn't risk his chances with his red-headed steady, even for a valuable lesson in aesthetics with that raven haired floozy. Is he crazy? Hang on a moment, I'm forgetting - it's just an illustration. But, anyhow, nope, I dig that cover, but I'm never going to bother to look inside this volume. Never. 

In the case of the Hank Janson, Bring Me Sorrow, that's a great title, and a great cover, but I'm not a fan of this series of British hard-boiled rip-off volumes, despite the fact that there are loads of folks out there, apparently, who are on the hunt for these - I can't believe they ever read many of them. They caused quite a scandal once upon a time, in the early 50s - because they were supposed to be very violent, and sexy, and the beautiful cover pictures of glamorous dames left little to the imagination - but the few I've read are tedious in the extreme (except for one called Bad Girl, which was sensational semi-erotic super-violent pulp trash of the highest order - unfortunately an ex-girlfriend swiped this one), with surprisingly little violence and virtually nothing remotely sexual - just page after page of turgid badly written guff about trilby-hatted, grim-smiling "dicks" - Hank himself is the main protagonist - shaking cigarettes out of packets, driving around, waffling on and on, with similarly cipherous other characters. Eleven million sale? Blimey, we must have been hard up for salacious thrills in 1950s Blighty.

But even if I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to read this one. And do you know why, dear reader? Because I was CONNED. Yes, I bought this volume recently in a second hand bookshop in Newbury. At the time I thought the shopkeeper looked a bit sheepish as he rushed it into the bag - he knew, you see, that the spine glue had disintegrated decades ago and he was well aware that about forty pages were missing. He even made a big deal of saying "these are worth buying, just for the covers". The scoundrel. I should send Hank Janson round to rub him out, but more likely he'd just talk him into a deep sleep.

You'll find these books - forever unread - in the HOUSE OF COBWEBS.