A Carnival of Covers

An unexpected windfall brought us a boxful of thrillers and mysteries with delightful pulpy covers. Included was a hefty selection of John Dickson Carr (both under that name and that of Carter Dickson); Margery Allingham in the classic, elegant green-and-white Penguin designs; a collection of stories from "Black Mask" magazine by Hammett, Chandler, and Gardner; and a handful of Lew Archers by Ross Macdonald. The treasure of this collection is a British 1959 paperback edition of "The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars," recently republished by Melville House, who called it "one of the biggest bestsellers of all time, and one of the first and most influential spy novels of the twentieth century." 

As distinctive -- if not as full of blood, bosoms and sharp suits -- are these covers from Black Sparrow Press, founded by John Martin expressly to publish the works of Bukowski and other then-outsider writers. (Martin sold his collection of D.H. Lawrence first editions in order to start the company.) From 1966-2002, all Black Sparrow books were designed by Barbara Martin, his wife. Her designs are simple, geometrical, and in keeping with its outlaw ethos, lacking any reviewer's blurs or ISBNs.