The Mysterious Bookshop


Welcome to the twentieth edition of All Things Mysterious!

Vintage Paperbacks I

Occasionally in this space we will look at selected vintage paperbacks, because they are very cool, because a great many great mysteries started life as paperback originals including some very well known authors’ early work, and because they are very collectible.  And that cover art!

Today we’ll start with a look at one of the most acclaimed writers of hardboiled fiction, Jim Thompson.  He wrote about thirty novels, several of them paperback originals, and they really set the tone for the kind of hardboiled stories that mystery fans know and love!  Best known for The Killer Inside Me, Thompson gained his greatest recognition posthumously, having passed in 1977.  Quite prolific, he also wrote for film and television, including collaborations with Stanley Kubrick and Sam Peckinpaugh. Two of his best books, The Getaway and The Killer Inside Me, were adapted into successful motion pictures, the second version of the latter said to be more faithful to the original story.  But it’s also been said that none of the films of his work really capture the flavor of the worlds Thompson creates in his novels, so now’s your chance to read for yourself! Quite a few are still in print too, call or write for more info.

Let’s continue with a look at a title from Permabooks, founded by Doubleday in 1948 to capitalize on the burgeoning market for mass market paperbacks.  So-called due to their using boards instead of paper covers for durability.   In 1954 the line was purchased by Pocket Books, who switched to standard paper covers and a 25c cover price.

In Ed Lacy’s Visa to Death (Also published as The Best That Ever Did It), a hard-as-nails cop and an ordinary fellow who had just won $1000 in a radio contest end up dead as doornails outside a bar.  Barney Harris is enlisted to find the killer but first he must seek a possible connection between the two men.  A good example of a potboiler of the day with perhaps a slightly less lurid cover than the norm.

Certainly a large part of the appeal of the vintage mass market mysteries is in the covers. (See the post posted on postcards, All Things Mysterious Volume Fifteen, for some samples--just scroll down!) Here are a couple of examples; as you can see, most of the time a woman in a state of dishabille is menaced somehow:



This one is interesting, in fact, it is the first book of John Farris, best known for The Fury and for his gothic novels. Your blogger likes the world weary expression on the cop's face.  Who is the woman looking at and what secrets is she hiding?


Look at all the elements in play here--A singer, a guitarist, jazz or blues probably, a mean looking mug at the table who reminds your blogger of Broderick Crawford, a beaded curtain....and a gun!  Somebody's about to get it!  But who?  The back cover blurb reads, 'When a bride who lost her laughter met a man who lost a corpse...It meant that her twice-dead husband had thirteen more days in which to be murdered---again!'  Confused yet?


Frank Kane was a newspaperman as well as a lobbyist of sorts for the liquor industry before he turned his hand to crime fiction.  He spent six years writing the radio adventures of the Shadow and wrote for many of the most  popular broadcasts of the era.  His character Johnny Liddell was a mainstay of 30 novels and dozens of short stories.  Here, he contributes a novelization of the television series The Lineup, which ran for six seasons on CBS, ending in 1960. Set in San Francisco, the story follows two detectives as they try to solve a vicious underworld scheme.


For info about any of the titles herein showcased, call 212.587.1011 or write to your blogger at Note that they are all of them in very very nice condition and make for fine gifts as well as excellent reading.



Possibly a bit overlooked in the white hot glare of the popular film series, the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming are very entertaining and enjoyable.  If the original hardcover editions are out of the average collector’s price range, and recent reprints leave you cold, consider vintage paperback editions:

Right now vintage paperbacks are an overlooked collectible, are readily available at reasonable prices, and are so cool even your teenager will look up to you!  Honest.


Questions/Comments/Pocket books?

Written by Ian Kern — April 14, 2016

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

Located at 58 Warren St in New York City, we are open Monday-Saturday from 11am-7pm. 212.587.1011

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