Westlake Score: The Dame by Richard Stark; 1969 Hodder & Stoughton first edition

NB: A version of this post also appears on Existential Ennui.

This week, I’ve a pair of very special Westlake Scores for you. Both of the books in question are incredibly scarce British first editions of Richard Stark novels; both boast strikingly psychedelic dust jacket artwork; and neither one, to my knowledge, has ever been seen online before, making them Existential Ennui/Violent World of Parker exclusives. Moreover, they’re not just any first editions; they’re first editions with a very particular provenance . . . And the first of them is a UK hardback first edition hardback of The Dame, published by Hodder & Stoughton in 1969.

It is, of course, the second of Westlake’s four pseudonymous Parker spin-off novels starring actor-turned-thief Alan Grofield, and was originally published in the States by the Macmillan Company in the same year as the British edition.

Copies of the Hodder first are very hard to come by—AbeBooks, for example, currently has just one listed, an ex-library copy going for nearly $200—which is why when I trailed this post last week, I mentioned that we might all be in for a disappointment as regards the dust jacket. Reason being, I hadn’t seen the cover when I bought this copy (for rather less than $200, I hasten to add), and so didn’t know if Hodder had simply taken the US jacket artwork. Turns out they didn’t, instead assigning the cover to Craig Dodd, who also designed the wrappers of the 1979 Jonathan Cape first edition of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff and, less appealingly, the 1980 Hamish Hamilton first of Isabel Colegate’s The Shooting Party.

It’s interesting to compare Dodd’s cover design to Muni Leiblein’s artwork for the US Macmillan edition of The Dame. Both opt for a dame—naturally—holding a pistol, but whereas Leiblein’s broad is sketched in pencil and has the book’s title emblazoned across her dress (shades of Michael Gillette‘s much later covers for the 2008 Penguin editions of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels there), Dodd’s dame is composed of heavy black lines, her swimsuit picked out by the reversing of the orange and red concentric strips. Of the two, I think I still prefer Leiblein’s cover, but I do like Dodd’s jacket, especially the psychedelic font used for the author name and title—echoed in the strange gun in the girl’s hand—and that red-and-orange target.

My copy of the Hodder first of The Dame is in lovely condition, seemingly unread—probably because it almost certainly never has been. You see, it’s not just any run-of-the-mill first edition—if one can use a phrase like “run-of-the-mill” in reference to such a scarce book; it is, in fact, the publisher’s file copy, as evidenced by the stamps on the front endpaper:

and the title page:

Making it a one-of-a-kind item.

Hodder & Stoughton were Westlake’s primary British publisher around this late-1960s/early-1970s period, but while they published many of the novels Westlake wrote under his own name as hardbacks, his Richard Stark novels, at least the Parker ones, were all initially issued as paperbacks—with the exception of the three Parkers that Gold Lion picked up (Allison & Busby later issued most of the Parkers as hardbacks in the UK, but that’s another story entirely). The Grofield novels were a different matter, however: Hodder published three out of the four as hardbacks—including the next book I’ll be blogging about, which again has never been seen online before . . .