The Damsel by Richard Stark; 1968 Hodder & Stoughton first edition

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

Having showcased two never-before-seen Hodder & Stoughton British hardback first editions of Donald E. Westlake’s Alan Grofield-starring Parker spin-off novels—The Dame (1969, Grofield #2) and The Blackbird (1970, Grofield #3)—it seems only fair I should shine the spotlight on the other Richard Stark novel Hodder published in hardback: the debut Grofield solo outing, The Damsel.

Published by Hodder in the UK in 1968—the year after the US Macmillan edition—The Damsel is almost as uncommon in British first edition as The Dame and The Blackbird: at present AbeBooks has just three copies listed, one lacking a dust jacket.

That jacket was designed by Michael Dempsey, and is quite different to the jackets of the other two books:

Dempsey was very active in British publishing in the late-1960s and throughout the 1970s: he was art director at both Heinemann and Fontana/Collins, and in 1978 set up Carroll & Dempsey with freelance designer Ken Carroll. You can read Mike’s own account of the history of Carroll & Dempsey on his excellent Graphic Journey blog, along with all manner of other fascinating posts on design matters; Mike’s recent, righteous tirade against a Raymond Hawkey rip-off cover caught my eye, but the blog has been going for four years now, and is absolutely stuffed with wonderful reminiscences drawn from across Dempsey’s near-fifty year career.

Certainly Dempsey’s dust jacket for The Damsel is elegant enough, I feel, to join the Existential Ennui Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s gallery, where it has now taken its rightful place alongside his cover for the Heinemann edition of Patricia Highsmith’s A Tremor of Forgery; and though they’re not quite as refined—and I’m not sure they could be convincingly described as “beautiful,” either—I’ve also added Craig Dodd’s dust jacket for The Dame and Graphics Partners’ one for The Blackbird—even though The Blackbird dates from 1970. What the hell: any excuse to include more Westlake books, I say.

And there’ll hopefully be a couple more jackets from Westlake books joining the gallery before too long—one gracing a book I’ve already blogged about as a Westlake Score, but will be reviewing shortly; the other wrapping a brand new Westlake Score. Keep ’em peeled for those. In the meantime, over on Existential Ennui, and with the summer blockbuster season in full swing, I’ll be embarking on a series of posts on books which begat perhaps more famous films, so do please pop along if that piques your curiosity.