Sunday 12 August 2012

Whodunnit? An unusual cover find ....

Browsing around second-hand book shops can lead to the discovery of real treasure once in a while. It can also throw up something more intriguing.

This edition of Billion Dollar Brain is a bit of a mystery. I've seen plenty of different editions of this book, which has rarely if ever - along with the other 'Harry Palmer' novels - been out of print, but never one like this.

First off, it's a reprint from 1979, which isn't in itself unusual. Most reprints are paperback versions, so a hardback reprint - such as this - would often be for a particular reason or market. An anniversary, for example. That's not the case here. There are simply no clues as to the reason for the reprinting by Jonathan Cape, the company which produced the original version of the book with the Ray Hawkey-designed cover. I can't see the marketing angle for producing this style of book, fifteen years or so after the original came out.

The design for the slip cover is intriguing. A woman with a syringe in silhouette, within whose image is  an inverted image of a circuit board. This is repeated on the back cover too. Clearly, this is intended to evoke the image of the character of Anya, who provides the link for 'Harry' into the mysterious organisation run by General Midwinter. 

There is no indication about who the designer is, which one often finds on hardback editions. It doesn't have the style of Ray Hawkey's work, nor any of the other designers which which Deighton's work is associated.

Does anyone have any idea who the designer is? And why was this edition produced in 1979? I'm curious more than anything about this find, which I've added to my already extensive collection and will file under 'not sure'.


  1. I did see an identical copy at Dunedin's Regent Theatre book sale a few years ago. I didn't buy it because I already had the first edition and the copy I saw was in bad condtion, ex-library. The fact that it was ex-library and printed in the 1970s made me suspect that it was a library edition. Jonathan Cape did the same thing with Ian Fleming - put out library editions of the Bond novels with different covers from the traditional Richard Chopping designs. My theory there - and indeed with this version of Billion Dollar Brain - is that the original dustjackets were more expensive to reproduce so they reissued the book with a cheaper design. If you think about the silver dust-jacket of the first edition it is rather fragile and no doubt very costly to print. That's my theory at least.

  2. Craig - that seems the likeliest explanation, thank you. There is a library stamp in it from Ireland, suggesting that - like Large Print Versions - this is a replacement cover for a particular market.