My Scrapbook: Raymond Chandler Bitches About His Book Cover

My Scrapbook

Raymond Chandler complains about his book’s cover…

For the homepage of my November 2011 issue, I “borrowed” a cover from a reprint edition of one of my all-time favourite books by one of my absolutely all-time favourite writers: Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler.

It’s not my favourite cover for this much-reprinted title — I still have a soft spot for the faux-retro covers Ballantine did in the 70s and 80s — and Lord knows Chandler wasn’t always well-served by his book covers. But this Pocket Book edition from the early fifties has a rather nasty, visceral charm to it, even if Chandler himself didn’t much care for it.

In fact, in Raymond Chandler Speaking, a collection of his correspondence that I highly recommend for Chandler-geeks, there’s a great letter, dated May 15, 1951, in which arguably the crankiest man in crime fiction berates Freeman Lewis, then Vice-President of Pocket Books, over  the 1951 paperback edition of Farewell, My Lovely:

“Is it permissible to wonder why the people who do illustrations and covers can’t pay some attention to the text? The bedspring shown in your cover illustration is entirely wrong, since it is a type of spring which is very light and would be useless as a weapon. If your illustrator had taken the trouble to read merely a few lines at the top of page 144 in the book, he might not have made a fool of himself and incidentally of me, since the kind of spring I was writing about would be a very efficient weapon, almost as efficient as a blackjack. The kind he illustrated would be of no use at all. Also he ought to take a look at a hospital bad sometime and see what these so-called springs are made of and how they are put together.”

Bitch, bitch, bitch…

Granted, I wasn’t kidding about how Chandler wasn’t particularly well-served by his publishers when it came to his covers.

There have been some spectacularly lacklustre, generic covers for his novels over the years, and in fact, after all these years, I’m still trying to make sense of the cover for the very first edition of Farewell My Lovely from way back in 1940.

After all, if Chandler could go off on the thickness of a bed-spring, can you imagine what he thought about this one? I mean, really.

Flying fucking saucers?

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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