Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Rose and the Orchid: John Rose's Rex Stout Book Jackets

Only one of these English Collins Crime Club jackets, the one for Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novel The Mother Hunt (1963), is signed "John Rose," but the jacket of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novel Gambit (1962) is attributed to John Rose as well, and I wonder about the jacket for the Nero Wolfe novel that immediately preceded these two, The Final Deduction (1961).

Certainly the jackets of The Mother Hunt and Gambit (the latter one of my favorite Wolfe novels) are reminiscent of each other, with their bold colors and striking images.

I love the giant chess pieces and the poison bottle on the endless board on Gambit and the dripping, jaggedly "broken" heart, held together by a safety pin, on The Mother Hunt: these are memorable symbolic designs that dovetail wonderfully with the plots of the books (also dig that sixties avocado background color on The Mother Hunt).

The Final Deduction jacket is less original, I think, with its skeletal hand at the adding machine on a dollar-green background, but I like the image and the graphics.  Could this be John Rose as well?

So who was John Rose?  Here is an informative post at Bear Alley books on the man who surely must be Rex Stout's John Rose.

Rose was born in the 1920s, we are told, somewhere in Yorkshire. In the 1950s he did a great many covers for Fontana paperbacks, including mystery titles by Agatha Christie. Pictures of his Fontana work are found here.

Here is a nice little interview with the man, not long before he died in 2010, that his daughter posted on YouTube. Rose discusses how work as a storyboarder in 1960s films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). He kept at it as late as 1996, with the Glenn Close film 101 Dalmatians, a flick I recall seeing at the theater with my nephew.

It would have been wonderful to talk to the man about his work as a cover artist, particularly in the mystery genre field. Sadly, this is another opportunity missed, but at least his work lives after him for classic mystery fans to enjoy.

Coincidentally, there was a John Rose who was a draftsman on one of the Iraq archaeological expeditions of Agatha Christie's second husband, Max Mallowan, back in the 1930s, but unless "our" John Rose was a true child prodigy, I don't see how the ages work out.

No doubt a question for John Curran!


  1. These are wonderful covers. I enjoyed reading about John Rose. I've just finished (a couple of days ago) reading THE FINAL DEDUCTION - I had totally forgotten I'd read it a while back. I've read all the Rex Stout Nero Wolfe books over the years, but don't ask me for details, I have old lady selective memory. Ha. Maybe it's time to read the other two titles in your post yet again. :)

    1. I need to read Final Deduction. Have read Gambit twice, may be up for a third run!

  2. Lovely covers. I did not know anything about these English covers for Rex Stout novels. I would love to have them all, but especially The Final Deduction, with the skeleton hand.

  3. In England Stout was a mainstay of the Collins Crime Club, just like Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, for example. They had some pretty good covers for him too!

  4. What a fabulous blog this is with GREAT information, research, privy to things like these covers I never would have seen. What a resource this is. You are to be congratulated….again.

    1. Thanks again Stepheny. The old book jackets often have such charm, I think.