Sunday, March 20, 2016

"Only the Best": Miles Burton Fifties Collins Crime Club Dust Jacket Art

It would be lovely if facsimile editions could be reissued for 1950s Collins Crime Club authors like Miles Burton and ECR Lorac, for, the truth is, their dust jacket art at that time was much nicer than that done for their better-known colleagues Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh.  (Apparently Collins assumed Christie and Marsh didn't need good jacket art to sell.).  In an earlier post I included the William Randell dust jacket art for Miles Burton's The Chinese Puzzle (1957).  Following below is Randell jacket art for three additional Fifties Burton novels, Death Takes a Detour (1958), The Moth Watch Murder (1957) and Return from the Dead (1959), plus a fourth Burton jacket, for whom I don't know the artist, for Murder in Absence (1954).  Randell does great thing with angry faces, but the Absence jacket is one of my all time favorites; it looks like A Cezanne painting, I think.  The final illustration is of the entire jacket, which includes a promotional back panel for the Collins Crime Club:

There are good crime stories--and there are bad crime stories.  While the bad are always in plentiful supply, the good are like proverbial needles in the haystack.  The CRIME CLUB exists to help you find them; by making a preliminary selection, it sifts the good from the indifferent, and publishes only the best.

In the course of 25 years the CRIME CLUB has maintained a high standard and its imprint has become the hallmark of a good crime novel.  It publishes for the connoisseur.

With the exception of Detour, which I recall as pretty mediocre, these are some of the better Burton titles from the 1950s.  In truth, a number of the Burtons from the 1950s fall flat, but we must remember that John Street by the mid-1950s had published over 100 crime novels, so this is not entirely unexpected, despite the proclamation of the Collins ad.  But Street had a loyal following and, unlike so many British classic mystery writers from the Golden Age, he was still prolifically turning out traditional detection for its fans.


  1. Those are some great dust jackets!

  2. I'm not sure if this is the same Bill Randell, but i think he was my life-drawing tutor at Twickenham Tech/Richmond College in the early 1980s...could that be so? He was one of those rare inspirational teachers that bestowed valuable gifts on his students, and as a practicing artist today, I still treasure his mantras concerning the human form and how to sharpen a pencil properly! Chris Pirie

  3. That's really interesting, Chris. I know no personal information about William Randell, just that he was one of the great English crime fiction jacket artists in the mid century. Maybe we will get some more tips!