Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Birds and Beasts Were There: The Eighties Ross Macdonald Bantam Paperback Cover Art of James Marsh

1984 Bantam ed.

James Marsh (1946) is said to be best known for his cover art for the British New Wave band Talk Talk. (In the US you may remember their top forty hit "It's My Life," from nearly forty years ago now--I did.)  

Speaking for myself, I had no idea that James Marsh did the Talk Talk album covers, but I did know he did the cover art for this intriguing series of Bantam paperback Ross Macdonald reissues from the early Eighties (same time Talk Talk was getting off the ground). Indeed, I think he did cover art for every single RM novel. 

The Marsh covers are pretty hard to find today, fairly cheap and in good condition, but I always snap them up when I see a good deal on one, as I think Marsh's very distinctive covers are the best RM art out there.  

Marsh seems to have been especially fascinated with birds and beasts, as it were, especially insects and reptiles.  Around this same time, I see, he published an illustrated book entitled Bizarre Birds and Beasts.  Enjoy!'

Featured Right: Marsh's highly symbolic design for Ross Macdonald's penultimate novel, Sleeping Beauty, shows prescription pills falling down a n hourglass, transmuted into blood.  At the bottom is the flaming oil rig that is a recurrent image in the novel.  Those of you who have read the novel will know how cleverly this design captures themes of the novel.  


  1. His covers convey a kind of surrealistic grotesquerie and are definitely eye-catching!

    1. Surrealistic grotesquerie aptly describes it! Notice all the little blood drops he gets on most of the covers.

  2. I wonder when the edition of Black Money was issued. I'm curious because the cover illustration was also used on the single sleeve of "Such a Shame," the follow-up to "It's My Life." A young pup and big Talk Talk fan, I was working in a record store at the time. All these decades later I have a clear memory of unpacking it and putting the 7-inch on the racks. Wikipedia informs that this would've been in March 1984. Sounds about right. No pun intended.

  3. September 1983. Very cool, that he used the same illustration for the single "Such a Shame."

    Here's one of the single covers using the image:


    And this one has the scorpion atop a Rubix cube rather than a six-sided die!

  4. cover by Christine Plays Viola