Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Murder as a Fine Art: Tom Adams and Agatha Christie

Illustrator Tom Adams seems to be everyone's favorite Agatha Christie paperback cover artist. Certainly he is mine--in part, I'll admit, because Christie Pocket paperbacks with Adams cover art introduced me to Christie back in 1974, when I was eight years old.

One summer when my family and I were living in Mexico City, I was with my mom at Sanborns Department Store when she purchased four Christie paperbacks off the rack, three with Adams art. I've been a Christie fan ever since.

But mostly Tom Adams is my favorite Christie cover artist because his cover art is so darn good. Concerning Christie cover art, Adams is best known for that which he did over many years for English paperback publisher Fontana (often intriguingly surrealistic), yet his beautiful American Pocket editions from the early Seventies are most familiar to me personally.

I have already shown Adams's cover art for Christie's Third Girl in my review of that book here (note also his Fontana Third Girl cover art); and below can be seen yet more Adams Christie paperback art, front and back covers included, since the wonderful paperbacks have wraparound illustrations. Enjoy!  Which are your favorites?

Also take note: A new edition of Tom Adams art, Tom Adams Uncovered: The Art of Agatha Christie and Beyond, with commentary by John Curran, is now available.

On other vintage mystery genre cover art, see

Death and Rudolph Belarski
John Rhode and William Faulkner
More Arthur Hawkins Book Jackets
















17 comments:

  1. Love, love, loves me some Tom Adams! Thanks for posting these, Curt. I thankfully have the older book of Adams' covers. I never get tired of looking at them.

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    1. He really is great. Yes, the older book, 1981 I think, also has commentary from Julian Symons--very forthright as usual in his likes and dislikes! Looking forward to looking at the new book too.

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    2. Symons, as you'd expect, talks a lot about penises. Everything is phallic. Surely nobody could look at this and think of penises?

      https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/3e/f5/0e/3ef50ed79b70ab6840d8f2a042066a6c.jpg
      http://kellyriggsmysteries.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/agatha_cover-Taken-at-the-Flood.jpg

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    3. I'll have to check and see what Symons thought about that hunk of driftwood on Evil under the Sun!

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  2. Does anyone know of the date when the Adams Pocket covers started and stopped in US? Were they discontinued when the price of paperbacks jumped from 95 cents to $1.25? Wasn't that around 1973?

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  3. I think that's right. The Pockets went through several changes in the 1970s, and the Adams covers were only prevalent for a few years in the early part of the decade. After the success of the film Murder on the Orient Express, Pocket began putting an Albert Finney Poirot lookalike on the back covers of Poirot mysteries (and often the front covers too). Not nearly as imaginative as the Adams covers!

    Peril at End House rather reminds me of the bats flying out of the castle in the Scooby Doo title sequence from around the same time:

    http://38.media.tumblr.com/cd7a08ed02714c61ec5a3880773b6cfa/tumblr_nvk22pCSAe1tewobjo1_500.gif

    Also very Dark Shadows!

    As another person mentioned about Adams' Third Girl cover on the Third Girl post, the one "girl" looked quite a bit like Julie Christie. I think the covers are just fascinating. More literal than the Fontana ones Adams did, sure, but fascinating still.

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  4. I enjoyed these covers. Most of them I have never seen. Moira introduced me to the Tom Adams covers, and I would love to acquire more of them, as I can find them.

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    1. Quite a few of these used to turn up at used bookstores.

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  5. Thanks for this Curt, I always enjoy looking at them - they are fabulous. The layout is different in these editions from the UK ones, so it was particularly fascinating to see them. I have the 1980s collection of the covers so will get it out to compare with these ones. A year or so ago I got a set of postcards of the Adams covers - I sent one to Tracy, above., and as she says, she was very taken with it...

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    1. He really put a lot of thought into them and it shows.

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  6. Love looking at these covers, Curt! I have a few of them...but have to admit I have more of a fondness for the older Pocket, Avon, and Mapback editions.

    Thanks so much for starting us on this Tuesday Night journey. It's been fun looking at Christie every week. We'll see how much I have to say about Queen.

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  7. Thanks for this, Curtis. My favorite Tom Adams covers are the newly discovered (for me anyway) A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED which is also one of my very favorite Miss Marple books. I've also always loved the PASSENGER TO FRANKFURT cover and THE PALE HORSE. Do you think (as I do) that the model for Adams' EVIL UNDER THE SUN cover was the once upon a time super model Veruschka? I do.

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    1. Yvette, I bet you are right, here's a good image for comparison:

      https://agnautacouture.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/franco-rubartelli-vogue-april-1969-veruschka-in-broad-brimmed-hat1.jpg

      I'd be interested in knowing all the sources for his quite striking ladies.

      That Passenger to Frankfurt cover is gloriously bizarre. Indeed, Wagnerian!

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  8. This comment was inadvertently deleted.

    DSAReboot has left a new comment on your post "Murder as a Fine Art: Tom Adams and Agatha Christi...":

    I love these SO much; had many of them growing up, when I was first weened on Christie. Thanks for these, just discovered them today and saved them all!

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    1. So glad you liked this piece. I was warned on these Christies too, so it's a great nostalgia trip.

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  9. That's Tom's wife Georgie in the Evil Under the Sun painting...with a piece of driftwood she gave him. I'm the lucky owner of three of these Pocket Books paintings (The Clocks, Dead Man's Folly, and Remembered Death - aka Sparkling Cyanide), as well as two of the paintings he created for Fontana (Destination Unknown and A Caribbean Mystery - the second painting he did for each). I covet the After the Funeral one shown here. That nun!

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