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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

INSIGHTS: The "Borrowed Cover" Bantams

There are many collectors of Agatha Christie paperbacks who particularly value the cover art of Tom Adams. His prolific cover art for Fontana books in the UK started with A Murder Is Announced in 1963 and continued through to Miss Marple’s Final Cases in 1980 (European continental edition). He also created 26 unique covers for Pocket Books in the USA, all of which were published between 1971 and 1974. While Adams didn't create brand-specific covers for Bantam Books (USA & Canada), his covers were also used on several of their paperback printings in North America.

Bantam Books, Inc:

Bantam Books, Inc was headquartered in New York, USA. Perhaps more widely known for their uniform hardback Agatha Christie Mystery Collection (1983-2000), shod in black leatherette, they also printed Christie paperbacks starting in 1961 and continued to for several decades. They printed for both the US and Canadian markets. In the early years, most of their paperbacks had original cover art - likely designed in house. However, they clearly had the rights to use the cover art Tom Adams created at Fontana in the later 1970s - likely once Pocket Books had stopped publishing the Adams shod books designed exclusively for them.

Five original Fontana Adams covers were used by Bantam Books in the USA. These were The Seven Dials Mystery, Death on the Nile, Hercule Poirot's Christmas (Bantam's US title: A Holiday for Murder), Postern of Fate, and Sleeping Murder. For completist collectors of Adams' covers these five books should be acquired.

The Four 'Borrowed Covers':

There are also four Bantam paperbacks with repurposed covers. For some reason unbeknownst to us, Bantam Books chose to use the incorrect Tom Adams covers on four books published in between 1981 and 1983 rather than continue to use their proprietary covers used in the prior years. For lack of a better descriptor, we'll call these the 'borrowed cover Bantams'.

The books are as follows:

The Mousetrap and Other Plays (1981). Contains 'Eight Great Stage and Screen Mysteries'. The borrowed cover was originally created for They Do It With Mirrors.

The Secret Adversary (1981). The borrowed covered was originally created for Mrs. McGinty's Dead.

Poirot Investigates (1982). The borrowed cover was originally created for Murder in the Mews.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1983). The borrowed cover was originally create for Three Act Tragedy.

The Reason?

It should be noted that three of these books were part of the first six books Christie wrote - with the publishing rights being held with The Bodley Head. Fontana did not have the rights to issue paperbacks of these titles and so never commissioned Tom Adams to design art for them. For the collection of plays, it was originally published in hardback form by Dodd, Mead & Co (USA, 1978). The collection first appeared in paperback in March 1981 after Tom Adams' contract with Fontana ended.

After these were published, Bantam stopped printing books with Tom Adams' cover art - whether these 'borrowed cover' books stretched the terms of use or were inappropriately repurposed is a mystery in itself that perhaps one of our readers can shed light on. Regardless, the covers were a lazy substitute for original art that Bantam should have commissioned. Surely, some readers must have been confused trying to find connections between the covers and the stories within!

Happy Hunting!

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