INSIGHTS: Postern of Fate - the Fontana Book Cover
This year we celebrate 100 years since Tommy and Tuppence first appeared in print. While I will be making a presentation at the 2022 International Agatha Christie Festival about these Partners in Crime through the lens of a collector, it also seems appropriate to provide additional insights and articles on this website that celebrate the centenary of these unique characters and all things related to them.
Fontana's UK Paperback
Today, I'll provide insights into the paperback book cover for Fontana’s printing of Postern of Fate in the UK. It was the last book Agatha Christie wrote and the fifth book featuring Tommy and Tuppence. Printed in hardback in 1973, Fontana first published it in the UK as a paperback in 1976.
This cover was one of the many created by Tom Adams and each has a unique backstory to its creation. For Postern of Fate, there are a couple of key elements worth discussing: the rocking horse, the greenhouse and the images of the boy. Tom Adams writes about this cover in the book Tom Adams Uncovered – The Art of Agatha Christie and Beyond.
“The cover is, for me, full of echoes: the rocking-horse belongs to Mark Daniels, the son of a very good friend, the late Barry Daniels; the decaying greenhouse was in the garden at my old home, Marden Hill; the little boy is my father. Nostalgic resonances in abundance”
– Tom Adams.
A bit of background on Marden Hill – referenced in Tom’s quote above – will provide meaningful insight into both the cover for Postern of Fate, but also for much of Tom’s work.
In 1958 a group of young artists, poets, journalists and designers started an artist's community in a run-down stately home in Hertfordshire called Marden Hill. This is a Grade II listed building from the 1790s that had previously been owned by the governor of the Bank of England, who commissioned Sir John Soane (the architect who later did work on the bank) to create its staircase and extensions.
Marden Hill became a cultural oasis for a new generation of free spirits including individuals such as Ted Hughes & Sylvia Plath. In the following years, various musicians drifted in to join the party - including Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and a young Rod Stewart. In the 1960s and 1970s, Tom Adams and Barry Daniels both lived in Marden House. Together they created an art and design company – named DANAD Design (Daniels and Adams – abbreviated).
DANAD Design (1958-1962)
In addition to Daniels and Adams. DANAD Design also benefitted from the contributions of Peter Blake, Bernard Cohen, Robyn Denny and Edward Wright. Collectively, they are widely acknowledged as some of the originators of the Pop Art movement. These painters and sculptors fused their talents with those of architects to encapsulate the essence of their art into usable furniture. While Pop Art may imply accessible to the masses, DANADs furniture was hand-crafted and available only through more upscale stores such as Liberty and Harrods. DANAD Design only lasted four years but it cemented the careers of now well-known artists, including Tom Adams.
Tom Adams’ decision to include the greenhouse from Marden Hill on the cover of Postern of Fate is much more meaningful that it first appears. It clearly connects Adams formative years to his long-term partnership with Agatha Christie. Given that he also included an image of his father as a young boy in the panes of the greenhouse and used a rocking horse that belonged to his partner and friend, this cover has much more depth and meaning than it first appears.
As stated in Tom's quote, the rocking-horse now belongs to Mark Daniels, the son of the late Barry Daniels – the co-founder of DANAD Design. Tom preferred to paint from real life rather than from his imagination. The covers of his paperbacks include items such as handguns, a dagger, a dead bird, and a chess piece – just to name a few. All were physical items he could paint from directly. The rocking-horse with its worn paint and vintage patina perfectly capture the way the rocking-horse is described by Christie in this book.
The pictures below are of the actual rocking horse that now belongs to Mark Daniels and was painted by Tom Adams.
Many of these items Tom used in his art as props have now made their way into private collections. However, just like his original art, it is rare when they do appear for sale. As of the writing of this article, I am aware that Mark Daniels is open to finding a new home for this rocking-horse. As a large-scale item that featured prominently on the cover of a Christie paperback created by Tom Adams, it is a truly unique and one-of-a-kind collectible. Anyone interested in acquiring it can contact Mark directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a retrospective on the work of the DANAD collective titled The Art Of Pop Design (1958 –1962) that was held at Paul Smith in London in May 2019. At this exhibition, Sir Paul Smith also sold some reproductions of Danad designs. A few months later, in February 2020, some of the art from DANAD was also shown in a show titled Pop by Design, at a gallery in Walthamstow. Hopefully greater awareness of the Marden Hill artist collective and DANAD will occur in the years ahead.
Lastly, for those interested in attending the International Agatha Christie Festival for 2022, the full agenda is now online and bookings for events are generally required. My presentation on the centenery of Tommy and Tuppence through the lens of a collector will be held in the Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey, Torquay on 12 September at 12:30pm. More information and link to book complimentary tickets can be found by clicking here.