TRASHY TUESDAY: PHANTOM BOOKS – BOOK HAUL
Between 1951 and 1961 the Sydney publishers Original Novels Foundation published over 300 titles in their Phantom Book series. They initially drew on books from the US Phantom Books series, but later expanded to include reprints from other American publishers, such as Ace and Gold Medal. The books were mainly published as stapled digest sized books, although there was also a short run of paperbacks.
Often the Phantom books re-used the original US cover art, but sometimes the covers featured revised illustrations of the same scene or totally different art work.
Notoriously hard to find these days, I recently came four of them in the wild thanks to my friend Gayle Lovett.
Typed For A Corpse by Alan Pruitt was originally published in America by Handi-Books, #135, in 1951. The artwork on the original Handi-Books edition was done by famed American artist Norman Saunders. The cover for the Phantom edition was a very close copy of the original artwork (possibly painted over), which mainly changed the colour of the woman’s hair from blonde to auburn and the colour of her dress/night gown from a dark grey to red. It also lost some of the shading from the original, and the detail and intricacies of the original artwork, including Saunders’ signature on the book spine. The subtlety and see-through nature of the night gown is also lost.
The cover itself is quite good and features a nice example of 1950s Good Girl Art. It also has a falling man in the background, which was a common trope on 1950s cover artwork.
A poor copy of the original Handi-Books edition is below:
Guilty Bystander by Wade Miller (Bob Wade and Bill Miller) first appeared in 1947 (Handi-Books) as the second book in the series about hardboiled PI Max Thursday.
The uncredited artwork for the Phantom edition (1956) seems to be an original drawing, and does not appear to be related to the original artwork for the American Handi-Books and Signet editions. It has the typical bright colours of the Phantom Books, and the usual fanciful drawing of firing guns. The woman seems to be quite rightly worried about the ricochet!
I was not able to find out anything about the publishing history for If 2 Of Them Are Dead or the author Mason Gregory. The story is about a murder at a ski lodge and features the detecting duo of Doctor Tony Russell and nurse Libby Graham, who is the story’s narrator. I suspect that the title is a play on the saying: ‘Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead”.
The cover appears to be an original one for Phantom Books and is solid illustration with a good sense of action and a very grey looking corpse.
Despite being promoted as a Phantom Book First Edition, ‘Especially Written For Phantom Books’, Dead On Arrival by Stephen Marlowe is a reprint of a Ace Double Book from 1956.
The Phantom cover is different from the one that graced the American Ace edition and would seem to be an uncredited original illustration. The drawing is quite good and has a nice sense of urgency and desperation to it.
So some very lucky finds. A couple of the books are a bit battered, but Typed For A Corpse is in excellent condition for a digest from nearly seventy years ago. I also found a rare copy of a Phantom Mystery Magazine from 1955, which was a reprint of the US Pursuit magazine, with new artwork, which I will be highlighting in a future post.
Here is a link to some other Phantom books in my collection: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/trashy-tuesday-phantom-books-3-cowl-of-doom-by-edward-ronns-aka-edward-sydney-aarons/