Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Cover her face; mine eyes dazzle"

Don't judge a book by its cover
So I noticed that the next post will be the 400th post. Well, actually, the 401st post, because I have removed one post for sinister reasons I will unveil when all the planets are aligned and planet X has appeared, but let's keep things simple. 400. They weren't all about detective fiction, but still, I certainly hadn't expected I'd write this much nonsense when I first started. Oh, and this post, this won't be about detective fiction either. Not really anyway.

Because I will be just posting some covers of books I like. But first, a bit about Japanese publishing. Usually, a cheaper pocket version, a bunkobon, is released some time after the initial release of a (hardcover/larger sized) book. I tend to buy those, as not only are they cheaper, but they are just better designed in my opinion. These size of these books mean I can actually slip them in and out of my coat pockets easily, which is a godsend when you like to read in the train/at the station. These books are even small enough I can hold in just one hand, and having trained my monkey paws I can also flip the pages with the same hand I'm holding the book in (for when the train is really busy and you can't seem to get one arm near the other). Also, unlike most books published outside of Japan, the bunkobon has an uniform size, which mean they stack better, and more importantly, I can use custom bookcovers!

Bookcovers are usually used to prevent other people from seeing what you're reading, as well as add a bit of protecting to your book. I was a bit sceptical at first about bookcovers, but my bookcover prevent books from slipping out of my hands because of the cloth material, and it has a built in bookmarker, for when they forget to give me one. And it's cute. Bookcovers only work when there is an uniform size for books (or else you'd need to have covers for different kind of sizes of books), which for some reason publishers don't seem to think useful outside of Japan.

Of course, there also times when you want to show the cover of the book you're reading. The following covers are some of my favorite ones I've come across the last few years.

Yokomizo Seishi truly made it big after the movie-boom in the late 70s, which was coupled with re-releases of his novels as bunkobon. And they feature fantastic covers. I assembled the clean artwork for some of his novels above, but you can feel the typical dark and sinister Yokomizo Seishi atmosphere from those covers.

The Kodansha Box imprint features softcover books in a cardboard bookcase for a premium price. I don't actually think they are that neat, but the Revoir series by Van Madoy feature some great cover art! I have the bunkobon of Marutamachi Revoir, but I have to admit that I actually regret not having bought the (almost twice as expensive) Kodansha Box release.

These covers for Ayatsuji Yukito's Yakata (house) series showcase the titular houses by (fictional) architect Nakamura Seiji, who loves putting things like trap-doors and secret hallways in his creations. His houses also tend to be a focal point for evil and murder and these covers really capture the dark atmosphere of each of the houses.

I also love retro(-feel)-covers, and these covers for Anthony Berkeley's novels are just great! Not more to add to that. In fact, a lot of Tokyo Sougensha's covers are great!

So for some reason, Japan's the only place a complete collection of Hoch's Sam Hawthorne series is available. And I absolutely love these covers also of publisher Tokyo Sougensha, as they convey the 'feeling' I have with this series. The series might be about a lot  of murder, but it is always told in a warm way by the narrator Hawthorne, which is reflected in these bright, warm covers. Much better than the covers of the first two books published in the States in my opinion.

And some more retro-covers, but this time of Edogawa Rampo novels. The Shounen Tantei Dan series has some great artwork of children's literature that just scream Shouwa period.

And ending with these covers is mostly because I have no idea what is going on with these covers for Nikaidou Reito's Nikaidou Ranko series. Is that a clown? A hand-face thingy? A face-staircase? An attempt at human transmutation gone horribly wrong? These covers aren't even related to the contents of the books! Nightmare fuel!

And that was today's I-didn't-really-do-my-best-post. Note though: these aren't all of my favorite covers, just the ones I could think of, and I just grew tired of searching for covers online after a while. Maybe something for a follow-up post.


  1. I was interested to see that Japan has published the entirety of the Sam Hawthorne stories. Here in the U.S., I think there have only been two collections published, so that only 27 of the approximately 68 Hawthorne stories are in book form. I am a much bigger fan of Hoch's Simon Ark stories, of which only a few of the 61 stories are in book form. In fact, the only full listing of the Ark stories I was able to find was in Japanese (translated into English). Do you know how many books of Ark stories have been translated into Japanese?

    1. There are four books released, so they didn't publish everything of Simon Ark. You can see which stories are published at the Japanese Wikipedia site (those with Japanese titles are published, naturally).

      I have the first volume, still have to read it though (reading Hawthorne at the moment...).

    2. Here in the U.S., of Simon Ark, they have published The Judges of Hades, City of Brass, and The Quests of Simon Ark. Based on the list you cite, I imagine that the Japanese have republished these three books. In addition, they seem to have published a fourth book, Funeral in the Fog. The publisher Crippen & Landru has been promising a book by this title for many years, but it has not been published in the U.S. The first two books were published as cheap paperbacks in 1971, and Quest in 1984, and no more Ark books published since. I think Japan has shown more respect for this fine author than his native country. I can see why Japan would do a better job in publishing Ark though, because the stories tend to have the more grotesque elements that are more common in Japanese detective stories. Also, they tend to be more in the nature of fair-play detective stories, which is not something I see all that often anymore in American detective stories.

      The naming scheme you cite for the Japanese Hawthorne books is truly epic. I like it more every time I read it.

    3. I like it more and more and more and further and further and further every time!

  2. Crippen & Landru has a third volume of Dr. Sam Hawthorne stories, Nothing is Impossible, in their section of upcoming releases, but they're a small publisher and these are usually long-term projects.

    And the Anthony Berkeley covers do feel retro and more fitting than some of the more recent reprints in the West, like the dark and moody ones from the House of Stratus, or the ones they slapped on Dorothy Sayers.

    1. The Japanese Dr. Sam Hawthorne have the following English subtitles by the way:

      Diagnosis Impossible: The Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne
      Diagnosis Impossible II: More Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne
      Diagnosis Impossible III: Further Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne
      Diagnosis Impossible IV: More and More Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne
      Diagnosis Impossible V: Further and Further Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne
      Diagnosis Impossible VI: The Last Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne

      Not sure who decided to name those volumes like that though ^_~