Strange Maps

456 - Maps of Murder: Dell Books and 'Hard-Boiled' Cartography

over 5 years ago

. Dell Books, the American series of pulp fiction books, spanned many genres, featured most of all the ‘classic’ detective story. Prominently featured were the maps on the back cover, setting the scene for the adventures and crimes within the covers. An amazing grand total of 577 ‘Map Backs’ were published during the lifespan of the series, from 1943 to 1952. . The subject of the maps would naturally reflect the setting of the story (more often than not a murder mystery), and could be anything from the diagram of a multistorey building to the layout of a city or state – fictional or not – as the scene of the action. . The series published work by Agatha Christie, the grande dame of English crime literature; Dashiel Hammett, pioneer of the hard-boiled detective story; and Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason (writing as A.A. Fair), among others. In 1983, Greenwood Press published William H. Lyles’ Putting Dell on the Map – A History of the Dell Paperbacks. This scholarly work helped cement the reputation – and collectibility – of the Dell paperbacks. . Here is a small sample of Dell Map Backs: . Helen Reilly: Mourned on Sunday (Dell #63)


Lange Lewis: Meat for Murder (Dell #135)


Alfred Hitchcock: Rope (#262)


Dashiel Hammett: Nightmare Town (#379)


Many Thanks to J.B. Post for informing me about the Dell Books. Here is a link to some of the front and back covers of the Dashiel Hammett books (including the ones shown above). The previous covers were taken from here on Marble River’s Ephemera (browse back to find many more map backs). I am also indebted to Gary Lovisi for his article on Dell Map Back Mysteries: They Don’t Make ‘em Like That Anymore! (found here in Mystery Scene Magazine).

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