The resurgence of golden age crime

From ‘designing for backlist’ and deftly on to this year’s resurgence of golden age crime fiction, the classic crime genre is proving as popular as ever. From The British Library’s Crime Classics, Orion’s e-only The Murder Room imprint to HarperCollins’ revival of the Collins Crime Club – the readership for the golden age detective novel is as hungry as ever – a fact that was highlighted at last month’s Bodies from the Library conference at the British Library. With over 200 in attendance, panels discussing literary greats such as Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy L. Sayers to lesser known authors such as Edmund Crispin and Francis Durbridge, the conference proved that fans of golden age are particularly voracious readers, reading two or more books a week in this genre alone. 

There has been a wealth of different approaches for the covers of these classics – from Vintage’s illustrated approach of Margery Allingham, the use of paintings for the British Library Crime Classics, to the reuse of original covers taken from archive material for the first crime novel ever to be commissioned by Collins, The Mystery of the Skeleton Key, and one of the first six Crime Club novels, The Mayfair Mystery.

Golden Age Crime

I too had the opportunity to work across a series, the Paul Temple collection by Francis Durbridge. Although the Paul Temple series is a regular feature on Radio 4, many fans are unaware that these existed in book form too, so I felt it was important to give the backlist a look that would appeal to a wide audience without alienating those who love to listen to the stories over the radio – which is why I chose a filmic approach.

Before I started I poured over vintage movie credits and made notes on their typographic style, texture and photography then started creating my own versions. I was keen to get the colours right, not quite black and white (there’s a subtle hint of blue) and the photographs that I sourced needed a ‘filmic-grain’ added to give that vintage aesthetic. The typography was the most difficult part, I wanted each novel to be individual whilst still feel part of a set, so I spent hours in Photoshop tweaking and adapting fonts, I even took the time to assure the shadows the letter cast were perfect.

Here are just a few of them: 

Durbridges

With the seemingly endless remakes from television to Hollywood, the resurgence of golden age crime is a welcome breath of fresh air. It is nostalgia with a fresh coat of paint, wonderful stories which have been enjoyed by many and now given the opportunity to be enjoyed by many more (and look good on their bookshelves).