The Mystery of the Larkspur Lane Wrap Spine Dust Jacket


I would like to present the argument that this dust jacket, which was issued exclusively on the Sampson Low UK edition of The Password to Larkspur Lane may well be a cover which was rejected by Grosset & Dunlap, and was therefore never released in the United States. This theory was originally brought to light by collector Mike DeBaptiste and, while I agree with him on some points, I disagree that this cover is the work of Rudy Nappi.

As DeBaptiste points out, there is little reason to believe that this artwork was created for the British market. The style does not resemble the "Varty" covers from the Harold Hill era, and Sampson Low, and its later subsidiary MacDonald, never commissioned any artwork themselves; rather they recycled the US covers of the time.

I believe that this artwork was actually painted by Bill Gillies, who created the wrap DJs for #s 1-9 and 11 during 1950. Wouldn't it make sense that he would have also been asked to do a cover for #10 - what else could explain the jump in the sequencing? DeBaptiste mentions a conversation he had with "someone who had worked for G&D in the art department that a wrap-spine Larkspur Lane DJ had been made but not used because the picture was too risqué." This correlates to the Sampson Low cover, as Nancy's left thigh is clearly on display, albeit in shadow. So the argument can be made that an editor at G&D may have red-lighted this cover and decided to continue to use the white-spine DJ until Nappi's picture cover illustration was introduced in 1962. The mystery now becomes, how did Sampson Low & Company get their hands on this illustration in 1960 when they released this title?

Notice the similarities in the hairstyle between Gillies' Nancy and the Sampson Low Nancy: upswept at the crown, curls at the nape of the neck, wavy at the temples, blond highlights. The eyebrows, mouth, cheekbones and nose are also very consistent.

There are also some similarities between Mrs. Eldridge in Larkspur Lane and the elderly sister in Gillies' Hidden Staircase. The highlight on the cheek and sharpness of the cheekbone are repeated and seem to indicate a common artist painted both ladies.

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© 2001 Lea Shangraw Fox
Last updated 20 April 2001

Images from The Secret in the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, The Bungalow Mystery, The Mystery at Lilac Inn and The Sign of the Twisted Candles are all © 1950 by Grosset & Dunlap, New York NY. Images from Password to Larkspur Lane are all © 1960 by Sampson Low & Co., London.