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271: Hammett on Iskry

April 8, 2019

Here are a couple great Dashiell Hammett novellas published in Poland by Iskry in 1987 and ’88. Although the cover designs (by Wiesław Rosocha) are not as accomplished as many of the Polish posters for American western and crime films I’ve seen, they still have that unique Polish style of turning the quotidian into the surreal. A trigger becomes an eye, and fingers become spider leg-like appendages.

While I’ve read a handful of novels, I’m not as familiar with Hammett’s stories, so I don’t know how popular or common these are. Dziewczyna o srebrnych oczach translates to A Girl with Silver Eyes, while Dwie martwe Chinki is Two Dead Chinese Girls. These are two of a set of six. I haven’t been able to track down the others, but found images of the covers online, and have included them at the end of the post. Each back cover (as you can see below) carries the series description: “This is America seen through the eyes of the master of the noir detective story. Jazz America, prohibition and corruption, America gangsters, and brutal policemen.”

The format is interesting, small saddle-stitched booklets of 48 to 72 pages each, seemingly intended as quick, cheap reads that could be easily shoved in a pocket. The internal design is nothing fancy, but still has some pretty cool flurishes. The Cooper Black Italic from the covers carries over, and both title pages are nicely knocked into the top left corner (at least in Dziewczyna o srebrnych oczach).

I’ve got a handful more nice clutches of international books, I’ll try to get my game together and post those soon!

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