BiblioFile: Puffin Publishes Barnavelt (Part 1)

You can credit Brad Strickland for many things – continuing the sagas of Lewis Barnavelt and Johnny Dixon, extending John’s literary life, sparking fans to band together on the Internet, and so on – including the push of paperbacks.

When Strickland’s The Ghost in the Mirror was nearing its initial publication in April 1993, the powers-that-be, knowing it would eventually hit paperback, seemingly decided to start fresh with the series. John’s original Lewis Barnavelt trilogy was first released in paperback during the mid-to-late 1970s through Dell’s Yearling imprint and, with at least two new books in the series due out in 1993, there would have to be some changes when those covers went soft. Those Yearlings were approaching being two decades old by this point, for goodness sakes!  What better way to connect the original books with the new adventures than with a new round of paperbacks? What eventually surfaced was published through Puffin with contemporary layouts and artwork by illustrator Brad Goldman.

The House with a Clock in its Walls, The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring all were re-released in paperback in early 1993. Visually their layouts are identical: a black border with John’s name spelled out in gray capital letters across the top and Goldman’s artwork front and center as it should be.

It’s the titles of the books that are interesting: moody, playful text in hues of green, yellow, and blue that hover above those sinister scenes you know all-too-well – be it Lewis and Tarby snooping around the cemetery, Lewis coming face-to-face with the Moss Ghost, or Rose Rita stumbling upon the true girth and glower of Gertie Bigger.

Goldman was allowed to continue his unique style with the next three books in the Barnavelt series – The Ghost in the Mirror (October 1994), The Vengeance of the Witch-finder (September 1995), and The Doom of the Haunted Opera (March 1998). The layouts of this second trilogy matched the appearance of the paperbacks released in 1993 including the mischievous looking titles, specifically the jagged, lightening-like lettering seen on The Ghost in the Mirror.

Strickland kept the Barnavelt series going but Puffin went a new direction in terms of artwork and layout when the paperbacks picked back up in the next decade. We’ll touch on what happened in another post.

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