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0234 Pale Gray for Guilt

March 3, 2012
  • Title: Pale Gray for Guilt
  • Language: English
  • Country: USA
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Year: 1987
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • Cover Price: None
  • Cover Artist: Unknown


Mysterious Press is a bit mysterious. It published five JDM titles in hardcover that I have found but all five are very hard to actually locate. Mysterious Press was started in 1975 to print … well … mysteries, and has since converted to publishing only ebooks, so don’t expect too many new covers from them. They don’t even list MacDonald as one of their authors.

Most of the Mysterious covers are not bad, but this one doesn’t do much for me. Is that supposed to be Travis McGee? It looks more like John Lennon contemplating the tensile strength of engine hoists during the Twickenham rehearsals. Now that I think about it, this picture, with a suitable color change, would have been reasonably effective cover for Nightmare in Pink, where Trav is supposed to look drug-crazed.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Craig Speece permalink
    March 4, 2012 4:09 pm

    The Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at The Ohio State University has the complete archive of The Mysterious Press. Shortly after OSU acquired the collection, I attended a reception where portions of the archive were displayed, including some of the material for A Key to the Suite. This site from the OSU Library has more information about Mysterious Press and a bibliography of the collection.

    What is, as one might say, mysterious, is that the bibliography only shows two Mysterious Press publications of JDM books, A Key to the Suite and Slam the Big Door. (They also published a short story collection with a JDM introduction.) I had earlier found both at used book stores for under $10. My, probably flawed, web search for the other three books you refer to came up empty, including no reference to Gray. Any more information you could provide would be useful as I slowly expand my modest JDM library.

    • March 4, 2012 6:19 pm

      Thanks for pointing me to this reference, Craig. It has artist names and publishing dates for Slam and Suite, which I did not know. Like you say, the other three Mysterious JDM titles (The Quick Red Fox, Pale Gray for Guilt, and Dress Her in Indigo) do not appear, but a few copies are available through Abe Books (

  2. Craig Speece permalink
    March 4, 2012 10:24 pm

    Thanks for the information and the link. Any chance you and I are confusing The Mysterious Press with Mysterious Book Club? The copy of Gray I saw listed on ABE is from Club, 1968 (it can be found at other sellers as well). Press didn’t start publishing until the 1970s, as you say. I don’t know anything about Club, but I’m doubtful that the two are the same outfit.

  3. March 9, 2012 6:03 pm

    According to Wikipedia (and how could they be wrong???), Otto Penzler founded The Mysterious Press in 1975 and states that “The Mysterious Book Club became a division of the Book of the Month Club”, although the article on the BOMC mentions only “Mystery Guild” as one of its clubs. I’m speculating, but it sounds like Club was a division of Press (which explains why you see books sold both ways), which was then sold. Then Press was sold to Warner although Otto later re-acquired the name. Normally, I despair of those who use wiki as a source, but this ain’t no research paper! Source: and

    • Craig Speece permalink
      March 10, 2012 5:59 pm

      I wouldn’t want to dispute Wikipedia; who knows what they could do to me? I can comment on the quality of some of the specific books. I own the Mysterious Press publications of Slam the Big Door and A Key to the Suite. The quality and feel of the books are impressive, with stiff paper, good bindings, thick fly leafs, nice headbands, and full publishing and LOC information behind the title page.

      I also own the Mysterious Book Club publication of The Quick Red Fox that you featured on March 6, 2012. While not bad for a BCE (in fact, better than most), it still feels and looks like BCE. The back board has a blind stamp, the paper and bindings are a step down, and behind the title page we find the standard BOMC blurb but little publishing information.

      Under the Wikipedia scenario it is certainly possible that Otto Penzler took a different approach to quality when he was publishing as Club versus as Press. The Mysterious Press site is silent about Club in their “About Mysterious Press.” We still have a date problem if Press started in 1975 and Gray is from 1968.

      I know none of this proves anything, and I have got far afield from your real subject of cover art. Sorry to take us down a rabbit hole.

  4. Craig Speece permalink
    March 16, 2012 8:23 pm

    Your March 5 posting for Indigo asked if any reader could provide information about Mysterious Press and Mysterious Book Club. You and I tried, but we were mainly guessing. So I went to the source. Here is the answer from the man himself:

    Hi Craig,
    Thank you for your interesting and gracious letter.
    The Mysterious Book Club is an imprint that I had with The Book-of-the-Month Club. Book club editions are almost always inferior in production values to real printed books. I helped select many of the titles for the club (no longer in existence) but had nothing to do with producing those editions, just as I had nothing to do with Mysterious Press audios, another imprint.
    If you’ll look at our more recent publications, done in association with Grove/Atlantic, you will see the same high production quality as my earlier books.

    Best wishes, Otto Penzler

    • March 20, 2012 5:54 pm

      Wow. Now THAT is an authoritative response. Case closed. Excellent research, Craig.

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