Pictured below is the preliminary cover art for title #13 in The Three Investigators series, The Secret of the Crooked Cat. It is accompanied by the original document, also shown below, signed by Alfred Hitchcock giving his approval for its use on the book. It is known that Hitchcock's approval was required for artwork containing his image. However, it is puzzling why his approval was necessary for this cover and, we guess, all of the covers after the third book in the series. Perhaps it was assumed from the beginning that Hitchcock's visage would appear on the cover of each book as it did on the first three titles. If so, any early written agreement was not amended to reflect the change but, instead, adhered to by both Random House and Mr. Hitchcock. Until further information surfaces, this is the only explanation which seems to make any sense because it has been established that Hitchcock himself had absolutely no part in the creation of nor the writing of the series.
Like many of Harry Kane's preliminary sketches for internal illustrations, this preliminary cover sketch contains a profusion of notes from the editor, Eugenia Fanelli, to Kane in the margins surrounding the painting. Unfortunately, on this sketch, the editor's notes were partially erased before the piece was sent to Hitchcock's agent and are nearly invisible in the photo above. I was able to read roughly 80% of the erased comments which include the following:
- Blue is too harsh
- Do more with lighting - action takes place in main carnival area which is floodlit
- Highlighting on characters and carnival rides OK but not enough
- Background figures are still too big, look like 6' men instead of boys . . .(indecipherable)
- Avoid suggestion that thief is a swarthy, olive-skinned type
- Jupiter looks bigger than thief
These two pieces (see letter below) were sold together as one lot in an auction in August, 2005. The previous owner was probably an associate or relative of Alfred Hitchcock's legal agent.
Interestingly, Lee Wright, the editor who dictated this letter, edited The Pocket Book of Great Detectives in 1941. This was the first mystery anthology to feature an introduction by Hitchcock and it is believed to be one of the very few times that Hitchcock actually composed the introduction himself. Such introductions in all succeeding anthologies, with the possible exception of Simon and Schuster's 1947 anthology Alfred Hitchcock's Fireside Book of Suspense, were written by others, including many by Robert Arthur. This 1941 book was also the first publication of its kind to attempt to commercially cash in on the Hitchcock name.
For more information on Harry Kane, his Three Investigators artwork and his other artwork, click HERE.
All items pictured on this page are from the collection of Seth T. Smolinske.