Over the years, Random House has issued The Three Investigators in a number of paperback trade editions and formats. In the early 1970's "Terror Castle" and "Stuttering Parrot" appeared in their First Paperback Editions under Random House's WINDWARD BOOKS name. 1978 was the last year in which Three Investigators hardbound trade editions were manufactured and it is also the year in which Random House decided to issue the books in only a paperback format. One would think that Random House would begin with book #1 and work it's way to the end of the series, re-issuing the books in chronological order. They didn't. Between 1978 and 1985 the first 30 titles were re-issued in an extremely confusing sequence in up to three different formats. Why? We may never have a complete answer but here are some reasons:
First, Random House kept this entire series continuously in print in one form or another over the entire course of it's 23 years. Random House used "soft-conversion" practices in the manufacturing of it's product as do most manufacturers. Basically, this means that existing stock or materials are used up or sold before moving on to new materials. If one keeps this in mind, then it is fairly simple to make sense out of the confusion. In 1978 when the decision was made to go to the paperback edition, there was still a plentiful supply of hardbound books left to sell for 16 of the then existing 28 titles. Hardbound stock was either low or depleted on the other 12 titles so those would be the first to be published in the new paperback format in order to keep the entire series available to the public. They were: #'s 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, & 18. These are known as the MARCHESI COVERS because Stephen Marchesi is the artist who created the new cover art for these 12 paperbacks
Second, artist Robert Adragna, was brought in to replace Marchesi and create cover art in 1979. The styles of the two artists are vastly different. Adragna has a realistic style while Marchesi's is more abstract. Adranga's job was to produce cover art for the new titles that were being written. Later he would create new cover art for the first 28 titles which included redoing the 12 which Marchesi had already created. Because these books have Hitch's silhouette on the front cover, they are known as the HITCHCOCK COVERS - books #1 - #30 with Adragna cover art.
Finally, Alfred Hitchcock died in 1980 and Random House decided that all future titles (titles #31 - #43) would have to feature a new person introducing the books (Hector Sebastian). Of course, since Hitchcock isn't featured in these books his silhouette on the covers wasn't needed and the "keyhole" design was created. Eventually, Random House decided to revise the text of the first 30 titles to replace Hitchcock with Sebastian. This meant that the Hitchcock silhouette on the covers and spines of these books could no longer be used and the new "keyhole" design was implemented on these titles. Thus, we have the KEYHOLE COVERS, books #1 - #43 with Adragna cover art.
In 1987, the last title in the original Three Investigators series, #43 "The Mystery of the Cranky Collector", was published. I have never seen or heard of a second printing of this title. M.V. (Mary Virginia) Carey was working on book #44 to be entitled "The Mystery of the Ghost Train" at the time the series was canceled.
In 1991, BULLSEYE BOOKS, a subsidiary of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (a publishing company owned by Random House), brought out an attractive new paperback edition of the original Three Investigators series. Unfortunately, this edition does not include all 43 titles.
In 1998, under their own name, Random House began to re-issue the original Three Investigators series once again - only this time beginning with title #1 "Terror Castle" and working their way up chronologically to #11 "Talking Skull". These are simply referred to as the DODGE ISSUE because they have new cover art created by artist Bill Dodge.
With but a few exceptions, most of The Three Investigators paperback books are not highly sought after by Three Investigators enthusiasts. Let me assure anyone attempting to collect every title in every format that it is no easy task. Many of the paperbacks are much more difficult to obtain than any of the regular trade edition hardbound books. Please click on the capitalized and highlighted formats above to learn more about each edition or format. Scans of each of the titles in all existing formats can be found on the Original Series page.