These two paperback books (#7 "Fiery Eye" and #8 "Silver Spider") in this format (Hitchcock Cover paperback with Adragna cover art) are either the absolute rarest of the rare U.S. Three Investigators books or they are altogether non-existent. Current evidence suggests, but is by no means conclusive, that these two titles in this format are most likely non-existent. First, let me describe exactly which books we are talking about so as not to create any confusion. These are U.S. Random House paperback books that will feature Robert Adragna cover art, have the Hitchcock silhouette logo in the upper right corner of the front cover, and will presumably have the Harry Kane internal illustrations.
The evidence I refer to is based on the books, material, and notes found in the separate collections of Robert Held and myself. In addition, as of this writing, I have communicated with 23 individual Three Investigators collectors and/or enthusiasts from across the U.S. (plus a few International collectors) and none of them owns a copy of either of these two titles in this format. Obviously, 23+ collectors/enthusiasts could be considered an extremely small sample but many of these collectors could be described as enthusiasts intent on collecting every Three Investigators title in every U.S. edition. Possibly the most profound evidence available that suggests the non-existence of these two titles in this format is that I have monitored and searched eBay auctions (and my geographic region as best I can) since 1998 with no success.
I can think of three distinct possibilities as to why these two titles in this format have not yet been "found":
1. An extremely small print run. We'll probably never know the size of any given print run for any given Three Investigators title in any edition, so I don't have anything currently to compare to what I would consider "an extremely small print run" but I think we would easily be talking of less than 500 copies and I'm not sure that's realistic. I do not know what the break-even point was for Random House.
2. Extremely limited distribution or no distribution. If these two titles were printed in this format then it's possible they were distributed in only one or two areas of the country or maybe even to Canada only. Distribution of such a small print run could have been limited to only schools or libraries. I really don't think "no distribution" is likely. Even if the books were printed in late 1983 or in 1984 when conversion to the "Keyhole Edition" was imminent, Random House would sell the inventory and not warehouse or destroy it.
3. They simply don't exist.
It has long been assumed that each of the first 30 titles were printed in paperback in the Adragna-Hitchcock Cover format and that each was available at some point between the years 1979 and 1983. Prior to 1979, the only Three Investigators paperbacks available were the two titles published by Windward, several titles published by Scolastic Books, and in 1978 the twelve titles published by Random House with Stephen Marchesi cover art. Beginning in 1979, Robert Adragna, took the reigns as cover artist with #29 Sinister Scarecrow and created new cover art for all 43 titles in the original series up until 1987. For more detail on exactly which years which books received new cover art, which year each of the first 30 titles converted to "Keyhole Covers", etc., I invite you to visit my website as I prefer not to get bogged down with these details here when the information is easily and readily available to anyone who needs it. Further details will be published on the site in regards to title lists found in the Marchesi books vs. the Hitchcock Cover books and how certain boxed sets may contain helpful evidence. Title lists are a tricky thing here as it appears that Random House was particularly lax about updating some of the lists in some of the paperbacks in the very early 1980's.
As I stated at the beginning of this post: current evidence suggests, but is by no means conclusive, that these two titles in this format are most likely non-existent. If you own or definitely know someone who owns a Random House Paperback copy of #7 Fiery Eye or #8 Silver Spider with Adragna cover art and the Hitchcock silhouette in the upper right corner of the front cover, please let me know about it at [email protected]. Scans of the front cover, spine, back cover, and copyright page would be helpful along with information about it's year and location of purchase if possible. Your help is appreciated, thank you!
Seth T. Smolinske