01 October 2011

Six Exits to Shrewsdale

John Buell's The Shrewsdale Exit was translated into the French by Jean-Patrick Manchette, the very same man who adapted the novel to film. It appeared first in 1973 as Sombres vacances, number 1596 in Gallimard's Série Noire. Anyone familiar with the series will understand why I'm not bothering with the image. L'agression, the movie tie-in published two years later, is much more attractive – that is, after all, Catherine Deneauve on the cover.

The novel did quite well in France, but nothing like Germany, where it went through no less than six different editions. Titled Highway, the not-so-great image below captures the very first, published in 1973 by Bücherbund. A Skull and Crossbones, an Iron Cross, a Star of David and what might be something from Star Trek – these bikers might be bad, but they don't discriminate.

While most German covers focus on the bikers, this 1975 edition seems to have been inspired by the novel's final peaceful pages.

Published in 1974, Salida de autopista (Highway Exit), the first Spanish language edition, sticks with the tried and true, while reimagining the evil bikers as daredevils and Vikings.

In 2007, long after the book had again gone out of print in English, a Polish language edition appeared out of nowhere. Titled Czarne wakacje (Black Holiday), its cover depicts a scene that is foreign to the novel.

Interesting to note, I think, that it's the Americans who have stayed truest to the novel. The Farrar, Straus & Giroux first edition was followed by this mass market paperback from Pocket Books.

The bikers are just as Buell describes them. An anonymous cover artist picks up on their number – three – in the 1984 Carroll & Graf reissue.

It would seem that the novel has never published in Canada, the author's home and native land.

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