Tom Adams (1926-2019) was born into a family of urban planners. His grandfather, Thomas Adams (1871–1940), was an influential urban planner, who served as an advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and became one of the principal founders of Urban Planning as a discipline. Adams’s father, James W. Renwick Adams OBE (1898–1969), worked as a planner also. From his family Adams inherited a strong sense of composition.
Adams studied at the Chelsea School of Art and Goldsmith’s College, where he received a degree in Painting in 1949. Between 1953 and 1960 Adams created illustrations for magazines and in 1958, he founded Adams Design Associates, where he produced large murals in the then-new medium of laminated plastic for big corporations and banks.
In the 1960s and 1970s he became involved with several distinguished poets, including Ted Hughes and Cecil Day Lewis, producing poetry prints published by his own gallery in London. Adams also designed posters for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Soft Machine. His connection to the music scene was where he met Lou Reed, an admirer of his book covers. Adams designed the cover for Reed’s first solo album.
Adams began a career as a book cover illustrator with the early John Fowles‘s novels The Collector (1963), The Magus (1965) and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) and the now famous paperback covers for Agatha Christie (1890-1976). There is a book of his Christie covers, Tom Adams’s Agatha Christie Cover Story (1981).
He also designed several covers for Raymond Chandler paperbacks, plus Ghost Story (1979) by Peter Straub and Kingsley Amis‘s Colonel Sun (1968). He did private portrait commissions, including gay composer Benjamin Britten, Prince Charles, Federico Fellini.
Agatha Christie’s works had been published in paperback before. She was part of the famous ten-book launch of Penguin Books. The success of paperback publisher Penguin in the UK and Pocket Books in the USA in the years following World War II, brought traditional publishers to produce paperbacks. By the early 1960s, publishing house William Collins (later Harper Collins) wanted to do something more distinct with Christie’s paperback covers. Impressed with Adams’s cover for The Collector, Adams got the job.
He was commissioned to do a trial cover of A Murder Is Announced, which was published with his cover in 1962. Everyone involved was pleased, and Adams ended up doing covers for many of Christie’s paperbacks, often more than once.
Christie is the bestselling fiction writer of all time; her novels having sold over two billion copies. She remains the most-translated individual writer ever. She published 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. The most popular revolve around her fictional detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She also wrote the world’s longest-running play The Mousetrap, which ran on the West End from 1952 until the great plague of 2020 closed London theatres.
There is nothing particularly queer about her work, but in your quarantine, you might enjoy making your way through her books, or catch some of the over 50 film adaptations of her work. The first is The Passing Of Mr. Quinn (1928) and the newest is the third version of her popular 1937 mystery Death On The Nile, directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is returning as Hercule Poirot after his Murder On The Orient Express (2017). It also features Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Sophie Okonedo, Rose Leslie, Jennifer Saunders, and Russell Brand. Death On The Nile is scheduled for release in theatres this fall, if there are still theatres.
As I always say: You Can Judge a Book By Its Cover: