Yes! We’re just short of four weeks to go till we start reading! It’s been exciting to see a few people sign up to follow the blog and hopefully we’ll get more on board as we go along. But for those who are joining us on the Grand (Re)Read who don’t yet have a copy of The Dark Portal lying around that they can dust off and start reading again, we wanted to let you know where to get hold of one.
Sadly, despite Matt having bought The Dark Portal twice in his lifetime just to collect the different cover artwork and Aufwader having somehow acquired three copies of varying provenance, it was not quite enough to keep this book in print in a physical format as of the time of writing. (This is unfortunately the case for most early Jarvis books that we will be reading through in the first year.)
However, those of you who have a Kindle (or can get the Amazon Kindle app in some shape or form) will be delighted to know that you can pick up a very affordable copy of The Dark Portal eBook. (We just checked prices now and currently, it was sitting at £1.99 on Amazon.co.uk, $0.74USD on Amazon.com and $0.99AUD on Amazon.com.au.)
So, really, you’ve got no excuse for making a quick impulse buy right now as we speak.
The caveat with the eBook version, though – and it’s a major one – is that there are no illustrations. Mr Jarvis, as well as being a writer of some talent, is also a phenomenal illustrator as well. In fact, the story goes that he drew pictures of the Deptford Mice first and then started coming up with a story to house them.
And so the original editions of The Deptford Mice Trilogy all feature stunning cover-art on the front and back of the book plus a full-page black-and-white illustration in each chapter (so 14 interior illustrations in all). These illustrations are amazing, because they really bring the heroes and villains of the series to life and set the tone for the story.
So please do buy the eBook version, which we hope gives a couple of pennies to Robin. But for a few pounds in the UK (or around $10 if you live on the other side of the planet like Matt) you can pick up a cheap second-hand copy from eBay or AbeBooks or Amazon which will give you a chance to see the illustrations for yourself. (For copyright reasons, we won’t be able to reproduce them all in this blog, though we may point out a couple of our favourites along the way.)
BUT … before you head off to get yourself a second-copy, we need to give a further warning: there are second-hand copies and there are second-hand copies. It’s possibly a rights issue, maybe something else. But there was at least one print edition of The Deptford Mice books that came out with just text and no illustrations. (The horror!) So, to make it easy for you, here are the front covers that you are looking for:
This one is the original first edition, featuring a pair of burning red eyes peering out of the Dark Portal of the title. This is the ideal one to get, because it was the most nicely laid out in terms of font, paper stock, readability, etc.
Next best is this Hodder Silver edition, which came out in 2000 with the same interior illustrations but a new cover by Robin. It has a very cool feature – if you get all three of these editions and line them up in a row, you see a picture form across the spines!
This next one is the American edition which came out in hardback, with a cover by Leonid Gore. It features Robin’s illustrations on the inside, but for some mysterious reason, the US publisher saw fit to have completely new illustrations done for the covers. While the large, dramatic-looking rat is quite eye-catching, for Matt at least, it’s just not what a Robin Jarvis book looks like. But if we have any readers in the States, this edition may be slightly easier to track down.
Most other versions of the book that we have seen haven’t had the illustrations, so I would suggest only purchasing one of those three. (As a side note, the Japanese editions of the Deptford Mice Trilogy are illustrated by John Shelley throughout, and are definitely worth collecting). The Dark Portal is also available in German and Italian.
Once you’ve picked up a copy, if you want to drop by and comment on this post to let us know which edition you own, or which edition you bought and what you like about it, we’d love to hear from you.
In the meantime, don’t forget to tell your friends to come over and sign up! The more, the merrier! (Maybe buy two copies of The Dark Portal, so you can give one away as a Christmas present?)