Maps on the back of detective novels


Strange Maps points us to an interesting collection of 577 "map backs" published by pulp magazine company Dell Publishing — illustrations that pinpoint exactly where incidents happened in famous detective novels published between 1943 and 1952. This one is from Alfred Hitchcok's The Rope; other authors represented by Dell included Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and Lange Lewis.

Maps of Murder: Dell Books and 'Hard-Boiled' Cartography [Strange Maps]


  1. One of the big claims to fame of the movie version of Hitchcock’s ROPE was that it was an experiment in film-making, taking place exclusively within the confines of one set, and where each take was filmed with as few interruptions as possible… some as long as 10 minutes in length, the limit of the amount of film the camera’s magazine could hold.

    1. Yeah, I love how the film uses no intercutting, making it look like it is all one take. In order to change the reels, they had to do creative things like pass behind someone up close. Hitchcock was brilliant in so many ways!

  2. From a glance at the Dell paperback map, and my poor memories of Rope, which was a physical set that only differed from the layout of an apartment is that the walls could roll out of the way to let a camera through…

    I don’t think this is the same apartment. Piano, picture window, trunk, seating, access to other rooms is all different in the film in comparison to this. And as Dave Faris points out above, that layout is fairly statis and important as the movie was filmed in uninterupted full reel takes.

    Who wrote the Dell paperback? Anyone involved with the script?

  3. The entire movie (except the opening establishing shot) takes place in location 3.

    I note that there’s only one bedroom. I wonder if the novel refers explicitly to Brandon’s and Phillip’s homosexuality, which the movie couldn’t do.

  4. My father, who hates SF, nonetheless had a copy of The Martian Chronicles on his bookshelf. (Probably because it was one of those “safe” SF stories beloved by English teachers.)

    The book had one of these maps. Uselessly vague. It’s not like you could use it to tour Mars.

    Mostly, I remember being mystified and a little creeped out by that eye in the keyhole.

  5. Interesting; didn’t The Hobbit and/or The Lord of the Rings books do this as well, with a map of Middle Earth inside the book? Come to think of it, I remember One Hundred Years of Solitude had a huge family tree in the middle of it, so you could keep track of who was who.

    1. What’s unusual about these maps is that they weren’t created by (and perhaps not approved by) the author. They are probably art department product.

  6. Yes, Hitchcock’s ROPE was certainly experimental. EVERY ‘take’ was 10 minutes long – the limit of the amount of film the camera’s magazine could hold – and if an actor flubbed a line after 9 minutes of shooting, the whole take had to begin again!
    Hitchcock later admitted that it was a mistaken idea and he’d never use the technique again.
    That map certainly doesn’t represent the layout of the movie set as I remember it.
    The couch and coffee-table were in front of a large window overlooking the city skyline.

  7. This reminded me that I have a copy of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in this Dell Murder Mystery format, with a back cover “map”/blueprint/cutaway of the Paris Opera House (featuring underground passages/Phantom’s lair/underground lake, etc.).

    I absolutely agree with the above comment that these were done without the author’s consent. That they would even include this book as part of this series is a bit of a stretch.

    The maps are a fun idea, though!

    I wonder, are the city maps accurate?

  8. Am I crazy, or is the map for Rope (the movie version, at least) wrong? I thought there was a central hallway that separated the livingroom from the dining room, and where the closet and the front door were located. I saw the movie a few months ago, but I’m pretty sure I recall the layout.

  9. I wonder who actually “wrote” this book, though?

    The film entitled “Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE” was adapted in treatment form by Hume Cronyn from a play by Patrick Hamilton. The final screenplay was credited to famous playwright Arthur Laurents — allegedly Ben Hecht did an uncredited polish.

    This book is perhaps a novelization of the film, done by someone who might be listed in very small type somewhere near the title page of the book. Disney used to do (and maybe still does) this thing all the time, publishing novelizations or even new stories featuring their trademark characters with the actual author/adaptor only identifiable through searching the book’s insides.

    Lisa, it rankles to see you lump Hitchcock in with “other authors” such as Christie and Hammett. Hitchcock is the ultimate auteur, perhaps — but he no more wrote this than Walt Disney wrote “Disney’s A Christmas Carol.”

  10. I’m surprised no one has speculated if these maps inspired the wonderful game ‘Clue’.. a mystery written from a map, as opposed to the map written to fit the mystery.

  11. Dutch graphic designer Piet Schreuders has written a wonderful book about the same topic in 1997, The Dell “Mapbacks” Diary (OOP). Here’s more info on the publisher’s site

    Schreuders is not only an amazing designer with a true passion for the topics he covers, he’s also co-founder of The Beau Hunks, a “Dutch revivalist music ensemble who have performed and recorded the vintage works of composers Leroy Shield, Raymond Scott, Edward McDowell, Ferde Grofe, and others.” (from Wikipedia).

    Find Piet Schreuders’ Flickr photostream here

  12. Vintage Dell mysteries were one of my very favorite things about working in a bookstore. The keyhole on the spine tells you there’s a crime map on the back.

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