Cynical, dark-hearted British playwright Joe Orton and his boyfriend (later murderer) Kenneth Halliwell so hated the books on offer at the Essex Road library in London, that they decided to amuse themselves by creatively defacing book covers. Eventually the pair were caught and did jail time. Now a large selection of their naughty handiwork is on display at the Islington Museum, where 40 of the 72 dustjackets they defaced can be viewed by the public through January of next year.
What would a librarygoer in 1960 think in picking up The Collected Plays of Emlyn Williams and finding they were about to read plays called Knickers Must Fall and Fucked by Monty?
They also altered the blurbs for the books in a less than tasteful fashion. Dorothy L Sayers’s Gaudy Nights, for example, was the writer “at her most awe inspiring. At her most queer, and needless to say, at her most crude!”
Readers of another of her Lord Peter Wimsey books, Clouds of Witness, are advised to read behind closed doors “and have a good shit while you are reading!”
The pair would sneak the book back on to a shelf and then wait for someone to pick it up so they could watch the reaction.
You can see more of the defaced book jackets here.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Because we’re queer’: The Life and Crimes of Joe Orton
Thank you, Chris Campion!