Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #3: Mapping the Months

December and January are common months in which to buy a new calendar or to receive one as a gift. I’ve saved several collectible calendars that were given to me over the years, including those bearing wonderful illustrations or photos from Norman Rockwell, Dick and Jane readers, and one of my favorite television shows of all time, Castle. While digging through the sale bin at a bookstore, in 1998, I found an excellent calendar marked 50% off, probably because we were already well into spring, even by Michigan standards. Why would I buy a calendar that late in the year? Besides the price being great, this calendar pictured a style of book that I’d already been collecting for years…the Dell map back!

map backs mine

Map backs (or mapbacks) were published by Dell, beginning around 1943. These paperbacks are often mysteries,  are numbered (over 500), and feature a map on the back that depicts a setting from the book. The three above are several favorites from my own collection. I love the cover of The Circular Staircase and the fact that it carries the price of 25 cents! Death of a Tall Man appeals to me due to the cat and because I’ve enjoyed many episodes of those campy Mr. and Mrs. North mysteries on TV. The middle book shows the map on the back of Through a Glass, Darkly, by Helen McCloy. This is a good example of how the maps sometimes show a small area, like a neighborhood or building, while others picture a larger geographic area, like a city or even country.

I’ve been collecting map backs for decades. My sister first introduced me to these often smelly old mysteries that wear such fun art work, front and back, although it can be a bit lurid, at times. As mentioned in a previous post, I had to part with many of my books when I moved from Michigan to Texas a few years ago. I kept my collection of about 50 map backs, however, and still search for additions to it whenever I visit a used bookstore or antique/collectibles shop. They’re usually quite inexpensive, and their conditions vary, of course. Until the day that I came across this map back calendar, I had never known that such a thing existed. What excitement!

calendar front resized

Each month features the cover of a different book with a smaller inset photo of the map from the back. The map grid page then carries some interesting phrases, such as, “Wouldn’t you like to know what the window cleaner really saw?” from this Hercule Poirot mystery by Agatha Christie.

calendar example 1 001 resized

Another favorite month shows this book, below, by C.W. Grafton. That writer was also a lawyer and father of the late Sue Grafton, author of the wonderful “alphabet mysteries” written about the fictional detective, Kinsey Millhone.

calendar example 2 001 resized






This last photo shows snapshots of all the months and is taken from the back of the calendar, which was published that year by Universe Publishing and distributed in the U.S. by St. Martins Press. I’ve never seen another one like it, have you? I’d love to read your comments, if you also own some of these books and enjoy “everything map back”!          ~Becky

calendar back 001 resized

40 thoughts on “Fantastic Find at the Bookstore #3: Mapping the Months

  1. So now I’m trying to remember if I ever read those books. What a great post about them. I like books that contain drawings of the neighbourhood or village/town where a story is set. That’s one of the nice little extras in Jan Karon’s Mitford books, for example.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never seen – or even heard of – a “mapback” book before, so this was interesting. I do, however, love when I read a. novel and they have included a map in the front of the book so you get a lay of the land and an idea where the characters are going.

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  3. Thanks so much for this post! What wonderful information. I had no idea. You have a keen eye! I also wanted to say thanks for liking Ludwig’s Thrillers review of my noir REVENGE IN 3 PARTS. We definitely love our books and our readers!

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  4. Reblogged this on valinparis and commented:
    I love finding out from other authors and readers what they love. In the following, blogger and author Becky Ross Michael collects a number of books and this selection was a complete surprise to me. I didn’t know about bookmaps. Did you? Can you imagine what that was like before the internet, how exciting it would be? Now we can actually Google maps that show us the neighborhood as if we were standing there, surveying the area. But before that, in a mystery book, a map would have made us feel that we were there, in the setting. Thanks, Becky! I’ll be hunting the shelves now.

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  5. Dick and Jane Readers…oh the memories! I’m a big fan of Norman Rockwell posters and Castle is one of our favorite television series. Believe it or not, Dan (hubby) and I have found lots of book treasures in thrift stores. Enjoyed your post and wish you a blessed and beautiful New Year, Becky. Calendars are one of those gifts I love giving and receiving. ❤

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