It has been months since I last wrote a post on ‘book art’ but regular readers of this blog might remember my cover illustration posts on Madam, Will You Talk?, Wildfire at Midnight and Thunder on the Right. These are posts that I really enjoyed putting together and it was great to chat about your favourite illustrations – and I loved being sent photos of some of your own book covers to share on the blog!

So today I am writing a similar post on Nine Coaches Waiting, Mary Stewart’s fourth published novel, looking at the range of cover art in which the novel has been clothed since its first appearance in 1958. For clarity, I am writing this post using my own photos of the books that I own therefore this book art does not cover all editions released and it is UK-centric.

1958, Hodder & Stoughton, UK first edition: This is the last of the Mary Stewart first editions to be illustrated by Eleanor Poore. Does anyone have any information on just who this illustrator is/was? I’m not a huge fan of this cover although the enormous sign ‘VIN’ is quite amusing – and is the figure beside the sign wearing a sombrero or the world’s largest spectacles? The back cover comprises many quotes in small print praising Mary Stewart’s earlier books, topped by the heading ‘MARY STEWART writes well and she writes to excite’ but the dust jacket’s best feature for me is that there is a small author photograph on the inner back cover (photographer not known).




1961, Hodder paperback: I can never quite decide who Linda reminds me of here – Jane Wyman perhaps? And the Chateau de Valmy may be lurking menacingly in the corner but we all know that this illustration is dominated by Philippe’s hat: worn to the very back of the head, with that enormous pom pom, so red, and so incongruously wintry with a summer T-shirt!

Nine Coaches Waiting, Hodder pb, 1961. Illustr NK


1964, Hodder paperback: I like this edition. I think Linda might be sporting a pinafore dress, which seems to me spot on for the 60s and for teaching types, plus she has fab 60s hair and her stance shows she is protective of young Philippe. But it is the house that grabs attention because it looks so sinister – the light in three of the windows underlines how dark most of the house is, and there is definitely something creepy about the green tinge to the house and its surroundings. But no, I don’t know why anyone would choose that vicious shade of yellow with that thick black font…

Nine Coaches Waiting, Hodder pb 1964. Illustr NK


1966, Hodder paperback: Is it a sign of Mary Stewart’s increasing popularity as a writer that the font is so large, with her name in particular standing out? I think Linda looks really young and defenceless here. She is wearing a clashing cardi/scarf combo but it’s fine because all book-lovers adore a cardi. Don’t we? And it has *pockets*! Minus points for the fact that the chateau looks like it has been built by a child with building blocks rather than any chateau I have ever seen…

Nine Coaches Waiting, Hodder pb 1966. Illustr NK


1968 Hodder paperback: I’m not keen on the background colour but I quite like the font and I really like the illustration. I like the way Linda is gazing away pensively in her mini-dress; the man annoys me less than most representations of Mary Stewart heroes even if he does look like a rectangle-faced conservative pipe-smoker; and I am a fan of the sky colours, the shadows, the angles and the (mini)chateau.

Nine Coaches Waiting, Hodder pb 1968 Illustr NK


1969, Hodder & Stoughton, Mary Stewart Omnibus 1: As discussed in previous posts, I am not a huge fan of this dated cover or title (does it even really qualify as a title?) but I absolutely love its gem of a four-page preface by Mary Stewart. A sample:

Nine Coaches Waiting is structurally different again. This is the Cinderella story, openly acknowledging its great model, treating that model with some astringence, but keeping and humanizing the strong line of the traditional love story. The framework of this story makes it possibly more appealing to women than to men. It is a very feminine story, and if any of its quotations would sum it up adequately it is the Shakespearian couplet in the last chapter:

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour / Whilst I (my sovereign) watch the clock for you.’

The theme superimposed on the romantic thriller plot is the classic dilemma of choice between love and duty.

Mary Stewart Omnibus 1, Hodder hb, 1969. Illustr NK


1972, Coronet paperback: This is a nice example of the creamy Coronet covers that are a favourite of many Mary Stewart fans. I’m not too sure of the wisdom of illustrating the secondary figure in this way and I don’t get the significance of the garden chair behind Linda but she looks elegant. The chateau seems to be a redrawing of the same building featured on the 1968 paperback (two books above).

Nine Coaches Waiting, Coronet pb 1972. Illustr NK


1979, Heinemann/Octopus omnibus: For completists only: no preface, no interior illustration, too bulky to read comfortably. Still, this publisher is awarded points for acknowledging cover design – the front cover photo is by photographer and film-maker Robert Golden. Plus there is a photo of Mary Stewart on the back cover, by Mark Gerson – it is the one where you can clearly make out her copy of Brewer’s, you can view this photograph in the Independent’s Mary Stewart obituary.

Omnibus, Octopus/Heinemann, 1979. Cover photo by Robert Golden


1992, Coronet paperback: I feel the font style and colours look a little cheap here. We are back to an enormous chateau but it looks as though it is bathed in sunshine so it is forbidding rather than sinister; I like the car only for the events in the book that it evokes. The outdoor scene is beautifully drawn, which seems only right given the high quality of Mary Stewart’s descriptive writing. I am very pleased that we have illustrator details – Gavin Rowe has illustrated many Mary Stewart book covers (see here and here for some info about Gavin Rowe).

Nine Coaches Waiting, Coronet pb 1992. Illustr Gavin Rowe


2011, Hodder paperback: As I keep stating, I’m not hugely keen on the 2011 set of Mary Stewarts, I think the original Gerd Hartung fashion illustrations look much better with background and context – look here to see what I mean. This cover illustration is ©Robyn Neild, ©Gerd Hartnung/akg-images. I really dislike that baby-pink font – and the baby-pink Eiffel Tower. The dress pocket really is the only consolation here.

Nine Coaches Waiting, Hodder pb 2011. Illustr Robyn Neild, Gerd Hartung/akg-images


2017, Hodder paperback: I do like these most recent covers. This car looks really glamorous, the scenery is impressive, and the overall impression is of one of those fabulous vintage railway posters. And there is a bridge – given the story, I would have thought a bridge might have featured more often on covers of Nine Coaches Waiting…

Nine Coaches Waiting, Hodder 2017. Illustr Swim Ink 2 LLC/Contributor/Getty Images

So those are my Nine Coaches Waiting book covers, complete with my subjective opinions of them. Which one is your favourite? Do you have a different or better cover that you would like to share or describe? Please do get in touch and let me know!

Jerri and Linda have both described to me the details of their  copy of Nine Coaches Waiting, the US hardback by Mill Morrow with jacket design by Charles Geer. Jerri has kindly shared scanned images for us to admire. Does anyone know who the photographer is of this gorgeous Mary Stewart photo? It is one I have never seen before and it is so good. If anyone knows where this photo was taken, or what the fancy car is, I would love to know.


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