Traver, Robert: Anatomy of a Murder
(researched by Stephanie Lunsford)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Publisher: St. Martinís Press Place: New York Date: 1958 Printed by: Kingsport Press, Kingsport TN

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first edition was bound in cloth.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

223 leaves, 14 sections, pp 3-437, 1-2 unumbered

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

The first edition was not edited or introduced. However, there is a prologue which serves as a kind of introduction. The following is a
trascription of the prologue: prologue | This is the story of a murder, of a murder trial, and of some of the people who engaged or became enmeshed in the proceedings. Enmeshed is a good word, for murder, of all crimes, seems to posses to a greater degr
ee than any other that compelling magnetic quality that draws people helplessly into its outspreading net, frequently to their surprise, and occasionally to their horror. | Murders must happen some place, of course, and this one and the subsequent trial
took place on the water-hemmed Upper Peninsula of Michigan, simply U. P. to its inhabitants. The U. P. is a wild, harsh and broken land, rubbed and ground on their relentless hone of many past glaciers, the last one, in its slow convulsive retreat, leavi
ng the country a jumble of swamps and hills and rocks and endless waterways. Lying as it does within the southernmost rim of the great Canadian pre-Cambrian shield, the region s perhaps more nearly allied with Canada by climatic and geological affinity;
with Wisconsin by the logic of geography; with but a region which by some logic, finally wound up as part of the state of Michigan; this after a fairy-tale series of political blunders and compromises that doubtless made angels weep. | Nobody had wanted t
o adopt the remote and raffish U. P. and Michigan was at last persuaded to take it reluctantly, coveting instead, almost to the brink of civil war, a modest parcel of land along the Ohio border known as the "Toledo strip." This wry political fairy-tale u
nfolded in all of its lovely irony when large copper and Iron deposits were shortly discovered on the U. P. rivaling in richness any then known on the hemisphere. The unwanted ugly duckling had turned into a fabulous golden-haired princess. The resource
ful politicians in lower Michigan were equal to the strain; they quickly congratulated themselves on their wisdom and shrewd foresight. Theyíd wanted the U. P. all the time. Of course they had. | It was here that this murder took place | R. T.

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

The fir
st edition of this book is not illustrated.

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The book is nice looking, the dust jacket from the fifth printing of the first edition was available and in fair condition, but the underlying cover is very attractively bound in red cloth with black and go
ld print on the spine. It is printed in a twelve point serif type, with all lines justified. The chapter headings are simple and easy to read. Overall it is an attractive book.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

Paper is of good quality and is holding up well.
One copy of the book had only been in a temperature controlled enviornment since the 1980ís, yet the paper was still intact and only slightly yellowed.

11 Description of binding(s)

The book is bound in red cloth. On the spine "Anatomy of a Murder" is stamped in gold italics on top
of another stamp, a black block. Below this "TRAVER" is stamped in gold block letters. The inside cover is covered with grey heavy stock paper. The leaves of the book are sewn in.

12 Transcription of title page


13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Linda M. Olson Library at Northern Michigan University

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Library of Congress catalogue Number 57-13115

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

The book has been published in more than one edition. There was a Book-of-the-Month Club edition as well as the regular edition of this book. T
he BOMC edition was also published by St. Martin's, it came out in January of 1958. There was also a special "25th Anniversary Edition" published in 1983. This edition contained an introduction writeen by Robert Traver.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

here were at least 13 printings of the first edition. The first, second, and third printings were all before the book publication of the book. I was unable to find evidence of any more printings than this, however since the book still appears on the New
York Times bestseller list in January of 1959 (a full year after it was originally published) one can assume that perhpas there were more.

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Several other publishers, besides St. Martin's Press, published this book. Dell handled the paperback edition of
this book, it came out for the first time in 1958 and subsequently sold almost 3 million copies. In 1991 the Buccaneer Books edition was published, it is uncertain whether this date signifies the first printing of the book by this publisher or not. I h
ave, as yet, found no evidence of a prior edition by this company. Faber and Faber published the British edition of this book in 1958. Dale Books also published an edition of this book in 1978. G.K. Hall produced a large print edition of this book in 1
996, as part of their "Perennial Bestsellers" series.

6 Last date in print?

The book is still in print, however the last edition published by St Martin's Press (the original publisher) came out in 1983.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

As of 1976 the book had sold over 6 million copies (3,000,000 of whic
h were sold in hardback). In its first year the book sold 1,600,000 copies. When the paperback edition was released in 1959 it sold 3,000,000 copies. By 1976 it was listed as 20th on the all time "crime and mystery" bestseller list.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

1958 -- 1,666,000
copies (hardback) 1959 -- 3,000,000 copies (paperback)
I am currently trying to contact the publisher for more accurate information.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

Transcription of an advertisement which appeared in the New York Times Book Review January 5, 1958.
"Suspense of the highest and the most delicious quality...obsessively interesting." / -CLIFTON FADIMEN / ANATOMY of a MURDER / is a sensational new novel by a Justice of the / Supreme Court of Michigan, a former Prosecuting / Attorney, the author of Small
Town D.A. / "There are many famous trial scenes in fiction; but there are few / that, within your reviewer's memory, rival this one for tension, / legal chicanery, brilliant cross-examination, high and low comedy, / and ability to draw th reader almost
bodily into the courtroom. / "Drama of an intense conflict, involving the passions of lust and / revenge, scare-headline stuff raised to the level of adult narrative / by a writer who knows that the sensational is interesting but in- / sufficient -- that
it is the minds of the characters, not the lurid, / events in which they are caught, that must finally grip the reader." / by Robert Traver / ANATOMY OF A MURDER...the Book-of-the-Month Club Selection for January. / ANATOMY OF A MURDER...dramatize by the
famous playwright, John van Druten, for Broadway production 1958...ANATOMY OF A MURDER...sold to Hollywood for release in 1959...ANATOMY OF A your bookstore Now. $4.50/ ST MARTINS PRESS
All surrounded by a black rule, with an image of the book at the bottom left hand corner of the advertisement

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

There was an article about Robert Traver (John Voelker) in Life magazine March 31, 1958. It was the selection of the
Book-of-the-Month-Club in January of 1958. On July 27, 1959 their was a portion of the Ed Sullivan show dedicated to the movie of this book. Duke Ellington performed the theme song from the movie and Otto Penminger (the movie's director) both appeared
on the show. This may have served to also promote the book in some ways.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

It seems that it was released as a broadway play in 1958, written by Elihu Winer. There is very little information about this, however both the 1983 introduction to the book by
the author and an original advertisement for the book suggest that there was a production of this at some point. I found one reference to the script being printed and published in 1964 and subsequently in 1966. It was also released as a movie in 1959. The movie was put out by Columbia pictures and was directed by Otto Preminger. It starred Jimmy Stewart and George C. Scott. The screenplay was co-written by Robert Traver (John Voelker) and Wendell Mayes. It re
ceived seven oscar nominations, including best actor and best picture. There is an audiotape version of this book as well. It came out in 1979, and consists of 12 tapes (1 1/2 hours each). Wolfran Kandinsky is the one reading it.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

It was translated into seventeen different languages. Some of these include: Spanish -- "Anatomia de un Asesinato," Barcelona, Luis Caralt 1960 French -- "Autopsie d'un meurtre," Paris, Calmann-Levy 1958 Italian -- "Anatomia di un omicidio: romanzo" Milano, Garanzanti 1973
I was unable to find any other bibliographical information on them

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Robert Traver, a pseudonym for John Donaldson Voelker, was born June 29, 1903 to George and Annie Voelker. A native of Ishpeming, Michigan, and the youngest of six boys, he was the only child to ever go to colleg
e. He attended Northern Michigan College from 1922-1924 and subsequently the University of Michigan for Law School. His father was a saloon keeper, and the son of German immigrants, who claimed to be some of the first settlers in the Upper Peninsula of
Michigan. Voelker's Mother was born in New York and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Both of his parents died in 1935 (a month apart of one another), when Voelker was 32. On August 2, 1930 Voelker married Grace Taylor, with whom he had two children: Elizabeth and Julie. He was the district attorney for his hometown for fourteen years. He also served as a justice on the State of Michigan Supreme Court from 1957-60. He
quit his job as a supreme court justice in 1960 to pursue his career as an author full time. According to Voelker he wrote his first story at the age of twelve. He writes: "my mother thought that it a work of genius, though when pressed she conceded the characterization was a trifle thin." From this point until the time of his death, Voelker has
published 8 books and numerous short stories and essays. Only one of his books, Anatomy of a Murder was very popular. All of these were published under the pseudonym of Robert Traver. His first book was published in 1943, by Viking books. He publishe
d Anatomy of a Murder at age 54. The book was wildly popular and stayed on the bestseller list for two years. Before the publication of Anatomy of a Murder Voelker says: "I could have accommodated my readers in a broom closet." He was notified of the a
cceptance of Anatomy of a Murder for publication by St. Martin's Press on "a Saturday in late January 1956." Sherman Baker, was his editor there, he was the only editor to accept the manuscript after a long line of rejections. Voelker lived in Ishpeming, Michigan his entire life. He was registered as a Democrat. His last known address was: Deer Lake Road #385, Ishpeming, MI 49849, his phone number there was: (906)485-5882. Voelker died in 1991. His manuscripts are held in t
he Linda M. Olson Library at the University of Northern Michigan.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

When Anatomy of a Murder was published in January of 1958, it received mixed reviews from the critics at large. Most felt that it was a very entertaining book, but that it had many stylistic and characterization
problems. J. M. Cain of the New York Times Book review said: "rarely have I been so entertained as I have been so by this strange novel, and for the life of me I can't tell why." This type of reaction to Robert Traver's (a pseudonym for John Voelker)
book, is not unusual. Most reviewers maintain that while it, as Don Mankiewicz of the New York Herald Tribune says, "contains surely the fullest, most authentic, most detailed account of the preparation of the defense of a murder case ever to appear in f
iction, "the book has multitudes of failings as a literary work. For example, Joseph Hitrec from the Saturday Review (41:14, January 4, 1958) said: "Mr. Traver doesn't pretend to be interested in the inner lives of his characters." For the most part re
viewers have agreed that the book is, too long, too wordy and full of "extraneous details," and has poor Character development. However most appeared to like the book despite its failings, and recognize that it will be a success nonetheless.
Excerpts: "So far as Hollywood goes, the yarn lacks nothing but technicolor." Harry B. Ellis Christian Science Monitor, p5, January 9, 1958
"The grammar resembles that of a cigarette commercial." Don Mankiewicz New York Herald Tribune Book Review, p4, January 26, 1958
"The book is much much too long: 437 pages, closely printed are a lot of novel." James M. Cain New York Times Book Review, p4, January 5, 1958
"Justice Voelker knows the law and loves it, but his writing is a limp as a watch by Dali." Time Magazine, 71:78, January 6, 1958
"Writing in a style which is clear and competent rather than inspired, he is nevertheless telling the truth about a profession which will always be something of a mystery to the layman; and truthfulness and enthusiasm go a long way to making a good book.
This one is readable indeed." L.G. Offord San Fransisco Chronicle, p23 January 19, 1958
In addition to the reviews excerpted and mentioned above, Anatomy of a Murder was also reviewed in these publications:
The Boston Globe, January 6, 1958 Atlantic 201:76 January, 1958 Booklist 54:304 February 1, 1958 Bookmark 17:117 February, 1958 Chicago Sunday Tribune p1, January 12, 1958 Commonweal 68:61 April 11, 1958 Kirkus 25:504 July 15, 1958 Library Journal 83:609 February 15, 1958 Manchester Guardian p4, January 26, 1958 New Statesman 55:391 January 20 , 1958 New Yorker 33:108 January 18, 1958 Spec p462, October 3, 1958 Times [London] Literary Supplement p541 January 26 , 1958

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Very little or nothing has been written about Anatomy of a Murder after its intial publication in 1958. It seems to have basically dropped off the literary map. Although it was made into a movie, it appears that that did not spur people to review it

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Critical Analysis of Anatomy of a Murder - By Stephanie Lunsford
"Everybody loves a good mystery," or so the saying goes. In 1958 it was indeed true; Robert Traver's Anatomy of a Murder was published and read by 1,600,000 Americans. It rose all the way to number one on the bestseller list for the month of January,
and second for the year. The book inspired a movie and a Broadway play. However, after 1959, the book virtually disappeared from the literary map. Nothing was written about it, it is not talked about, it does not have any fame whatsoever today. What wa
s so special about this book? Why did it become so popular so quickly? And disappear so quickly? These are questions I will seek to answer in the course of this essay. To account for the extreme popularity of Anatomy of a Murder we must look at a number
of factors. First, what reviewers had to say about the book, this will give us a good starting point for examining the popularity of the book. We should also look at what was going on the world contemporary to the publication of this novel. It will also
be important to take a subjective look at the book. Among these qualifications there are several others which I will discuss. Anatomy of a Murder was the first in a long generation of best-selling courtroom drama's. It was popular, for its attention
to detail, sensationalist plot, and the return to the small-town lifestyle of the early 1950's, among other things.
Critical Response
When readers examine the critical reviews of Anatomy of a Murder, they do not find excessive amounts of praise, nor any claims to literary greatness. The author himself admits to many literary failings in his books. He makes comments like, his editor ha
d to "wade through" his prose, to find the gem of a great novel within. John Voelker was a career lawyer, who made it as far as to become a State Supreme Court Justice of Michigan. Writing was a sideline for much of his life, although he did eventually
retire from the Supreme Court to pursue his writing career. None of Voelker's other books came even close to being as popular as Anatomy of a Murder. He wrote two other courtroom mystery novels after Anatomy, The People vs. Kirk and Laughing Whitefish
. Neither of these books was well received by the public or by the critics. Voelker writes: "after Anatomy of a Murder my audience returned to the broom closet." He suggests that before and after his first novel became a bestseller, the size of his read
ership was extremely small. He is correct; none of his other books made it anywhere near the bestseller list. I am not certain that John Voelker could be characterized as a good writer. Anatomy is a good book, but it is not particularly well written.
Voelker's critics point out his thin characterization, wordy descriptions and fairly uninteresting dialogue. Yet, still thousands of people read this book. There is just something about it that seems to draw readers in. J. M. Cain of the New York Time
s Book Review said; "rarely have I been so entertained as I have been so by this strange novel, and for the life of me I can't tell why." This is the response many people had to the book.
Anatomy of a Murder is too long. It is 437 pages of very small print, long paragraphs and lots of words. The book centers on the lives of a few characters that are for the most part standard to the crime novel. The bitter detective/lawyer, the smart sa
vvy secretary, drunken sidekick who comes through in the end, the sexy woman and the ambiguously guilty client. The characters are superficial at best and at worst very poorly developed. Voelker was not particularly interested in the lives of his charac
ters. He did not try to delve deep into their psyche; Voelker was much more interested in the facts and the plot of the case at hand in the novel. Critics and readers alike have duly noted this aspect of his writing. One critic, Joseph Hitrec of the S
aturday Review wrote, "Mr. Traver doesn't pretend to be interested in the inner lives of his characters." This failing of the novel did not affect its readership. People like the book regardless of the lack of depth represented in the characters.
Despite the criticism of Anatomy of a Murder, it became instantly popular. There seems to be something about which is irresistible to readers and critics alike. The majority of the critics who read Anatomy professed to like the book despite its literary
failings. Perhaps, L. G. Offord describes this phenomenon best: "Writing in a style which is clear and competent rather than inspired, he is nevertheless telling the truth about a profession which will always be something of a mystery to the layman; and truthfulness and enthusiasm go a long way to making a good book.
This one is readable indeed." Voelker's book is not one that will live in history as a part of the literary canon, yet it is a "good read." Despite all the extraneous details and poor characterization, the book survives and manages to hold the readers interest. This is part of why
it became so popular. It is a good, interesting and easy read. Voelker provides his readers with just enough of everything to make them want to know more, and thus draws the reader in.
John Voelker's Public Persona
John Voelker himself was an interesting person. A career lawyer, he had achieved a certain status in his hometown of Ishpeming, Michigan. For a long time he served as the District Attorney for the town, eventually rising to become a State Supreme Cou
rt Justice. He gives the impression of being an All-American family man. The 1950's are notorious for being a time filled with family values and closeness. His way of life could only improve his popularity. To the American public, John Voelker must h
ave seemed ideal. Towards the end of the fifties, when Anatomy of a Murder was published, America was drifting away from the "Leave-it-to-beaver" family lifestyle. John Voelker and his small-town novel showed a return to that lifestyle. There is a cert
ain nostalgia present in Anatomy of a Murder. John Voelker was a small-town man, living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The only time he ever lived away from Ishpeming was while he was at college and Law School in a small town very close to his home
town. His writing shows a return to the grassroots of society. All of his characters live in a small town, and exhibit all the characteristics of small town people. They like, Voelker himself, seem to be untouched and remote from the rest of the world.
In 1950's society the norm was small-town USA. Readers could imagine easily that they were reading about their own town and could easily cast themselves in the role of Paul Biegler or Laura Manion. This is part of the attractiveness of Anatomy of a M
urder. John Voelker and his book together give the reader a sense of home and reality - this goes a long way towards making a book a success.
The Crime Novel
The crime/mystery novel in general, is an intensely popular genre. Especially in today's marketplace; John Grisham is at the top of the bestseller list every year with one of his novels, Scott Turow is another author who also tops the lists with his no
vels about the law. America is fascinated with the law and the way it works. Books are not the only place that the crime/mystery genre rules supreme. In the 90's there are at least seven prime time shows about the law, Law and Order, The Practice, and
Ally McBeal to name a few. This is no different from the love of this genre that existed in the 50's when Anatomy originally came out. At that time, Anatomy of a Murder was the only novel in its genre on the bestseller list for the year. However, it
was still an incredibly popular type of book to read. It also dominated television as well. Perry Mason was in its second season and going strong. This may have contributed to the positive reception Anatomy received. Everyone likes to be kept in suspe
nse, and Anatomy manages to do that very well. It is a classic within its genre. Voelker, with his unique knowledge of the law, gives a new depth of detail to Anatomy of a Murder.
The "law" has always been a great unknown in American society. We feel that it is something only certified people should be able to handle. However, it has always been a matter of great curiosity for the average lay person as well. This fascination wi
th the inner workings of the law is why television shows, movies and books within the genre are so popular. Voelker gives readers all kinds of details about the law, and especially the workings of a murder trial. The key to Anatomy of a Murder is in the
details. That is why it is such a good read; it draws you in with the desire to learn about the law. Part of the attractiveness of a book of this type comes from the generality of the characters within the novel and the incredible detail that surrounds
the trial itself. Paul Biegler is a detective in his own right. It does not matter what his inner turmoil is, nor what his moral stance is regarding Manion's guilt. The readers interest lies not with the characters, but with the trial itself. This i
s one of the main reasons for the novel's success and why it works. In many ways this novel is reminiscent to The Firm or basically any John Grisham novel. It is based in the workplace and surrounds the profession of the law. It contains much of the same detailed look at the law. While the plot and the idea behind bot
h novels are very different, it is still useful to compare and contrast the two. John Grisham is writing to a 1990's audience, John Voelker writes to a 1950's one. Voelker shows a more positive view of the law, yet still a jaundiced one. Grisham is v
ery negative about the law and law firms in general. The Firm speaks to a modern need to see violence and thrills in a mystery novel. It cannot merely have the excitement of a trial anymore, there has to be something else. However, had the two been wri
ting at the same time - they would have been competitors on the best-seller list.
It is hard to derive a definitive answer as to why Anatomy of a Murder was so popular. It is an interesting book, and an easy read. Anatomy seems to have defied the odds to some extent. It is a long book, characters are poorly developed and have fairl
y uninteresting dialogues with one another. Yet, it stayed on the bestseller list for two years. One reason it made it to a second year was the release of the movie version of the book. The movie was even more popular than the book, earning several aca
demy award nominations. It managed to sustain the popularity of the novel for some time. The release of the book in paperback also boosted sales again. However, despite all of this, the book did not remain popular for a very long time. Since its pub
lication and initial two years of intense popularity, the book has basically disappeared. It is relatively unknown and is seldom read today. Despite the publishers claim to "classic," if you asked most people on the street they would have never heard of
Anatomy of a Murder was an incredibly popular book for its time. It was a one of a kind, new, and interesting work. People who read it initially became deeply engrossed in the story of the sensational murder trial in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. T
he novels popularity was short-lived, as was its fame. To try and explain why it was so popular is to try and figure out which came first the chicken or the egg. We can make an educated guess as to why people enjoyed it so much, however it will always r
emain something of a mystery in itself. This book came out of nowhere and the author never replicated its success. Yet it was a bestseller and is a good read. I recommend taking the time to read it someday, you will find it dated, but entertaining none
theless. It is a nice break from John Grisham.

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