Tom Adams (1926-2019)

L Inline Tom Adams
Tom Adams (middle) with John Curran and Mathew Prichard at Greenway

We are saddened to learn of the passing of artist and designer Tom Adams, who is best known for his book covers which adorned the work of Agatha Christie throughout the 1960s and 70s, and are admired still by millions of people around the world.

Born in 1926 in Providence, Rhode Island, into a family of distinguished Scottish architects and town planners, Tom’s family moved to Kent when he was six, and he was later trained at the Chelsea School of Art and Goldsmith’s College, after a stint serving on Royal Navy minesweepers at the end of the Second World War.

Working in commercial art, from pub signs to comic strips, and co-founding Adams Design Associates in 1958, Tom’s breakthrough in the publishing world came when agent Virgil Pomfret landed him a commission from Jonathan Cape for the book The Big Waves by Malcolm Ross-Macdonald; but it was his trompe l‘oeil-style cover for John Fowles’ The Collector that established Tom’s reputation and helped to define a new style of paperback artwork for a generation.

Between Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced in 1962 and Miss Marple’s Final Cases in 1979, Tom painted covers for almost every Agatha Christie book, totalling around 150 different paintings for her publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, and they were reproduced on covers in many languages all over the world.

In 1967, Tom opened the Fulham Gallery, enabling emerging artists to be exhibited, after which he designed concepts for leading rock bands and filmmakers, including Stanley Kubrick, Nicolas Roeg and Mike Hodges, and he won the coveted Reader’s Digest Pegasus Award for a series of advertisements he designed for Bell’s Whisky in 1989.

In 2014, Tom was enticed out of retirement to paint the jacket for Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly, and for covers for two Christie books he had never illustrated: the first, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and Poirot’s swan song Curtain.

Tom is survived by his wife, the children’s author Georgie Adams. More about his life and work can be found at

Sign up to the newsletter to receive The World of Agatha Christie: 1920s magazine