Archive for the 'publishing history'

FOUND BOUND: Ex-Private Eye Turns Writer

For me it's always interesting to see how very well known books were first marketed before they reached their legendary status. Take this book (advertised in the Feb 15, 1930 issue of The Saturday Review of Literature) now a permanent part of American pop culture, for example:

(Click to enlarge and read the fine print)
I think only the most diehard fan knows that Hammett was once an operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Sam Spade was also billed a "shyster detective" and a "Don Juan", apparently traits that Knopf thought would sell the book. I won't comment further on the last portion of Spade's description.

FOUND BOUND: The Gory Gazette

Periodically I find myself stuck in the pages of magazines (there's a punny sentence for you!). Usually I'm perusing old reviews of forgotten and obscure murder mysteries and adventure novels. Every now and then along the sidebar margins I find an advertisement or two that catches my eye. This is how I learned of the existence of Aunt Beardie, a fantastic example of the historical mystery done well with a whopper of an ending.

Now that my collection of ephemera has been completely exhausted, and the usual Sunday feature "Left Inside" is a very rare occurrence (the last one was in the summer of 2013), I am substituting it with a new feature called "Found Bound". Every other Sunday I'll be posting ads, cartoons and other interesting tidbits I find in magazines of the past.

Today we look at an advertising gimmick created by the clever gang at Simon & Schuster, one of the oldest existing publishing houses in the United States. S&S was very innovative when marketing their mysteries. They invented Pocket Books in the late 1920s, the very first mass market paperback imprint in the United States. Additionally, they were one of the first publishers to create a hardcover imprint solely for detective fiction ("Inner Sanctum Mysteries") and were rather clever in getting their message out to their audience. Below are two ads found in two early 1940s issues of The Saturday Review done along the lines of a newsletter they called "The Gory Gazette."

I've read the Woolrich novel The Black Curtain (1941) advertised in the second set of illustrations and highly recommend it. I've not yet found a copy of Gypsy Rose Lee's second mystery novel Mother Finds a Body (1942), but I'm still looking. BTW -- Lee did in fact write her own books. They were not ghost written by Craig Rice no matter what numerous websites and reference books are trying to convince you otherwise.



Click to enlarge all scans in order to read the ads.



Drawing on the Past #13: G.K. CHESTERTON

Lilly Library (photo by "Vmenkov")
While researching Victor L. Whitechurch, whose books I am currently reading, I came across a fascinating post at the website for Indiana University's Lilly Library which has one of the most remarkable collections of detective and crime fiction in the United States. Back in 1973 the library celebrated the 130th anniversary of the publication of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" with an exhibit entitled "The First Hundred Years of Detective Fiction, 1841-1941."

Among the books are some other ephemera including the drawing reproduced below.  I've long known of G. K. Chesterton's ability as a sketch artist and cartoonist but never knew that he was commissioned to illustrate an edition of Sherlock Holmes stories. Below is his rendering of the near fatal struggle on the cliffs of the Reichenbach Falls.



The note in the exhibit catalog accompanying this drawing says:
G. K. Chesterton was once commissioned to illustrate the Doyle stories (imagine Father Brown on Sherlock Holmes)! The volume was never published, but Lilly has his sketches, among them the Reichenbach scene, done in blue crayon.
The entire contents of the exhibit along with program notes are posted at the Lilly Library website here.  It's an excellent resource for any devotee of the history of detective fiction. I've already made note of three writers who until I read the catalog I had never heard of. Unfortunately, the exhibit's catalog notes for one of those writers ruined a book for me by revealing the ending.

LEFT INSIDE: Book of the Month Club Advert, 1929.

This was found inside one of the many copies of The Omnibus of Crime I have purchased over the years.  The Omnibus of Crime was the Book of the Month Club selection for August 1929. Inside the copy I bought was the ad seen below for the September BOMC selection, Ultima Thule by Henry Handel Richardson, a book and author I knew nothing about until I did my research for this post.



The Book of the Month Club was only three years old in 1929.  Weren't they polite in their requests? And that deadline date in giant red letters is very helpful.  I remember being a member of one of their offshoots, Quality Paperback Book Club, in the 1980s and the reminders were not anything like the one above. I usually lost the dumb postcard or forgot to mail it back by the deadline and ended up with books I had no desire to read let alone own.

"Henry Handel Richardson" turns out to be the pseudonym for Australian writer Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson who you can read about at the website for the Henry Handel Richardson Society.  (Is there a society for every forgotten author of the past?). Ultima Thule is the final novel in a trilogy about an Australian physician named Richard Mahony and is based in part of Richardson's own father and her upbringing. The three novels that make up the trilogy are Australia Felix (1917), The Way Home (1925) and Ultima Thule (1929). All three were later published in an omnibus edition and titled The Fortunes of Richard Mahony in 1930.  For a synopsis of Ultima Thule click here. Interestingly, it was only with the publication of the final volume that the entire trilogy, The Fortunes of Richard Mahony, was suddenly recognized as a great work of fiction.

Wheatley Resurrected!

Last week I learned that I'm not the only one who thinks Dennis Wheatley deserves another life in print.  In an article published in the The Bookseller it was announced that Wheatley's first 20 titles will be released as ebooks in October 2013. The rights to 56 titles in Dennis Wheatley's long writing career have been purchased. So far only three of the more popular books -- The Devil Rides Out, The Forbidden Territory and To the Devil - A Daughter -- have been slated for paperback releases.

Hoping The Haunting of Toby Jugg will be one of those receiving a paperback edition. Get the Wheatley lowdown  here.

Thanks to Shotsmag for this news.