Saturday 31 October 2009

Keith Edgar

Keith Edgar wrote seven novels for Canadian paperback publishers in the 1940s. In order of publication (all Toronto):

Honduras Double Cross (Howard Publications, 1944) - "a story so remarkable, and full of exciting adventure, that your interest is held in mystifying suspense right up to its thrilling climax."

I Hate You to Death (F. E. Howard Publications, 1944) - "Basil Hayden, Publisher of a chain of magazines .. is confronted by seven writers and artists who ... have done work for him with nothing to reimburse them but abuse and ill-feeling. This is a story full of action and humor, and is well worth while for all lovers of mystery."

The Case of the Incendiary Blonde (The National Publishing Company, 1945) - "You will find these novelettes  to be filled with rapid-fire adventure and mystery with the Incendiary Blonde sprinkled with enjoyment." The title story is one of eight stories.

The Canyon of Death (Bell Features & Publishing Co., Limited - 1946) - "How Luke Sheldon turned the peaceful town of Ranger into a bloody battlefield makes this hard-riding and hard-shooting tale impossible to put down until the last Sharps rifle has fired and the last Colt is silent." The Kunwak Treasure (Bell Features & Publishing Co., Limited - 1946) - "From the moment when they are stranded in the hostile wilderness, the story moves forward with breathless pace and the reader will find it impossible to put the book down."

Arctic Rendezvous (Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Canada Ltd., 1949) - "Here is the story of a man and woman, savage and elemental, matching their hatred and a strange attraction in a race for a guilty secret and a sunken fortune."

"Murder," She Said (Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Canada Ltd., 1950) - "Every man who looked at Susan Brown began to get ideas - wrong ideas. How was anyone to know that she was more at home with a sten gun and a set of burglar tools than in a parked car or the back row of the movies?"

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Popular Publications - a Canadian Abroad

After the war a number of Canadian companies published cheaply produced paperbacks for sale in the UK. One such publisher was Popular Publications, Inc. with Toronto and London addresses. I know of two books Popular published in 1947 and possibly two more. The two I've seen are The Monster of the Lagoon by George Worts and The Immortals by Ralph Milne Farley. Both are the first book appearances of stories originally serialized in Argosy All-Story Weekly in 1934 and 1935.
Each book is an over sized digest measuring 6 1/4 x 8 1/2 inches.

The artwork is signed "mcguckin jr.". This is likely an artist named Malcolm Leland McGuckin Jr. The two books that may exist are advertised as Diamonds of Death by Borden Chase and A Grave Must be Deep by Theodore Roscoe. Both stories were also serialized in Argosy All-Star Weekly in the 1930s.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Travellers Pocket Library - Canadian? You be the Judge! Part I

In 1949 a series of six paperbacks were published by Ward-Hill Books of New York. Each book is called "A Travellers Pocket Library Best-Seller". The books were numbered 100-104 and 106. Number 105 isn't known to exist. The books were a mixed bag of three reprints and three apparently original novels. One reprint is instantly recognisable - Lady Chatterley's Lover. The other is Venus in Furs by Russian Leopold Sacher-Masoch. Masoch lives on in the word masochist.

Collectors of paperbacks consider these books Canadian. The obvious question is why since the publisher address is New York. The books state "Printed in Canada" but that in of itself is not significant. A few of the books have an ad on the inside back cover by Medical Publishing Corp. of Toronto. The same ad and different ads for the same product can be seen in Canadian paperbacks although the company is sometimes British News Agency, still of Toronto. Finally, the covers show work by different artists but the cover of Speak the Sin Softly looks to be by the artist who did the covers of a series of paperbacks called Crow published by Alval Publishers of Toronto.

So Canadian or not?

Friday 23 October 2009

Ronald J. Cooke - a Canadian Author

My favourite blog The Dusty Bookcase recently had a post noting that Harlequin has published three address books with covers that have reproductions of early Harlequin covers. Harlequin has also reissued six early Harlequins. Both efforts are part of Harlequin's 60th anniversary celebrations.

In the early days Harlequin was a reprint publisher but did publish a few original books. The first one, The House on Craig Street by Ronald J. Cooke (#7),  can be seen on one of the address books. Cooke was a Canadian business writer and editor who had another Harlequin novel - The Mayor of Cote St. Paul (#56).

The House on Craig Street was reprinted by Harlequin but then, uniquely, was also published in November 1949 by another Canadian paperback publisher - Export Publishing Enterprises as News Stand Library #11A. The cover states "sold out first printing" but since there was only one printing of Export's edition the blurb must refer to the Harlequin edition. Why the new edition?

Export sold its books in Canada. But they did create a second series of 28 books for distribution in the US. This series had an "A" after the number. The Export edition of House was one of these books.  Harlequin, as a new publisher, likely did not have a distributor in the US and either Harlequin or the author contracted with Export to produce an edition for sale in the US - trying to capitalize on its success in Canada. The back cover blurb on both books is identical.

The Export covers are below. Interestingly the front cover is a different rendering of the same scene by the same artist (D. Rickard) who did the Harlequin cover. Also below is an inscription by the author in a copy of the Harlequin edition.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Collins Other Early Paperback Imprint - North Star

In addition to their White Circle paperback imprint, Wm. Collins Canada published a much shorter-lived one in 1944. An article in the trade magazine Quill & Quire (June 1944, p. 27) announces the North Star series. Three books are discussed, When the Boys Come Home, We All Own Canada and Pictures of Canada, edited by Franklin Davey McDowell. As far as I can determine the third book was never published. We All Own Canada was reprinted in June 1944 and also issued in hardcover.

The publisher tells us that "North Star Books are important factual books by outstanding authorities revealing significant aspects of Canadian topical affairs." A full page ad in the April 29, 1944 [Toronto] Globe & Mail announced the new series. Collins' expectations were clearly not met and the imprint lived only a few months.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

White Circle and Spillane - Tough, Torrid, Terrific!

Between 1942 and 1952 Wm. Collins Canada published 459 of their White Circle paperback imprint. Some of these were new editions of books published earlier in the series leaving 429 published titles. By far the best known of the 429 White Circles is CD384, Mickey Spillane's I, the Jury. The artist is unknown.

This is the first paperback edition of Spillane's first and best known book, published in 1947. The White Circle edition was published in late 1948 and precedes the American edition, New American Library's (NAL) Signet #699, by a couple of months. The NAL edition is famous for the impact it had on publishing. The hardcover had sold a few thousands of copies but the NAL paperback sold 2,000,000 in two years. NAL then went on to publish in paperback the rest of Spillane's novels in the early fifties with 17,000,000 in total sold by 1953 (figures from Kenneth Davis, Two-Bit Culture (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984), p. 180.) These figures shocked the cultural critics of the day and amazed the publishers.

"But the law couldn't break an arm, or shove his teeth in with the muzzle of a gun to remind him that he wasn't fooling. Mike could - and did. Among the suspects were a former gangster gone society, a peculiar kid he was putting through college, a beautiful and sexy psychiatrist, a subtle nymphomaniac with a normal twin sister, a cured drug addict, and a likable moron who raised bees."

The White Circle was reprinted in 1949 and therefore sold a bit better than most of the titles. Still sales were likely no more than 40,000. It was the only Spillane White Circle. The Canadian market thereafter was covered by Canadian editions of NAL Signets. The sixth edition from the late 1950s is below. Note that sales are now 28,000,000. The artist is Barye Phillips.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Beaver Publications - Canada's First Mass Market Paperbacks Part I

In the summer of 1935 the first ten modern mass market paperbacks (MMP) were published by Britain's The Bodely Head as Penguin Books. Four years later the first ten American MMP were published by Pocket Books. Today Penguin and Pocket continue to be have strong publishing programs as divisions of larger media companies. The Canadian story is a bit different.

Canada's first MMP publisher was Beaver Publications and its publishing legacy is three books, all published in 1941.

The books were produced with high quality paper and binding and also exist in editions with a scene from the book on the cover. Unlike the first Penguins and Pockets, Beaver's books were not reprints. Two books are novels by Leslie Hamilton and one a collection of stories by three authors including Hamilton. The story collection has a biography of Hamilton which says virtually nothing. The publisher's motto was " If it's a Beaver release - it's good!". That may have been true but low distribution combined with high production costs likely brought a quick end to the Beaver.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

The Canadian White Circles Part 1

     In early 1942 Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Canada Ltd. placed advertisements for their new line of White Circle paperbacks. The ad below is from the March 15, 1942 issue of the Canadian trade magazine "Bookseller and Stationer". The ad notes that "because of the enormous demand and impossiblity of obtaining regular supplies from Great Britain [because of the war], White Circle Pocket Novels are now printed in Canada". Booksellers were told that "your turnover and margin of profit justify mass display and quantity purchasing."

       The first book in the series was King's Enemies by J. M. Walsh. The last, The Devil Man by Edgar Wallace, was published in early 1952 by which time 459 books had been issued. Unlike the two other large Canadian paperback publishers in the 1940s, Harlequin and Export Publishing, Wm. Collins Canada was owned by a hardcover publisher - the Scottish-British firm Wm. Collins Sons & Co. Therefore most of the White Circles were paperback editions of books published by Wm. Collins in the U.K. 
      During the ten years they were published the look and content of the White Circles changed. Further posts will discuss these changes.