Friday, 11 June 2010

Harlequin Genre Shift

Harlequin published 145 titles from 1949 to 1951 and 169 titles from 1952 to 1954. The percentage of romance and westerns stayed steady for each three year period. The large shift was in the other major genre, crime/thriller, which dropped from 53% to 28%. The genre that displaced the crime/thriller was historical, from 7 to 34 titles. The next five years saw only three (of a total 167 titles) more historicals.

Why so popular for that three year period? D_____d if I know. New editor? I know that the first one, Jack Palmer, died sometime in early fifties. Crime/thriller sales falling off so give historicals their kick at the can? Were hard cover historicals selling especially well during these years?

Here are 3 of the 34.

Great Oaks by Ben Ames Williams (1889-1953) was first published in 1930 (New York: Dutton).
George Challis's The Firebrand (New York: Harper) was first published in 1950. It is a collection of three stories originally published in Argosy. "The Firebrand” 11/24/1934 & 12/1/1934 (2 part serial), “The Great Betrayal” 2/2/1935-2/16/1935 (3 part serial) and “The Storm” 4/6/1935-4/20/1935 (3 part serial). Challis is a pseudonym for Frederick Faust (1892-1944).
Lady of Cleaves (New York: Macrae-Smith, 1946) by Margaret Campbell Barnes (1891-1962) has just been reissued along with many of her other books, likely due to the popularity of the recent series, The Tudors.

Harlequin 169 - May 1952

Harlequin 169 back

Harlequin 152 - February 1952

Harlequin 152 back

Harlequin 193 - October 1952

Harlequin 193 back


  1. I'm reminded that Ronald J. Cooke's The House on Craig Street, published by Harlequin, features a scene in which aspiring novelist Clive Winston fills his girl in on popular literature: "The best-seller formula is easy. All you have to do is get a few periodic [sic] costumes, a bit of ancient history and some bedroom scenes and you're all set."

  2. Great quote. Going to use that in another historical post.