Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Harlequin History Part II

The Romancing of the Harlequin, 1955-1959

The Company

After Palmer died Bonnycastle’s wife became editor, approving books that Palmour found through corresponding with publishers. Bonnycastle’s wife disliked crime/thriller books and we can see the effect of this change in editorial focus as romances went from 11% of the titles in 1954 to 40% in 1955. There was also a business reason for the move to romance as it became clear it sold better than the other genres. In 1957 Harlequin contacted the English publishing firm Mills & Boon which specialized in romance fiction and secured the rights to reprint their books in Canada. Harlequin’s first Mills & Boon book was 407, The Hospital in Buwando by Anne Vinton, in late 1957. Three romances later in early 1958 the first book with “A Harlequin Romance” on the cover appears, Doctor Lucy by Barbara Allen.

The Books

In 1955 the number of books published dropped to 25, less than half the average of the previous five years. The next three years numbers increased slowly to 38 in 1958 and then 51 in 1959.

The shift to romance is clear when looking at the statistics from these years. Of the 175 books published 12 were reprints leaving 163 titles (four PBOs), 53% of which were romances, 27% crime/thriller, 7% western and 13% non fiction and other fiction. The last western was published in 1958 and the last crime/thriller in 1959. In 1959, for the first time, more than half of the books were romances, 34 of 51 (67%), 30 of which were by Mills & Boons authors.

During these five years 77 different authors were published, 51 (66%) with a single title, 6 (8%) with two titles and 20 (26%) with three or more titles. Edgar Wallace was the most published author with 17 titles but the shift to romance is also evident here as fifteen of the authors with three or more books wrote romances. The number of cover artists also dropped to half-a-dozen or so who signed their work. The Harlequin cover “look” also evolved quickly during this period as romances dominated. The covers now were much tamer with duller colouring and design.

Harlequin 327 - February 1955

Harlequin 327 back

Harlequin 407 - December 1957

Harlequin 407 back

Harlequin 497 - December 1959

Harlequin 497 back

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