Day: May 9, 2015

“Weapons in the war of ideas” ? Armed Service Paperbacks & Crime Fiction

 

Simenon ASE

Georges Simenon, On the Danger Line, NY, Armed Services Editions,  No 21, 1943

American soldiers serving overseas during WWII were offered a rich selection of  compact paperbacks.   Destined to help them dodge the tedium of war, they were designed to fit in their pockets.   The Armed Services Editions  books were printed at a cost of 6 cents a volume and distributed for free from 1943 to 1947.  This is a landmark in the history of mass market reading. The mention on all but a handful of  the covers that “This is the Complete Book—Not a Digest” is a reminder that  paperbacks were at the time still new, and that readers had to be reassured that these were not abridged or condensed books. 123 million books were printed as part of this programme,  representing 1,227 different titles.  Only a minority of these titles were Crime Fiction. The purpose of the programme was educational as much as recreational. Continue reading

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