Raymond Chandler, Spanish Blood, The World Publishing Company Tower Mystery, 1946
It is well known that hardboiled stories, which we would now describe as noir, first appeared in 1920s pulps magazines. And that, from the early 1940s, noir novels were circulated as paperback reprints or, in many cases, paperback originals. This belies the fact that the influential, early hardboiled novels were published as hardbacks, complete with polished dust jackets. This benefited especially hardboiled writers of the 1930s, before the triumph of paperbacks. But even after that, noir authors whose books had been published as hardbacks tended to find an easier way into the modern canon of noir literature. While paperback warranted circulation (as the case of Spillane made clear), hardback still anchored conservation, and hence institutionalisation.
W. R. Burnett, Little Caesar, Lincoln MacVeagh, The Dial Press, 1929 Continue reading
(Raymond Chandler, Trouble Is My Business, Pocket Books 823, 1951 : Cover Art by Herman Geisen)
Compiling a list of chandlerisms is possibly not the most reverent way to assess how the golden age of Crime Fiction was perceived outside from the self-selected happy few of members in the famous “Detection club”. But it is certainly a fun way to start. Here are a few excerpts from Chandler’s seminal essay (1950) : “The Simple art of murder”.
Every detective story writer makes mistakes, and none will ever know as much as he should. Conan Doyle made mistakes which completely invalidated some of his stories, but he was a pioneer, and Sherlock Holmes after all is mostly an attitude and a few dozen lines of unforgettable dialogue.
Both Hammett and Chandler had their novels originally published as hardbacks. But both of them, like so many original hardboiled writers from the first generation reached a mass readership through two other forms created by the publishing industry: The pulp magazines in which their short stories were first published, and the paperback. The latter’s rise, starting in the early 1940s, ensured the continued circulation of their work. In 1933 Chandler published his first fiction (“Blackmailers Don’t Shoot”) in Black Mask (which had been launched in 1920) and continued publishing there and in other detection magazines until 1941. Continue reading
Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely, Pocket Books, 212, New York, 1943
Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely was published by A. Knopf in 1940. It opens, memorably, with Philip Marlowe following released convict Moose Malloy into Florian’s nightclub and searching for for showgirl Velma Valento. Chandler without doubt the most gifted author in the noir genre and Farewell, My Lovely is one of his very best novels.
First edition (New York, Knopf, 1940)
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
The “Colecção Vampiro”, published from 1947 by Editora Livros do Brasil, in Lisbon, was one of the very fist series of Crime Fiction paperbacks in Portuguese. It was certainly the most popular. The “Masters of detective fiction” it published had a large emphasis on English and American authors. The size of he books and the notoriety of the authors rather than a clear cut definition of the subgenre of crime Fiction the books pertained to : Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers alongside Hammett and Chandler; Wallace and Simenon; Van Dine and Ellery Queen. The latter, and the likes of Erle Stanley Gardner were the most represented. While a close contemporary of Gallimard’s Série Noire (created in 1945) Vampiro was editorially much closer to Le Masque (1927). Vampiro’s favoured novels of deduction and investigation over hardboiled noir. Continue reading
The Club del Misterio Series (early to mid-1980’s) predates the Etiqueta Negra Series (mid- 1980’s to mid-1990). Both Series are devoted to Crime Fiction. Both have appeared post-Franco, and in a cultural context profoundly changed by the Movida. Both have published around 150 books of international Crime Fiction, the majority of them considered classics of the genre. While Etiqueta Negra is a series launched by a Madrid publisher, Jucar, Club del Misterio belongs to a Barcelona-based publisher, Bruguera.
But the most striking difference is their respective scope. The Madrid publisher puts the emphasis on selection and distinction. There are fewer authors, representing fewer countries, and a distinctive branch within the crime genre, the noir novel. On the contrary, the Barcelona series favours diversity : different subgenres, different authors, different countries. It is remarkable that the author most published in this series is Italian (Scerbanenco). Rather than American (or Spanish as is at the time the pattern elsewhere, when only local authors seem capable of resisting the American -and to an extent English- dominance). Continue reading
Created in the early 1950’s, the series of mass market paperback books Ullstein-Büchern, started in the mid 1950’s to offer a subdivision devoted to Crime Fiction, the Ullstein-Bücher Kriminalromane. This series had different numbers than the rest of the Ullstein- books, to differentiate them from the general series (Allgemeine Reihe). It started at number 701. Further differentiation, the big K on the title banner stands for Krimi. This is the mid and late 1950’s, and American authors are now predominant, in stark contrast to the original Ullstein Gelbe Reihe in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. A canonisation of the noir genre has happened elsewhere, and Ullstein books reflect this. The two first books published as Ullstein-Bücher Kriminalromane are Hammett (Der Malteser Falke) and Chandler (Einer weisst mehr). Hammett’s Bluternte is the sixth volume in the series. Continue reading
Raymond Chandler, Třikrát Phil Marlowe, Praha: Odeon, 1967 (Translated by František Jungwirth, Heda Kovályová and Josef Schwarz).
Judging the book by the state of its cover, this copy of a Czech translation of Chandler has definitely found a readership, in over four decades since it was published. The book consists of three Chandler’s masterpieces : The Big Sleep ; Farewell, My Lovely and The Long Good-Bye (Hluboký spánek –; Sbohem buď, lásko má –; Loučení s Lennoxem) ; It contains an afterword by Josef Škvorecký. (With thanks to Marcela Bucova) Continue reading