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11 May 2010

Everything Old Is New Again

Long before L. Ron Hubbard delved deep into Dianetics and the study of science (isn't that what "Scientology" means?), he was a well known writer of fiction -- science and "pulp."  We are talking true pulp fiction of the 1920s and '30s.  Dead Men Kill first appeared in the Five Novels publication in 1934.  It's about a skeptical yet go-along detective, a shady lady and killer zombies!  (Take that, Seth Graham-Smith!)  We are selling this and other titles (if this title doesn't grab you, how about Under the Diehard Brand or If I Were You?) for $4.99, half of the suggested retail price.  The reproduced covers alone are worth the price.

I have to show one that evokes the long-ago lectures by a Vassar professor of Asian Studies Donald Gillin on the Fu Manchu/inscrutable Oriental stereotype of the Chinese.
Behold, the cover of Spy Killer:
and the publisher's publicity:
[Wanted for murder and grand larceny he did not commit], Reid takes refuge in a [pre-Communist era Shanghai] tea house where he meets White Russian Varinka Savischna, whom he manages to rescue from certain death.  As beautiful as she is smart, she recruits him in her crusade against Chinese intelligence services.  Unfortunately, Reid manages to get himself captured by the Chinese and blackmailed into pursuing and assassinating a Japanese spy.
Funny how well our hero "manages," isn't it?

I shouldn't make fun of the writing.  I am sure it is a pastiche of that classic pulp fiction style.

We are also looking forward to some re-issues of more "serious" work.

One of Larry's favorites by Brian Moore, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearn, is back in print. I would agree that this is a must-read if you are a fan of Irish writing on Catholic and social angst.

Additionally, Antoinette and I are looking forward to the re-issue of a book by the author of Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons: Nightingale Wood.

The publisher's publicity calls it a "sly, satirical fairytale" and a "modern romance ripe for rediscovery."  Those phrases are almost poetry. That's what I want to do, write publisher's publicity blurbs. 

What I love about all this is that these are reprints.  Reprints give publishers the opportunity to blow the dust off bought rights and to play with cover art and ask respected people like Mary Gordon (for Judith Hearn) or hip magazine editors like Sophie Dahl (for Nightingale Wood) to write a new introduction and weigh in.  Yes, let's introduce printed, bound books to a new generation of pulp (literally) fiction.

I am not totally against other media.  What led me to reading Cold Comfort Farm was seeing the film.  The film was hilarious.  The film and the book are not alike, but the movie is certainly more than "inspired by" the book and it is in these instances when I still marvel at how someone can visualize a film from a book.

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