Friday, June 1, 2012

Forgotten Books: But Not the End by Frederick Nebel

This book is a lot more forgotten than most. Published in hardcover in 1934, Frederick Nebel's second novel has been out of print ever since. There was no paperback edition. No digest. No cheap hardcover. And near as I can tell, not even a British edition. If you want to read it without shelling out some big bucks, your best bet is to visit the British Library's Rare Book Room, or hope that one of the three U.S. libraries in possession will loan you a copy.

But is it really worth the effort? Depends, I guess, on how much you like Nebel. He was at the top of his form in the mid-thirties, and there's some damn fine writing here. But this is what was known as a Depression Novel (meaning it's set during the Great Depression), and most of its characters are consequently depressed.

The primary point of view character, an investment broker, faces financial ruin and watches helplessly as several of his clients - and even his partner - commit suicide. He also loses his wife to predatory lovers and his daughter to a daredevil flyer. A once-rich immigrant is forced to accept a menial job and is ashamed to return home in disgrace. A champion prizefighter loses his title, his career and half his vision. And there's no detective to rescue them from themselves. These are just folks struggling to stay afloat in a sea of confusion.

But not all is lost. Those who deserve a second chance at happiness are rewarded in the end, while those who don't are lost beyond redemption. For the characters we care about, it's not really The End.

And lucky for us Nebel fans, more and more of his pulp work is finally being reprinted. After finishing But Not the End, I jumped right into the new Black Dog Books collection, Empire of the Devil, and read a fine short novel from Action Stories called "Seas of Chance." This one follows two salty adventurers from Singapore to Borneo in search of a treasure in jewels, with two gangs of villains out to stop them. And that's just the beginning. The collection includes four more short novels, three shorter adventures, the most complete Nebel bibliography ever compiled, an informative intro by Tom Roberts, and even a brief Nebel bio by someone named Evan Lewis.

Empire of the Devil is available from various sources, but is best purchased directly from Black Dog Books (right HERE), which will aid publisher Tom Roberts in his tireless crusade to bring more lost classics into the light.

Check out this week's round up of Forgotten Books (many by Margaret Millar) at pattinase.


George said...

Rick Robinson bought the Black Dog Nebel, too. I'm going to have to pick up a copy.

Evan Lewis said...

Rick beat me to it, too. I got my first look at the book in his kitchen.

Oscar said...

A reflection of the times, the novel. And here we are again. going through bad economic times.

Moring said...

This is a good tome; well worth reading. I recently picked up a signed copy of it, in fact.