Friday, January 25, 2013

Forgotten Books: Paperbacks, U.S.A.

This one brings back a lot of memories. At the time it was published in 1981, I had known Lance Casebeer, the "King of Paperbacks," for two or three years, become a regular attendee of the backyard paperbackalooza called LanceCon, and - because I lived nearby, dropped in at many another time to marvel at his basement-to-second story collection of every paperback book published in American between 1939 and 1959 (and beyond).

In short, I didn't need this book. I was practically living it. That magic died in 2003 - along with Lance - but the book lives on, and it's still packed cover-to-cover with some truly amazing information.

Paperbacks, U.S.A. (the U.S. title) was also published - at almost the same time - in Britain as The Book of Paperbacks. I have both editions, and everything inside the covers (including the endpapers) is identical.

It begins with a history of the paperback, paying special attention to the major vintage houses of Pocket Books, Avon, Penguin, Popular Library, Dell, Bantam and Signet.There's a lengthy section on cover art, including details on how it was produced and interviews with the artists. There's a year-by-year chronology listing milestones in the industry, and putting them in context with the "real" world.

And there's more: An overview of every U.S. publisher and imprint of the period, lists of the first hundred books issued by each major publisher, and a thirty-page encyclopedia detailing who was who in producing cover art.

If you're at all intrigued with vintage paperbacks, or the history of book publishing in America, you can't go wrong with this one.

Bill Crider collectors take note! You'll want this, too, because his name appears twice - in the Index and in the Bibliography.

This week's links to Forgotten Books appear at SWEET FREEDOM. Next week you'll find them right here on the Almanack.


Todd Mason said...

Are Lance Casebeer and Piet S the same person?

Evan Lewis said...

No, Piet is Dutch, and resided over there with rest of the Dutchmen. Lance was one of many who helped with the book, but it's unlikely it would have written without his pioneering efforts paperback collecting.

Deka Black said...

To me paperbacks were the door to pulp. i remember very well a paperback edition of red harvest that i stole from my mother. Later, i discovered red Nails from Robert E. Howard and the rest is history.

Jerry House said...

I read this one years ago. I remember it being entertaining and informative.

Bill Crider said...

Wow, I'm famous!

Evan Lewis said...

Damn, Deka, I'm impressed. Your mother had good taste!

Richard R. said...

I have, or at least had, a copy of this around here somewhere. I remember hunting for it back in 1996 or so.

John said...

He managed to collect a copy of EVERY paperback ever published from 1939- 1959? That's incredible! And I thought the bookseller I met from Kentucky (cant' recall his name) who used to own Books Are Everything had an astonishing collection of vintage paperbacks including a lot of very rare detective digests like the Eerie, Black Cat, Green Dragon. That entire inventory was purchased by Graham Holroyd back in 2001 or so who still sells online.

Evan Lewis said...

1939-1959 was Lance's first goal. Then he moved up to 1969. I'm not sure how far he got, but he had one hell of a collection. It should have gone en masse to a university. Instead, it was sold off piecemeal, one of the saddest things I've ever witnessed.

Deka Black said...

She have indeed! She loves noir stories.

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neer said...

The book seems to be fascinating. Love the covers displayed.

Here's my entry for this week's FFB. The Case of Lucy Bending by Lawrence Sanders (1982)