Friday, March 7, 2008

What are publishers thinking (...if at all)?

When I first began putting together my list of the authors I wanted to carry in my store, the list was clear. Along with Chandler, Hammett, Christie and Sayers, I had written in names like Nicholas Blake, Ellery Queen and Cyril Hare.

Little did I know that many of them had gone completely out of print or were, in poultry terms, as scarce as hen's teeth.

Here is a short list of some titles currently out of print:
The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake: Written under a pseudonym by poet Cecil Day-Lewis (yep, Daniel's daddy), it is among the series of Nigel Strangeways novels that boast great plots and wit. Beast ... and Smiler with a Knife are two classics languishing somewhere in publisher's limbo.

The Hollow Man by John Dickson Carr: Does anyone remember Gideon Fell? It would appear that few responsible with keeping good mysteries in print, do. Well, that's finally about to change. Kudos to Rue Morgue Press for bringing back The Crooked Hinge back into print later this month and Carter Dickson's (aka John Dickson Carr's) The Judas Window along with it. Now, if we could just have The Hollow Man again.

Ellery Queen: Most of Ellery Queen is gone. Okay, we do have Thunder Mouth's The Hollywood Murders which contain three Queen cases -- The Devil to Pay, The Four of Hearts, and The Origin of Evil. But where is The Greek Coffin Mystery, and for that matter, where are The Spanish Cape Mystery, The French Powder Mystery, The Chinese Orange Mystery?

No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase: He wrote this tale of abduction, ransom and rape in 1938 and it was a hit. It was a stage play. It was a movie. Try to find it in print.

Of course, I guess you can't expect publishers to keep old books in print. But it doesn't explain why, at least here in the states, these are out of print: King Solomon's Carpet by Barbara Vine (1990), Popcorn by Ben Elton (1996), The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale (2001) and Mr. White's Confession by Robert Clark (1999). The first two won the Crime Writers Association's Golden Dagger, the latter two won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award.

Pitiful. Just pitiful.

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