RARA-AVIS: New hardboiled paperback mystery series

From: Charles Ardai ( charles@winterfall.com)
Date: 16 Aug 2003


Over the past year or so I have read this list with great pleasure (it's great to know that there are other folks out there who share my passion for these sorts of books), but mostly in silence -- I figured the various discussions could go on just as well, if not better, without my throwing in my 2 cents worth all the time.

However, I now have an announcement to make that should be worth slightly more than 2 cents, so I figured I'd emerge from my habitual
"lurker's silence" to make it here.

Earlier this week, the company I run, Winterfall LLC, signed a 12-book deal to publish a new series of mass-market paperback crime novels done in the old style everyone on this list remembers and loves. Each book will be short (~200 pages), vibrantly written, irresistibly plotted, and unapologetically in the hardboiled/noir tradition, and each will feature an original cover painting that would look right at home next to a Belarski or a McGinnis, along with graphic design that recalls the golden age of PBOs.

We expect roughly half the line to be reprints of great but (largely) forgotten books from the 1940s through the 1970s and the other half to be original novels by current authors whose work has a spiritual kinship with the old masters. The first four titles are scheduled to come out in September 2004, to be followed (assuming the market's response is at least decent) by the next eight over the subsequent ten months. If the market's response is not only decent but enthusiastic, we'd hope to turn the 12-book test into an ongoing series.

A few of you on the list know me, and know I've been working on this project for well over a year, meeting with essentially every major publisher in the business, trying to convince them that this sort of material deserves to be in print, that there's a passionate audience that will buy it (especially at a mass market price point of $5-6/book), and that even readers who don't already know they like this sort of book probably will once they try it. It requires a leap of faith on the part of a publisher, and I am pleased to say we found one willing to take that leap with us (I'll share their name as soon as they give me the green light to do so publicly). We don't have as large a budget to work with as we'd ideally like -- does anyone, ever? -- but we should be able to achieve our goal of putting out a line of books that, were I to stumble across it in a bookstore, would trigger all sorts of embarrassing Pavlovian reactions.

There isn't a lot more to announce at this point -- after all, we are still a year away from seeing the first titles roll off the press -- but I promise I'll post additional information as things progress. In the meantime, there are ways in which everyone on this list could help us out:

1) REPRINTS: While I already have a list of a few dozen of my favorite long-out-of-print titles to pursue (and only ~6 reprint slots to fill, at least initially), if any of you have suggestions of obscure items I ought to look into (i.e., no Chandler, no Hammett, no MacDonald, no Goodis, no Thompson, no Cain, no Woolrich -- not that these aren't great writers, but plenty of their work is already in print, and in any event we already know about all the usual suspects), I'd be grateful to get them. If you once read a book so good that ten years after reading it you still feel a shiver of delight when you think about it, I'd like to know about it. Note that to work for us, it would also have to have aged well -- some otherwise strong books are basically unpublishable today, for instance because of casual racism or grotesque sexism that just can't help but interfere with a modern reader's enjoyment of the story (we probably won't be reprinting Chase's "12 CHINKS AND A WOMAN," for example) or because the plot turns on some element that a modern reader would find hopelessly (or incomprehensibly) dated.

2) ORIGINALS: We're looking for books of 55,000-75,000 words that could have been Gold Medals (or the tougher sort of Dell mapback) back in the day. Period doesn't matter: We'd be just as happy with a story set in 2004 as one set in 1944, as long as the flavor of the thing is right.
(Earlier than WWII probably wouldn't work, though -- no Civil War noir
[though Cain came close to pulling it off once or twice], no hardboiled samurai detectives, no Elizabethan troubadors spouting Chandlerian wisecracks between forsooths.) Again, we only have 6 slots to fill
(actually 5, since we've shaken hands with one author already), and most of the books we publish will probably come from authors we approach directly, but if any of you have a book you think might be suitable, we'd gladly take a look. (The money isn't great -- you not only won't get rich selling to us, you'd probably make at least a little more selling to virtually anyone else outside of a royalty-only or P.O.D. house -- but it's not zero...and how many chances are there to be part of a line like this?)

3) HELPING US SPREAD THE WORD: It's premature to do anything now, but as we get closer to the launch date for the series, we would be very grateful for any help (or advice about things we might do, given the constraint of a limited budget) that might bring these books to the attention of the widest possible audience. The best chance we have of making this an ongoing series is to make the first titles successful, and strong word of mouth is one of the best ways to make that happen.
(Of course, we wouldn't expect strong word of mouth unless you actually like the books once you see them. We'll do our damnedest to make sure you do...)

HOW TO REACH US: I'll keep reading this list, of course, so feel free to post anything that is appropriate for public discussion (i.e., "My favorite obscure book I'd like to see reprinted") here. If you want to contact us about a book you've written or touch base about anything else that's better handled through one-on-one communication, you can reach us by sending e-mail to WinterfallBooks@hotmail.com . (Please don't send manuscripts of entire novels to this address, though, since I don't know what Hotmail's limits are on message size and mailbox size. If you send a query and we're interested, we can give you our main corporate address to use for actual manuscript submissions.)

Apologies for the length of this message (it occurs to me that if you respond publicly you probably shouldn't quote the whole thing in your reply), and many thanks for any help you can give. We're very excited about this new project, and hope to turn it into something you'll be excited about, too.

Best, Charles
----------- Charles Ardai President Winterfall LLC WinterfallBooks@hotmail.com

# Plain ASCII text only, please.  Anything else won't show up.
# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# majordomo@icomm.ca.  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 16 Aug 2003 EDT