RARA-AVIS: Gateway Publishers

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 20 Jan 2006

On Jan 20, 2006, at 7:02 AM, rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com wrote:

> Might be fun to have some sort of discussion, rememberances, etc.
> about two
> of the publishers that, in my mind, had more impact on the type of
> fiction
> we all enjoy...and, in fact, introduced it to many of us in the first
> place
> (depending on your generation): Gold Medal and Black Lizard.

And there's the rub. It depends on the generation.

For some of the young 'uns, who knows? It might even be Hard Case Crime that served as their gateway publisher. And for some of the older folks here, Knopf might have made all the difference. And then there are those who may spend way too much time haunting old bookstores and may have thought the books that most shaped our reading all had maps on the back cover and a keyhole on the front or bore the Harlequin logo
(check out some of the HB writers tiny little Harlequin published before deciding to focus on romance).

Personally, my intro to HB probably falls somewhere between Gold Medal and Black Lizard -- it was probably whichever publisher (or was it different publishers?) that did the paperback reprints of Ross Macdonald and Chandler in the seventies. I was a snot-nosed would-be punk/art student but the retro/pulpy Chandler covers and Mitchell Hooks-painted montages on the Archer novels probably attracted me as much -- at least at first -- as the writing.

Black Lizard? For all the tainted-by-nostalgia hoopla, I thought the cover illustrations were over-rated. A disappointing number of them seemed rushed to me, and featured poorly rendered, vaguely simian-looking men and women and awkward or unimaginative layouts, with no real sense of style. Although I realize some of you may be quite fond of them. Sorry.

The over-riding design of the covers, though -- the torn edge black/grey hook and the bold, italic white sans serif typography -- was distinctive and quite good.


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