RARA-AVIS: Re: Legal, but is it ethical?

From: George Tuttle ( noirfiction@whoever.com)
Date: 24 Apr 2006

I was lucky. I bought my copy of Black Wings Has My Angel in the mid-1980's from the Book Barn in Decatur, IL. This was back when the Book Barn was located in a refurbished barn. I later gave my copy to a gent from Chicago. He later called me and mentioned going on his honeymoon in San Francisco, visiting the Creative Arts offices (lucky bride), and giving the same copy to Barry Gifford. Later, Creative Arts/Black Lizard bought the rights to Black Wings, and then Random House bought Black Lizard. I assume the rights transferred over to Random House, but that Random House didn't see the book as having much profit potential. I think Random House was interested in the Jim Thompson titles and the idea of using the Black Lizard imprint as a way to market Hammett, Chandler, and other authors already in their backlist. I assume the option to publish lapsed which leads us up to where we are today.

There is a niche market for Black Wings. But is it a big enough niche for Hard Case? It wasn't a big enough niche for Random House and I assume they were given the book for free. In the past other publisher have kick around the idea of reprinting some of these old originals, Carroll and Graf reprinted Harry Whittington's You'll Die Next! I have always theorized that this was a failed test balloon, since no other titles followed.

Is it a big enough niche for Stark House? A combined edition of the books Black Wings Has My Angel and Wettermark would be great! Two great reads for the price of one.

What about Gryphon Books? They have recently reprinted Harry Whittington (One Got Away, Married To Murder, Satan's Widow, and Vengeful Sinner), They have also published William Campbell Gault's Man Alone which was written in the 1950's but couldn't find a publishers until Gryphon Books released it in 1995 (Cover art by Bruce Timm!, introduction by Bill Pronzini!). They also did a collection of Spillane shorts: Primal Spillane: Early Stories 1941-1942. Would you be interested in a Gryphon Books edition? Gary Lovisi has kicked the idea of publishing Black Wings in the past. You could visit their website (http://www.gryphonbooks.com ) and give Gary some encouragement. I would also be happy to forward e-mails to Gary, if you liked.

Take care, George the Librarian

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "Jeff Vorzimmer" <jvorzimmer@...> wrote:
> Charles,
> While your intentions seem to be noble, I think you're overlooking some
> points and glossing over others. To turn a profit, any profit, after
only a
> year or so in a niche market such as this is fantastic. And in order
to do
> this you've admitted that you have had to select titles you think
will sell
> and with which you have exclusivity by contract. That business model
> to automatically exclude works in the public domain, which is
> since there are a lot of works in the public domain that deserve
> It is also unfortunate for the heirs of these writers, who I'm sure
> rather have their deceased fathers or husbands or grandfathers
> than receiving small checks from you every six months.
> It seems as though you're doing a greater disservice to Mary Chaze
by not
> giving "Black Wings" a legitimate paperback reissue than Moynihan is
> his POD reissue. Your reasoning also sounds somewhat disingenuous.
If you
> were actually to the point of negotiating a deal with Mary Chaze and
you ran
> across the Blackmask edition, wouldn't your reaction have been--A) She's
> made a deal with someone else or B) It's in the public domain and I
> want to have to compete with lots of other potential publishers. Are you
> telling us that you got to that point with Mary Chaze and it never
came up
> that the copyright had lapsed? You still seem to be unsure about it.
> Let me say, Charles, that you are underestimating your readership.
They are
> a large, but in some ways, a tightly-knit group, who are shopping
not only
> for certain writers, but also for certain publishers. You have built
up some
> brand loyalty and there are a lot of people who are introduced to
> because you republished them. Given the choice, most readers on the
> I'm sure, would buy your paperback of Black Wings, rather than the
> edition, especially if we knew some of the proceeds were going to the
> author's widow and we could get it at our local bookstore.
> I hope you're not ruling out books simply because they're in the public
> domain. I for one would like to see more Charles Williams, for
example, and
> a lot of his early Gold Medal books are in the PD.
> Jeff
> > > I don't think anyone is getting rich
> > > reprinting old paperback originals. I
> > > don't think Charles Ardai of Hard Case
> > > or Greg Shepard of Stark House is
> > > getting rich.
> >
> > True enough. Last year we turned our first profit, a staggering four-
> > figure sum.
> >
> > > The authors of Black Wings Has My Angel,
> > > My Flesh Is Sweet, and the various Gold
> > > Medal and Lion Book originals may be gone,
> > > but their families are still here. Mary
> > > Chaze, Elliot's wife, is still alive.
> >
> > She is, indeed. I was talking with her last summer about (among
> > other things) the possibility of our reprinting BLACK WINGS HAS MY
> > ANGEL, something she has never allowed anyone to do. It was looking
> > promising -- but then I thought to do a search on Amazon.com just to
> > be safe and discovered the Blackmask.com edition. I had mixed
> > feelings when I saw that; on one hand, I was glad that the book was
> > available again after so long, but on the other I felt bad that I had
> > to go back to Mary and tell her I could no longer make the offer we'd
> > been discussing. But we would never publish an edition of a book
> > that another publisher has just reprinted a few months earlier -- so
> > in this case Blackmask's edition literally was the direct cause of
> > Mary Chaze not getting a check I would otherwise have written. Of
> > course, to be fair to Blackmask, if it's true that the book really is
> > in the public domain, we'd have had no reason other than a charitable
> > impulse to write that check; and hell, if I'm feeling so charitable,
> > nothing's stopping me from writing it now, book or no book. So I'm
> > not trying to paint them in shades of black and myself in radiant
> > white.
> >
> > But I will say I didn't feel good about the whole thing.
> >
> > --Charles
> > ------------
> > Charles Ardai
> > Editor, Hard Case Crime
> >
> > --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "George Tuttle" <noirfiction@>
> > wrote:
> > >
> > > A question for all: It maybe legal, but is it ethical?
> > >
> > > BlackMask.com reprints public domain editions (they don't pay the
> > > author or surviving family for the rights to publish) of classic
> > noir
> > > fiction writers like Elliot Chaze, Day Keene, Wade Miller, John
> > > McPartland, Lionel White, Charles Williams, Charles Willeford, and
> > Jim
> > > Thompson. It's probably legal (Authors are often not good about
> > doing
> > > the paperwork required to extend copyright protection). But is it
> > > ethical? Shouldn't the families get something? They may not be owed
> > > anything, but wouldn't it be nice?
> > >
> > > It was one thing when BlackMask.com was reprinting old pulp
> > magazines.
> > > It seemed more victimless. But this new wave of reprints does not
> > seem
> > > right. The authors of Black Wings Has My Angel, My Flesh Is Sweet,
> > and
> > > the various Gold Medal and Lion Book originals maybe gone, but their
> > > families are still here. Mary Chaze, Elliot's wife, is still alive.
> > > There were several kids. I met some of them when I work at the
> > public
> > > library in Hattiesburg, MS. I assume Al James, Day Keene's son is
> > > still out there. Jim Thompson has two kids: Michael and Sharon.
> > Bruno
> > > Fischer also has two: Adam Fischer and Nora Ernst. John McPartland
> > had
> > > two wives: the one he was married to when he died and the one he
> > > forgot to divorce. I think Ida was the name of the later and the
> > > estate heir. I think there was also a daughter. Charles Williams
> > has a
> > > daughter Alison. Lionel White has a daughter, January.
> > >
> > > And then there is Wade Miller(the writing team of Bill Miller and
> > Bob
> > > Wade). Bill Miller died many years ago, but isn't Bob Wade still
> > alive?
> > >
> > > Publishers like Hard Case Crime and Stark House Press give us an
> > > opportunity to say thanks to the authors of these books. It may be
> > too
> > > late to thank them while they were living, but we can thank their
> > > kids, in a token way, when we buy a Hard Case or Stark House
> > edition.
> > > I don't think anyone is getting rich reprinting old paperback
> > > originals. I don't think Charles Ardai of Hard Case or Greg Shepard
> > of
> > > Stark House is getting rich. I doubt if BlackMask.com is getting
> > rich.
> > > We are dealing with principles here, and I don't understand the
> > > principle that BlackMask.com is advocating for. I think they are on
> > > the wrong side of this issue. I know David Moynahan of BlackMask.com
> > > has posted on this site before I would welcome his point of view on
> > > this issue or for him to correct any misconceptions I have. I also
> > > welcome others for feedback on this issue.
> > >

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