RARA-AVIS: Re: The Peddler by Richard Prather

From: hardcasecrime ( editor@hardcasecrime.com)
Date: 14 Feb 2007

I'd love to take credit for making the book filthier, but in this case we didn't. We simply reversed some of the bowdlerization Gold Medal imposed on it. You see, before the book was published by Gold Medal under Prather's real name it was published by Lion -- a house willing to take a few more chances in terms of skirting the edges of what the TV industry calls 'standards and practices' -- under the fake name "Douglas Ring."

We went back to the original text, as published by Lion, rather than the (very slightly) cleaned-up version Gold Medal published several years later.

As often as possible we do go back to original manuscripts or, where an author is still living, give the author the opportunity to revise his work. Sometimes (as, for instance, in the case of David Dodge), the author isn't alive but we have the advice of someone who knew the author very well (in that case, Dodge's daughter Kendal, who went with him on all those trips up the Amazon in rickety steamships and so forth). In each case, we try to bring the book into conformity with what we know or have good reason to think the author would have wanted.

As a general rule, though, this amounts to a change of at most a dozen words in the course of a book, and often not even that much. And the most common changes are just correcting obvious typos.

There are some real dilemmas, though, such as what I think of as the Case of Axelrod's Fuck. George Axelrod was, by all accounts, a fellow with a bawdy sense of humor and a healthy appreciation of sex; this certainly comes through in his work. He's the man who put Marilyn Monroe over that subway grating in "The Seven Year Itch," after all, and he was on the record as being pissed off that Hollywood wouldn't allow him to have the male lead bed Marilyn's character in the film the way he did in the original Broadway play. But in his novel BLACKMAILER (which, incidentally, is a sequel of sorts to "The Seven Year Itch" -- it stars the same male lead) he uses an almost Victorian gimmick to avoid writing the word "fuck" -- he spells it out in a line of dialogue as "f___."

So, what to do? We could certainly replace "f___" with "fuck" today -
- and I have zero doubt that Axelrod would be offended by the change if he were alive -- but we tried it that way and it stood out as the most glaring sort of anachronism, like digitally inserting Angelina Jolie into the background of a scene in "Casablanca." We could have switched to "fug" or "frig," but those options were presumably available to Axelrod when he was writing and he chose not to use them -- and anyway, why replace one uncomfortably old-fashioned bit of uptightness with another? So, in the end, we stuck with "f___." It's the way he wrote it, and speculating that if he'd had the opportunity he would have written something else is pointless. Fun --
 but pointless.

So, to answer your general question: We observe a publisher's version of the Hippocratic Oath -- first, do no harm -- and only when we're confident we're not damaging a work do we make changes, and then only in accordance with the author's wishes, as best we can determine them.


--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, DJ-Anonyme@... wrote:
> A while ago, Duane mentioned that he wuld have thought some of this
> too explicit for the '50s. Well, turns out it was.
> A few of the images in this book struck me as surprising for their
> too. One was the use of the euphemism "frig." Sure, Norman Mailer
> famously (infamously?) used "fug" just a few years earlier, but
that was
> "serious literature," whereas Prather was published by Gold Medal, a
> popular imprint, near the height of the debate over the evils of
> culture. I found it surprising that the publishers would tempt
> reformers with a word so clearly meant to be "fuck." Though I'd
> read it, I've long had a copy of the Gold Medal printing of The
> so I pulled it out and checked.
> Hard Case version:
> The hell with it, it was that dumb talk with Angelo, and the screwy
> Alterie had acted. Well, frig Alterie--and Angelo. Frig them all.
> Gold Medal:
> The hell with it, it was that dumb talk with Angelo, and the screwy
> Alterie had acted. Well, to hell with Alterie--and Angelo. To hell
> them all.
> A later "frig" was also changed to "to hell with."
> So I flipped back to an earlier phrase that had struck me as filthy
> that that's a bad thing, this is a great image):
> In his mind grew an obscene image of a great fleshy whore lying on a
> bed, her legs parted and a constant stream of dollars spurting from
> dollar bills, ten-dollar bills, hundred- and thousand-dollar bills,
> filling the room, smothering her, flowing out of the doors and
> a cascade, a flood, of money rushing day and night from the woman's
> thighs.
> It's the "her legs parted and" that makes it so filthy for me,
makes it
> very clear exactly where the money is spurting from (the word spurt
> always gotten to me, too, as in Richard Hell's song, "Love Comes in
> Spurts"). Those four words were not in the 1952 edition.
> I checked a few other passages, but those hadn't been changed.
> Raises a question, though: Charles, are you going back to the
> manuscripts of the classics you're reprinting, not the previously
> published versions? Cool if you are. Are you finding much was
> in the original printings?
> Mark

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