Re: RARA-AVIS: Short and cheap

Date: 14 Oct 2007

That was very illuminating Charles, (and John from Serpent's Tail).

I remember the Penguin 60 series well, which might be what you are talking about when you mention their 'skinny' range and just found this, from 1995:
  On the Sunday Times best-seller list of July 23, the Penguin 60's took all 10 slots for general nonfiction paperbacks. The leading title was "Summer," a group of eight lyrical essays by Albert Camus. Six of the 10 books on the Sunday Times paperback fiction list are the little Penguins.
  Actually I think it isn't the series you're thinking of, 60s were tiny; not just skinny but small and square and cost 60 of our English pence published for Penguin's 60th anniversary. For that reason they got fantastic publicity and the list of titles was top notch - I think I bought some Montaigne essays and tried out Muriel Spark and the like too, which I probably would not have done without the 'no-risk' price, the first time I read Maigret and Damon Runyon was in Penguin 60s. If I remember rightly they did a Sherlock Holmes story too, and I wonder how many people that turned on to the full set of stories?

They also had excellent book-store publicity and positioning (a reflection of Penguin's power and reputation?) and were very well designed with striking covers and often new introductions or critical essays.
  I remember a couple of other similar ranges appearing in their wake but I guess they were one-off, loss leaders in a sense and they certainly haven't been
 repeated to my knowledge - in fact, a feature of the end-of-stock/remaindered bookstore I use most frequently (which sadly for the health of crime publishing is rammed with excellent hardboiled authors from classics to Serpant's Tail and No Exit Press and the like) are stacks and stacks of Penguin 60s, now available for 25p, so obviously not all of them sold as well as those top 10 titles mentioned above.

It really is a shame if authors (as Patrick says) whose inclination is towards brevity are being asked to pad to provide a good shelf-filling slab
("Never mind the quality, feel the width," as the old saying goes). I remember talk at the time of the Penguin 60s even inclining towards this signalling a revolution in publishing - people have less time to do anything, least of all read, so bite-sized literature and stuff-in-a-pocket-books for a snatched moment (I used to have a pocket full for my hideous commute on the Piccadilly Line where their manoueverability was in itself a plus) would be more and more in demand, apparently not! Although your mention of i-pods reminds me that music and video seem to have gone that way - see all those 'the death of the album' articles as people switch to tracks not discs.

Many of the greats began as short story slingers and I wonder how far that aided clarity in the shorter form when it came to novels?

Hey ho.
  All the best Avians.
(sorry for rambling)

PS, here's something from the Serpent's Tail website which will surely be required listening for many Avians! (And of which many of you are no doubt already aware.) Given Cathi Unsworth's music journalism background there might even be a soundtrack to savour too - I was played the Gallon Drunk/Derek Raymond LP once (I was suitably intoxicated at the time by the way and don't remember too much) and would love to hear it again.
  9 October 2007 Cathi will be hosting four special programmes on Resonance FM on the late, great Derek Raymond. THE DARK END OF THE STREET goes out on Resonance 104.4 FM every Thursday between 7 and 8pm (and repeated every Sunday from 12 - 1am) from October the 25th 2007. High and low quality streaming audio available at Podcast available from in January 2008. THE DARK END OF THE STREET is a special season of four programmes which will discuss the setting, language, and literary lineage of Raymond's writing. The shows go out on Resonance FM from 7-8pm on the night sin question, details as follows: October 25: Max Decharne discusses 'The Crust on Its Uppers', Raymond's debut
 and a source of Cockney slang from the 1960s. November 1: Serpent's Tail publisher Pete Ayrton and Martyn Waites, crime writer, discuss 'A State of Denmark'. November 8: John Williams, Raymond's literary executor and friend discusses
'He Died with His Eyes Open' November 15: Maxim Jakubowski, Raymond's agent, proprietor of Murder One crime bookshop in London, and crime reviewer, discusses 'I Was Dora Suarez', Raymond's masterpiece.
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