RARA-AVIS: Re: Detective Book Club - Walter J. Black

From: Richard Moore (moorich@aol.com)
Date: 22 Oct 2008

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    Michael L. Cook's MURDER BY MAIL (Inside the Mystery Book Clubs) Bowling Green University Popular Press 1979, revised edition 1983) gives the history of the various mystery bookclubs as well as a checklist of their publications. The Detective Book Club was announced on February 15, 1942. As of October 1983, the club had published 494 regular 3 in 1 volumes and another 97 Inner Circle Triples. I have not examined it closely enough to determine when they began the additional Inner Circle volumes but by the 1980s the club was offering nine novels in three volumes.

    Less well remembered is the Unicorn Mystery Book Club which began in 1945 and offered readers four novels in each volume. Initially, it did well with Hans Stefan Santesson as editor from the third volume on. According to an article in the Armchair Detective by Ed Hoch, it paid less than the Detective Book Club. When Doubleday launched its Mystery Guild in 1948, Unicorn began to lose members and it ended in November 1952. There were 83 volumes published. I've always had a somewhat higher opinion of the Unicorn volumes as Santesson would include the unexpected at times. For example, Jack Williamson's DRAGON'S ISLAND was in the July 1951 volume. Fred Brown was a regular with his mystery novels and even with the SF collection SPACE ON MY HANDS. I was very happy one day to find the May 1949 volume as it contains a thriller ATOMSK by Carmichael Smith, pseudonym for Paul Linebarger who achieved greater success writing as Cordwainer Smith. There was a pretty good Craig Rice novel in the same book.

    Richard Moore

    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, Terry Sanford <mbtbone@...> wrote:
    > Black began publishing single, then double and finally, triple book
    club volumes in the 1950's. Erle Stanley Gardner was a mainstay for many years. The bodks also had dust jackets over brown cloth initially. The series continued well into the 1990's. The "hook" to get you started with them was five volumes (15 books in all!) for a buck with no obligation to buy more. If you didn't send that card back to them, then one was mailed to you every month.There are, of course, people who collect these. I once saw a complete collection which was housed in a 20' by 60" room although she did collect other books as well. I didn't get a number of them since I had no interest in them. There were a handful of books published by them in this format which were true first editions, the first published appearance of said book. I know one of Roy Vicker's novels fell in this category along with a collection of Matt Taylor's humorous detective stories from Good Housekeeping
    > Magazine! Yes the same guy who wrote the tough Neon novels with his
    wife in the 1980's.Cheap reads when you can them these days.Terry Sanford
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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