Re: RARA-AVIS: Mercury Mystery

From: Richard Moore (
Date: 01 Jan 2009

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    --- In, "foxbrick" <foxbrick@...> wrote:
    > PRESS MYSTERY were a periodical set of digest magazine-format
    > reprints (at least for most of their run) of cf novels and
    > eventually some short story collections...a number of indexers and
    > collectors consider them paperback books, but they were produced in
    > the same format as stablemate ELLERY QUEEN'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, and
    > were apparently issued periodically, so I tend to think of them as
    > magazines

    This is the first time I have seen Jonathan Press and brethren considered as magazines but I see your logic even if I don't agree with your conclusion.

    The novels were reprints with some abridged and some not. I'm looking now at Richard Sale's LAZARUS #7, which as I recall won the praise of Chandler. On the copyright page there is this notation (which was standard for the series): "These mysteries are sometimes reprinted in full, but more often they are cut to speed up the story--always, of course, with the permission of the author or his publisher. This mystery has not been cut."

    The short story collections were often original publications. The series Jonathan Press published of Dashiell Hammett stories, most with introductions by Ellery Queen, are true first editions. I am lucky enough to own THE RETURN OF THE CONTINENTAL OP (1945) but others were to pricey for my budget. Most, if not all, of the series were reprinted as Dell Mapbacks, which are also quite collectible. Fred Dannay, half of the Ellery Queen team and editor of the EQ magazine, really helped keep Hammett's name before the reading public in the year's after the war.

    The standard pocketbook format did not begin to dominate the paper reprints until the late 1940s. Reprints (along with some originals)in the size of digest magazines were popular throughout the 1940s and continued into the 1950s. Evan Hunter's first adult novel was THE EVIL SLEEP! published in the digest format by Falcon Books in 1952 and it was a quite hardboiled debut. I've only seen one copy, which I promptly purchased, but I know Bill Crider has since added one to his collection.

    Not all of the publishers of digest-formatted novels were out of New York. Century Publications was out of Chicago and Leslie Charteris, creator of The Saint, edited and published a line in (IIRC) Los Angeles. Charteris reprinted some of his own The Saint novels but there were originals by other writers. One by Otis Adelbert Kline fetches a high price today.

    Richard Moore

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