Saturday, March 08, 2014

Frank Gruber's The French Key Mystery: There's more than a mystery between those covers

Frank Gruber (1904-1969) has to have been one of the most thoroughly professional of all pulp writers. The French Key Mystery hits hard without wallowing in shadows or violence. Its characters are entertaining without being clowns. A gritty undercurrent runs through the book without, however, degenerating into preachy social realism. In short, Gruber knew how tell a story.

At least as fascinating, however, is the supplementary matter in my edition of the novel, another fine purchase last week from the Bucks County Bookshop in Doylestown, Pa. And I don't mean just the cover's calling the book "A $2.00 Mystery for 25¢."

There are the exhortations to "brighten the lives of those who are giving their all" by sending them books and to buy U.S. war stamps and savings bonds because "It will cost money to defeat Germany, Italy and Japan."

The book's more straightforwardly commercial appeals have an earnestness that reads like innocence:
"MURDER OF THE MONTH titles are printed on good paper with bold, clear type and strongly bound with a decorative cover in full color, finished off with a hard, glossy surface. A further innovation are the unusual illustrations throughout each volume by world-famous artists, to add to your enjoyment whilst reading the story."
 They just don't write promotional copy like that anymore. Just try finding all this in a chain bookstore or on an e-reader.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

Labels: , , , ,

6 Comments:

Blogger Tony Renner said...

I'm afraid that when I write my mystery novel they'll tag it: 25 cents worth of mystery for $24.99!

March 08, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was trying to do some math. If the Avon paperback sold for one-eighth the price of hardcover, a similar version of yours would sell for $3.12375. I'll buy one at that price.

March 08, 2014  
Blogger RT said...

And what is the current price of a "$2 mystery for 25 cents"? And isn't it too bad that authors (or authors' estates) get short-changed by receiving no royalties on resales of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-hand books? Perhaps e-book editions will help remedy that problem.

March 09, 2014  
Blogger RT said...

And authors ought to receive royalties every time one of their books is checked out from a library. Perhaps authors who visit your site will have an opinion about being short-changed.

March 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I paid $6 or $6.95 for the book, not at all a bad price considering its find condition and the care that had been taken to maintain it. The shopkeeper even slipped it into a plastic envelope before she gave it to me.

March 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

R.T., I don't the history of the business models for the distribution of books and popular books. I think composers get royalties every time one of their songs gets played on the radio, at a bar mitzvah, at a baseball game ... anywhere. I suppose e-editions will make it easier to track such use, though that runs smack into current privacy concerns.

March 09, 2014  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home