Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Books, April 20, 2012

The Summing Up probably won't go up until tomorrow. I'll be gone most of today.

Continental Drift, Russell Banks.

It is hard for me to choose between AFFLICTION and CONTINENTAL DRIFT as my favorite novel by Russell Banks. But I am going with this one today. You may have seen the filmed version of AFFLICTION, a tremendous film with Nick Nolte and James Coburn.

Bob Dubois is a furnace repairman in a blue-collar town in New Hampshire, a state the American Dream has bypassed. Although Bob has a wife, three kids and a steady, if low-paying job, he is persuaded to look for a better life in Miami by his brother.

Bob is a good man although not a smart one. The sixties has persuaded him that there is something better out there. That it is foolish to be satisfied with a meager living in a depressed town.

Another character is also seeking a better life in Miami. A female Haitian refuge, who truly does need asylum and comes to the U.S. in a perilous manner. These two lives intersect in a Florida that is the antithesis of paradise, both characters suffering tragedy. This is not a happy book or one to escape into, but it is one that presents characters and situations that seem real and compelling.

Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad and Sam McCain series of crime novels. He blogs at

Forgotten Books: The Great American Paperback by Richard Lupoff

Penzler Pick, October 2001: There may be some irony in the notion that a book devoted to paperbacks (the most inexpensive book format--small, easily transportable and disposable) is a huge, expensive, beautifully produced hardcover volume that is certain to be a gem in any collector's library.
For several centuries books in America customarily were pages bound between hardcovers and, in this century, had dust jackets wrapped around them, initially just to protect the cloth covers, but eventually as an attention-grabbing advertising poster.
In 1938, an experiment was launched. The cloth cover was exchanged for a paper one, and the colorful illustration and information that appeared on the dust jacket (author, title, publisher, a few lines about the book) was printed directly onto those paper covers. Cheaper paper was used, since these artifacts were no longer expected to form part of a permanent library, but were to be as disposable as a newspaper or magazine. And they were cheap: a 25-cent price made books affordable for a huge portion of the population. They became immeasurably successful almost overnight.
Today many of those books are highly sought-after collectors' items. In spite of the huge numbers printed, they are scarce now simply because almost no one ever thought to save them in colorful, pristine condition. The Great American Paperback illustrates in glorious full color more than 600 of the most interesting and collectable paperbacks, each with an informative caption that provides as much fascinating anecdotal information as the text, which is a masterly and scholarly history of the American paperback, tracing its roots to the early 19th century and concluding with a look at the future.
There are samples of the paperback originals of Ed McBain, Richard Stark, Jim Thompson, Harlan Ellison, and James M. Cain, as well as illustrations of such rarities asThe Maltese Falcon, which was issued as a paperback with a dust jacket, and Ellery Queen's Halfway House, which was offered in two formats by the publisher, one bound the usual way, the other bound at the top edge.
If this massive work hadn't been produced in Hong Kong, it would have cost twice as much and is, believe it or not, a bargain, even at a price as hefty as the book itself. --OttoPenzler

Ed here: Dick Lupoff has distinguished himself as a writer of both mystery and science fiction and fantasy. He has also been and editor and biographer of great renown. I first heard of him when he and his lovely wife Pat began publishing the legendary science fiction/comic book XERO back in the early 1960s. If you'd like to know (or remember) what genre fiction as all about in that lost age I suggest you but the hardbound collection of XERO's including Donald E.Westlake'sscorching goodbye to his science fiction career.
But this magnificent history--because it's nothing less--of paperbacks books in America would be enough to make you well known and respected. The covers are knock-outs and the text is packed with stories and tales of writers andeditors and publishers are told with Dick's usual wit, high style and erudition.
There are many books about paperbacks but I can't think of any that come even close to this sprawling, hilarious, melancholy, fact-packed tribute to the highs and lows of American publishing.
This is a singular accomplishment and Dick Lupoff should be honored for it.

Serge Angelini
Yvette Banek
Joe Barone
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Martin Edwards
Elisabeth Grace Foley
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
Margot Kinberg
B.V. Lawson
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Richard Robinson
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Bill Selnes
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple
Wuthering Willow


Charles Gramlich said...

Haven't read anything by Russel Banks, though I've heard the name. Will put him on my list.

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I've got an entry this week:

Jerry House said...

Mine's up now.

Ron Scheer said...

Have not read his novels but liked AFFLICTION and THE SWEET HEREAFTER as films...A colleague with the same name at a former job used to get nasty phone calls from Banks' creditors for unpaid bills.

Todd Mason said...

I've put up a preliminary "summing up" on my entry...

WutheringWillow @ A Paperback Life said...

My Friday’s Forgotten Books post is up too. It's here,

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Thanks as ever for including my post among these excellent ones.