Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reprints and Recognitions

It's interesting times we are having in the world of vintage mystery blogging and publishing. When McFarland published my book Masters of the "Humdrum" Mystery three years ago I was often told no one outside of compulsive crime fiction collectors wanted to read forgotten Golden Age mystery writers. Now in 2015 a lot more people are getting in on this game, which has led me to think about what might be termed some ethical questions concerning publishing and the vintage mystery blogging community.

Recently the British Library's success with their Crime Classics mystery reprint series seems to have inspired an imitator, in British independent publisher Pepik Books' Lost Crime Classics series.  The style of the books looks similar to me. Books in both series have quite attractive covers, drawn, it appears from vintage poster art.

Claire Theyers--owner, I believe, of Pepik Books--writes on the LCL website:

I was amazed how many excellent books are lost: their authors long forgotten about and their stories gathering dust in bookshops and charity stores.

American Queens of Crime is Pepik Books' first series of rediscovered crime novels. Only quality detective fiction that I have personally read and truly enjoyed makes it into the series.  

I hope to follow with many more.

Godspeed, Claire Thayers, but as far as I'm aware, it was I, your Passing Tramp, who on the internet first publicized Anita Blackmon and Margaret Armstrong, the pair of authors in Pepik Books' American Queens of Crime series, way back in 2012.

Not long after I started my blog I did a two-part series on forgotten "Had-I-But-Known" authors. Can you guess who the two authors in the series were?  I'll give you two guesses.

Got it?  I bet you did.

The first author, about whom I blogged on 11 January 2012 was Anita Blackmon, in a post titled

Had I But Known Authors #1: Anita Blackmon Crime Queen of Arkansas

About two weeks week later, on 28 January 2012, I wrote about Margaret Armstrong in a post titled

Had I But Known Authors #2: Margaret Armstrong: HIBK Patrician

I also highly praised Armstrong's Murder in Stained Glass.

So the two authors in British publisher Pepik Books' 2015 American Queens of Crime series are the two authors I highlighted in a 2012 series on my blog.  Mere coincidence?

aka Anita Blackmon
I also note that in fact Coachwhip reprinted the two Anita Blackmon mysteries a year ago, with an introduction commissioned from me. (Here are links to the first and second Blackmon books reprinted by Coachwhip.)

Coachwhip recognizes my work in rediscovering--I use this word advisedly--forgotten mystery authors and they remunerate me for commissioned introductions, so I am, I hope understandably, a bit biased in their favor.

Nor is Coachwhip the only publisher to do this.  Just this month I have been at work on introductions for mystery reprints by three different publishers. I would be pleased to work with other interested publishers as well.  I can assure them I know of a great many additional forgotten Golden Age mystery writers, many of whom are worthy of rediscovery and republication.

The Anita Blackmon reprints have not gotten the attention of those of say M. Doriel Hay, but I'm glad to say that they, like the Ianthe Jerrold books with Dean Street Press, another publisher with whom I have worked, have received good word on and

Here are some excepts from reader reviews of Blackmon's mysteries on those websites:

Oh isn't there?
[T]he grumpy but lovable personality of Miss [Adelaide] Adams keeps the reader hooked....  Readers who enjoy vintage mysteries are likely to be charmed by [Murder a la Richelieu]. The succinct introduction is very helpful in placing Anita Blackmon among the various styles of Golden Age writers.

[Murder a la Richelieu] has a strong plot with many wonderful characters. The pace never falters from one shocking death after another.

Nice characterization and an event-filled plot make [Murder a la Richelieu] an entertaining read.

If you like Agatha Christie, you will like [Murder a la Richelieu].

This is a very fun book [There Is No Return], with a feisty, quirky narrator (Miss Adelaide Adams), lots of suspicious characters, several star-crossed lovers for Miss Adams to advise, and plenty of supernatural terror in the air.  A real find for lovers of vintage mysteries!  The introduction in this edition, succinct and informative, adds to the reader's pleasure.

You'll be guessing right up to the end.  Adelaide Adams is a most delightful old young at heart spinster and accidental detective....  [T]he story [
There Is No Return] is terrific.

Anita Blackmon is a forgotten national treasure.  What a great sense of humor, with telling observations of character and lovely descriptive passages. She's a real peach of a read.

I'm so pleased for that kind of feedback for an author I helped get on the literary map again. I'm especially pleased that the Amazon reviewers liked the winning character of Adelaide Adams as much as I did.

However, to toot my own horn here (needs must when the Devil drives), I write about mystery fiction not just for pleasure, but also with some expectation of being recognized and perhaps even remunerated for my work, which includes critically praised books on the subject that have appeared every year since 2012. While my blog, which has been praised by such prominent critics as Michael Dirda and Sarah Weinman, is not, strictly speaking, for profit, I would like at least to be recognized for the work that appears on it.

Do other bloggers feel the same way about their blog work? Over the next week, in addition to some other more typical blog pieces (reviews and such) I'm going to go over some notable vintage mystery writer rediscoveries that have been made by myself and others in the blogging community and I'm going to evaluate how these rediscoveries have fared at the hands of publishers.


  1. Hi Curtis - have you have any luck contacting Claire directly? It may not be she who reads your blog after all, just someone she knows, etc etc? I would of course leap at the chance to buy new paper copies prefaced by your essays chum!

    1. Sergio, no, I found no email contact information. Of course I wish Pepik good fortune in its publishing venture, though I again remind people that my introduction is in the Coachwhip edition of the Blackmons. Of course they can read about Blackmon on my blog as well, as well as Armstrong.

  2. Could be complete coincidence, Curt. But the Blackmon books? All of them reprinted by another outfit one year after Coachwhip reprinted them? Seems fishy to me. And disingenuous to claim she "rediscovered" them, IMO.

    I believe in coincidence but often the timing between a blog post on Pretty Sinister Books and a suddenly available eBook or POD from some fly by night operation offering the very the same book is hard to ignore. It can't all be coincidence. This has happened with an Argentinian edition of THE COOK by Harry Kressing and several eBook editions of mysteries by the long out of print and very dead "Vernon Loder" (aka John Hazlette Vahey). There are other instances as well. I can't ever prove it, but it's very likely that my posts were responsible for several books being reprinted over the past four years. As for expecting recognition or thanks I've given up all hope. In the age of the internet everything seems up for grabs. Take what you can get, after all it's all free, right? Including inspiration.

    1. Hi, John. When it comes to vintage crime fiction your blog is a mother load of sources for publishers and I would fully expect it's happened with you too. Sergio's blog is great too, I have always been so impressed with both your blogs, which preceded mine. I think when you put that much good work into a blog, it merits acknowledgment from publishers who rely on it, even if they don't want introductions for their reprints. But some people seem to feel like "blogs don't count." I don't know why. Professional academic citation, for example, has long encompassed internet sources.

      Your example reminds me of Resurrected Press and A. Fielding. I will have to check, but I think I was not the first person to blog about A. Fielding, although I've known about her for fifteen years. My guess is a post and discussion on Mystery*File inspired Resurrected Press to reprint all her books.

      I think for me the thing with Pepik is their lead-off series is the two American women HIBK writers I highlighted in my own series. That seems to stretch coincidence that they went with those two. I guess it's tribute of sorts if this blog inspired the reprinting but I'd sooner have explicit mention somewhere. Certainly Blackmon and Armstrong had already been "rediscovered" on the internet before Pepik reprinted them.

      Happily there are publishers who have personally sought out my help in reprinting vintage authors. I support all legitimate reprinting efforts, but appreciate those that actually reciprocate.

  3. Similar things have happened to a friend of mine who blogs; she's had her ideas "adopted" by others and presented as their own, and in her case, there is a clear connection between her and the person who did the adoption. But it's hard to prove, in general, and of course, who can afford to sue over this? It's a dishonest practice, unethical and cheap, but even worse when someone is making money from it, not simply looking for intellectual credit or creditability.

    On another note, I had the first Blackmon book in my collection at some point but for some reason I let go of it. Wish I hadn't, but yesterday I ordered both the Coachwhip reprints so I'll have a chance to read them on that (semi)mythical day when I have the time.

    1. Hi Dean, I think you would like the Blackmons, they are so humorous and character driven with Adelaide Adams. Though some bad things happen to cats in the second one. so be warned! I liked the first Margaret Armstrong too, it has another great spinster narrator.

      I do think bloggers are out there doing good work, work that is helpful to publishers now that they are more interested in vintage crime fiction reprints, and that good work should be acknowledged by publishers when they are relying on it.