Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Books I WON'T be publishing...


I know, I know. It's been ages since I announced that there was, in fact, going to be some form of a "Furrowed Middlebrow Books," a collaboration with an existing publisher to bring some of my favorite discoveries from my blog back into print. And I know I said I would be announcing the first batch of titles "soon." Well, soon is, after all, a relative term, and novice that I am, I didn't quite realize just how long the rights process can actually take. We have a few titles absolutely confirmed now, but I really want to wait until we know for certain all the titles we'll be releasing in our first batch (September/October of this year) before I talk about any of them. So, for now, no big announcement of what we will be publishing.

But, having spent some time recently browsing intently on Amazon (something I should really do more often, based on all I found that was new to me), I can certainly discuss some titles and authors that we won't be publishing. I.e. because they're already getting reprinted without any help from me.


One of the biggest announcements of the past few months for mystery fans is the release of a whole slew of lesser-known Patricia Wentworth titles—those that do not feature her main series detective Miss Silver. In the U.S., e-book versions are being released by Open Road Media (who have also recently released some Margery Sharp titles and some Elizabeth Jane Howard novels), while in the rest of the world Dean Street Press is releasing more or less the same titles. The best news, though, for those of you who prefer physical books, is that while Open Road seem to limit themselves to e-books, Dean Street is also making paperback versions available worldwide (U.S. as well). Some of these titles have always been quite rare, to the extent that I certainly didn't realize Wentworth had published so many non-Miss Silver books. Plenty to explore there!


Other good news on the mystery front is that Open Road and Mysterious Press are also releasing e-books of most of Ellis Peters' (real name Edith Pargeter) mysteries, including the complete Brother Cadfael and George Felse series, as well as some lesser-known standalone titles. Sadly, no reprints of the novels Pargeter published under her own known, which include a handful of wartime and postwar novels that really deserve to be in print, but perhaps those will come in time.


And also on the mystery theme, I don't know how I missed for so long the news about the June new releases from Greyladies, but I was delighted to see that they're releasing Ethel Lina White's The Third Eye (1937), a mystery set in a girls' school (and already on my Grownup School Stories List), which I've been meaning to read for ages. It just got bumped to the top of my TBR list.

The other new Greyladies title allows us to segue into non-mystery fiction. I've posted here before about Kitty Barne, and have always meant to read her most famous work, the children's story She Shall Have Music (1938). Now, I undoubtedly have the inspiration I need, as Greyladies will soon be releasing Barne's impossibly rare adult sequel, While the Music Lasted (1943). Though published in the midst of the war, it apparently takes place in the late 1930s, taking advantage of all of the tensions of the war's approach. I can't wait.


I've also written a couple of times about Stella Gibbons, of whom I'm a big fan (though, admittedly, unlike many readers, I'm a bigger fan of her late work than of Cold Comfort Farm). I mentioned a while back the distinctly phony "rediscovery" of her two final novels (a media blitz about the rediscovery doesn't change the fact that her biographer had spent some time discussing them more than a decade earlier, so they were hardly "lost"), but if a media blitz was needed to finally get them into print, I don't mind all that much. One of the novels has appeared already as Pure Juliet (it was originally titled An Alpha and written circa 1980—one quite sees why they changed the title), to unsurprisingly mixed reviews. We could hardly expect that they would be primo Gibbons, considering how long they languished unpublished, but I expect to find them of great interest in the context of her other work. The second, The Yellow Houses (written about 1973), is apparently scheduled for release in September. Have any of you read Pure Juliet yet?


Though not quite as hard-to-find as works that had never been published at all, Dodie Smith's A Tale of Two Families (which I discussed here) had become ridiculously pricey in its original editions and had never been reprinted despite the popularity of Smith's A Capture the Castle. Happily, though, that has now been rectified. In the UK, it seems to be available only as an e-book, though both e-book and paperback seem to be available in the US. It's not I Capture the Castle, certainly, but I found it quite entertaining (more so than I did Smith's other novels, already released a few years ago).


Another hard-to-find favorite who's seeing the light of day in e-book format is Elizabeth Cadell. I had flirted with the idea of seeing if we could possibly get the rights to these, though it seemed rather overwhelming to take on Cadell's 60+ titles, but I'm delighted to learn that her heirs are apparently planning to release them all, including some of those vanishingly rare early works that I've been wanting to read for years. As of this writing, about seven of her titles are already available—including the "Wayne Family Trilogy" of The Lark Shall Sing, The Blue Sky of Morning, and Six Impossible Things, which are fan favorites—but new titles seem to be getting released at short intervals, so more will undoubtedly be coming soon.


I also noticed several other old favorites that are now available as e-books (and in some cases paperbacks as well). Jane Duncan's entire Friends series now seems to be available—it looks like they're e-book only in the U.S., but a paperback version is also available in the U.K. A bunch of blog favorite Mary Hocking's novels are now available in e-book and paperback from Bello Books (who also released Edith Olivier's works a couple of years ago, thereby earning my undying devotion). I am slightly conflicted, though, about two other Bello releases: for whatever reason, Lillian Beckwith's novels, including her tales of life in the Hebrides beginning with The Hills Is Lonely, and their new editions of Pamela Hansford Johnson's novels, seem to be available only in the U.K. What's the deal with that? Grrrrr.

Miss Read's books, meanwhile, are now available as e-books on both sides of the Atlantic, but apparently from different publishers, with the result that the U.S. editions are considerably pricier. Grrrrr again, though at least they are available.


Many of you already know that Virago has been gradually making more Angela Thirkell titles available as e-books. I noticed, though, that just in the past few weeks they've released a few more, including three perennial favorites—Before Lunch, Cheerfulness Breaks In, and The Brandons. And on a more highbrow note, I also see that Virago has released—in the U.K. only—a few e-book versions of Janet Frame novels. I've always meant to read more of her work (even if she is a Kiwi), so this would be welcome news if only they were available in the US as well…

Finally, while talking about e-books, I have to mention—for the sake of those of you who live in Canada (or are copyright renegades)—a website I came across a while back. Faded Page seems to be in some way affiliated with Gutenberg Canada, and posts free e-books of works that are in the public domain in Canada. Canada has what might be called the least restrictive copyright laws of the English-speaking nations, as a result of which numerous authors who are still protected by copyright elsewhere are public domain in Canada. If you live in Canada, therefore, you can perfectly legally download the Faded Page e-books of authors like Angela Thirkell, Anna Buchan (aka O. Douglas), and Patricia Wentworth. If you don't live in Canada, then downloading them may well be a violation of your own nation's copyright law (though I would be at least mildly surprised if a team of Navy Seals were to kick down your door for downloading Anna Buchan's Pink Sugar…).

If you do live in Canada, you might want to take advantage of this while you can. It looks like there's a chance that international pressure, especially from the US, may soon result in a change to Canadian copyright law… 

16 comments:

  1. May I brag that I already own Wentworth's "Run?" And, in fact, have for some years! Not sure how I came to own that copy, but it is a NICE little paperback, almost untouched by human hands (before me) and I was glad to get it and two or three other non-Mill Silver Wentworth's (such as Mr. Zero) BUT I am so glad to see these coming out, and ordered another title the other day, thanks to a recommendation from a fellow D.E. Stevenson list member. Spread the word, Scott! They have a particular charm all their own, and every so often, we see a character we know already!
    Tom

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    1. That's impressive, Tom. I had no idea there were so many non-Miss Silver novels. Lots to explore there!

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  2. An embarrassment of riches indeed! Very much looking forward to the announcement of your own list but it's good to know that there are so many other books being reprinted. I enjoyed the Ellis Peters mysteries but, like you, I would love to read her wartime novels. I'm also looking forward to the new Greyladies books & I didn't know about the Jane Duncans & I've always wanted to try one so now's my chance.

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    1. I've only read a couple of the Ellis Peters books and would like to try more of the Felse series. And I have to confess I haven't read Jane Duncan yet either. I've always meant to, but etc. etc.

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    2. I enjoy most of the Felse series, but Death and the Joyful Woman and Grass Widow's Tale may top my list. For some reason the character that is least life like to me in that series is Inspector Felse himself. His wife and son and the suspects, etc are all very believable, but perhaps that is why I tend to enjoy most those books in the series that focus on the wife or son rather than the father.

      The Jane Duncan "My Friend" books are very interesting indeed. But to get the most out of them I feel you really need to read all 20 or so, more or less in order to understand the full story arc. At least one or two belong on the war books list, I would have to check to see which ones. I also adore her series of children's picture books about Janet Reachfar, a sort of spin off from the My Friends books. The 4 book series using a different pen name is also interesting.

      Jerri

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    3. Thanks for the information, Jerri. I'm definitely going to look more closely at both of these.

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  3. Ah, and here I thought you were going to be presenting books you found particularly bad. In other words, titles you would definitely not be considering. "Doesn't sound like Scott," I said to myself.

    Thank you for another fun, informative post. This Canadian will take advantage of your suggestions. It's not often that I see us described as "renegades", but I like it. For the most part we up here still follow the old 50+1 rule, meaning that work published during the lifetime of, say, Ian Fleming (d. 1964), entered the public domain on 1 January 2015. Corporations and wealthy estates hate it, of course, but this writer thinks it more than fair.

    I'd be interested in hearing your experiences obtaining permissions. My own efforts at resurrecting decades out of print novels not in the public domain typically brings in one of two responses. Either the "estate", often a grandchild, expresses delight at the prospect of grandma's old novel from the 'thirties returning to print that they ask next to nothing. On the other side, we find a grandchild who sees the revived novel as providing a new Lexus. Future talks with the second grandchild prove futile and, sadly, a novel worthy of resurrection remains out of print. So, you see, that is why I prefer Canadian copyright law.

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    1. Hmmmm, that might be a fun post too, Brian--books I would never consider publishing! Fun, but perhaps not the best PR for a new publisher...

      The two extremes of heir attitudes you mention are dead-on. Suffice it to say that, sadly, I now have more understanding of why one of the books on my "possibly Persephone" list has remained out of print despite being absolutely wonderful and a blogger favorite...

      But we've also had marvelous luck with some lovely, kind, enthusiastic heirs, so I certainly have no right to complain!

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  4. I do so love your blog as you mention authors I had forgotten but just the name takes me zooming back to the 70's when I worked in libraries. It was the Jane Duncan mention this time, I can visualize a whole row of them, quite pretty covers I remember. One VERY annoying thing is that Cheerfulness breaks in by Angela Thirkell is only for kindle. It's the one I most wanted to read - being a wartime one - and would want to own it too, but as a real book!

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    1. Not only that but it ISN'T available on Kindle : if you try to download it, you get the right 'sample chapter' but a completely different book. 27 days on & they STILL haven't sorted it out!

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    2. If you contact Amazon about the problem they are able to fix it for your account, but apparently don't have it fixed for everyone. VERY strange indeed!!! But do contact Amazon if you have that wrong book. You might even get lucky and get a small credit to your account for your trouble, in addition to the correction in the text. (This is for Thirekll's Cheerfulness Breaks In.)

      But, if you don't contact them, it seems that the correction isn't happening automatically. Poor something. But the credit to my account provided a nice discount. I don't remember exactly how I made contact with Amazon on this issue, but I followed the advice from a one star review.

      Jerri

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    3. Very happy to give you a pleasant walk down memory lane, Sue! I have Jane Duncan on my TBR list (along with untold numbers of other authors), but wouldn't we love to have those original hardcovers now?! I do hope you locate a copy of Cheerfulness Breaks In--it's my favorite of the Thirkell novels I've read.

      And Helen, I hope the e-book problem gets fixed soon. Thanks, Jerri, for clarifying the problem!

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  5. Scott, just FYI, HOLIDAY WITH VIOLENCE was originally published under her real name, Edith Pargeter. This was the first time she published a mystery novel under her real name. Later came ASSIZE FOR THE DYING. After that, she started writing mysteries as Ellis Peters and reserved her own name for (mostly) historical fiction.

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    1. Thanks for noting that, Dean. It looks like Most Loving Mere Folly might also have been under her own name? (And while looking at it online, I found that that one belongs on my book list for the postwar period, so thanks for inspiring me to poke around! I'll have to peruse the other titles more closely too, in case more of them belong on my list.)

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  6. I am beyond eager to hear what you'll be bringing back (and so desperately hoping it'll be Ursula Orange - AND wanting to know how you managed to find yourself in this completely enviable position). The Dodie Smith is available in paperback here, I think, or at least I bought a copy of it in a secondhand shop - but I suppose it could have found its way across the Atlantic.

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    1. Thanks, Simon! An announcement (finally) is just around the corner, in the next week or so. And believe me, I sometimes wonder how I found myself in this position too!

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