Monday, March 27, 2017

Robert Bloch centennial: 5 April 2017

Stephen Haffner, who publishes at Haffner Press, wrote today to remind Patti Abbott and myself that Robert Bloch was born on 5 April 1917, and thus the 100th anniversary approaches.

If ever there seemed a time for remembrance, that might well be it! 

Patti has offered to publish anything relevant one wants to place with her blog on 5 April, and I'll certainly extend the same offer, along with the hope that anything you might write up on your own blog or other public access site you might let us know about...I'll certainly gather any links. 

And if you'd like to make your Friday Book or other weekly entry about any of the many, many works of this prolific and influential genius, an innovator in several fields of literature and not insignificant as a dramatist, please do...and let us know...

Thanks!  TM

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Doubleday Book Clubs ad copy triumphs of the 1950s

Perhaps the worst of the often ridiculous Science Fiction Book Club (US version) ads of the 1950s:

Meanwhile, the Dollar Mystery Guild in 1951, perhaps (probably) from the same copywriter (and courtesy Paul Di Filippo):

So, my tribute:

You crossed the court to taste FORBIDDEN LOVE...and now she might kill you!...

...Get out of there, you fool! Use your mentality! But, perhaps...perhaps she'd be Worth It...

You'll thrill to THE DOUBLEDAY BOOK CLUBS AD COPY ANTHOLOGY, one of several "instant remainders" you'll find in the Red Dot clearance pile at the surviving B&N near you. Where else, aside from men's sweat anthologies you'll find on the same shelf, will you find such stirring prose, such intriguing intrigue?

--surely it's simply coincidence that Armstrong and Asimov were alphabetically the first writers in either ad's selection of enticements...surely such ingenious selling techniques weren't so mechanically applied to the work being pound goods, or at least like mid-price alcoholic beverages, floor wax or cigarets...late '70s SFBC ad, below:

Rather typical DBC ad from the '50s:

Items I remember purchasing from the Doubleday Book Club, 1975-1976:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Be Read With the Doors Locked edited by Harold Q. Masur
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Stay Awake By edited by Harold Q. Masur
'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins
The Prometheus Crisis by Thomas Scortia and Frank Robinson
The Encyclopedia of World Travel by C. Earl Cooley and Nelson Doubleday
a similarly useful-looking two-volume reference for gardening (my parents were briefly in the mid-'70s very avid truck gardeners)
A Treasury of Little Golden Books (mostly so I could read them to my then very young brother, and a bit in early nostalgic mode, as between us Eric and I had destroyed some of my own ca. 1966/68-purchased individual slim volumes in that series)

Books I remember purchasing from the Science Fiction Book Club, 1978-1981:
The Persistence of Vision by John Varley
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
Starlight omnibus by Alfred Bester
The Hugo Winners, Volumes 1 and 2 omnibus, edited by Isaac Asimov (clumsily, omitting a Fritz Leiber story from volume 2 and typoing the title of Robert Bloch's story in volume 1, and the careful attention of Doubly-Daze's editors clearly engaged in both volumes, not bothering to clean any of that up for the omnibus reprint)
The Foundation Trilogy omnibus by Isaac Asimov

Books I remember purchasing from the Quality Paperback Club, 1980-81:
The 101 Best Jazz Albums by Len Lyons
Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino
a boxed set of Calvino novels, which recapitulated an HBJ trade edition, with If on a winter's night a traveler, The Baron in the Trees and Invisible Cities
The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, the then-current (first?) edition of the Jack Zipes volume aimed at adult readers

--there were others in each case, at least several from QPB, but damned if I remember which at the moment. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

some jazz and hybrids: third stream, jazz/bluegrass, ska: Saturday Music Club

Emily Remler, Hank Jones, Jake Hanna, Bob Maize: Firefly

01. Strollin'  00:00
02. Look to the Sky  5:34
03. Perk's Blues  10:51
04. Firefly, The  15:12
05. Movin' Along  19:22
06. Taste of Honey, A  24:57
07. Inception 27:13

Philly Joe Jones band: Showcase

01.Battery Blues (Julian Priester)...(00:00)
02.Minor Mode (Bill Barron)...(04:09)  
03.Gwen (Philly Joe Jones)...(08:39
04.Joe's Debut (Philly Joe Jones)...(12:41
05.Gone (G.Gershwin/I.Gershwin /D.Heyward)...(18:19)  
06.Joe's Delight (Philly Joe Jones)...(23:02)  
07.Julia (Julian Priester)...(26:58)
08.I'll Never Be the Same (G.Kahn/M.Malneck/F.Signorelli)...(30:28
09.Interpretation (Bill Barron)...(34:30)

1.Philly Joe Jones - drums(tr.1,2 & 4-8);piano(tr.3)
2.Blue Mitchell - trumpet (tr.1,2 & 4-9)
3.Julian Priester - trombone (tr.1,2 & 4-9)
4.Bill Barron - tenor saxophone (tr.1,2 & 4-9)
5.Pepper Adams - baritone saxophone (tr.1,2 & 4-9)
6.Dolo Coker (tr.1,4 & 6-8);Sonny Clark(tr.2,5 & 9) - piano
7.Jimmy Garrison - bass(tr.1,2 & 4-9). 

John Lewis, Percy Heath, Chico Hamilton, Jim Hall, Bill Perkins: 
Grand Encounter

1. Love Me or Leave Me
2. I Can't Get Started
3. Easy Living
4. Two Degrees East, Three Degrees West
5. Skylark
6. Almost Like Being In Love

McCoy Tyner, Albert Heath, Jimmy Garrison: "Five Spot After Dark"

Gary Burton and Friends Near, Friends Far: Tennessee Firebird

Gary Burton (vibes, piano, organ)
Chet Atkins, Jimmy Colvard, Ray Edenton (guitar)
Buddy Emmons (steel guitar)
Henry Strzelecki, Steve Swallow (bass)
Kenneth Buttrey, Roy Haynes (drums)
Steve Marcus (tenor sax)
Charlie McCoy (harmonica)
Buddy Spicher (fiddle)
Bobby Osborne (mandolin)
Sonny Osborne (banjo)

All compositions by Gary Burton except as indicated

  1. "Gone" (Smokey Rogers) - 4:52
  2. "Tennessee Firebird" - 2:57
  3. "Just Like a Woman" (Bob Dylan) - 3:48
  4. "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" (Traditional) - 1:53
  5. "Faded Love" (Bob Wills, John Wills, Billy Jack Wills) - 3:22
  6. "Panhandle Rag" (Leon McAuliffe) - 1:33 Bonus track on CD reissue
  7. "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You)" (Hank Williams) - 2:54
  8. "I Want You" (Dylan) - 3:28
  9. "Alone and Forsaken" (Williams) - 2:49
  10. "Walter L." - 4:41
  11. "Born to Lose" (Frankie BrownTed Daffan) - 2:43
  12. "Beauty Contest" - 1:25
  13. "Epilogue" - 0:23

Club Ska '67

01 - Guns Of Navarone - The Skatalites
02 - Phoenix City - Rolando And The Soul Brothers
03 - 007 (Shanty Town) - Desmond Dekker
04 - Broadway Jungle - The Maytals As The Flames
05 - Contact - Roy Richards With Baba Brooks
06 - Guns Fever - Baba Brooks
07 - Rub Up Push Up - Justin Hines & The Dominoes
08 - Dancing Mood - Delroy Wilson
09 - Stop Making Love - Gaylads
10 - Pied Piper - Rita Marley
11 - Lawless Street - The Soul Brothers
12 - Skaing West - Sir Lord Comic & His Cowboys
13 - Copasetic - The Rulers

Friday, March 24, 2017


Bantam first commissioned from Clarence Petersen a not quite (but somewhat) potted history of their corporate adventure in 1970, and then had him do another edition five years later...I haven't seen the earlier edition, but the second volume is engaging enough and only in part a more literary Annual Report to the stockholders. Some of it is almost candid, in describing various missteps, and Petersen, at the time of the first version still reviewing paperbacks for the Chicago Tribune,  rather happy to be able to note the successes and victories of other paperback houses from time to time in his narrative. 

Breezy is perhaps the term that comes to mind most readily, as the book is comparable to the kind of business profile one finds in Forbes or the WSJ, only with a bit more personal reminiscence thrown in. A nice touch is the brief history of paperbound, and unbound, books in first century and a half of the United States' existence, with a notable attempt at an end run around the Post Office's rate on mailing books in the 1870s, by various newspapers and "literary papers" sending unbound book texts wrapped in the periodicals themselves to their subscribers...the P.O. eventually stops this practice, dooming most of the periodicals that had been thriving with this scam.  But not a few hardy publishers simply turn to dime novels and the like, and by the early 1930s, we are told, a few descendants of those early paperback-esque products were being produced in a more professional manner by such publishers as Hillman Novels (Alex Hillman would notably publish fiction magazines he would capriciously quickly shut down in later years, alongside such notable paperback originals as The Dying Earth by Jack Vance) and Lawrence Spivak's Mercury Press (not yet the publisher of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, starting 1941, nor The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, from 1949). But the US paperback industry really took off again with the advent of Pocket Books, basically an offshoot of Simon and Schuster, and the early interest in US expansion by the new and thriving UK firm Penguin, which had gotten its first big leg up by selling through Woolworth's stores in Britain, and how it led them to employ Ian Ballantine, an American newly graduated from the London School of Economics and fascinated by publishing, to launch their US office. Then World War II made remote control from London less practical, and Ballantine and his local staff started packaging and otherwise running US Penguin in their own manner...which didn't sit so well with Allen Lane, Penguin's founder, when the war was over (the latter wanted no illustrations on paperback covers, for example). Ballantine soon found himself, with some other senior staffers, in search of their own shop, and they turned to Grosset and Dunlap, already producing inexpensive hardcover reprint editions and of late owned by a partnership of "main-line" hardcover publishers (in part to keep it out of the hands of Marshall Field, then creating an early multimedia conglomerate) for support in founding what would become Bantam Books. 

Ballantine, of course, wouldn't stay with Bantam all that long, either (and would found Ballantine Books, though by 1975 Betty and Ian Ballantine had sold Ballantine Books and IB was back at Bantam in a boutique partnership imprint with Betty, Peacock Press, devoted to lavish art books and, soon, the periodical Ariel: The Book of Fantasy). But before leaving initially, Ballantine had put Bantam on good footing, in part by interesting Curtis Circulation Company, the distribution offshoot of The Saturday Evening Post and the next biggest thing after American News Co. in that arena, in the upstart rooster of a publisher.

the 1st, 1970 edition
Bantam managed to weather the recession in the paperback industry in the early 1950s, in part we are told by some very pragmatic moves by post-Ballantine primary publishing director Oscar Dystel, and the rest of the book addresses the various innovations and consolidations Dystel and company were able to achieve with the house, and how paperbacks generally had fared in the years up through '75. Touching on such matters as how deals were struck with hardcover houses and writers, both together and separately; how Bantam would occasionally take on a book as an original (William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist being among the more notable examples), and usually try to find a hardcover house willing to do an edition in boards along with them (Petersen notes that unlike Dell's Delacorte Press, or the less hardy programs at New American Library and other paperback houses--no mention at all of Ace's A. A. Wyn's brief revival of Story Magazine as a periodical hardcover--Bantam up through '75 had never tried a hardcover imprint on its own...perhaps discreetly not mentioning the relative failure of Ballantine Books' attempt at their own line of hardcovers in the '50s). Also covered: the introduction of the Bantam Extra line of "instant" paperback originals, keyed to current events or release of government documents that the Government Printing Office was less well-equipped to produce in mass quantities, and the stresses such books put on the production staff; and the innovations in packaging and publicity Bantam either introduced or helped refine...along with a few odd bits of description of some of the great successes, and less cheering failures, the paperback house had enjoyed (or not) over the years. Petersen is very careful not to dismiss such garbage as Erich von Däniken's books, or Jean Dixon's, while very much more enthusiastic in describing such projects as Bantam's taking on New American Review after it had been dropped by Signet/New American Library and then briefly continued by Simon and Schuster in mass-market paperback format (not published as a Pocket Book), and publishing it as American Review (why continue to advertise the competition?) as a mild, and apparently approaching break-even status by '75, loss-leader, and prestige and author-goodwill project.  It is also interesting (to me, anyway) to note that the Atkins Diet and aerobic exercise regimens were already emerging and controversial matters in the early '70s; meanwhile, brief rundowns on how paperback books (and magazines and catalogs) are designed, printed, bound and shipped are offered, along with accounts of how things went for such important Bantam writers as Jackie Susann, John D. MacDonald, Arthur Hailey, Louis L'Amour, Alvin Toffler and others...including the packaging upgrades for, for example, "Ross Macdonald" as he was taken more seriously by the likes of the New York Times Book Review. And also the nurturing of such "sleepers," eventually to be consistent sellers not only on the racks but to and through schools, as Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I certainly hadn't realized till reading this that Corgi was Bantam's UK imprint.

The hopeful noises about how the then-recent megacorporate purchases and sales of  Bantam wouldn't effect the way they did business are a bit of a sad coda here...though the inflationary pressures of the '70s, including the rights bidding wars between the paperback houses, already sometimes self-damaging by the 1960s, are also discussed.

Worth the look, I think, for most FFB fans, if rarely as in-depth as one might want...and reasonably-priced copies are available from the Usual Suspects. 

For more of today's books, please see Patti Abbott's blog.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

weekend jazz & a rebuttal: Bob Brookmeyer, Chuck Berry: Saturday Music Club on Sunday

Remembering Bob Brookmeyer and Chuck Berry...two men who helped change music for the better, and made it into their ninth decades...

The Life and Music of Bob Brookmeyer (a documentary)

Jazz on a Summer's Day (opens with the Jimmy Giuffre 3, featuring Brookmeyer and Jim Hall, performing "The Train and the River")

The Gerry Mulligan Quartet on Jazz Casual (hosted by Ralph Gleason; NET/National Educational Television)

Gerry Mulligan Quartet (July 18, 1962) - Jazz Casual 
Gerry Mulligan (baritone saxophone); Bob Brookmeyer (valve trombone); Wyatt Ruther (bass); Gus Johnson (drums). 
1. Four for Three 
2. Darn That Dream 
3. Open Country 
4. Utter Chaos

Anita O'Day with the Gary McFarland Orchestra (w/Brookmeyer): "A Woman Alone with the Blues"

The Clark Terry/Bob Brookmeyer Quintet on Jazz 625 (BBC-TV)

Bob Brookmeyer and Friends (with Tony Bennett): "Day Dream"

The Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra on Jazz Casual 

Thad Jones - Mel Lewis Orchestra (April 22, 1968) - Jazz Casual 
Thad Jones (cornet); Snooky Young, Richard Williams, Randy Brecker, Danny Moore (trumpets); Garnett Brown, Benny Powell, Jimmy Knepper, Bob Brookmeyer (trombones); Jerry Dodgion (alto saxophone); Jerome Richardson (alto and soprano saxophones); Seldon Powell, Eddie Daniels (tenor saxophone); Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone); Roland Hanna (piano); Richard Davis (bass); Mel Lewis (drums). 
1. Just Blues 
2. St. Louis Blues 
3. Kids Are Pretty People 
4. Don't Get Sassy

Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall Live at the Northsea Jazz Festival 1979

1. Skating in Central Park 
2. I Hear a Rhapsody 
3. My Funny Valentine 
4. Body and Soul 
5. In a Sentimental Mood 
6. Sweet Basil 
7. Darn That Dream 
8. St. Thomas

Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra: "Boom Boom"

A Suite for Three (a documentary)

And a mild demurral from Chuck Berry, rest in glory: