Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Revisionist Fiction

I never said much about the whole Harlequin reprint scandal because there wasn't much to say. The entire reprint series was such a transparent bid to cash in on Hard Case Crime's success that the books didn't catch my interest much. When I found out that the published novels were expurgated, I wasn't really surprised. Harlequin is very good a publishing novels for a certain audience, and the overlap between bored housewives and fans of vintage hard boiled fiction is practically nil. It doesn't surprise me that Harlequin decided to make the novels safe for housewives everywhere. The entire reason Hard Case is successful is because Charles Ardai is a huge fan of the genre, and he separates the wheat from the chaff. And once he's collected the wheat he doesn't piss all over it. You know what you're getting, and what you're getting is the real thing.

Well, over at noirboiled, there is an interesting post comparing the new version of I'll Bury My Dead with the Harlequin original. It's well worth reading. A lot of the changes are inexplicable. I mean, why bother?


Naomi Johnson said...

Nathan, I love your blog but you're showing your sexism when you generalize about on "bored housewives." Not too many of those around these days, are there? At least, I don't know any. Would you generalize about the readers of Hard Case Crime by describing them as bored good ol' boys just killing time until the strip show starts?

Nathan Cain said...

Ms. Johnson,

Perhaps I was a bit glib in my dig at Harlequin. It really wasn't meant to offend, but I do resent the feminization (and the overrreaction to racial references) of the crime novels Harlequin has reprinted. If you read the post I linked to, you'll see what I mean. Those books were not politically correct, and neither were a lot of the books published in that era. I don't always approve of certain things I read, but I wouldn't suggest they should be censored. I haven't read any of these reprints, but I doubt they would rise to the truly disgusting level of misogyny exhibited in your average Mickey Spillane novel. I'm all for forgetting Spillane because of his sexism and politics, but I would not be for publishing revised versions of his books designed to appeal to modern sensibilities. Part of the appeal of these old books is that they reflect these attitudes, even if they're not socially acceptable now.

And to be frank, the original audience for Hard Case's reprints of the old Gold Medals and Crest novels wouldn't have bothered reading them if they had been able to see real strip shows when those books were being published. A lot of the appeal was the fact that the things written about were then taboo.