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Monte Carlo Casino
(General Pierre Polovtsoff)
Fifteen halftone illustrations and
288 pages of loving description
dedicated to a remote clip joint.

The Romance of Lloyd’s:
From Coffee-house to Palace

(Glyn Griffith and Frank
Worsley) It takes a certain
mindset to find an insurance
wholesale marketplace romantic.
The joys of risk, detailed. The
full story beginning with "Sea
risk before Lloyd's" and
"Insurance through the ages,"
and includes "Famous swindles"
and a chapter on piracy.

Games For Two or How to
Keep the Reno Wolf away
from Your Door
(Gloria Goddard and Clement
Wood) A games instruction
manual with an odd title.
How to Draw What You See and
Something About How to See
What You Draw
(Norman Moore) And nothing about
how to give your book a
straightforward title. I’m not sure if
Hillman was following a trend here or
simply dealing with authors who had
more leverage than normal.

Weather Science For Everybody
(David Brunt) Books on radio and
electronics had been popular in the
previous era. Hillman himself caught
the radio bug. Sometimes expansions
on the theme seem questionable in
today’s light.


North to the Rime-Ringed Sun: An
Alaskan Journey
(Isobel Wylie Hutchison) I can hear it
now: “Could you please put ‘sun’ in
the title? Otherwise a travelogue
about Alaska is going to be a hard
sell.”
Modern History

Not all books are published in response to market demand. Some are pay offs, pet projects, legacy issues (in
the case of Godwin’s history offerings) and some are a matter of what I would call Publisher Drift. You start
publishing one thing and the next thing you know, you suddenly have attracted authors who are also good at
another thing. We saw this with Hillman’s group in the crossover of Streamlined Romance writers into other
forms. Publisher Drift is also responsible for the theme of modern history books which started to crop up in this
imprint. They start off as rah rah books about Western Science and then go into hitting topical issues and
people. Sometimes, as we saw with some of the last listings, you should draw a line beyond which you will not
go. But sometimes following drift is a boon. Hillman had his best sellers in this non-fiction genre.
I Guarded Kings: The Memoirs of a
Political Police Officer
(Harold Brust) This royal bodyguard’s
life story was the first actual hit of the
line. It was primarily distributed outside
of the Commuter Library market.
Tombs, Travel and Trouble
(Lawrence Griswold) This one
straddles travelogue and biography
and adventure story. The story of a
turn-of-the-century archeologist
dealing with natives, headhunters,
poisonous snakes, dead employees
and a stranded ship. Made it to a
second printing by 1937. Another
minor success.
Kemal Ataturk, a Biography
(Hanns Froembgen as translated by
Kenneth Kirkeness) This translated
German work on a somewhat unlikely
subject was an instant best seller. A
Book of the Month Club offering.
The Endless Quest: Three
Thousand Years of Science
(F.W. Westaway) Another book from
the author of Scientific Method, this
one is all history, detailing how one
idea led to the next.
Death of an Empire:
Austria-Hungary
(Imre Balassa) Although not the first
draft of history, pretty close.
Hillman-Curl started focusing on near
modern history.
Days of Our Years
(Pierre Van Passen) Biography of Dutch citizen with a front row seat
to European history.  An informative chronicle of many important but
obscured events. You will live the first thirty-eight years of the 20th
century through the astute observations of this wise son of Holland,
liberated from his Calvinist upbringing. This author was wherever
History was being made--in France, Germany Morocco, Syria,
Palestine, Ethiopia and Spain.
Days of Our Years was the imprint’s biggest hit.  A best seller.
Multiple printings. Half of all antiquarian book listings for Hillman-Curl
are of this title. In its time, a very important book.

And very important to Hillman-Curl. Part of the Days of Our Years’
success can be attributed to how widely the firm was able to release
it. Without its previous successes, also in this genre, they would
have never had the opportunity. From the start of Hillman’s
stewardship of the firm, it had conducted itself as a mainline
publisher, sending out review copies (even of the romances) and
performing all standard promotional activities. All of this hard work
had paid off.
In 1937 Alex Hillman and Sam Curl
bought out the interests behind
Godwin and Arcadia House. Taken
as a whole, the group was a very
diverse publisher. They also made
stabs at other genres, including
humor (Mr. Birdsall Breezes
Through), genre adventure (The
Whalers) and chic lit (Speak for
Yourself, Michael). They even
published a book of poetry
(America a Re Appraisal).
Freed from their printing house patron’s apron strings, Hillman-Curl began to expand into other publishing
mediums, starting with…

Digests
By the time Hillman-Curl entered the magazine market, the writing was on the wall for full sized pulp magazines.
Everyone who would ever enter the pulp market was already in it.

The digest, or quarto, format has been around since the advent of moveable type. In the United States, digest
magazines, usually in the form of almanacs or lady’s crafts publications, had been available since Revolutionary
times. Any press capable of producing a newspaper can also print up digests—a factor which has contributed
to their enduring presence on newsstands and general store shelves.

In the modern era the format’s lynchpin has been Reader’s Digest. The snippet sized features in this magazine,
an idea taken from almanacs of old, became copied by most publications using the digest format. The idea of
producing novel length stories in digest size was not initially part of the expected presentation.
That idea originated with the publisher of the American
Mercury, which was itself a digest. Prior to launching the
Mercury, its publisher had been involved in the production
of full sized pulp magazines, most memorably The Smart
Set and the Black Mask detective anthology.

Problems had cropped up in the pulp magazine industry
which forced this publisher out of the market. The
problems mostly involved handling and mark up. In
newsstand and drug store distribution channels, unsold
magazines were traditionally returned whole to the
publisher. This enabled the re-circulating of the magazines
to other venues. Pulp publisher Joseph Delacorte (Dell
Publications) had a particularly scientific method of doing
this. Since the magazines had several chances to sell at
multiple locations, the publishers could afford to offer them
on spec and at a reasonable price. This situation started
to change with the rise of supermarkets and chain stores.

The bigger retailers didn’t want to return the magazines.
They wanted to sell magazines like fruit: paying only for
what sells and throwing out the spoiled inventory.
Moreover, chain stores considered magazines impulse
items and wanted 50% of the cover price. All of this was
acceptable to the producers of standard magazines, most
of whom made their money off of adverting revenue. (They
basically already gave the cover price away to secure
distribution, much as newspapers once did.) It did,
however, shut out the pulps, few of which had any
adverting revenue. As the big retailers went, so did them
all. This factor alone ended the full sized pulp magazine as
a viable format.

Losing its pulp line was only the first of American Mercury’s
problems. Like most digests, the American Mercury
contained a wide variety of short features. Sprinkled in with
literary works from the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald were bits
of ‘liberal commentary’, by which the magazine meant
Conservative opinion.  It was an early think magazine,
similar to the National Review and Mother Jones.

Like most think magazines, it didn’t sell very well—despite
its fun-sized literary padding. In order to save itself from
going under, the publisher started calling in literary favors.
They began publishing novels in digest form. In this, they
were functioning much the way the paperback business
does today. Mostly they were printing up new or
condensed editions of books which had previously seen a
life as hard bound books. Again, all of this was before the
paperback really got its start. Eventually these digests
became much more popular than the American Mercury
itself--so much so that the publisher gave up on the
Mercury altogether, leaving it in the hands of some very far
right wing interests. (More later.)