Archive | March, 2010

PULP in Print: A Nearly First Edition “The Big Sleep”

15 Mar

There is most likely an equation out there which calculates how much a first edition book is worth based on the popularity of the title in question. If you plugged in Raymond Chandler‘s The Big Sleep, this equation would turn out a rather large figure.

The Big Sleep first adorned pulp fan’s bookshelves in 1939, and first editions of Chandler’s first novel fetch absurdly high prices on an inflated, interactive marketplace such as the internet.

Forum Books 1st ed. "The Big Sleep", 1946

But with the release of the Bogart and Bacall picture in 1946, Warner Brothers and Forum Books reissued the novel, replete with a slimline dust cover featuring stills from the movie and a bold, colour-blocked pulp design. And I unearthed a 1946 first edition of this original movie tie-in this weekend in Boston’s Brattle Bookshop, which was then purchased for me, kindly and as an early birthday gift, by Darby O’Shea.

Published by Forum Books, the cover boldly proclaims it:

“The novel from which the Warner Bros. film was made, starring Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall.

The inside front cover, with black and white movie stills

Humphrey and Lauren adorn the cover as detective Philip Marlowe and femme fatale Vivian, but the inside front and back covers feature pulpy stills from the film, the edges of each image blurring into black and fading into another image beside it. The inside front cover blurbs the story in a fashion which Chandler would be proud of:

“Marlowe, the detective, – shrewd, strong, and incorruptible, the healthy force amid the shadows and whispers – is called in to break a blackmail case and ends up to his neck in a series of murders.”

The Cast of "The Big Sleep". Click to enlarge.

Being a movie tie-in series (and, no doubt, one of the first publishers to team with a studio in reissuing titles that were being filmed), the book proper begins with a list of the movie’s cast, from Bogart and Bacall all the way down to Taxicab Driver.

I shall enjoy its ruffled and discoloured pages sleeping the big sleep on my bookshelves.

DLR, 3.15.10