Sometime after I first embarked on this somewhat demented quest to bring public domain pulp and genre fiction back into "print" in ebook editions that are reasonably proofread, I came across the advert posted below. It was in several issues of Picture-Play Magazine, a Hollywood promotional rag of the 1920s. I'm not even entirely sure why I was going through it. Research for something, possibly related to production of "race films" on the west coast. Or possibly something else.
Anyway, something about this ad nagged at me, and probably several things all at once. First of all, "Popular Copyrights" is just a terrible name for a line of books ("oooooh, I just love that copyright!" ), but knowing the initial purpose of Chelsea House (which I'll get to), it makes some sense in a 1920s sort of a way.
Then there was the fact that one of the authors (with only one book, oddly) was William Wallace Cook, who wrote the very interesting "how to write" guide The Fiction Factory (https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/47455 ) , which is good both for a bit of cheerleading for writing productivity, and as a window into the fiction markets of the early 20th century.
There are also several books by Johnston McCulley who, if his name lives on, will probably only be remembered for creating Zorro. But McCulley was a monstrously prolific pulp writer, so that piqued my interest.
The one that set me to doing some further detective work, however, was King Charlie's Riders by David Manning. The title was too close to a Max Brand title I recalled from a paperback decades ago, King Charlie, to be a coincidence, and it turned out I was correct. "David Manning" was one of many, many pseudonyms used by the author who eventually became most famous as Max Brand, but who was in fact named Frederick Schiller Faust. And it was a pseudonym used only, as far as I have been able to determine, with books published by Chelsea House. Which is even a bit more specific than you might think.
As it turns out, Chelsea House was begun to reprint books that had not yet been published as books. It was part of Street & Smith, a pulp magazine publisher, and they brought out affordable hardcover editions of books that had been published serially in S&S magazines, but not yet as books. They appear to have started this side business in 1923 or 1924.
And they seem to have been a bit coy about exactly what they were doing. For instance, those David Manning books were serialized under other names --- Max Brand, George Owen Baxter, Evan Evans, John Frederick, Mr. Faust had a lot of pen names, and no wonder, he sometimes had two novels being serialized in the same magazine at the same time! But the Manning name, while used for two Ronicky Doone serials, was mostly used for Chelsea House publications until 1929. The titles were the same as the serials, usually, but the author name changed. Why? I don't know. Possibly to fool readers. Possibly to distance the books from the pulps --- another prolific pulp author, J. Allan Dunn, is on this ad as "Joseph Montague", which I don't believe he much used outside of Chelsea House. Or possibly for other reasons. I mean, they're not shy about publishing Johnston McCulley, and he was well-known as a pulp author in his own time.
Anyway, this ad gave me a checklist of books that are public domain, or will be soon, in three genres I'm quite interested in. And I have several, converted, some being proofread as I type this, others in the queue for eventual publication. But other titles elude and tempt me.
My main interest for this period of time is westerns. And I've got some interesting ones. But there are others I want, just based on the titles.
A few months ago, I did some cursory searching and concluded that Chelsea House books must be some sort of collector's item, since the few I looked to buy were upwards of a hundred dollars, plus shipping. That's a bit steep for books that maybe will earn me that much over a year or two.
But then yesterday, I stumbled across one on Amazon, a western by an author listed here (not Max Brand). I have another of his books ready to convert, but this one would be, possibly, his first, having been serialized about six months before the one I already have. And it's only eight dollars, plus shipping.
I'm sorely tempted. Sorely tempted. Except I don't have a scanner. So I would either need to acquire a scanner that I know will work with Linux, or else type the book in by hand, which would not be the craziest thing I've ever done, but would be something of a pain.
So far, this public domain reclamation project isn't netting nearly enough to justify buying even a cheap scanner. On the other hand, if I get one and buy the under-ten-dollar books I find, I will get access to books that the competition won't have, things not scanned yet by Google or the Internet Archive.
Anyway, that's my thinking at the moment, and I've not reached a decision. Well, I'll probably order that book, but past that I have no idea.
Oh, and a few of the books advertised here are already on Gutenberg. Here's the list (apologies for the links, Locals for some idiotic reason doesn't include the ability to do proper Markdown links, nor proper HTML links):
And a few other Chelsea House books not in that ad, all westerns:
So the other book I read a big chunk of on recent journeys was the first Star Wars Expanded Universe novel. I've never read any Expanded Universe books, not because I'm a snob about media tie-in fiction (plenty of writers I like and respect do them, and I know full well they put as much effort into them as into their own IP), but simply because at the time I was not looking for that kind of fiction at all. I was exploring Dostoevsky, for example.
However, it recently came to my attention that one of my favorite under-famous authors, K.W. Jeter, wrote the Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy, and I figured, well, the Star Wars Fandom is so rabid about Zahn's trilogy (and Zahn is definitely a good writer) that I should give it a shot before I explored any nooks or crannies of the EU.
It's going to sound like I was disappointed with it, and that's not really true. But what is true is that the most interesting parts of it for me were the parts that didn't quite work, or else showed me clearly that Zahn was struggling ...
It is fascinating how every single decision that went into the making of this movie was so very, very wrong.