22 February 2018

Not to Be Confused With Bust Planet



The new issue of Canadian Notes & Queries has arrived, bringing with it my long promised review of W.E.D. Ross's Lust Planet (1962), Canada's very first work of science fiction erotica. I found the novel every bit as good as expected.

Collectors of Canadian literature are advised to pick up this France' Book – oddly-named imprint of Hollywood's International Publications – while they still can. As I write, I see just one copy listed for sale online. To those requiring further enticement, I offer this: something I neglected to mention in the review is that Lust Planet features three intriguing illustrations. Intriguing because they have no connection at all with the text.


The other two are even better.

As I say, get it while you can. Better yet, subscribe to CNQ... easily done through this link at the magazine's website.

This issue's contributors include:
Madhur Anand
Jason Dickson
Jesse Eckerlin
André Forget
Cecil Foster
Stephen Fowler
Alex Good
Dominic Hardy
Ann Ireland
Penn Javdan
Samuel Johnson
Colette Maitland
Dominic Martinello
David Mason
Dakota McFadzean
Rebecca Rosenblum
Kate Sherren
JC Sutcliffe
Derek Webster
Bruce Whiteman

In addition to the cover and design, Seth reflects on CANADA official handbooks of days gone by (including this one): "I find these books fascinating, in a doctor's office kind of way. They have a sort of sublime dullness about them. A quality hard to put into words. Pleasing. Comforting. Sleep-inducing."

Editor Emily Donaldson not only put the whole thing together, she contributed a review of  David Chariandy's Brother.

This issue marks the second time I've shared pages with John Metcalf. Friends will recognize how much this means to me. Coincidentally, it was through John that I first learned of W.E.D. Ross.


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19 February 2018

Wither the Nurse Novel?



Much of this past weekend was spent reading Backstage Nurse, a W.E.D. Ross novel published in 1963 under his "Judith Rossiter" pseudonym. The book is 220 pages long, the print is of good size, and yet I'm nowhere near finished. I'm taking time to pause and consider because Backstage Nurse is my first nurse novel. By great coincidence, it was also the author's first nurse novel. He went on to write fifty-six more.


Rightly or wrongly, I've always associated the subgenre with Harlequin. However, if the back cover of Backstage Nurse is anything to go by, it had some pretty significant competition.


Must say, Jane Corby's Staff Nurse doesn't do much for me, but doesn't Dr. Jeffrey's Awakening sound interesting? And what about Jane Arden, Space Nurse?

Sadly, Avalon is no more; Amazon bought it for its backlist in 2012. Its last nurse novels – Everglades Nurse and Nurse Misty's Magic – were published in 1987, by which point the Harlequin nurse novel was long a thing of the past.

The rise and fall of the Harlequin nurse novel is reflected in this bar graph I put together over the weekend:

cliquez pour agrandir
I do like a good bar graph – "an understatement," says my eye-rolling wife – but this one doesn't give a complete picture. As with Avalon's "NURSE STORIES" – Susan Lennox's Doctor's Choice, for example – not all nurse novels published by Harlequin had "Nurse" in the title. "Hospital" featured frequently, and "Surgeon" sometimes, but the most prominent after "Nurse" was "Doctor."

As I've discovered, more often than not, doctors are the object of a nurses longing.

Interestingly, the first doctor to appear in a book published by Harlequin was a woman; the beautifully-named Serenity Parrish, heroine of Joseph McCord's His Wife the Doctor (1949), the publisher's thirteenth title. No longing nurse in this one, sadly.

The first nurse as heroine doesn't appear until Registered Nurse by Carl Sturdy (Charles Stanley Strong), which was published in 1950 as Harlequin's forty-seventh book.

As far as I've been able to determine, the heyday came in 1961, which saw forty-eight Harlequins featuring nurses as the main character.

The last new Harlequin to feature "Nurse" in the title was Roumelia Lane's Nurse at Noongwalla, which hit the racks in January 1974:
Alex had always been fascinated by Australia and went out there from England to get a job as a nurse. 
There she met the autocratic boss of a logging camp, Grant Mitchell, who told her, "There's no padding around in this job, Miss Leighton. Just dust and drought and a twenty-four-hour day." 
She would show him she wasn't scared of hard work, or of him!
And she did. She showed him.

Curiously, in the early 'eighties, Harlequin revived several of it's old nurse titles – General Duty NurseQueen's NurseResident NurseNurse BarloweNurse TemplarNurse AideNurse in WhiteNurse of All WorkA Nurse is BornNurses Are People, The Nurse Most Likely, and Staff Nurse (not Avalon's Jane Corby classic) – in its short-lived Harlequin Classics Library and even shorter-lived Harlequin Celebrates series.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the nurse novel continued on without a hiccup in Harlequin's Mill & Boon imprint. It does to this day in M&B's Medical Romance series. Released just last year, my favourite title is Kate Hardy's Mummy, Nurse... Duchess?:
The duke and the single mom! 
Nurse Rosie Hobbes knows charming men cannot be trusted. Visiting pediatrician and sexy Italian duke Dr. Leo Marchetti is surely no exception! Her toddler twins are now the centre of her life, and she expects Leo to run a mile when he meets them. Instead his warmth leaves her breathless!
Not just a doctor, but a duke. Sexy to boot! Looks like he showed her!

Are we on the cusp seeing a nurse novel revival? I ask because select titles in the Medical Romance series have begun appearing in Canada, though only in bastardized "LARGER PRINT" editions.

Yes, bastardized.

Look what they've done to Mummy, Nurse... Duchess?


Mommy?

I blame Rupert Murdoch.

Commercial break:


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12 February 2018

HBC as Murderers of Men and Killers of Dogs



The Land of Frozen Suns
Bertrand W. Sinclair
Chicago: Donohue, 1910
309 pages
A Scottish transplant by way of the United States, Bertrand W. Sinclair wasn’t Canada’s most prolific pulp magazine writer; I know of two hundred and ninety-four appearances, which is nowhere near the fifteen hundred or so (I lost count) logged by Ontarian H. Bedford-Jones. Sinclair isn’t our best-known pulp writer, either; that title belongs to Thomas P. Kelley, author of The Black Donnellys, Vengeance of the Donnellys, I Found Cleopatra, and, of course, The Gorilla’s Daughter
Sinclair’s distinction rests in being our best pulp writer. Though his plots are invariably marred by melodrama — a prerequisite in pulps — he usually brought something to his stories that shook convention. My favourite Sinclair novel is The Hidden Places. Serialized in The Popular Magazine (Oct 7 - Nov 20, 1921), it concerns a disfigured war veteran who seeks sanctuary on the remote BC coast from Vancouverites disgusted by his appearance. By great coincidence, he finds his nearest neighbour is his wife, who believes he'd died in battle. She is now married to another man. 
As I say, melodrama.
So begins my latest Dusty Bookcase review, posted today on the Canadian Notes & Queries website. Here's the link.

The Land of Frozen Suns was Bertrand W. Sinclair's second novel. It tells the tale of a Texas rancher's son who eludes American frontier justice by fleeing to Canada. Once there, he must contend with a company of murderers from which I once purchased a Braun coffeemaker.


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08 February 2018

Margaret Millar en français (et une petite histoire)



Several years ago, I had the idea of including Margaret Millar in the Véhicule Press Ricochet series. My plan was to revive every one of the out-of-print novels she'd set in Canada: The Devil Loves Me, Wall of Eyes, The Iron Gates, and Fire Will Freeze. I was hoping to find some way of adding An Air That Kills, her last with a Canadian setting, though it was then in print from Stark House Press.

By great coincidence, I knew Millar's literary executor; we'd first met decades ago, when the author was still alive. Response to my query brought the news that Syndicate Books had just negotiated the rights to reprint every single Margaret Millar title.

As a series editor, I was discouraged; as a fan, I could not have been more excited. At long last, I'd be afforded the opportunity to read uncommon Millar novels like The Invisible Worm, The Weak-Eyed Bat, Experiment in Spring, and Wives and Lovers.


The first volume of Syndicate's seven-volume Complete Millar, was published in September 2016. Titled The Master at Her Zenith, it includes Vanish in an Instant, Wives and Lovers, Beast in View, An Air That Kills, and The Listening Walls. Four more volumes have followed, returning a total of twenty-two novels to print. I've been pacing myself. The last two volumes of the Complete Millar will be published this year.

"Arguably the most talented English-Canadian woman writer of her generation, as a genre writer who lived much of her life in the United States Millar is often ignored by Canadian critics," I wrote in Millar's Canadian Encyclopedia entry. Had it not been for Gabrielle Roy, "English-Canadian" would've been unnecessary.

Is Roy still well known amongst Anglophones? The Tin Flute is studied, which is more than can be said about anything by Millar. This month, Roy's Street of Riches and The Road Past Altamont are being added to Penguin's Modern Classics series.

Sixty-seven years have passed since the publication of The Invisible Worm, Millar's debut, and she has never once had a Canadian publisher. Now is the time for French-language publishers of my home province to embrace her. Nearly every Millar mystery has been translated by Parisian publishers... and nearly all are out of print. As a starting point, I recommend Omelette Canadienne, the translation of Fire Will Freeze, the only Millar novel set in Quebec.

I'll leave you with four favourites.

La femme de sa mort [Vanish in an Instant]
Paris, Presses de la Cité
Mortellement votre [Beast in View]
Paris: Presses de la Cité, 1957
Un air qui tue [An Air That Kills]
Paris: Presses de la cité, 1958
Au violeur! [The Fiend]
Paris: Gallimard,1966
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