31 October 2020

An Unholy Harlequin Halloween

This is the twelfth Dusty Bookcase Harlequin Halloween post. You know the drill by now: I share an old, odd, unsettling cover from the romance publisher's early years, and we all move on.

Here, for example, is the very first Harlequin Halloween post:

That was it. 

Elizabeth Sanxay Holding's Speak of the Devil was my choice for this year. Still is. I mean, really, is there not something unnatural about that woman's index finger?

Published in June 1950, Speak of the Devil was the first Harlequin to feature "Devil" in its title. As far as I've been able to determine, the next was American Charles Stoddard's RCMP adventure Devil's Portage, which followed eight years later.

It isn't until 1975 that we find the third Harlequin to reference the Devil in its title:

The Devil's Darling
Violet Winspear

I don't pretend to know what's going on with Harlequin, but can't help but note that with The Devil's Darling the Evil One came to take a regular place in its titles.
Devil in a Silver Room
Violet Winspear

The Devil's Daughter
Marguerite Bell

The Devil's Bride
Margaret Pargeter

The Devil Drives
Jane Arbor

Devil's Gateway
Yvonne Whittal

The four decades since Devil's Gateway have seen:

Devil in Command - Helen Bianchin (1981)
Devil in Disguise - Jessica Steele (1981) 
Devil's Mount - Anne Mather (1981)
The Devil Lover - Carole Mortimer (1981)
The Devil's Mistress - Sarah Holland (1982)
A Touch of the Devil - Anne Weale (1982)
Devil's Causeway - Mary Winnerley (1982)
Sup with the Devil - Sara Craven (1982)
Devil's Gold - Nicola West (1983)
The Devil Within - Catherine George (1984)
The Devil's Price - Carole Mortimer (1985)
Devil's Advocate - Vanessa James (1985)
Devil's Gambit - Lisa Jackson (1986)
The Old Devil Moon - Anne Logan (1986)
The Devil's Own - Sandra Brown (1987)
Devil Moon - Margaret Way (1988)
Devil and the Deep Sea - Sara Craven (1989)
Devil's Shadow - Sally Wentworth (1989)
The Devil's Dare - Jean Reece (1989)
Devil in Paradise - Joanna Mansell (1991)
Devil to Pay - Renee Roszel (1992)
The Devil Has His Due - Diana Hamilton (1992)
Dance with the Devil - Pamela Litton (1992)
Valley of the Devil - Yvonne Whittel (1992)
Dance to the Devil's Tune - Lucy Keane (1994) 
The Devil's Lady - Deborah Simmons (1994)
Devil's Dare - Laurie Grant (1995)
Candle for the Devil - Susanne McCarthy (1995)
Saving the Devil - Sophie Weston (1995)
The Devil Earl - Deborah Simmons (1996)
The Devil's Kiss - Scott DeLoras (1996)
Lucky Devil - Patricia Rosemoor (1996)
Handsome Devil - Joan Hohl (1999)
Defense for the Devil - Kate Wilhem (1999)
The Devil's Due- Rachel Cain (2000)
The Devil's Mark - Joanna Makepiece (2000)
The Devil to Pay - Stephanie James (2000)
The Devil You Know - Laurie Page (2001)
The Devil to Pay - Michele Hauf (2002)
The Devil's Bargain - Robyn Donald (2002)
Date with a Devil (2003)
The Angel of Devil's Camp - Lynne Banning (2003)
Devil's Cub - Georgette Heyer (2003)
The Devil You Know - Laurie Page (2004)
The Devil's Hearth - Philip De Poy (2004)
The Devil's Bargain - Rachel Cain (2005)
The Devil's Waltz - Anne Stuart (2006)
The Devil's Footprints - Amanda Stevens (2006)
In Bed with the Devil - Susan Mallery (2007)
The Devil to Pay - Michele Hauf (2008)
The Devil and Drusilla - Paula Marshall (2008)
Devil in a Dark Blue Suit - Robyn Grady (2009)
The Sexy Devil - Kate Hoffman (2010)
Devil in Dress Blues - Karen Foley (2011)
The Devil Wears Kolovsky - Carol Marinelli (2011) 
The Devil's Chord - Alex Archer (2011)
The Devil's Heart - Lynn Rae Harris (2011)
Lady with the Devil's Scar - Sophia James (2012)
The Devil and the Deep - Amy Andrews (2012)
The Devil and Miss Jones - Kate Walker (2012)
The Devil She Knows - Kira Sinclair (2013)
Daughters Unto Devils - Amy Lukavics (2015)
The Devil Takes a Bride - Julia London (2017)
The Devil's Bargain - Kira Sinclair (2020)
Dirty Devil - L.J. Shen (2020)

That I hesitate in sharing this discovery may have something to do with having been traumatized by Race with the Devil as a child.

It didn't end well.

Not to suggest that that a similar fate awaits, but to be safe I've written and scheduled my annual Christmas post.

Happy Halloween, I guess.

Merry Christmas, too.

Related posts:

26 October 2020

Nudism to Buddhism

Skin Dive
Joe Fisher
Markham, ON: PaperJacks, 1977
184 pages

His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote the preface to Joe Fisher's third book, The Case for Reincarnation. It's said to be one of the better popular studies of the topic. Skin Dive is something else entirely. Fisher's only novel, it revolves around sad sack Clive Conroy, the proprietor of a failing downtown Toronto nudist club. Clive had borrowed good money to buy the place – The Blue Grotto – on a realtor's assurances that it was good investment. It wasn't. "NUDE MR. CABBY CONTEST," Clive's one idea for turning things around proves disastrous when Bertram Sheehy and his fellow brothers in the Taxi Driver's Association of Metropolitan Toronto threaten violence. "Cab drivers are serious people," says Sheehy, the Association's president, "a strata of society earning and deserving respect. If you think we're going to sit here and watch ourselves being deliberately slandered and humiliated you've got another think [sic] coming."

Clive is a serial sucker, the Blue Grotto being just the latest in a string of bad bets. As the club looks about to go under, Clive encounters Henry Bubbins, representative of Esquire Consultants Ltd, who encourages him to invest in the sale of fire detectors. Sucker that he is, Clive soon finds himself being transported in Bubbins' ageing Cadillac to a twelve-hour seminar at a suburban hotel. The whole thing  stinks of a multi-level marketing scheme, but proves much the worse; Esquire Consultants Ltd disappears after Clive hands over a cheque for $2500 ($10,007.71 today).

I felt like a sucker myself. Back in 2014, I paid $20 ($21.76 today) for Skin Dive after reading the back cover copy:

Clive and Mary Anne do not "explore the mad world of Toronto's Sin Strip;" in fact, they're barely ever together.

No pun intended.

Mary Anne, who begins the novel as a Blue Grotto employee, encourages Clive to invest in a dating service cum brothel.

No pun intended.

Clive retreats to his rented flat, distancing himself from the Sin Strip, as money from Mary Anne's business flows.

Skin Dive promises something other than what it delivers. Going by cover copy, I'd expected a portrait, no matter how crudely drawn, of a time, a place, and its people, much like Hugh Garner had accomplished with Sin Sniper (which isn't much of a novel). Instead, Fisher takes a wealth of material and presents a novel composed of dull moments; the Esquire Consultants sales pitch runs seventeen pages.

I can't leave Skin Dive without remarking on the pub date: July 1977, the very same month as the Emanuel Jaques murder.

I was fourteen, two years older that the victim, and living in suburban Montreal, but I knew Emanuel Jaques' name well. His body was found on a Yonge Street rooftop, just across the street from the Eaton's Centre – and I'd been to the Eaton's Centre! In the summer of '77, the killers of Emanuel Jaques vied for column inches with the Son of Sam. His death brought the beginning of the end of Toronto's Sin Strip.

Skin Dive enjoyed no second printing, and is fairly uncommon. It's held by Library and Archives Canada and six of our universities.

No used copies are listed for sale online.

Given the timing, I'm guessing no one was much interested in a rollicking adventure set on the Sin Strip.

Object: A cheap mass market paperback bulked up by six pages of offerings from the PaperJacks catalogue; my favourite, of course, being The Last Canadian:

And doesn't this look interesting?

I read this at fifteen during a family vacation to Cape Breton:

Wish I still had a copy.

Brant Cowie is credited with the cover of Skin Dive. The uncredited model is overdressed. 

Related post:

19 October 2020

Armand Durand; or, A Summer Project

Armand Durand; ou, La promesse accomplie
    [Armand Durand; or, A Promise Fulfilled]
Madame Leprohon [Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon;
    trans, J.-A.  Genaud], 
Montreal: Beauchemin, 1894
367 pages

In her time, Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon – Madame Leprohon – was more popular with francophones than anglophones, so does it not make sense to tackle this, her third novel, in translation? I thought so. It was my summer project. That the season ended weeks ago speaks to my inabilities, and is no reflection on the novel itself. The story is simple and has a rushed, rather predictable conclusion – but it is deftly told and is populated by fully-drawn characters who live in a Quebec the author knew well.

The novel begins with Paul Durand, descendant of the earliest settlers of New France, who has come to inherit a large and profitable farm in "the seigneurie of — Alonville we will call it — on the banks of the St. Lawrence."* Handsome and hardworking Paul has put off marriage so as not to impose upon his mother, who had lived many, many years in the Durand family farmhouse... until she didn't.

I shouldn't be so flippant. Mère Durand is depicted as a fine woman. After her death, son Paul looks to be in no hurry to take a bride — but then he encounters Geneviève Audut. Newly arrived from France, delicate Geneviève is employed as governess to a pair of thoroughly dislikable children related to the seigneur. Geneviève herself is a relation —a poor relation — whom no one treats her particularly well. Her charges are the worst: "Mamma says we will never learn anything till we have a tutor, and that she would get us one to-morrow, only she does not know what to do with you. No body will marry you as you have no dot."

After overhearing this little shit, Paul proposes to Geneviève, which in turn sends the women of Alonville into a tizzy:
What could he see in her, indeed, a little doll-faced creature with no life or gaiety in her, to bewitch him in such a manner? What made him marry a stranger when there were plenty of smart handsome girls in his own village that he had known ever since they wore pinafores?
Much to their delight, Geneviève proves a disaster in keeping a farmhouse, but Paul Durand loves her to the end... which comes when she gives birth to the titular character. 

Again, I shouldn't be so flippant. Though I could see it coming, Madame Leprohon's description of Geneviève's death touches the heart.

Believing that his infant son is in need of a mother, Paul marries spinster Eulalie Messier, a plain-featured woman of good character, who had been generally recognized as Alonville's youngest spinster. His new bride loves and cares for the infant Armand Durand as her own, and Paul comes to love her as a result. Eulalie wasn't so old an old maid that she couldn't provide her husband with another son. They name him Paul, after his father.

And then, she dies.

I fear I've made Armand Durand seem gothic, when it is really a mélange of melodrama and literary realism. Its depictions of French Canadian traditions and society, which Mary Jane Edwards suggests is the reason behind Madame Leprohon's popularity, was just one element that kept me reading.

With Eulalie's death, focus shifts to the two Durand boys and their schooling at "the old Montreal College." Armand, the more retiring of the two, is the intellectual. Paul, though younger, is both literally and figuratively the bigger brother. He has confidence and brash. Poor Armand, so pretty and slight, becomes a target of his fellow classmates. "Miss Armand," as he's called, is bullied to a point at which he lashes out, bloodying the brute Rodolphe Belfond, after which the two become fast friends.

As the title suggests, Armand comes to take the place of the main character. Paul fis begins to fade with the end of their schooldays, returning to Alonville to help run the family farm. Armand remains in Montreal, working for a lawyer, with the goal of becoming one himself. It all makes sense, and works well until jealousy rears its ugly head. On visits to Montreal, Paul feels like a country bumpkin, and comes to resent the money their father sends to help support Armand. He begins a campaign of lies, implying that the funds are wasted on drink and dandyism. The scheming reaches its apex when Paul Durand pere lies in his deathbed as Paul fis intercepts letters addressed to his older brother. The upshot is that Armand Durand is disinherited.   

Madame Leprohon's greatest challenge in writing this novel must surely have had to do with events following the father's death. Armand marries Delima Laurin, his landlady's niece. Written this way, the decision seems so rash, and yet this reader understood the proposal of marriage and its timing. Sadly, Armand and Delima soon prove themselves ill-suited. 

I'll write no more for fear of spoiling things... and because I'm hoping you'll read it.

I found Armand Durand to be one the finest Canadian novels of the nineteenth-century.

Am I wrong?

Was something gained in translation?

* All quotes come from Rosanna Eleanor Leprohon's original text.  

Object: A fragile volume printed on thin paper, bound in embossed scarlet boards, my copy once belonged to the Bibliotheque de Chénéville. It was purchased earlier this year from a Gatineau bookseller. Price: C$19.41. I see no evidence that it was a discard. Should I be concerned?

Access: Armand Durand first appeared as a serial on 1 October 1868 in the Montreal Daily News. That same year, the novel was published in book form by John Lovell. That edition can be read — gratis — through this link at the Internet Archive.

The novel is in print today, with introduction by Loraine McMullen and Elizabeth Waterston, as part of Tecumseh's Early Canadian Women Writers Series. It can be ordered here, thorough the press.

Pay no heed to print on demand vultures. Take it from a Montrealer, this isn't Quebec:

The Tecumseh edition aside, I see no copies of Armand Durand — English or French —listed for sale online.

As might be expected, this once-popular novel has come to be the stuff of academe. The only copy I see in a public library can be found in Toronto.

13 October 2020

M'Lord, I Am Not Guilty: Title, Cover, Confession

The new Ricochet edition of Frances Shelley Wees's I Am Not Guilty arrived in my rural mailbox last week, meaning that it is well on its way to the very best Canadian bookstores. A proud papa, I can't help but note that its publication coincides with the tenth anniversary of the Ricochet Books imprint.

Wees was one of this country's earliest and most prolific mystery writers, and yet she has no Canadian Encylopedia entry. Her name is not so much mentioned in the Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature. What I know about the author and her work was derived from old newspaper articles and reviews read on microfilm. In all that fast-forwarding and rewinding, it became clear that two of her novels, M'Lord, I Am Not Guilty (1954) and The Keys to My Prison (1956), had been particularly well received back in the day. I bought and read The Keys of My Prison five years ago. Ten months later, it was reissued as the eleventh Ricochet Books title.

After that, I turned my attention to Wees's 1958 mystery Where is Jenny Now? I'm a sucker for titles that ask a question. Is anything better than Trollope's Can You Forgive Her? Should I have ended that sentence with a second question mark? I don't think so. Who knows? In any case, Where is Jenny Now? turned out to be disappointing.

Next up was This Necessary Murder (1957). Another good title, but like Where Is Jenny Now?, it is not the author's best work.

M'Lord, I Am Not Guilty is the very opposite of a good title, which is why I avoided the novel for so long. It wasn't until last August, five years into my exploration of Wees's work, that I managed to turn the title page. What I found on the other side was a clever and intriguing tale of domestic suspense, every bit as captivating as The Keys of My Prison.

And so, I proposed M'Lord, I Am Not Guilty as the next Ricochet Book, all the while shuddering over the title. I considered reissuing the novel as I Am Not Guilty, but this only made me unhappy. Who am I to retitle a work? But then I found this, on the inside flap of the Doubleday first edition:

I was pleased, the author's estate was pleased, and so we progressed to the cover.

A series devoted to post-war Canadian noir, Ricochet covers use vintage artwork from decades-old editions. The options have at times been overwhelming – as in the case of John Buell's The Pyx – but not so with M'Lord, I Am Not Guilty. It was first published by Doubleday as a hardcover:

What do you think?

I quite like the dust jacket because it was so like a film noir title screen, all the while recognizing that it doesn't really lend itself to Ricochet's mass market format. My only complaint is that "A NOVEL OF SUSPENSE" isn't given more play. 

Can you see it? It's there in the bottom right-hand corner.

The Doubleday edition found alternate life through the publisher's book club, after which it disappeared. Curiously, given Wees's low profile in this country, the novel next saw print in Northern Lights, a bulky 1960 Doubleday Book Club anthology devoted to Canadian fiction. It wasn't until 1967, a full thirteen years after M'Lord, I Am Not Guilty last saw print on its own, that it appeared in paperback. In keeping with the time, publisher Pyramid gave it the look of a gothic romance.

The novel is anything but a gothic romance.

So, which to choose?

I was pushing for the Doubleday, until I remembered that as Mylord, ich bin nicht schuldig the novel had enjoyed two German editions. Much as I like the author photo, the cover of the first, a hardcover published by Goldmann in 1960, didn't quite work.

A later Goldmann paperback from Goldmann, made the grade. Adapted by J.W. Stewart, it serves as the cover of this sixteenth Ricochet title.

I'm hoping that the seventeenth will be a novel I reviewed here earlier this year.

Any guesses?

Related posts:

12 October 2020

Doctor Logan's Ode for Thanksgiving Day

Verse for the day by son of Antigonish J.D. Logan. This version is taken from his Songs of the Makers of Canada and Other Homeland Lyrics (Toronto: Briggs, 1911).

An Ode for Thanksgiving Day
Land blest with youth and strength, with wealth and peace—
These are thy dower with which to rear a realm
Where men shall own their full enfranchisement
In recompense for purer purposes
Than elder empires' sordid gluttonies.

These are senescent now. The frosts of Fate
Have touched their Tree of Life: the blighted leaves
Are dropping swift and yellowing in decay
Autumnal:—and in His own time Who plans
The universal destiny and doom,
Profoundest glacial snows shall cover them
And no requick'ning sun shall rise to melt
Their gelid grave. Forever they shall lie
Wrapt up in silence in their lethal bed.

But thou, young Titan of the West, whose years
Are leafy yet, thy branches full of sap,
And green already with Life's ampler deeds,
Give thanks, this day, for thy predestined task!
For He whose throne is everywhere, and guides
The courses of the million million worlds,
Hath consecrated thee—thy youth and strength,
Thy peace and gifts of earthly plenitude—
To service for our race—disquieted
By Mammon's crew—till we at length behold
The Dayspring of the Brotherhood of Man.

Give thanks, and trust thy sons, O Canada—
Their prayers are with thee and their present deeds
Are fateful of the nobler race to come!
E'en now upon thy brow the radiance shines
Of lofty Statehood, unassorted and free,
While unseen hands unfold thy destiny.
Wishing all a happy and safe Thanksgiving.