Midwood Books

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Midwood Books
Parent company Tower Publications
Status defunct 1968; 50 years ago (1968)
Founded 1957; 61 years ago (1957)
Founder Harry Shorten
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location 505 Eighth Avenue
New York City
Key people Paul Rader, Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Robert Silverberg, Richard E. Geis
Publication types Paperback books, pulp fiction
Fiction genres Romance, Erotic literature

Midwood Books was an American publishing house active from 1957 to 1968. Its strategy focused on the male readers' market, competing with other publishers such as Beacon Books. The covers of many Midwood Books featured works by prolific illustrators of the era, including Paul Rader.

Novels from Midwood Books were written by many well-known authors, most writing under pseudonyms. Among these were Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Robert Silverberg, and Richard E. Geis.

History[edit]

Harry Shorten was a writer and editor who had worked for MLJ Comics, publisher of Archie, for most of the 1940s and 1950s. He had made his fortune with partner Al Fagaly, by creating a syndicated gag cartoon called There Oughta Be a Law! Shorten provided the scripts, Fagaly the art.

Looking for an investment in the financial results of his comics, Shorten decided to become an editor of paperbacks. He wanted to follow the example of publishers Beacon Books and Universal Distributing, which specialized in publishing cheap, lightweight books telling dramatic or erotic romances, with suggestive covers, for a male audience. Thus he created in 1957 the publishing house Midwood Books, named after his neighborhood in Brooklyn. At the time, the publishing house address was 505 Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.

Unlike other New York publishers such as Bennett Cerf at Random House, Shorten did not have extensive knowledge of quality literature. But he knew what would entice the average American reader. His books were bright, colorful, and eye-catching. Midwood's first publications were paperback collections of the There Oughta Be a Law! strips and an unnumbered book series in the same style as Beacon Books. With the 1958 release of Midwood 007 — Love Nest, by Robert Silverberg, writing as "Loren Beauchamp" — began the emergence of authors and artists recognized later as appurtenant to Midwood. Shorten quickly began soliciting manuscripts from the Scott Meredith Literary Agency (which also provided manuscripts for fellow pulp publisher Nightstand Books).

Only five people wrote most of the first 40 issues of the Midwood numbered series: Lawrence Block ("Sheldon Lord"), Robert Silverberg ("Loren Beauchamp"), Donald E. Westlake ("Alan Marshall""), Orrie Hitt, and Hal Dresner ("Don Holliday"). This group stabilized Midwood until Shorten was able to put together a stable of recurring writers, such as Sally Singer, Gilbert Fox, Julie Ellis, John Plunkett, and Elaine Williams. Although nobody at Midwood knew it at the time, several writers were providing books for both Midwood and Nightstand, but under different pen names. For example, "Loren Beauchamp" (Robert Silverberg) become "Don Elliott" a year later at Nightstand, "Sheldon Lord" (Lawrence Block) became "Andrew Shaw." Some writers wrote under the same name for both publishers.

Shorten obtained his cover illustrations from the Art Balcourt Service, the same agency that provided covers for Beacon. Artists such as Nappi, Rader, and Robert Maguire were significant to the company's success. The covers sold the books: Midwood's novels were not great literature, but were generally very entertaining. Many pages contained sex scenes, described as pornographic, full of insinuations and veiled references.[1] Although romances and melodramas were of more interest to women, the target audience of companies like Midwood and Beacon was men. This was apparent from their covers.

In 1964, Midwood merged with Tower Publications to form two subsidiaries: Midwood-Tower and Tower Comics. Shorten went on to be editor-in-chief of Tower Comics.[2] By 1965, Midwood's headquarters were at 185 Madison Avenue (alongside fellow pulp publisher Lancer Books).[1]

Popularity among lesbians[edit]

Pulp titles with strong connotations of lesbians were very popular; the authors were frequently men using female pen names, such as "Barbara Brooks," "Jill Emerson," and "Kimberly Kemp;" while the target audience was male readers, an unexpected second small audience base was lesbians themselves, with these books often reviewed in early lesbian and gay publications such as One Magazine and The Ladder by Barbara Grier, under her pseudonym "Gene Damon." Julie Ellis, though not lesbian herself (unlike Singer and Williams), bucked her bosses by insisting on putting happy endings for the lesbian lovers in her lesbian pulp fiction a brave act for which she received much appreciative fan mail from emerging lesbian social and activist groups during Ms. Ellis' Midwood Tower authorship period (1962-1968).[citation needed]

Authors[edit]

  • Lawrence Block, writing as "Sheldon Lord"
  • Hal Dresner, writing as "Don Holliday"
  • Julie Ellis, writing as "Joan Ellis," "Susan Richards," and similar pseudonyms
  • Gilbert Fox, writing as "Dallas Mayo" and "Kimberly Kemp"
  • Richard E. Geis, writing as "Peggy Swenson"
  • Jay Greene
  • Orrie Hitt
  • Al James
  • Stuart James
  • William Johnston
  • William Knoles, writing as "Clyde Allison"
  • Pat Perdue, writing as "Randy Salem"
  • John Plunkett, writing as "Jason Sloane Hytes"
  • Robert Silverberg, writing as "Loren Beauchamp"
  • Sally Singer, writing as "March Hastings"
  • Donald E. Westlake, writing as "Alan Marshall"
  • Elaine Williams, writing as "Sloane Britain" and similar pseudonyms — committed suicide in 1963[3] as a result of the social stigma she suffered as a lesbian

Selected titles[edit]

source: [4]

Midwood series[edit]

  • 1958 Midwood 007: Love Nest, by Loren Beauchamp — the first numbered titled in the Midwood series
  • 1958 Midwood 008: Carla, by Sheldon Lord
  • 1959 Midwood 009: A Strange Kind of Love, by Sheldon Lord
  • 1959 Midwood 014: Born to Be Bad, by Sheldon Lord
  • 1959 Midwood 015: All My Lovers, by Alan Marshall — later reprinted as Midwood 129 (1960)
  • 1959 Midwood 017: Backstage Love (Vol. I of the Phil Crawford trilogy), by Alan Marshall — later reprinted as Midwood 149: Apprentice Virgin (1962)
  • 1959 Midwood 020: Man Hungry, by Alan Marshall — later reprinted as Midwood 147 (1961)
  • 1959 Midwood 022: Sally, by Alan Marshall — later reprinted as Midwood 062 (1960)
  • 1959 Midwood 024: 69 Barrow Street, by Sheldon Lord
  • 1960 Midwood 028: All the Girls Were Willing (Vol. II of the Phil Crawford trilogy), by Alan Marshall — later reprinted as Midwood 166: What Girls Will Do (1962)
  • 1960 Midwood 029: Another Night, Another Love: An Original Novel, by Loren Beauchamp
  • 1960 Midwood 030: Meg, by Loren Beauchamp
  • 1960 Midwood 031: The Wife Next Door, by Alan Marshall
  • 1960 Midwood 033: A Woman Must Love, by Sheldon Lord
  • 1960 Midwood 035: Kept, by Sheldon Lord
  • 1960 Midwood 036: Virgin's Summer, by Alan Marshall
  • 1960 Midwood 040: Candy, by Sheldon Lord
  • 1960 Midwood 041: A Girl Called Honey, by Sheldon Lord & Alan Marshall — dedication: "This is for Don Westlake and Larry Block, who introduced us"
  • 1960 Midwood 048: So Willing, by Sheldon Lord & Alan Marshall — dedication: "to Nedra & Loretta" [Nedra Westlake and Loretta Block]
  • 1960 Midwood 051: All About Annette, by Alan Marshall
  • 1960 Midwood 055: 21 Gay Street: An Original Novel, by Sheldon Lord — later reprinted as Midwood Y159
  • 1960 Midwood 056: The Blonde: An Original Novel, by Peggy Swenson
  • 1960 Midwood 065: Nurse Carolyn, by Loren Beauchamp
  • 1961 Midwood 068: There Oughta Be a Law! by Harry Shorten and Al Fagaly
  • 1960 Midwood 074: Connie: An Original Novel, by Loren Beauchamp
  • 1961 Midwood F110: The Unloved: An Original Novel, by Peggy Swenson
  • 1961 Midwood 121: Of Shame and Joy: An Original Novel, by Sheldon Lord
  • 1962 Midwood 145: Strange Delights, by Loren Beauchamp
  • 1963 Midwood 259: The Cruel Touch, by Alan Marshall
  • 1963 Midwood F274: Pajama Party, by Peggy Swenson
  • 1963 Midwood F311: Unlike Others, by Valerie Taylor
  • 1963 Midwood F340: Nikki, by Don Rico
  • 1963 Midwood F346: A World Without Men, by Valerie Taylor
  • 1964 Midwood 427: Journey to Fulfillment, by Valerie Taylor — Midwood 32-427

Other titles[edit]

  • 1962 The Passer, by Sam Merwin
  • 1962 Wayward Widow, by Loren Beauchamp — later reprinted as Midwood F226: Wayward Widow: Free Sample (1968)
  • 1968 Pleasure Machine, by Sheldon Lord

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Montgomery, Paul L. "Pulp Sex Novels Thrive as Trade Comes Into Open," New York Times (September 5, 1965).
  2. ^ Irving, Chris. "Rise and Fall of Tower Comics," Comic Book Artist #14 (July 2001).
  3. ^ "The Curious Case of Sloane Britain". Those Sexy Vintage Sleaze Books. Retrieved 29 June 2017. 
  4. ^ Kemp, Earl. "The Westlake Twenty-Eight," eI13 (April 2004).

Sources consulted[edit]