In 1947 when Dutton needed a place to stash the harder boiled books coming in to their offices, they decided to set up a separate imprint. A tough book like Mickey Spillane’s I, The Jury wouldn’t mingle well with the upper class of Dutton’s roster. This was a new era in tough guy writing, noir with a sharper edge. And Guilt Edged Mysteries was born.
In the nine years Guilt Edged originally existed they published 82 hardcovers, including those first seven in the Mike Hammer series and pulp classics like Fredric Brown’s The Fabulous Clipjoint and The Screaming Mimi as well as Lionel White’s Clean Break which later became the basis for Stanly Kubrick’s film noir classic The Killing.
As a vintage pulp junkie, you can imagine my delight when Guilt Edged was relaunched earlier this year. And my mind was further blown when I got the news that the new Guilt Edged wanted to publish my book, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me. I immediately ran off to learn more about the short-lived imprint.
Not that there was a lot to learn aside from the titles, a chronological list can be found here. In looking at the books they chose to publish it is easy to see that they were rounding up the books with more extreme violence (for the time), pulpier plots and tougher tough guys. Female authors were few and far between and often used the time-honored trade of disguising their gender with initials, like with the book Murder At Drake’s Anchorage by E. Lee Waddell. The E. stood for Eleanor.
To make matters more confusing, author Beverley Nichols, who published three novels under Guilt Edged, was really a man.
Many of the titles were written under pseudonyms including the name Edgar Box, a pen name for Gore Vidal. Stewart Sterling published five Guilt Edged titles, but his real name was Prentice Winchell. Now which one sounds more made up to you?
Several journeymen noir writers published under the Guilt Edged banner including Brown as mentioned above, who published 15 novels over the whole 9-year run of Guilt Edged, more than any other author. James Hadley Chase wrote almost 90 books, two of which were Guilt Edged titles. William Campbell Gault was another prolific writer who put out the first six of his novels on Guilt Edged including Don’t Cry For Me, an Edgar award winner for best first novel in 1953.
And then there’s that Spillane guy who really put what could have been the b-team of Dutton books on the map.
Now Guilt Edged is back and I’m so proud to be the 5th title available. The books before mine include short stories (Skin by Max Allan Collins and Spillane) and novellas (Noir-ish by Evan Guilford-Blake, Death in the Haight by Ronald Tierney) and a short novel, Murder in Mumbai by K.D. Calamur.
So some things never change. Pulp writers are still around, banging ‘em out. And now Guilt Edged is back putting them out there, only this time as ebook originals. For us writers though, it all stars in the same place. My favorite find in hunting for Guilt Edged info was this page of original manuscript by The Big Steal by Earle Basinsky.
The mistakes, the typos, the corrections. Yep, writing hasn’t changed, just the way you get it. (More covers can be seen here.)