Editor Will Atkins has sent me an e-mail with some wonderful news. It seems that they've decided to follow up next month's MNW publication of Shock and Awe with a Pan paperback edition come September 2008. They're talking about an "A Format" paperback, which, if my mm to inches conversion is right, means mass-market paperback, and I couldn't be more thrilled.
Now, it isn't just the possibility of more readers that makes this exciting for me. It's that, in my twisted view of the universe, paperbacks have a certain credibility that hardbacks lack. I know that's crazy, and that many writers who started out in paperback originals fought their way upstream for years to achieve hardback publication. And I know critics are loath to review anything but hardbacks, and certainly don't give even a glance to mass-market paper. But still...
When I was a kid growing up in Redlands, California, the Orange Capital of the World, real bookstores were a great rarity. The single store in my home town sold nothing but paperbacks, and not many of those. The racks at Sage's, the largest grocery store, provided serious competition. So there were, in my limited worldview, two kinds of books: Library Books, which had hard covers, and Real Books, which came in paperback for something less than a dollar. I read both voraciously, but the exciting stuff was all happening in the paperback racks.
The other thing that has me jazzed is the Pan imprint, which was the UK paperback imprint of my pre-adolescent idol, Ian Fleming (who replaced my previous idol, Edgar Allan Poe. Fickle, ain't I?) Macmillan, of course, was Fleming's hardback publisher.
I bought my Bond from Signet, but every so often, one way or another (usually in a comic-book store in LA, where people traded such things), us Yanks caught a glimpse of the gorgeously lurid Pan covers (see left), compared them with our Signet covers (see right) and felt a bit left out. (Okay, the US edition features black lingerie, too. If you have a magnifying glass.)
Soon I hit smug and snotty-nosed puberty and decided Ian Fleming wasn't the greatest writer who ever lived after all, since Sartre and Camus and JMG Le Clezio were vying for that honor. (Though my taste was later vindicated when Sartre announced, to the everlasting horror of the French intelligensia, that he was a Fleming fan. Ha! Take that! [Then again, they like Jerry Lewis over there, too...])
Over the years, I've ended up with a lot of Pan paperbacks on my shelves, most of them (the books, not the shelves) snagged in airports. Some--the Tom Sharpe novels, for example, which are virtually unobtainable in the US--are treasured possessions. (I make animal sounds in the back of my throat when visitors pick them up and thumb through them. At least until said visitors start giggling. Then I forgive them.)
My point (I had one, it was here beside me just moments ago) is that I know, as a Serious Novelist, that hardback publication is what matters. And those MNW hardbacks, sewn in signatures with the ribbon bookmarks and all, are Library Books of the first order. And I'm pretty damn pleased about them.
But I'd be less than frank if I didn't admit that there's a ten-year-old inside me that's thrilled to distraction by the paperback. Now that's a real book. And as I walk around, I'm humming Paperback Writer...
'Cause I'm jazzed. As they say Across the Water, chuffed. Or, as they say here in California, I'm like, totally, whoa--!