Pardon My Body by Dale Bogard (Harlequin, 1952 and 2009)

Back in them thar olden politically incorrect years of the 1940s-50s, Harlequin Books published in a lot of genres, like any other paperback house, inlcluding softcore, westerns, crime noir, etc.  Their romances were the most profitable and successful, so when things wound down in the 1970s, Harlequin went exclusive with romances, where they excel at and have the market’s lion share today.

Recently, Harlequin re-printed half a dozen of their old noir properties as a gimmick for the 60th anniversary.  This seemed pretty cool, until I read here that the oh-so-bright editors there did some “fixing” to remove “politcally incorrect” matters, eschewing integrity, albeit

our intention was to publish the stories in their original form. But once we immersed ourselves in the text, our eyes grew wide. Our jaws dropped. Social behavior—such as hitting a woman—that would be considered totally unacceptable now was quite common sixty years ago. Scenes of near rape would not sit well with a contemporary audience, we were quite convinced. We therefore decided to make small adjustments to the text, only in cases where we felt scenes or phrases would be offensive to a 2009 readership.

Are these slap-happy bitches kidding?  So I suppose it might be fine to edit out, or even re-shoot, scenes of guys smackin’ dames and dolls in The Big Sleep or  a Robert Mitchum classic?  How about The Big Valley, that S/M TV western?

Does this also include spanking?  Do no Harlequin romances contain rough sex where women like to be slapped during a hard bang, or have rape fantasies in the dark hearrt of the urban sprawl?

When I read this, Iwas sorry I picked up Pardon My Body, because I was offended by Harlequin’s assumption.

Still, I tried to give it a read and couldn’t get past four pages.  Perhaps I was poisoned at the start, or maybe they edited the good writing out, but I found the sentences dull and cliched.  I’d rather pick up a Chandler, an Orrier Hitt or a Don Elliott…unedited and true.

And this is not a true vintage reprint. It’s a rewrite of an old book, as we can assume the otherd are, since

grammar and spelling standards have changed quite a bit in sixty years. But that did entail a text edit, which we had not anticipated. AND, we had to clear those adjustments with the current copyright holders, if we had been able to locate them.

And of course, the covers: Though we used the original covers, they had to be scanned and touched up.

Touch up the art and make the books look “new,” touch up the prose so readers won’t be confused and OFFENDED. Chinks become American-Asians and “twilight women” practicing sinful dykedom become “same sex partners seeking equal civil union.”  You get the gist of what has been done here…

I’m sure the backlash Harlequin will get from true noir fans — and those who are offended by the company’s lack of honoring their true past – feedback that pretty much says: “F*%@ YOU.”

It’s how we feel here…just as, we’ll take the cover above over the cover below any day!

8 Responses to “Pardon My Body by Dale Bogard (Harlequin, 1952 and 2009)”

  1. [...] the six recent mystery vintage paperbacks that they republished. This really annoys me. See this site for more and a link to the Harlequin site where they cheerfully announce the [...]

  2. Censorship and dumbing down offend me whenever and wherever it occurs. I’ve been the target of it for Blind Instinct due to the slow death scenes of the victims – who I might add elected to be victims of crucifixtion. More recently NO review from a prestigious review site on citing a chapter in which a broom assaults a manipulative, conniving young woman…when in fact she attacks the broom….or rather attacks herself with the object “moved by the invisble hands of a witch” — and she does it for an audience. Still it is called an “assault on a woman and against their policies. Censorship is what it is. Anoter incident a library group in good ol’ Florida paid me a thousand bucks to NOT speak….as someone cracked the book and objected. Obviously someone high up.

  3. This is nothing new. Read the original I Wake Up Screaming by Steve Fisher. Then read the “Newly Updated” version from Black Lizard which was published in the 70′s. It’s the first page that kills you. The narrator is talking “Dolls and Dames” yet the new version they changed all the movie stars Charlie Chaplin becomes Zsa Zsa Gabor. They even change how the main character is dress going from white flannel suit to a Sy Devore suit. I mean the changes weren’t ground breaking and didn’t change the plot but they were so petty it made my blood boil.
    No one has the right to tinker with a classic. For no reason.

  4. What a shame. The real thing would have been very interesting, not to mention educational. I love re-reading the original Nancy Drews (dear Nancy, at 16 interviewing a colored woman and deciding she looked too shifty to hire as a maid). If nothing else, they servie to remind us just how far society has come in a relatively short while.

  5. I think Harlequin would have been wise to simply forget the re-publishing in any form. While I am sure I would find the old versions offensive, the new ones don’t interest me either. The plots, characters, words and descriptions used were a product of their times and were undoubtedly well blended as written. They’re honest period pieces. I don’t see how they could possibly have been “cleaned up” successfully. I would no more suggest an update for these books than I would suggest painting a big white-toothed smile on the Mona Lisa.
    Radine Trees Nehring

  6. If you’d like to see the nitty gritty of how they’ve sanitized one of these books, go here: http://noirboiled.blogspot.com/2010/01/harlequin-bowdlerizations.html

  7. Sure, I find those things that are not “PC” offensive, but what I find more offensive is that these publishers and editors would take it upon themselves to tinker with an author’s work. Wait…what I truely find the most offensive is that they could not allow a “modern” reader like myself and countless others the opportunity to read a work and demonstrate that they do UNDERSTAND there was a difference in time period, social mores, and in general robbing us of the ability to read, understand, and learn about a time period in its true unadulterated form! This is not PC; it is BS!

    • vintagesleazepaperbacks Says:

      Well, Harlequin does own the rights to the texts, given that many of these books back then were works for hire and bought outright…but the fact that the modern editors “assume” their readers will be offended, just because the editors are women and are offended themselves, is plain stupid…you present the classic noir the way it was written, you don’t “alter history.”

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