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!