Archive for editing

The Big Slap in the Big Sleep

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction, Vintage Sleaze Paperbacks with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

To continie the debate of Harlequin’s politically correct censoring and altering of reprints of their old books, and the above-board objection from readers, I wonder how Harlequins’ bright and culture-savvy editors would have “changed” Chandler’s The Big Sleep if they got their dainty little hands on the text…

Surely they would not use the above cover art from the 1950 Pocket Books edition.  As you can see, Philip Marlowe is abound to backhand a pensive blonde — is she staring at his digits in fear or waited excitement?  Does the famous private eye need domestic violence and anger management counseling?

On the back cover, in large red letters, is:



“Come on,” I said brightly. “Let’s be nice. Let’s get dressed.”

Before anyone claims I condone violence aganst women in fiction, I do not…but the point of contention here is: these PC editors have no sense of the history of noir, and the elements that make up the vintage books from the 1940s-60s.  Sure, they were sexist, mysoginistic, brutal, crass, caddy, heel-bound, with women’s sexuality often the cause for a man’s downfall — but that was the point. That’s part of the genre.

Changing such things is offensive to the genre’s roots, and to assume readers would be appalled or shocked is just plain stupid.  A disclaimer or foreword would have worked, as wel as being informative concerning the views of women some men had in books, or at least their characters did.  Just because  Marlowe feels the need to slap a dame now and then for her own good doesn’t mean Raymond Chandler did this in real life.  He was writing to the specs of his hero and the genre.

I suspect, however, that the day may come when a politicaly correct version of The Big Sleep — and any other books with offensive terms, such as the workls of Joseh Conrad, Hemingway, Faulkner and even Nancy Drew — will be “toned down” for modern day sensitivity.


Wait…what if the book has a woman slapping a man?  Does that need to be changed in some eyes, or is that “culturally acceptable”?

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

Posted in crime noir, pulp fiction with tags , , , , , on November 27, 2009 by vintagesleazepaperbacks

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!