Friday, April 24, 2009

Forgotten Books -- MYSTERY

I wonder if anyone remembers this one besides me.  Back in 1981, Jove Books decided to publish "No-Frills Books."  No cover art, no author's name, and only 58 pages for $1.50.  They published Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, and Western.  There was never, as far as I know, a second book in any category.  I have no idea if this was an experiment that failed or if Jove intended to publish only one of each.

This one, as you can see from the cover blurb, has everything you need.  The story itself is pure pulp, with corpses piling up at an amazing rate.  The unnamed first-person private-eye narrator is given a mysterious cassette tape.  Someone's killing to get it because although to the p. i. it sounds like a song, it has the power to cloud most men's minds.  Most women's, too.  Whoever has the tape can control the world.  Or something.  Not a great story, but it's entertaining enough for what it is.  As the inside copy says, "Why pay more?  Why shop around?  After you've read one, you won't mind the others."

At one time I thought Ron Goulart might have written these books.  I have no idea why I thought that.

Update:  Please read the comments on this post.  Todd Mason has unearthed all sorts of fascinating facts about the No-Frills Books!


George said...

Wow, this brings back a lot of memories! I remember these "generic" books. Maybe someone out there knows who wrote them. Great pick!

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

They look like interesting books - wonder who the author was?

Todd Mason said...

Goulart would be as likely a candidate as any. If you haven't quizzed the FM list, it's worthwhile (and I, too, remember this...boy, Jove loved their stunts).

Todd Mason said...

Terry Bisson, who was one of the instigators of this project, reports:

Mystery was written by Clark Dimond, a men's mag editor/writer who also wrote for comics.
The Romance was written by Judy Coyne (former Glamour mag editor) nee Wederholt
The SF was written by John Silbersack, SF editor and now an agent.
The Western was by Vic Milan (SF author)
We were working on a No-Frills Besteller (by me) and
A No-Frills movie (by film critic David Ansen) when the series was dropped.
My partner selling the series was Lou Rosetto who went on to found WIRED magazine.

mybillcrider said...

Thanks, Todd. I love the Internet! I wish those other two had been published.

Todd Mason said...

And, further information from Bisson:

Todd: A little more BG for literary history:

I was editor and copy chief with Berkley /Jove. I thought of the idea
and sold it to Jove. I wrote the copy. The writers got $750 for all rights.
The books got LOTS of reviews in papers all over the country
including the NYTBR
(reviewers loved the idea) but almost no sales. My agent, Susan Ann Protter
and I formed "No Frills Associates" (along with Lou) and briefly
trademarked the generic logo. WGBH in Boston
wanted the No-Frills Movie to produce in video but
Ansen and I turned them down, since we thought digital
was too lo-tech, more the fools us. We coulda been contenders.

Nothing was cannibalized and no one wants to do it anymore; the time has past.
Thanks for your interest though!

On Apr 24, 2009, at 9:54 AM, Todd Mason wrote:

Thanks again! I wonder if anyone feels the desire to have any of these republished…or if you or Ansen cannibalized any progress on the aborted projects for other work.


Todd Mason said...

Indeed, Bill...though the appeal of a Cute Idea only goes so far...remember the Penguin 50 booklets and other, similar attempts between these two projects to provide inexpensive editions to the masses, even the wonderful Dover Thrift Editions, never seem to last too long or do well enough...

Todd Mason said...

Clark Dimond notes:

> Mystery was written by Clark Dimond, a men's mag editor/writer who
> also wrote for comics.

Funny, I just posted No-Frills Mystery on my Facebook page, if you
haven't read it

Clark Dimond

Todd Mason said...

(Though, of course, some Ideas are Cuter than others, and this No-Frills project was always intended to be jokey fun, a la NAKED CAME THE STRANGER/MANATEE or ATLANTA NIGHTS...the last having inspired a brief discussion so far on the Horror list as to what's the worst horror novel so far...)

Todd Mason said...

Wrong Clark Dimond posted above!

mybillcrider said...

I never thought we'd get all this from the little posting on MYSTERY.

Cap'n Bob said...

I think I have all of them. I wonder what they're worth these days. I believe they were called generic books at the time, because those black lines were on other generic products being sold--cereal, canned goods, etc.

SteveHL said...

And just a couple of years later the movie "Repo Man" brought us totally generic food:

Todd Mason said...

Hey, SteveHL, you are aware of the generic white-label food the Dept of Agri was making available back when? More recently, the labels are a bit less...generic, if not exactly a designer's master-class work.

Juri said...

You'll have to friends with Clark Dimond to see that Facebook profile with the story in it.

Interesting nevertheless - had never heard about this!

Anonymous said...

Am a friend of Clark Dimond, Terry Bisson and David Ansen, and received 'No Frills' with blurb as on cover of collection, the mystery 'No Frills' directly from Dimond a few days ago.
Love this story. You gotta' love it and the whole concept...Bisson and Ansen were onto something very good indeed.
You just never know, you know? LJ

Konsumterra said...

these are amazing wish id seen earlier i would have referenced them -

more in set here

refreshing to have mystery solved all so neatly from horses mouth.

Brody said...

Thanks, Bill, great story. I bought the Western and Romance books from a 'remaindered' pile in a supermarket in Alice Springs, Australia, in the late eighties. I was intrigued by the lack of an author. The Western, which I read, was no worse than most pulp westerns, probably better. I wondered at the time if a computer had written it! I have often mentioned these curious books to people who appeared neither to care nor understand but none could ever shed light on them. Until now never thought to google it: what a marvel the net is...and some ways it is a bit too easy many questing beasts have become sitting ducks.

mybillcrider said...

Google does take some of the mystery out of life, but it was fun to find out all this information and even to hear from the author (who's now my Facebook friend).

Brody said...

Gee, that was quick, Bill. I had a quick look at your site and will check in again. I am not that much into popular culture though I do have an extensive collection of pulp fiction - not that I am a collector. See you next time!