Years in the Paperback Market
Head Office Location
Fawcett Publications were founded in 1919 by Wilford H. "Captain Billy" Fawcett (1883-1940) whose first notable publishing success was a popular series of ribald jokes and stories called Captain Billy's Whiz Bang. The company expanded its magazine line to include popular titles such as True Confessions and Women’s Day. As a magazine distributor it partnered first with Penguin Inc. and then New American Library to distribute paperback books. Its relationship with those companies prevented it from entering the paperback market for reprints of previously published works. Instead, it chose the innovative strategy of creating paperback originals (PBO) to publish books that had not been previously issued in a hardcover format.
It offered its authors generous terms of $2000 per book, based on print runs rather than sales. Although known for its male adventure genres of westerns and thrillers, it also carried books that portrayed lesbians in a sympathetic light and were written by women rather than by men using female pseudonyms. The success and notoriety of Women’s Barracks (1950) is credited with starting the lesbian pulp fiction genre among many of the paperback publishers in the 1950s and early 1960s. Fawcett published lesbian paperbacks under three imprints: Gold Medal, Crest, and Premier.
In 1952 Ralph Daigh, the Fawcett editor-in-chief, was called before the U.S. Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials to answer charges that the publishing industry was corrupting the youth of America.
Ralph B. Burton , Committee Counsel: " Can you find anything in Shakespeare in equal number of pages, with as much obscene material as you find in Women's Barracks [by Tereska Torres] in the same number of pages ?"
Ralph Daigh: "Well, frankly I don't know. I go along with the chairman of the committee on the difficulty of defining the word 'obscene'. It is an extremely hard word to define, and it varies with individuals, and if I were to make such a listing it would differ from a listing made by someone else."
Ever mindful of charges of obscenity for its books, Fawcett cautioned its authors against happy ending for their lesbian characters. Author Marijane Meaker, remembers being warned by editor Dick Carroll that, "because the book had to pass postal inspection it could not have a happy ending--or any ending that even hinted at approval of homosexuality".
Fawcett Books was bought by CBS Publication in 1977, and then acquired by Ballantine Books (a division of Random House) in 1982.
Kerr, M.E. "The Writing Life." Lambda Book Report, vol. 7, no. 5, December 1998, p. 12.
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