|Regency Books; cover by Leo and Diane Dillon|
the official publisher of the first issues of the Hamlings' Imagination, but that ruse was quickly abandoned. The Hamlings edited, laid out and published the magazine from two adjoining desks in their basement. William Hamling had a day job, with a minor publisher of second-rate magazines, where one of his colleagues was another young, ambitious fan of fantastic fiction, Hugh Hefner. Both of them were fans of Esquire, and both were somewhat disappointed that that magazine, in the face of distributor pressure in the early '50s, had been cutting back on "risque" content. The two men kicked around ideas for how to make a mass-appeal men's magazine that might actually double down on matters of sexuality and otherwise engage particularly young men in the way Esquire had, only even moreso...and should it be relatively inexpensively produced, or a four-color slick magazine? Hamling and Hefner dummied up issue designs, and by 1953, Hefner was ready to go forward (and by about the same time, Hamling had dipped his professional toe in that sort of water with a modest photographic models magazine), and asked Hamling to be one of the backers/partners; Hamling, for reasons not yet made clear, declined, perhaps mostly because he wanted his own sandbox to play in. Playboy, of course, was an almost instant success, while the Hamlings continued to publish fiction
magazines (Imaginative Tales joined the stable a little earlier in 1953 than Playboy hit the stands). Two years after the Hefner magazine debut, in late 1955, the Hamlings had their full-strength response ready for the world: Rogue.
Frank M. Robinson:
I ended up as an editor on Hamling's Rogue magazine. Like Playboy, it published an ungodly amount of science fiction-related material, including Frederik Pohl's award-winning "Day Million." Editors (at one time or another) at Greenleaf Publishing - the parent company - included Harlan Ellison, Algis Budrys, Larry Shaw, Bruce Elliot (responsible for some of the later Shadow novels), and myself. Columnists included Robert Bloch, Alfred Bester, and Lenny Bruce. No other men's magazine--nor science fiction magazine, for that matter--had that much editorial talent in depth.
In those days [the early 1960s] Playboy sold a million copies a month and we did 200,000, second to them, but we won more professional awards every year. Took a lot of pride in that.
Rogue flourished (and as the memoirs of the women and men quoted by Kemp note, often found at least some of its talent, including Stevens and Robinson eventually, lured to Playboy Enterprises), but was eclipsed as a money-maker by an entry into paperback publishing, notably erotica publishing, with Nightstand Books in 1959, the first imprint of several (notably Greenleaf Classics)...and the unwelcome attention of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, among others, as a result. And not long after Nightstand, an ambitious and rather impressive, on balance, list under the imprint Regency Books. A fair amount of interaction with The Second City improvisational troupe (in the pages and behind the scenes) as well as such other Chicago institutions as Nelson Algren, were fruitful. Rogue and Regency made decent money...but Nightstand and Greenleaf Classics were raking it in, with much lower overhead, if that much more peril of obscenity busts, as the novels of Lawrence Block and Robert Silverberg and all the rest of the Scott Meredith Literary Agency young and hungry crew didn't quite use plain language to describe the sex the readers were looking for. Greenleaf Classics began its run with the first US edition of Mason Hoffenberg and Terry Southern's porn romp Candy, and went on from there.
It's a nice, kaliedoscopic patchwork of correspondence, reprints from others' articles and short informal memoirs from the fellow staff at the Greenleaf and related offices (including Hefner and his crew), and accounts of Kemp's avocational efforts to mount the Chicago World SF Convention in 1962 and his work (mostly noted in other issues) with Advent: Publishers. Rather than attempt to further synopsize the rich haul of data and anecdote here, I shall only point you to this, one of the best issues of an excellent run of eI, and the rest of Earl Kemp's online magazine work at eFanzines.
But it's tempting to at least include a gallery of the covers from Rogue and the Regency Books, particularly the impressive work of Leo and Diane Dillon among others on the paperback line...you'll find more of the cover images at eI.
For more of today's books, and even a few items almost as non-traditional as this one, please see Patti Abbott's blog.
Trivial fact: Playboy was initially meant to be Stag Party; Rogue was initially titled Caravan. Better titles happened before first publication.
|The first Regency Book...|
|...and its back cover. Illustration and design by the Dillons.|
|Not quite completely the Second City issue, but close...|