Sunday, March 26, 2017

Doubleday Book Clubs ad copy triumphs of the 1950s

Perhaps the worst of the often ridiculous Science Fiction Book Club (US version) ads of the 1950s:

Meanwhile, the Dollar Mystery Guild in 1951, perhaps (probably) from the same copywriter (and courtesy Paul Di Filippo):

So, my tribute:

You crossed the court to taste FORBIDDEN LOVE...and now she might kill you!...

...Get out of there, you fool! Use your mentality! But, perhaps...perhaps she'd be Worth It...

You'll thrill to THE DOUBLEDAY BOOK CLUBS AD COPY ANTHOLOGY, one of several "instant remainders" you'll find in the Red Dot clearance pile at the surviving B&N near you. Where else, aside from men's sweat anthologies you'll find on the same shelf, will you find such stirring prose, such intriguing intrigue?

--surely it's simply coincidence that Armstrong and Asimov were alphabetically the first writers in either ad's selection of enticements...surely such ingenious selling techniques weren't so mechanically applied to the work being pound goods, or at least like mid-price alcoholic beverages, floor wax or cigarets...late '70s SFBC ad, below:

Rather typical DBC ad from the '50s:

Items I remember purchasing from the Doubleday Book Club, 1975-1976:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Be Read With the Doors Locked edited by Harold Q. Masur
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories to Stay Awake By edited by Harold Q. Masur
'Salem's Lot by Stephen King
The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins
The Prometheus Crisis by Thomas Scortia and Frank Robinson
The Encyclopedia of World Travel by C. Earl Cooley and Nelson Doubleday
a similarly useful-looking two-volume reference for gardening (my parents were briefly in the mid-'70s very avid truck gardeners)
A Treasury of Little Golden Books (mostly so I could read them to my then very young brother, and a bit in early nostalgic mode, as between us Eric and I had destroyed some of my own ca. 1966/68-purchased individual slim volumes in that series)

Books I remember purchasing from the Science Fiction Book Club, 1978-1981:
The Persistence of Vision by John Varley
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester
Starlight omnibus by Alfred Bester
The Hugo Winners, Volumes 1 and 2 omnibus, edited by Isaac Asimov (clumsily, omitting a Fritz Leiber story from volume 2 and typoing the title of Robert Bloch's story in volume 1, and the careful attention of Doubly-Daze's editors clearly engaged in both volumes, not bothering to clean any of that up for the omnibus reprint)
The Foundation Trilogy omnibus by Isaac Asimov

Books I remember purchasing from the Quality Paperback Club, 1980-81:
The 101 Best Jazz Albums by Len Lyons
Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino
a boxed set of Calvino novels, which recapitulated an HBJ trade edition, with If on a winter's night a traveler, The Baron in the Trees and Invisible Cities
The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, the then-current (first?) edition of the Jack Zipes volume aimed at adult readers

--there were others in each case, at least several from QPB, but damned if I remember which at the moment. 


John Thiel said...

Nostalgic trip---those book club ads looked real exciting.

Todd Mason said...

I found the 1950s ads pretty funny on first exposure, though the 1970s ads would sell me on the deal for a while. I was a member of the Doubleday Book Club as an arguable teen 1975-77 (I was just into double digits) and joined the SFBC in 1978 (and the Quality Paperback Club in '79), though for most of my time with the latter two I lived with my family in Hawaii, where the clubs didn't choose to automatically mail out the Monthly Lead/Promoted Titles...a better deal than in the contiguous 48 states, to be sure, where you had to be quick to not get saddle with something you might well didn't want.

Alice Chang said...

those are ridiculous novels, I like how they claim they are masterpieces

Todd Mason said...

I haven't yet read the Asimov nor Armstrong novels, nor the Frank Slaughter, but suspect they aren't the ridiculous things involved here, so much as the approach of the copy-writer was, in writing the blurbs. (And the ridiculousness of Frank Slaughter, MD, practicing with that it any wonder a Dr. Slaughter would become a writer?) I shudder to think what D-day blurb that guy would've written about the James Baldwin novel you review on your new blog. There definitely are masterpieces in the anthologies in the 1950s SFBC ad, and it can fairly be said that THE DEMOLISHED MAN by Alfred Bester is one, too...the UFO book, not so much.

Rick Robinson said...

I was a member of the SFBC for several years and enjoyed a lot of good SF as a result. I have that Hugo Winners anthology.

Alice Chang said...

I mean, ridiculous ads!

Todd Mason said...

That they are, Alice, at least the '50s Asimov and Armstrong.

Rick, I certainly bought a copy of THE HUGO WINNERS and no few other good new and older books during my membership(s) in the Doubleday and QPB clubs...which doesn't make these 1950s ads any better. They remain irresponsible and Way over the top, and I can see why then young sf readers such as John Boston still find them a sore point today.