Next up: Peter Rabe

When I started pursuing authors for a reprint mystery line at Stark House Press, it didn’t take me but a moment to settle on Peter Rabe. I had discovered his books in the early 80s when I first read The Box. I had already been reading Jim Thompson, David Goodis and W. R. Burnett, but here was a voice I had never encountered before. The sense of humor was as dry as the Algerian desert where much of the book is set.

The psyche of the main character—a former crime boss who was stripped, put in a crate, and shipped halfway around the world on a cargo ship—intrigued me. The fact that given a new chance at life he choose to going right back to his previous criminal past was part of the point of the book. The sense of regret at the end is palpable. I began a search for more Rabe books and found that each one created that same tension between the interior dialog and the actions of the characters. Each book was a dryly written character study with a lot of sharp, swift action. It was a combination that worked for me, and I decided I had to share these books with a modern audience.

Tracking down the agent in charge of the estate wasn’t that challenging, and it put me in touch with one of the true gentleman of the business, Max Gartenberg. After that, it was just a matter of hashing out the details. And on January 9, 2004, The Box was finally back in print, paired with Journey Into Terror, which I thought was a good study in contrast.

We started with artist-rendered cover art, but after a couple of books decided that this approach just wasn’t working. It wasn’t distinctive enough, and rather hit-or-miss in the end results. That’s when my brother Mark stepped in and took over the cover design, another one of the best decisions I made for Stark House. Mark’s been in the graphic design business for almost 40 years, and makes the whole process a lot more fun.

By now, we’ve published seventeen Peter Rabe novels, two of which had never been printed before. This summer we will make available the second Daniel Port Omnibus, bringing our reprints of Mr. Rabe to an even twenty over the past eleven years. It’s been very gratifying seeing these marvelous psychological thrillers back in print again. By now, it’s practically a mission.

Greg Shepard, publisher

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