Black Gat Books, or the Return of the Paperback

Black Gat Books owes its creation to our former associate editor, Rick Ollerman. He talked to a lot of independent bookstore owners and asked them what they wanted from Stark House, and they all said the same thing: mass market books. They don’t want those 6” x 9” trade paperbacks that have become so popular with the publishers in the past 25 years. They don’t want those slightly-larger paperbacks either. They tell us that their customers want a good old fashioned 4.25” x 7” paperback, reasonably priced, just like the books that used to dominate the racks back in the 1950s to mid-90s.

I understand. Those are my favorite kind of books, too. I’ve been collecting them for years and I’ve got walls filled with them. So when Rick came to me with this plea, I was willing to listen. Oh, sure, it took me a good year or two before I decided to do anything about it. But I finally came up with a few titles, and created a short and snappy name for the imprint—Black Gat Books—and now we are getting ready to print our first three books.

We start with Harry Whittington, Charlie Stella and Leigh Brackett. A nice range of authors and styles featuring the new and old. After that, I’ve scheduled books by John Flagg, Gary Phillips, Helen Nielsen, Vin Packer, Malcolm Braly, Orrie Hitt, and maybe even a John McPartland, if I can swing it. You should see a few new names in there, but mostly I’m testing the waters with the type of books I love most, the vintage 1950s and 60s mysteries.

I’m excited about reprinting the John Flagg book, The Persian Cat. This was the very first Gold Medal paperback thriller published back in 1950. It could have been Black Gat #1 if I had planned ahead a little better. (Oh, well, it’ll make a great Black Gat #4.)

I’m also excited about adding Gary Phillips to the list with Only the Wicked, his fourth Ivan Monk mystery, and never before in paperback. And I’m thrilled to have another Vin Packer book to offer, one of my personal favorites—The Girl on the Bestseller List—and Orrie Hitt’s She Got What She Wanted, one of his first and best, with a hyperbolic ending that brings to mind one of Jim Thompson’s psycho dramas. Plus, we’ve got Malcolm Braly’s Felony Tank, the story of a young hoodlum’s first time in jail, from a guy who knew firsthand about the inside of prisons.

Are we headed in the right direction with Black Gat? Will we win the hearts and minds of independent bookstores everywhere? Do they really care about mass market books or were they just blowing smoke in Rick’s direction? Will these numbered books pique the interest of the collectors? Or has the day of the back pocket paperback passed us by? It’ll be interesting to see how well a new line of mass market books does in today’s trade paperback/ebook world. If you feel like weighing in, I’d love to hear from you.

–Greg Shepard

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