One of the trickiest aspects of reprinting authors whose heyday was the 1950s and who are no longer with us, is tracking down the manager of their estate; or barring an estate, just finding out who owns their copyrights. I’ve had to do some serious sleuthing to find the right person to sign on the dotted line.
And some have just frankly eluded me. I don’t mind admitting that I would love to reprint James McKimmey, Edward S. Aarons, William P. McGivern, Ovid Demaris, John D. McPartland, Don Tracy, David Karp and a few more Day Keene books. But so far, they are eluding me.
In the case of the Day Keene and the Aarons heirs, they were being represented by a New York agent who has retired, and no longer answers her email or snail mail. I live in hope of contacting the heirs direct some day and re-establishing contact with the Keene camp, and perhaps even getting some of the Aarons books back into print. But for now, that source has simply vanished into the night.
James McKimmey lived with his wife in the Lake Tahoe area before he passed away in 2011. I have no idea if Mrs. McKimmey is still living. But you would think that relatives would be easy to track down. But, no. They’re out there, but so far have been very uncommunicative. I live in hope that the next letter flushes out a response. McKimmey is criminally under-represented and should be on somebody’s list, even if it’s not Stark House.
Some authors, like Demaris and Karp, I simply haven’t found any connection yet at all. But I haven’t tried very hard. They’re on my to-do list, though. The McGivern estate has an agent, but letter-one got no response, and again, I didn’t follow up with letter-two, so that one is still pending.
The frustrating one is John McPartland. He was quite a rascal, with two wives and two families, one in Mill Valley, California, and the other down the coast in Carmel. Heirs abound. But who actually owns the rights? It appears that the Carmel clan is sitting on most of them. But they ignore all my inquiries, leaving some damn fine hardboiled thrillers languishing out of print. Three of the McPartland books are in public domain, and one of those is being contemplated as a future Black Gat book. But I would much rather have the family’s blessing than not. Even when a book is in public domain, it feels better to pay royalties to the family and work with them.
The Orrie Hitt daughters, for example, have been a real pleasure to work with. All the Hitt books are in public domain, but I still make sure that Nancy and Joyce benefit from our reprints. It’s the right thing to do, and I enjoy communicating with them.
But there will always be authors who get away. Don Tracy’s The Cheat is a case in point. Here’s a book that should definitely be back in print. It was made into a fine 1949 noir film directed by Robert Siodmak called Criss Cross, with Burt Lancaster and Dan Duryea. A tension classic about a botched armored truck robbery. And if anyone out there knows how to get in touch with the Don Tracy estate now that Don has passed away, feel free to let me know. I’d bring that one back in a heartbeat.