And now….Bruno Fischer

The Bleeding Scissors/The Evil Days by Bruno Fischer should be here from the printer early next week. I first discovered Fischer when I started reading and collecting Gold Medal paperbacks back in the 1980s. I was working for a fellow who imported British paperbacks and sold them to U.S. bookstores. I was his buyer and sales rep. That’s when I discovered the UK Zomba Books editions edited by Maxim Jakubowski which collected four noir/hardboiled American novels in one volume, including such authors as Jim Thompson, David Goodis, W. R. Burnett, Cornell Woolrich, Horace McCoy and other mystery greats.

This was right before Barry Gifford started the Black Lizard line. It was synchronicity. Two lines of books dedicated to reviving the past masters of noir fiction. I became obsessed with these authors and started tracking down the old paperbacks myself. With a fervor bordering on the religious, wherever I went selling British books, I scoured the used bookstores in the area for 1950s and 60s treasures. How had I missed them before, I wondered? I had been so busy immersing myself in the world of science fiction, I had completely ignored the other half of the spinner racks!

But I made up for lost time pretty quickly. My sales area included Seattle to Los Angeles, so I covered a lot of territory. On a trip up the California coast—before I moved here in the 1990s—I discovered an old used book store that was literally filled with 50s paperbacks—all for a quarter a piece! I left with a large box full, then drove back the next year and bought another box worth. Sad to say, the place doesn’t exist anymore. It’s hard enough finding used bookstores that sell vintage paperbacks at all these days, much less for a quarter. The collectors have been busy in the past 35 years.

That was a glorious time, though, hunting for old paperbacks when you could still find them for a dollar or two. That’s when I first found Bruno Fischer. I think it was House of Flesh I read first. Could have been Murder in the Raw, Fools Walk In or The Lustful Ape. I know I just gobbled them up at the time, so that one book tended to blend into the next, blurring my memory of plot and quality. So rather than drive myself crazy trying to remember which were my favorites, when I tracked down the manager of the Bruno Fischer estate to bring some of his books out on Stark House, I decided not to reprint any of the Gold Medal books—I started reading some I hadn’t read before.

That’s how I discovered The Bleeding Scissors, a twisted mystery that starts very simply when a fellow finds his wife and her sister haven’t returned home one snowy evening. In fact, they’ve disappeared. Clues give themselves up reluctantly, with a faint trail leading to the New York theater district, where the two sisters had appeared under stage names. To say more would give away the surprises, but let me just say, Fischer kept me reading and guessing right to the end.

The Evil Days turned out to be a different sort of clever. Fischer had been suffering a writer’s block that lasted ten years or so, and this was his return—his final book—a tale of suburban infidelities and subtle lies, that reveals a hidden world behind the day-to-day duties of married life. I knew this to be a favorite of Ed Gorman’s and even though I was sorely tempted to reprint So Wicked My Love instead, I decided that if I were going to pair two Bruno Fischer books, The Evil Days had to be one of them.

Readers of the good old stuff have their own Fischer favorites. I hope this is only the beginning of our Bruno Fischer reprinting so I can share a few more of mine.

One more thing on our Fischer reprint, however. The cover art. Anyone who collects old paperbacks does so with an eye to the cover art. I’ve known some people who only collect for the art alone, and could care less about the books inside. It’s a crazy world. But in this case, I contacted Lynn Maguire, daughter of vintage cover artist, Robert Maguire, and asked permission to use the art on her website labeled “The Bleeding Scissors.” I knew it wasn’t the cover art that Signet used on their 1955 edition, so I asked her why the title. Lynn informed me that the illustration on the website was an alternative design her dad had rendered for Signet that they didn’t use. Well, hell, that was impossible to resist. So I arranged with Lynn to use her dad’s second version on our cover, and that’s how we ended up with Robert Maguire art on our new edition of The Bleeding Scissors/The Evil Days.

–Greg Shepard

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