Monday, November 22, 2010

Casual Debris Presents: An Introduction to the Alfred Hitchcock Anthologies

As a companion to this essay, I am attempting a bibliography of the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, a work in progress which can be accessed at Casual Debris Presents: the Alfred Hitchcock Anthology Bibliography.

Here is a preliminary overview of the anthologies.


In 1945 Alfred Hitchcock was approached by Dell to put together and introduce an anthology of suspense stories which was published as Suspense Stories Collected by Alfred Hitchcock, and reprinted several times with different titles over the next few years. It was an odd mishmash of stories, but despite being a little all over the place it proved successful, and in about a decade Hitchcock would find himself marketed to the extreme. In 1946 Dell Books released the follow-up Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Bar the Doors, arguably the best of all the first series of anthologies borrowing his name. By the end of 1949 a total of six books were published, followed by a hiatus that lasted until 1957.

In 1955 CBS helped launch what was to become among the most successful and longest-running television anthology dramas, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Hitchcock himself directed the first episode, "Revenge," and three more episodes for the opening season. December of 1956 saw the first issue of the still-running Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and soon the anthologies were revamped full force. In 1957 one of the more popular anthologies was published by Simon & Schuster: Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV, ghost edited by Robert Arthur. (It became so popular that not only was it extensively reprinted over the years, the network backed away and allowed him to "do" many of the included stories.) These three ventures became intertwined. The magazine published original suspense stories, the television show adapted many of them, and the anthologies eventually became reprint venues for the magazine stories.

Among the writers who benefited from this trio of projects was the prolific Robert Bloch, whose short stories were frequently published in the magazine, and eventually adapted, many by his own hand, for the television show (a total of ten episodes for the original series and seven more for the extended Alfred Hitchcock Hour). It was perhaps through this collaboration that Hitchcock later came across the 1959 novel Psycho, the rights of which he quickly purchased. (In fact he also went ahead and purchased as many copies of the book he could find just so that his potential audience would be less likely to know the ending to his film adaptation.)

Another writer to benefit was Henry Slesar, who wrote several teleplays for a variety of shows throughout the 1960s, including Batman and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Slesar had a record thirty-six teleplays or adaptations for AHP, with ten more for AHH, as well as one for the 1985 AHP remake pilot and three for the actual show. His stories were so adaptable and many of them well adapted indeed, that two paperback collections of his adapted stories were published under Hitchcock's name: Alfred Hitchcock Handpicks and Introduces A Bouquet of Clean Crimes and Neat Murders (NY: Avon, 1960) and Alfred Hitchcock Introduces A Crime for Mothers and Others (NY: Avon, 1962).

The anthologies were published in the US and the UK, successful on both sides of the ocean, but the magazine fared well only in the US. The British version lasted eleven issues, from September 1957 to August 1958 (no issue appeared in July), and later for five issues between May and September 1967. The Australian version, titled Alfred Hitchcock's Suspense Magazine, was published in 1957 and 1958, though I haven't yet been able to figure how many issues were printed, since it appeared to have gone through a reincarnation or revamping of sorts after #11.

In the 1960s the Hitchcock anthologies broadened in scope, with Robert Arthur, creator and author of the first Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators books, hired by Random House to ghost edit some truly fine alliterative young adult collections, from A Haunted Houseful and Sinister Spies, to Monster Museum and Daring Detectives; it was actually his Spellbinders in Suspense that helped transform me into an avid reader as a child. Arthur also ghost edited some adult books, including the popular Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV, Stories My Mother Never Told Me, Stories that Scared Even Me and Stories for Late at Night. He received a note in each of these ("The editor gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of Robert Arthur in the preparation of this volume"), though it was many years after his death that the extent of his "assistance" (i.e. he did everything) was made public.

Another ghost editor in the mid-sixties was British anthologist Peter Haining, who ghosted a handful of collections for Pan Books in the UK. The only other person I am aware to have ghosted one of these anthologies is Harold Q. Masur, who put together the 1973 Stories to Be Read with the Lights On. This may have been a result of the unfortunate passing of Robert Arthur in 1969.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the adult anthologies were being published regularly, and each ran through various reprints. An annual hardcover anthology appeared and was reprinted as two separate paperbacks, first with the original titles or variations of, as well as completely different titles. (For instance, Stories for Late at Night was published as 12 Stories for..., More Stories for..., and later on simply as Skeleton Crew.) Other collections were retitled after minor changes were made, such as Suspense Stories which, with the addition of another story, became 14 Suspense Stories to Play Russian Roulette By, and later 14 of My Favorites in Suspense; these are all the same book.

The early anthologies were excellent works, especially those ghosted by Robert Artur, who selected a truly wide array of short stories, novelettes and even novels of a variety of genres and styles. By the 1957 revamping of these books, Hitchcock himself had little to do with the publications (by little I mean nothing, as I suspect that even the brief introductions were ghost written; there is a distinct difference in approach and tone with those published in the 1940s, and let's remember, Arthur himself was well practiced in putting words in Hitchcock's mouth, since he made the director a character in his Three Investigators series). It is truly unfortunate that Arthur never gained the recognition as a first-rate editor, though I am certain he enjoyed his career, working not only on these books but on his own writing and on the scripts for the AHP television show.

By the 1970s the annual hardcover publications became reprints of more recent work, primarily from the most widely read mystery magazines of the time: Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, The Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. Soon the anthologies would become straightforward reprint venues for the magazine. Davis Publications, through their Dial Press imprint, published annual and sometimes bi-annual (it peaked as a quarterly in 1983) numbered anthologies which were essentially "best of" the magazine selections from the previous year. These were initially edited by then magazine editor Eleanor Sullivan (claimant of the first non-ghosted Hitchcock anthology) and later Cathleen Jordan; the first was published in 1976. By then the magazine had been publishing monthly for twenty years and had accumulated enough material to print any number of anthologies reserved for only AHMM stories; some stories even re-appeared in many of these collections so that the books were truly less than unique.

The late 1970s brought about a new era in presenting these works, with the hardcover editions employing titles along the lines of Tales to Take Your Breath Away, Tales to Keep You Spellbound, Tales to Scare You Stiff and so on, while their softcover counterparts were simply numbered, beginning with Alfred Hitchcock's Anthology #1, though later had their own, less clever, subtitles, along the lines of Death-Reach, Fear and Borrowers of the Night. I'm not yet sure when the hardcover editions stopped printing, but the numbered anthology publications ceased in 1989 with Anthology #27: Murder & Other Mishaps. Furthermore, these works were no longer ghost edited though still introduced by "Alfred Hitchcock" (sometimes bearing his signature in print).

It is really the covers and the titles and the publishing phenomenon that make these books nice collectibles. While the hardcovers are not terribly interesting the look at, the paperback incarnations are fantastic, especially those published by Dell. Many are fairly easy to find since they've been printed and re-printed over the years, and some have several editions with their own unique covers that, sad as it might appear to some, I own different editions of the same books. Overall the contents vary from good classic and modern reprints to the generic magazine entries, and some of these tend to be tiresome. However, it is a great consequence that some fine, forgotten and never really known authors were included in these books, including McKnight Malmar and John Keefauver, whose original and excellent short stories, such as "The Storm" and "A Pile of Sand," can be (re)discovered. Finally, Robert Arthur provided us with one of the best suspense anthologies ever compiled, with Stories for Late at Night.


[Note: It is frustratingly difficult to find accurate information on these publications, so much of what I have put together here is educated speculation, which means it sounds valid but could be utterly incorrect. Anyone with information to share, please do so; comment or for anonymity email me at casual.debris@gmail.com.]

8 comments:

Todd Mason said...

You're very close...Dial Press was actually the hardcover imprint of Dell Books, who continued to do AHMM-based anthologies, of course, after the sale of the magazine by the collapsing HSD Publications to Davis, to join longtime Davis property EQMM. MIKE SHAYNE wasn't really in the picture as a source of stories for these books, as it was published by others. Masur did several of the AHP books after Arthur's 1969 death, giving up with AH's own death in '79. All "AH" anthos after then are drawn from the magazine, and from AHMM and EQMM together.

Todd Mason said...

Also, recall that Patricia O'Connell ghosted AHP: MY FAVORITES IN SUSPENSE. One does wonder how much AH edited even the earliest Dell books.

Todd Mason said...

A HANGMAN'S DOZEN, AH'S NOOSE REPORT, etc., were 1960s anthos drawn exclusively from AHMM, which Dell would intersperse with the more eclectic two-volume reprints from the Arthur (and O'Connell) hardcovers, and, as you note, the reprints of the earliest Dell anthos. They did a dandy job of mucking up the bibliographic works (furthered when the paperback editions, not by Dell, of the Random House Arthur YA anthos for no compelling reason abridged the selections...).

Todd Mason said...

I can sympathize...I'm not quite clear of the last two weeks' worth of flu myself. I hope to pick up all the AH/"AH" anthos eventually, as well, but it is a bit like untangling bait-arthropods...what with the confusions Dell and the other have introduced into the process.

Best of luck...I'll keep watching your progress with this. Certainly, Peter Enfantino of http://barebonesez.blogspot.com/ has an uncompleted ms. devoted to all the iterations of the AH literary empire...perhaps we can jolly him into publishing what he has finished peacemeal, much as he's anatomizing MANHUNT and the Health Knowledge horror magazines (first, of course, having run through the MAGAZINE OF HORROR) piecemeal now.

James Frenkel said...

This is the first time I've seen this site. A lot of what's here seems pretty accurate. Just one note: Dial Press, while a hardcover imprint of Dell Books in the '70s and onward, was not the only hardcover imprint of Dell. In fact, Dell's primary hardcover imprint during the time under discussion was Delacorte Press--which existed primarily to publish in hardcover books that Dell would subsequently reprint in paperback. Delacorte was the first hardcover imprint to be so closely linked to a mass-market paperback imprint.

Jordan Prejean said...

I highly doubt that Patricia O'Connell (Hitchcock) actually selected the contents of AHP: My Favorites in Suspense. It feels VERY much like a Robert Arthur volume in both selection and organization, and the year (1959) corresponds to beginning of Arthur's association with the Hitch anthologies at Random House. The Hitchcock Wiki credits Arthur as the editor. O'Connell possibly worked with Arthur in some capacity but it is more likely that Hitch was using his leverage at Random House to get his daughter's foot in the publishing door.

Any idea on the illustrator of those wonderful Dell paperbacks? From the mid-60s on to the mid-70s these paperbacks were great, mostly because of their covers but don't discount the contents either. Not all were magazine reprints and some contained fine writers of suspense such as Jonathan Craig, Robert Bloch, Fletcher Flora, and Jack Ritchie, among others.

Randy Broecker said...

Richard Bober did the great covers shown here, he did several others as well. Josh Kirby did some nice ones for
British editions.
some

Casual Debris said...

A big belated thanks for the comments & corrections. I seem to have somehow missed some comments!

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