Sunday, December 06, 2009
The New Pulp Press
The New Pulp Press:
An interview with publisher Jon Bassoff
First of all what made you decide to become a publisher in these economic
I have a history of buying high and selling low. Actually, the state of
the economy didn't play a big role in my deciding to go through with this
enterprise. My goal has always been to make just enough money to replace
the stolen hubcaps on my '83 Toyota Tercel. I've got one replaced already.
Truthfully, our company is not an extremely high risk venture. The
advances we pay are embarrassing. And fortunately we've gotten enough
positive feedback and enough positive reviews to keep the racket going.
How long have you been reading hard-boiled and noir?
Well, I hated reading until I started devouring the Hardy Boys at age
eight or so. Okay, so the Hardy Boys are not exactly hard-boiled, but it
led me in that direction. My father was a big fan of all the old Film
Noirs and indoctrinated me to THE MALTESE FALCON, DOUBLE INDEMNITY etc.
But it wasn't until I got an eyeful of Jim Thompson when I was in college
that I became obsessed with hard-boiled and noir. He took things in such a
different direction, playing against type, and it made me see the vast
boundaries of crime fiction.
Name some of the writers you hope to publish.
Wish list? Well, there are obviously an unbelievable number of talented
crime fiction writers out there. I think we're in something of a golden
age for the genre. I tend to prefer what Dave Zeltserman coined "Psycho
Noir," or having an extremely warped and unreliable narrator. Give me
Jason Starr, Dave Zeltserman, Allan Guthrie to name a few. I actually
broached the subject with Jason Starr. He said he'd be interested--but he
needed enough money to pay the rent. Unfortunately, he lives in Manhattan
so our negotiations were not very successful.
What attracted you to Gil Brewer's Flight to Darkness?
I've been a huge fan of Gil's for some time. I think he's really one of
the under appreciated crime writers of the 50's. I knew from the beginning
that I wanted to get some of his books back into print. I contacted his
family and asked them what they'd like to get back into print. We settled
on the well-known THE RED SCARF and the little known FLIGHT TO DARKNESS. I
liked the idea of a narrator who may or may not be insane. A narrator who
may or may not be telling us everything. And a femme fatale that rivals
Ann Savage in Detour for pure cruelty.
What books comes after Flight To Darkness?
Next up we've got a book of short stories called AS I WAS CUTTING from a
maniac named L.V. Rautenbaumgrabner. I can't tell you much about it except
to say that it is one of the more disturbing books I have ever read, and
that includes BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. I probably shouldn't have
published it, but I felt bad for the author who I am convinced is not well
emotionally. In February we're reissuing Lynn Kostoff's A CHOICE OF
NIGHTMARES which initially came out in the early 90's and was not marketed
at all by the publisher who became squirmish by the noirish themes. It's a
hell of a read, and people like Megan Abbott, Marcus Sakey, Charlie
Stella, and Sara Gran have read it and fallen in love with it. After A
CHOICE OF NIGHTMARES, we'll be releasing a couple of books from first-time
authors: BAD JUJU AND OTHER TALES OF MADNESS AND MAYHEM by Jonathan Woods
and RABID CHILD by Pete Risley. BAD JUJU is a book of pulpy short stories
(Ken Bruen calls the book "astonishing") while RABID CHILD is what I would
call Gothic Noir. After that, we'll be putting out a few more reissues.
The plan is to put out Brewer's THE RED SCARF, Lionel White's HOSTAGE FOR
A HOOD, and Day Keene's SLEEP WITH THE DEVIL. So we've got quite a year
ahead of us.
How successful have your titles been so far?
More successful than I expected, less successful than Hard Case Crime. I
hope that we can continue to build our reputation and improve the sales
numbers, although I don't expect us ever to gain entry on the New York
Times best seller list.
Given the fact that there are several small press publishers reprinting
material similar to yours, what niche are you hoping to make your own?
Our niche group? Probably prisoners and the criminally insane. We try to
stay away from mainstream noir and push our books toward the
aforementioned "psycho noir." But in the end it comes down to us
publishing books that we want to publish. You can only sub-categorize so
Thanks very much, Jon