Sunday, August 21, 2011
Gold Medal in The 70s by Fred Blosser
GOLD MEDAL IN THE 70s by Fred Blosser
Whenever the old timers write fondly about Gold Medal Books, they seem to dwell mostly on the glory era
of the '50s and '60s. I don't see the '70s GMs discussed much. Maybe I've
missed an article here or a blog there? Or could it be that fans view the '70s
as a twilight era for GM, a sad march toward the line's eventual extinction, and
One could argue that attrition had hit GM hard. Knox Burger departed in ...
1970? Also by 1970, Stephen Marlowe had left the GM stable, the six-book run of
Richard Stark's Parker under the GM tag (four originals, plus two movie tie-in
reprints from Pocket) had ended, and I believe Lawrence Block had moved on as
The old guard of John D. MacDonald, Donald Hamilton, Philip Atlee, Dan J.
Marlowe, Lou Cameron, Charles Runyon, and Edward S. Aarons hung on through some,
most, or all of the decade. (And in the Western line, "Jonas Ward" plugged on.)
In my opinion, Hamilton's and Marlowe's best work was behind them, although
Hamilton had already started to slip in the mid-'60s when the Matt Helms began
to get longer in page count and flabbier in pace. The '70s cover art, in which
the tough-guy series characters began to look like sleazy lounge singers or porn
actors in long hair and sideburns, didn't help much either.
I can't identify any one dominant trend in the '70s GMs, but there were some
smaller trends, at least in the first half of the decade:
MAFIA NOVELS ... "From the publisher of THE GODFATHER," as Fawcett Gold Medal's
cover blurbs capitalized on the fact that Fawcett Crest had published the
paperback edition of Mario Puzo's bestseller. Could it also have been a
marketing campaign to compete with the rising tide of The Executioner and
similar war-against-the-mafia pulp paperback series?
THIEF-TURNED-SECRET-AGENT NOVELS, a sub-genre not unique to GM at the time by
any means, but Dan J. Marlowe's Earl Drake and Don Smith's Tim Parnell were game
contenders, Marlowe's in relative longevity if not in relative quality (unless
someone would care to argue that Marlowe's OPERATION ... titles were better than
THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH and ONE ENDLESS HOUR).
MOTORCYCLE GANGS -- although I may be stretching a point on this one. Do two
novels -- THE HIGH SIDE by Max Ehrlich and THE SCARRED MAN by Basil Heatter -- a
RETURN OF SOME STALWARTS WHO HAD BEEN SCARCE ON THE GM LISTS IN THE LATTER '60S
-- Peter Rabe, Robert Colby, Richard Wormser, and Ovid Demaris (with a reprint
of CANDYLEG as a movie-tie in).
New to the ranks in the '70s were Daniel Da Cruz, Richard Posner, and (a
one-shot, I believe) Mike Jahn. Da Cruz's DOUBLE KILL is pretty good -- reminds
me of Dan Marlowe in places -- and its three sequels in the Jock Sargent series
have their moments. I don't know that I ever read any of Posner's stuff.
All in all, according to my personal tastes, I can't say that GM in the
Watergate and Disco years matched, volt for volt, the energy of the '50s years
with Charles Williams, Stephen Marlowe, and Peter Rabe (and some would probably
add Richard Prather) or the '60s with JDM, Jim Thompson, the best of Dan J.
Marlowe, Block, and the early Matt Helms. But I wouldn't count the line out
altogether after 1969. DOUBLE KILL, THE PADRONE, BLACK MAFIA, THE CANADIAN
BOMBER CONTRACT, and POWER KILL are worthy efforts, to name some that come to