25 October 2009

White Circle Canadians (w/ Warning)



In 1943 and 1944, Collins placed some pretty pricey White Circle adverts in the Globe and Mail. I expect these spurred sales, but they appear to have had no effect on editorial – during those same years, there was otherwise no mention of the imprint in the paper. This is known as integrity. Indeed, the "Canadian Classic" piece featured in Thursday's post marks one the very few times White Circle appeared in actual copy. If the somewhat unreliable Globe and Mail search engine is to be trusted, the imprint was last mentioned in its 1 April 1950 edition – and then only in connection with rising star Hugh Garner:


Not much of a notice, but interesting in that
Cabbagetown, which White Circle would publish, is the only mass market paperback original found in the Canadian canon. (Should I be counting Neuromancer?) The piece also reflects a significant difference between White Circle and its Canadian competitors. Harlequin's most acclaimed Canadian writer was Thomas H. Raddall, News Stand Library had... well, Al Palmer, but White Circle published Garner, Stephen Leacock, Hugh MacLennan, Earle Birney, Ralph Connor and Roderick Haig-Brown.

(In fairness to News Stand Library, it did publish Garner's pseudonymous 1950 "Novel about the Abortion Racket", Waste No Tears.)

Six decades later, Garner has dimmed, Connor is little read, and Haig-Brown seems relegated to regional writer status – but Leacock, MacLennan and Birney continue to be celebrated and studied.

In keeping with this month of Thanksgiving, what follows is a final visual feast featuring some of White Circle's more interesting Canadian titles. The pitch on the early Barometer Rising is a favourite. "AS EXCITING A NOVEL AS MAY SAFELY BE PUBLISHED", it begins, immediately contradicting itself with this warning: "A NOVEL OF LITERALLY UNENDURABLE SUSPENSE".

There you have it: not safe at all, but literature's equivalent of Ernest Scribbler's killing joke.

1943 and 1951

1945

1945

1950

1951

1951

1952

1952

1952

My thanks to JC Byers, whose thorough Bibliography of Collins White Circle provided images of titles missing in my own collection.

6 comments:

  1. 'Cabbagetown' must be one of the least inspiring titles ever. It certainly doesn't sound UNENDURABLY exciting.

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  2. Cabbagetown really is a fine piece of work, though the title doesn't travel well. To those outside Toronto, it means little to nothing. Add time to geography: Torontonians of a certain age remember it as the harsh home of the "perennial poor" (as depicted in the novel), but younger folks know it only as an expensive neighbourhood comprised of restored Victorian houses.

    I will say this, as much as I like Storm Below, Garner stands out as having some of the blandest sounding titles ever produced in this country. I present as examples: Hugh Garner's Best Stories, Author! Author!, Men and Women and Three Women.

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  3. There was another Canadian author who had two original novels published as White Circles - Keith Edgar. They were "Murder," She Said (CD447) and Arctic Rendezvous (CD419). He also had four digest originals with other publishers earlier in the decade. In the digests he is described as a native of Toronto and a former newspaper reporter.

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  4. I hadn't realized that Edgar had written two White Circles. As a title, "Murder", She Said does sound tempting, but the Edgar book I'll continue to look out for is I Hate You to Death (Toronto: F. E. Howard, 1944). One online bookseller describes it thus: "Mystery about a publisher of a chain of magazine [sic] who accepts a dinner invitation in his honor & is confronted there by writers & artists who once worked for him & received nothing but abuse."

    I can sympathize.

    Apparently the cover cover depicts six men pointing their fingers at a seated man.

    Greg Gatenby's Toronto: A Literary Guide has a paragraph devoted to Edgar. Much more than I've seen elsewhere.

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  5. I have 6 of the 7 books that I know he wrote. I'll do a post on Mr. Edgar. I hadn't known about Gatenby's book. Got to look it up.

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  6. I'll look forward to it. I know someday I'll pick up a copy of I Hate You to Death. There are a few copies currently listed with online booksellers, but at US$30 to US$63 (shipping included), they just seem too dear.

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