It's a nice time for backlist in ebooks. The big news in genre fiction is probably the scheduled release date for all the titles in John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, coming in January.
But there's a lot of backlist material in the pipeline. John O'Hara's Butterfield 8 will be released here in 2013; Barbara Pym's Less Than Angels is already available. Both these writers have a number of titles available as ebooks in the United Kingdom, but not much available yet in the U.S.; if we're lucky, their other novels and collections of short works will follow soon.
Library of America has begun to publish ebooks as well, with editions of Tocqueville's Democracy in America, Lincoln's writings, Ambrose Bierce's selected works, and a few others available.
On November 6, Open Road (which has published backlist titles from Lawrence Block, Budd Schulberg, Jonathan Carroll and many more) will release ebook editions of several titles by Malcolm Lowry. The initial Lowry offerings will include: the short story collection Hear Us, O Lord, from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place; his first novel, Ultramarine; his posthumous novel, October Ferry to Gabriola; and the book that is regarded as his finest work, Under the Volcano.
Under the Volcano chronicles the last day in the life (that's not a spoiler) of Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic ex-consul drinking himself to death in the Mexican town of Quahnahuac; scan a few lists of the best novels in English, and you'll generally find Under the Volcano ranked there. It isn't always an easy read -- the novel takes some effort to get into, but it's worth it. Also worth a look is John Huston's film version with Albert Finney and Jacqueline Bissett.
There's a story that goes with Under the Volcano, if memory serves, that recounts one of the gutsier moves a writer can make. Lowry worked for a long time on this book, more than a decade. It made the rounds of publishers, and Lowry would often decide portions of the book still weren't quite right and go over them again. While Lowry revised and tightened his book and approached publishers, Charles Jackson published his novel The Lost Weekend, which concerned an alcoholic. After the publication and success of Jackson's book, even houses that had seen earlier versions of Lowry's manuscript rejected his final version, regarding any book dealing with an alcoholic character as an attempt to cash in on the success of Jackson's novel. Finally, Jonathan Cape in England agreed to take the book but wanted changes to address issues raised in the publisher's reader's notes on the manuscript. Rather than agree to the changes in this novel that he'd been writing and revising and trying to publish for the past decade, Lowry sent a letter back to Cape explaining why it was necessary to the novel for the specified sections to stand as they were. That letter, as I recall, takes up about thirty or forty pages in Lowry's Selected Letters. And after consideration of the points Lowry made, Cape agreed to take the novel as it stood.
Not yet announced for Kindle are Lowry's Selected Poems, Selected Letters, Lunar Caustic, Psalms and Songs and Dark As The Grave Wherein My Friend Is Laid. Later, maybe.
A brief commercial announcement:
The short story collection I mentioned at the end of my last post is finally available in the Amazon Kindle store and at Smashwords (from where it should find its way into other ebook retailers before long).
A SOUVENIR FROM THE WAR, AND OTHER STORIES sells for $1.99 and it includes eleven stories, mostly dark. Six of the stories are new to this collection, one had been included in a previous collection that is no longer available, three have been available as individual stories in the Kindle store, and one was previously published in this blog on the occasion of Ray Bradbury's passing. Give it a look if you get a chance.
Find it at:
Smashwords - A Souvenir from the War, and Other Stories and at
Amazon - A Souvenir from the War, and Other Stories