Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Finds: “Giveaway”

Another in our growing line of vintage book covers we love.

Giveaway, by Steve Fisher (Bantam, 1956).
Illustration by James Hill.

Amazingly, I neglected to include this captivating example in my gallery of book fronts prominently featuring legs. It comes from what I believe is the initial paperback release of Giveaway, a novel that’s said to have first appeared in 1954, though I haven’t been able to locate an image of that original edition on the Web.

Michigan-born but Southern California-reared author Stephen Gould Fisher (1912-1980) was a prolific contributor to pulp magazines (including Black Mask) during the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, and later succeeded in placing his fiction with such “slick” publications as Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, and Cosmopolitan. The Web site Stop, You’re Killing Me! lists his first novel as Spend the Night, a rather sexy love story (published in 1935 by Phoenix Press) that he introduced under the pseudonym “Grant Lane.” However, the book that first won him much attention came out the following year: Murder of the Admiral, which he published as “Stephen Gould,” and starred “ace” U.S. Naval Intelligence investigator Lieutenant Commander Sheridan Doome, Fisher’s frequent short-story protagonist (who featured in more than 50 yarns published in The Shadow magazine, and would also star in one more novel, 1937’s Murder of the Pigboat Skipper). Fisher followed those up with better-remembered books such as Homicide Johnny (1940), I Wake Up Screaming (1941, soon afterward adapted as a film), and 1958’s No House Limit (which was re-released in 2008 by Hard Case Crime).

(Right) Homicide Johnny (1950), cover art by Rudolph Belarski

However, by the early 1940s, Fisher had planted himself firmly in Hollywood and was turning out scripts for some of the big film studios. He penned the screenplays for such notable pictures as Humphrey Bogart’s Dead Reckoning (1947) and Lady in the Lake (1947), the latter adapted from Raymond Chandler’s 1944 novel of the same name and starring Robert Montgomery as private eye Philip Marlowe. Fisher would go on to write low-budget dramatic films such as City That Never Sleeps (1953) and Las Vegas Shakedown (1955), but he moved increasingly into television work, contributing scripts to series such as Peter Gunn, 77 Sunset Strip, The Wild Wild West, McMillan & Wife, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Starsky & Hutch, and Fantasy Island. (Click here to see Fisher’s credits in the Internet Movie Database.)

Giveaway has been described by one Goodreads reviewer as an “absolutely brilliant Fifties noir about a teen runaway in Hollywood who falls in with an aging hustler, her daughter, and countless Vaudeville burnouts working the TV quiz show circuit.” He adds that it “recalls Horace McCoy at his finest in depicting small-time chiselers seeking fame and fortune at the lowest rung in Hollywood. Corruption in the game show biz is in large supply here, too.” Not coincidentally, I’m sure, Fisher’s tale hit bookstores and creaky spinner racks at the same time as America was reading about real-life TV quiz-show scandals, and probably benefited from that connection.

READ MORE:Steve Fisher” (Woody Haut’s Blog); “Steve Fisher, Black Mask, and the Noir Revolution,” by Alan Deutsch (Black Mask).

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