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Popular Library: Paperback Pioneers Part I

Posted by Jack Neulist on

     There's a reason Popular Library is a perennial favorite with vintage paperback collectors. Some of the most popular titles and best known authors of the 20th century were published under the Popular Library imprint, but what really draws the collectors is the unique, sometimes lewd, usually risque, but always titillating art that graced their covers. From sultry good girls to eye-popping action scenes, Popular Library's cover artists knew how to catch the reader's eye! Just take a look for yourself!

     Founded in 1942, the Popular Library imprint was intended to serve as a reprint vehicle for mystery and crime novels previously published in Pulp Magazines. The hardboiled detective genre was in its heydey, but Pulps were beginning a marked decline. Popular Library's founders, Leo Margulies  and Ned Pines, were both well known figures in the Pulp publishing industry, and were looking to break into the new, and booming, paperback book industry. Reprints were the cheapest, quickest way.

     Pines, of Standard Comics and Thrilling Publishing fame, partnered with his long time editor Margulies, who had worked some of Thrilling's most iconic titles, including Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories. Together, they applied tried and true tricks of the pulp trade to their new imprint, offering their readers pure, unrefined escapism on the covers and between them. It worked. Popular Library soon managed to grab a significant chunk of the paperback market. 

     With the publishing gold rush that followed the end of the Second World War and the lifting of paper restrictions, Popular Library expanded its brand, adding hundreds of new authors and fresh titles to its stable. While Mystery and Crime was always its bread and butter, PL became a major player in other fringe genres, dishing up titles starring delinquents, good girls gone bad, bad girls gone worse, and every other form of reprobate and degenerate imaginable. Not surprisingly, the public loved it. 

     Whether your taste was for classic mysteries by writers like John Dickson Carr and Mary Roberts Rinehart, westerns by Ernest Haycox, or sleazy romance by the likes of John Erskine and Taylor Caldwell, Popular Library had something for you. The influx of new writers and titles brought new artists to the Popular Library team, including titans Ron Belarski, Rafael DeSoto and Earle Bergey.

     Throughout the 1940's and 1950's, Popular Library flourished. So much so, in fact, that the company went public in the 1960s. Ned Pines maintained a controlling interest until the 1970s, when Popular Library was merged with Curtis Books and Fawcett Publications. In 1977, the company was purchased by CBS. 

Looking for that one hard to find title? Or are you a brand new collector? Either way, www.sirksbooks.com is your place for everything print! Shop safely and securely with folks who love books as much as you do!

CLICK HERE to shop our huge selection of vintage collectible paperback books, including hundreds of Popular Library Titles


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