New York’s Phoenix Press was a publisher of mysteries, westerns, and other light fiction in the 1930s and 1940s. We were alerted to this company’s literary history by a loyal AbeBooks customer called Paul Rollinson, who encouraged us to feature Phoenix’s fantastic Depression-era pulp, if only for the amazing dust jackets. Phoenix was one of many lending-library publishers of the era, and fought to rise above the others of its ilk to make a name for itself in the tough economic climate.
Phoenix churned out hundreds of titles and developed a reputation for paying less than generous royalties to its authors, and that meant it produced some rather suspect literature over the years. However, there were some real gems published by Phoenix, including a large number of debut novels by up-and-coming authors, books from talented writers cut loose by larger publishers, and even a number of established writers who were down on their luck and needed a pay check.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the kitschy nature of some titles, collectors of pulp art and design have embraced Phoenix Press for decades. Beyond the content of the books, they are inarguably a treat to look at because of their stylized specters, cartoon cowboys and designer damsels in distress all bursting off the dust jackets in vibrant colors.
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