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Greatest Hits

by George Kelley

Daniel Boorstin, former Librarian of Congress, says in his essay "A Wrestler with the Angel," "The historian can rediscover the past only by the relics it has left for the present…If there is a natural and perhaps inevitable tendency toward the destruction and disappearance of the documents most widely used, this poses a discomfiting problem for the historian."

The paperback books and pulp magazines that make up the bulk of the Kelley Collection are "relics" of a time when television was black and white, remotes hadn't been invented, VCRs cost $12,000 (and were used exclusively by television stations), and reading was the prime entertainment medium. These fragile books and magazines--printed on cheap paper and considered disposable by consumers--survive to provide historians and researchers windows revealing Pop Culture from the mid- to late- Twentieth Century.

Leslie Fiedler, in "The New Mutants," observes, "We have seen in recent years the purveyors of Pop Culture transfer their energies from the Western and the Dracula-type thriller…to the Detective Story especially in its hard-boiled form…to Science Fiction…" This "transfer of energies" from genre to genre can be documented using the pulp magazines and paperbacks of the Kelley Collection.


William Lee
(ACE, 1953)

William Burroughs wrote this harrowing story of drug addiction and his agent, Allen Ginsberg, sold it as a paperback original to a publishing house best known for its science fiction, mystery, and western fiction. Junkie is an "ACE Double." "ACE Doubles" were paperbacks with two novels bound back-to-back (and upside down) with each novel having its own cover. Junkie was bound with Maurice Helbrant's Narcotic Agent.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Ursula Le Guin
(ACE, 1969)

Le Guin wrote an instant science fiction classic with this story of human beings on the planet of Gethan (or Winter) who differ from conventional humans in that they are all hermaphrodites. This allows Le Guin to explore gender issues in ways never seen before in genre fiction. Although it started life as a humble paperback original, The Left Hand of Darkness is part of the SF canon. This original edition features a wonderful cover by world-renowned artists Leo and Diane Dillon.

The Sirens of Titan

Kurt Vonnegut
(Dell, 1959)

This is the breakthrough book that launched Vonnegut on his successful career. Millionaire astronaut Winston Niles Rumfoord and his pet dog fly into a chronosynclastic infundibulum (a space warp) which allows them to view past, present, and future. An alien called Salo from the planet Tralfamadore shows how meaningless life can be. This is the first articulation of the themes Vonnegut develops in the rest of his books.

The Killer Inside Me

Jim Thompson
(Lion, 1952)

There is no more chilling, unforgettable portrait of a killer than Jim Thompson's book. Thompson labored in obscurity for most of his career writing paperback originals of power and insight that quickly disappeared from the bookracks. His rediscovery and the reprinting of many of his books happened only in the last decade. The Killer Inside Me was made into a movie in 1976 starring Stacy Keach.

Finger Man

Raymond Chandler
(Avon, 1946)

The best of the Black Mask school of hard boiled writers shows his distinctive style in this story of mystery and intrigue. Chandler has been cited in a recent Playboy (March 2000) article on the Private Eye genre as the writer of four of the Top Five Private Eye Novels of All Time: 1) The Maltese Falcon (Hammett), 2) The Big Sleep (Chandler), 3) The Long Goodbye (Chandler), 4) Farewell, My Lovely (Chandler), 5) The Little Sister (Chandler).

Martian Time-Slip

Philip K. Dick
(Ballantine, 1964)

This haunting novel of the life of Martian colonists deals with Dick's continuing obsessions with the nature of reality, schizophrenia, and the human condition. Most intriguing is an autistic boy who has the power to see the future. This is sophisticated science fiction without death rays and drooling monsters. The Kelley Collection includes several of Dick's other classic paperback originals like Dr. Bloodmoney, Clans of the Alphane Moon, and The Game-Players of Titan.

The Einstein Intersection

Samuel R. Delany
(ACE, 1967)

This paperback original won a Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel of the year. Delany went on to stun the SF world with Joycean epics like Dhalgren.

The Con Man

Ed McBain
(Pocket Books, 1956)

This book launched the most famous series of police procedurals: the 87th Precinct novels (49 of them so far). Their defining style inspired cop shows like Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue. "Ed McBain" is a pseudonym for Evan Hunter, who wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

The Female Man

Joanna Russ
(Bantam, 1975)

There was a firestorm of controversy surrounding this book after its initial publication. Russ posits a universe where three women live in three alternate worlds are really one woman. Joanna lives in a contemporary, male-dominated world. Jeannine's world is a brutal, 1930s world where WW II never happened. And Janet's world is dominated by one sex: a female man. As the walls between the dimensions collapse, he plays with the power relationships of gender.

This Girl for Hire

G.G. Fickling
(Pyramid, 1957)

Female private eye Honey West is the precursor of today's legions of women detectives. Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc.) and Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski (Blood Shot, Burn Marks, Guardian Angel, etc.), today's most popular female private detective characters, have their roots in the Honey West books.