Upgraded and re-released: “The Trials Of Hank Janson” by Steve Holland

The Trials Of Hank Janson By Steve Holland

First published some years back, author and comics and illustrator archivist Steve Holland, publisher of the brilliant Bear Alley blog, has re-released his book, The Trials Of Hank Janson, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the artist being condemned for obscene libel.

Steve spent some 20 years researching the story of Hank Janson before the release of the first edition 20 years ago. This new version has been reformatted, with “a little tinker here and there where I have made some additional discoveries,” he says.

A perfect storm of paper shortages and fly-by-night publishers in the years after World War Two led to a boom in cheaply produced American-style hard-boiled crime fiction. Hank Janson, dubbed the “Best of Tough Gangster Authors” – in truth, a south London former shipping clerk turned publisher – sold five million copies of his novels to a public who craved excitement and escapism in Hank’s violent, sexually charged world.

The courts took a more damning view, destroying hundreds of thousands of paperbacks and magazines that were judged obscene. Janson’s novels, with their voluptuous pin-up covers, were a regular target, but requests for guidance from authorities went unanswered. Then, Janson’s publisher and distributor were arrested, tried and jailed. 

This is the story of Hank Janson, of his creator Stephen D Frances, and how, out of the ashes of destruction orders levelled at cheap gangster novels, the Obscene Publications Act was reformed.

“Briefly successful, briefly notorious, Hank Janson might seem a strange choice of author to pluck from the darkness and push into the spotlight,” Steve notes in the book’s introduction. “To many people, Hank is just a fading memory, a purveyor of novels that, in their day, were ‘dirty books’; hot stuff that stirred more than just the imagination with their vivid portrayals of the violent, dark America that had grown out of the Prohibition era.”

But, he argues, “… Without Janson, we might still be reading expurgated ver-sions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Fanny Hill might be consigned to history. Not that this was any comfort to Stephen Frances, because the changes that made it possible for Penguin to publish Lady Chatterley’s Lover complete and unabridged in 1960 were at the cost of his own livelihood…”

The Trials of Hank Janson was a runner-up for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Golden Dagger Award. This revised and expanded edition reveals more of the background and people behind the much-maligned author whose books eventually sold twenty million copies, were translated widely, and who had an arrest warrant issued, should he dare to return to the UK from his home in Spain.

This new edition of the book also reinstates a chapter missing from the original edition, as well as adding information not available previously.

Steve Holland has been a freelance author and editor for over twenty years. He began writing seriously in the mid-1980s and went full time in 1990 since when he has had over 1,500 articles published and written or edited over 50 books.

An expert on British comics and pulp paperbacks, he has appeared numerous times on radio and television. His The Mushroom Jungle, published in 1993, was nominated for an Anthony award at Bouchercon and The Trials of Hank Janson was a runner-up for the Crime Writers’ Association’s Silver Dagger Award for non-fiction. He is an avid blogger, posting at Bear Alley. Since 2011 he has published a range of books through his Bear Alley Books imprint, ranging from reprints of and indexes to classic comics to biographies and reprints of classic thrillers.

The Trials of Hank Janson by Steve Holland (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)| Published 6th September 2023 | Format: US trade paperback (6″ x 9″), 318 pages of cream paper with matte cover.

Also available as a casebound hardback and on Kindle. Please note that not all formats are available in all territories

If you want signed copies of the book or a copy in hardback in territories where Amazon do not supply (and this includes the UK), contact Steve directly through Bear Alley Books

Categories: Art and Illustration, Books, downthetubes News, Other Worlds

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