the average viewer, they were digest-sized paperbacks featuring sexy
pin-up cover art. But a
closer look reveals a treasure trove of crime and private eye fiction
from key 1950s writers who would become legends in the genre. There’s
some great stuff here and more than just a few surprises as well.
are digest-size paperbacks, bound with staples. Books in the series change
format slightly becoming a bit shorter – about a half inch shorter
than the standard digest size. There seems to be no logic or order to
this sizing. Falcon Books were published by the same outfit that published
similar sexy digest series, Exotic Books, Ecstasy Books, and Rainbow Books,
but none of those had the accent on mystery and crime that the Falcons
series begins for no apparent reason, with book #21, the sleazy crime
drama, Season For Sin by
Anthony Scott in 1952, and
ran for a total of 24 amazing books, to end with #44, Honky
Tonk Girl by Charles Beckman,
Jr. If possible, an even more searing hard crime sleazer.
Cover blurbs on this one proudly proclaim, “It was the last stop
for the scum of humanity on the road to hell!”
Well, it doesn’t get any better than that in the pulp crime genre
of the 1950s.
collectables, Falcon Books are coveted acquisitions and usually sell for
a premium, when you can find them. These days they only seem to be listed
as auction books, and hence go for auction-type prices. Nevertheless,
almost any book in the series, in about Fine condition, could set you
back close to $100.
popular and in demand. Some sell in excess of many hundreds of dollars!
Like everything else,
some books are more common than others. With some elusive titles downright
impossible to find today. A key reason for collector demand is all the
gems in the series: hard-boiled crime, rare drug books, key juvenile delinquent
novels, outrageous campy sleaze, all topped off by incredible sexy girl
pin-up cover art. For many collectors, what could be better?
of the 24 Falcon Books is unique in that they are hard crime and noir
given the ultimate sexy treatment. You could call them hard-boiled sleaze,
though published at least a decade before that genre would meld into the
soft-core adult paperbacks of the 60s. The cover art in the Falcon series
was superior to most other digests. It was well-drawn, bright with garish
colors, all with sexy good-girl, or bad-girl pin-up cover art using reds
and yellows. The covers offer a femme fatale feast for the eyes. Sleazy
in some respects, but these girls were no victims, they were ‘happy’
to be bad girls. They’re naughty, and they’re enjoying it!
Cover art was done by George Gross, Rudy Nappi, and others. All covers
feature very sexy woman prominently displayed on the cover in provocative
pin-up poses. They’re stunning and a main reason for the collectability
of the books in the first place. The back covers are often just as interesting,
with amusing and campy black and white photos, always duly noted as being,
“posed by Professional Models”. Usually showing bad
it’s not only what is on the covers – as nice as that may
be -- that makes this series collectable. It’s what’s between
those covers. That means the novels -- the stories themselves. Almost
every book was written by a top professional crime and mystery pulpster.
These were men who could tell a hell of a good story and they did. Their
stories ring true, their characters are memorable. There’s some
real sleepers in this series.
Falcon Books series is also important because 20 of the 24 books are paperback
originals. Aside from a prime drug book by Evan Hunter (a.k.a Ed McBain),
and Richard Prather’s first book, there are no less than 13 books
written under pseudonym. Of that number 7 were written by the same author
under still more different names. That author is the prolific and professional
pulpster, Norman A. Daniels.
So let’s begin with Daniels. He wrote seven
books in the series under pseudonym, all paperback originals. Daniels
wrote four books as by Mark Reed (#22, The
Scarlet Bride; #26, Lay Down
and Die!; #32, Sins of The
Flesh; and #43, House of
1,000 Desires); two book as by Norma Dann (#27, Lida
Lynn and #34, Shack Girl!);
and one book as David Wade (#35; Raise The
Devil!). Norman Daniels under his own name also wrote
book #29, Mistress on a Deathbed!,
and #38, Sweet Savage both
paperback originals from 1952. Daniels all by himself had a total of nine
books in this series!
One Daniels sleeper of interest is #35, Raise
The Devil as by David Reed, a very dark early serial killer
novel reminiscent of the brutal Black Dahlia murders and with a tough
cop protagonist. It’s a minor classic and generally unacknowledged.
Another novel hiding under a pen name is #25, The
Case of The Cancelled Redhead by Hamlin
Daly, a paperback original from 1952. This novel was actually
written by veteran pulp author, Weird Tales contributor and Oriental scholar,
E. Hoffman Price. Another
sleeper under pseudonym and generally unknown even by his many fans.
Lion Books crime author, Fredric
Lorenz, also contributed one book for the Falcon series
under a pseudonym. That book is #37, Woman
Hunter, by Laura Hale. For years thought to be yet another
Norman Daniels pseudonym, this book was discovered to be written by Lorenz
and was a paperback original from 1952. It’s a searing crime novel.
Of the many interesting books in the series, one
of the wildest is #28, Girls Out Of Hell
by little-known Brooklyn crime and sleaze author, Joe
Weiss. A paperback original from 1952, this scarce and
very desirable juvenile delinquent girl-gang and woman in prison novel
is very hard-boiled. It also has incredible bad-girl cover art by George
Gross. One of his best covers in the series. Even the back cover is outstanding
on this one – collectors will love it. The photo and blurbs here
talk about reform school girls and tough gang girls. This book has become
tougher to find. It used to be seen quite frequently at shows and on dealer
lists, but not any more. This is one of the best JD novels by a writer
who wrote gritty crime and JD fiction for Avon and other publishers in
the 1950s (and in hardcover for The Woodford Press). Joe Weiss is an underrated
author who is already collected by those in the know. These days this
book has become one of the key Falcons, highly in demand, it can fetch
$95-$200 on auctions and at book shows.
the most sought after book in the Falcon series is #36, Junkie
by Jonathan Craig, another
paperback original from 1952. Cover art is signed by Ketor Seach. This
is one of the two prime drug books in the series and very tough to find.
It sports the same title as Ace #D-15 (Junkie by William Lee). However,
this Falcon book has absolutely nothing to do with the Ace Book or Lee/Burroughs.
In fact, this Falcon Book is much harder to come by and is probably worth
almost as much in nice condition! This is one of the scarcer and most
desirable drug-related crime paperbacks and an about Fine condition copy
can easily go for $300-$700!
Three important big-name masters of mystery, crime and private eye fiction
appear in the Falcon series with one book each. One of the most important
is Richard A. Prather,
with Falcon Book #30, Dagger of Flesh,
from 1952. It features cover art showing a great sexy gang moll by Ruddy
Nappi. This is Prather’s first book and his first novel. He was
not very happy with the title, nor the cover art -- he didn’t like
the sexy girl on the cover. It’s ironic that one of the reasons
why collectors like the book so much is the exact reason why the author
dislikes it so much. Also, the book was not a Shell Scott novel originally,
but had a different hero named Mark Logan. Logan transformed into Shell
Scott in later reprints. This book is also hard to find, especially in
better condition, and can run you in the $125-300 price range.
The second important mystery and private eye writer in this series was
Anthony Scott, who kicked-off
the series with the first Falcon, book #21,
Season For Sin. Scott was actually Brett Halliday
(who was actually, David Dresser), the famous mystery author
and creator of the Mike Shayne private eye series. This was an
early Halliday novel under yet another pseudonym and generally not known.
The third important mystery and private eye author
is Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain,
but born Salvatore Lombino, who sadly passed away recently). His book,
#41, The Evil Sleep, is also
a paperback original from 1952. This was Hunter’s first book and
it is very much sought after. However, this is not only a crime novel,
it is a very valuable drug book about heroin addiction, and collectors
are eager to get their hands on the scarce number of copies available.
The Evil Sleep is probably the rarest and most expensive Falcon Book.
An about Fine condition copy could be worth from $400-$750! The book was
never reprinted under this title. It was reprinted only once as So Nude,
So Dead (Crest Book #139, 1956), under another Hunter pseudonym, Richard
Marsten, and that revised edition is scarce and pricey as well. I believe
these are the only editions of this scarce book.
Someone with the unlikely sounding name of Hodge
Evens also wrote books in the Falcon series. For a long time some collectors
assumed Hodge Evens was also Evan Hunter. This was because Hunter used
so many pen names, the similarity of the names (Evens/Evan), and the fact
that Hunter had already written one book in the Falcon series -- much
like Norman Daniels who also used pseudonyms in this series. Also in some
early reference books and lists,
Evens name was incorrectly shown as Evans, so some assumed this was just
another Evan Hunter pseudonym. Collectors (but especially book dealers)
would have loved there to be three sleeper Evan Hunter digests discovered
in the Falcon series. However, this was not to be. Hodge Evens is NOT
Evan Hunter. He never was.
They are totally
different authors. Hodge Evens
wrote three books in the Falcon series: #24, Three
For Passion, “An emotional whirlpool of crime, passion
and love!”; #33, Yellow-Head;
and #40, Whip-Hand, “a
seething turmoil of passion, violence and hatred.” This last of
the three Evens titles seems to be a very tough Falcon to find. All are
paperback originals from 1952. It turns out that Hodge Evens is actually
veteran genre author, Dudley Dean McGaughy, better known as Dean Owens.
Owens, writing as Hodge Evens, also wrote books for Beacon and Rainbow
Books and was another prolific pulpster.
There were also
books by lesser mystery and crime authors who were mainstays in the crime
digests of the 50s and 60s like Manhunt, Pursuit, and Hunted. One, already
mentioned above, was Jonathan Craig with his book #36, Junkie. Two other
crime genre authors with a book each in the Falcon series were Bryce
Walton with #42, The Long
Night, “a novel of hasty marriage…and hastier
death”, and Charles Beckman, Jr.
with #44, Honky Tonk Girl.
These last two books might be first novels for them, as both wrote almost
exclusively in shorter forms.
Three other books
offer fodder for further investigation: #23, Mabel
and Men! by George Boltari;
#31, Slave Girl by Tom
Roan; and #39, Joy Street
by Chet Kinsey.
These seem to be the author’s actual names but it is hard to tell
for sure. Tom Roan wrote many western stories and novels in the pulps
and paperbacks, and he also wrote under the name Adam Rebel, but whether
Roan was a genuine name or a pseudonym is still a mystery. Obviously,
there are still questions that need to be answered about these books.
Unlike most sexy digest series with the prerequisite
girly pin-up cover art, Falcon Books also offer finely written hard-boiled
crime and mystery novels. They’re good books in and of themselves,
good to actually read. The best of the pulp paperbacks. They offer crime
and suspense fiction by quality authors who can really tell a story. What
could be better!
I’d estimate a complete set of all 24 Falcon Books in at least Very
Good condition could be worth in the area of $1,500 to $2,500! In about
Fine condition, perhaps as much as $3,000 to $4,000!
So with that kind of dollar value, sexy cover art
and collectable authors, Falcon Books really do deserve a closer look!