Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Paperback Odyssey, Part Three by Greg Dziawer

The front and back covers of Sheldon Lord's Savage Lover.

Lawrence Block, aka Sheldon Lord
If you're an aficionado of vintage adult paperbacks, you'll probably have no trouble at all guessing the authorship of 1968's Savage Lover, published by Softcover Library.  The book's credited author is Sheldon Lord, one of the best-known pseudonyms of hyper-prolific New York crime writer Lawrence Block (1938-2012). After all, Block is said to have written numerous books under Love's name in the 1960s.

So Lawrence Block wrote Savage Lover, too, right? Easy question! There would seem to be no mystery here. Well, let's hang on a second. In the murky world of adult paperbacks and their pseudonymous authors, there is always room for doubt and speculation, as we'll soon see.

It's true that Lawrence Block did use the pen name Sheldon Lord. In fact, it's one of the earliest and most used of his numerous pseudonyms, with upwards of two dozen titles published under that name by my quick count. 

Block's substantial career as a pulp author started in the late 1950s when he began submitting short stories to men's magazines at the tender age of 19. He produced a slew of sordid paperbacks for the adult male demographic during the 1960s and into the early '70s before achieving mainstream success as a writer of crime fiction.

But what has any of this got to do with with Edward D. Wood, Jr.? Well, I'm afraid we have another book being falsely attributed to Eddie on Ebay. Just as in last week's article, we are again confronted with another lazy, spurious claim  by the same seller. In this case, the book actually did sell, so before the listing disappears entirely from the site, I'm documenting this case here for posterity. Here is the questionable part of the auction listing: "I believe this may be an original Ed Wood Jr. book – I attempted to find out online, but found no list for his books written under pseudonyms."

Again, a quick internet search turns up plenty of lists of Ed's paperbacks, none of which includes Savage Lover or any titles by Sheldon Lord. In fact, there is no record of Ed Wood or even Lawrence Block ever having written for Softcover Library, a company whose house style included photo covers instead of drawn art. (The latter was the norm for the publishing companies who hired Wood and Block, both under their own names and pseudonyms.)

Another quick internet search easily confirms that Sheldon Lord was an early pen name of Lawrence Block. That fact is not in dispute. Block himself admitted it. He verified the titles he'd written under that name and even reprinted some of them under his own name decades later!

A Lord original and its retitled Block reprint.

Alas, here's the rub: Lawrence Block did not claim ownership or authorship of Savage Lover. By the time Savage Lover came out in 1968, Block was no longer using the Sheldon Lord pen name. Back in those days, it was common practice in the adult paperback milieu for authors to share pseudonyms. Sheldon Lord's books had been mostly, though not exclusively, written by Block in the early 1960s. But three different authors are believed to have shared that name during the latter half of the decade: Hal Dresner (who later wrote episodes of M*A*S*H) as well as Peter Hochstein and Milo Perichitch. So which of these guys is the author of Savage Lover? Take your pick. It's a shell game.

I only hope that the person who bought Savage Lover on Ebay didn't really think it was an Ed Wood book. Or even a Lawrence Block book. Unfortunately, it appears that this unfortunate buyer paid about twice the average price for this book as compared to other Ebay listings for the very same title!

So, really, who wrote Savage Lover? It definitely wasn't Ed Wood, and it almost definitely wasn't Lawrence Block either. Of the three possible authors mentioned above, Block himself shoots down Dresner, which leaves either Hochstein or Perichitch. In the world of vintage sleaze paperbacks, that's sometimes as close as you're gonna get.

As always:

Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer be-vare.

Be-vare, take care. Be-vare....