Hard Case Crime, one of my favorite indie publishers, recently released a long forgotten crime novel by Gore Vidal titled Thieves Fall Out. Vidal wrote the novel in the early 1950s while reeling from criticism about the controversial content in his third book, The City and The Pillar. Under the pen name “Cameron Kay,” Vidal published Thieves Fall Out in 1953. The pulpy novel--about an American smuggling an artifact out of Egypt in the middle of revolution--was soon forgotten by almost everyone except Vidal scholars.
Charles Ardai, publisher of Hard Case Crime, spoke with us over e-mail about the novel:
Please tell us about the re-discovery process for Gore Vidal’s Thieves Fall Out. It was lost for 60 years--how did you find it again?
I first read about Thieves Fall Out randomly on a blog regarding Gore Vidal’s work. Hunting down a copy wasn’t too hard, with the network of rare book dealers I know, though copies were scarce and I think ran something like $150. I bought a copy, read it, and enjoyed it, and particularly enjoyed that it was not just a Casablanca-flavored tale of intrigue in exotic lands but a crime novel as well. So I reached out to a friend who I knew lived on the same block as Gore in California and got him to help me approach the author. Gore asked to see a copy of the book (“I haven’t read it in fifty years,” I recall him telling us), so I carefully photocopied it and mailed it to him. A few months later he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to be associated, in his advanced age, to this early work by a much younger man, so we discussed the idea of reprinting it only under the pseudonym. But we never quite got there. Then he died, and then years passed, but I never gave up hope. And eventually we persuaded the estate that this book was an important part of an important author’s legacy and shouldn’t be lost forever.
Are there any other lost Gore Vidal crime or pulp novels that you think might eventually turn up?
Not crime. I understand there is an unfinished science-fiction novel in the vaults somewhere, but I don’t believe there’s anything else of the sort we specialize in.
Do you think the writing style is recognizable to Vidal fans? Or are they in for a surprise?
It’s not written with the same level of care and polish applied to each sentence, just as John Banville’s Benjamin Black books aren’t written quite the same as the literary work he turns out under his real name. But you can tell it’s Vidal all the same. The acerbic observations, the interest in political matters even when he’s mostly occupied with telling an entertaining yarn...it’s there. But it’s on the edges. In the center is a good, old-fashioned, two-fisted pulp story. And that may be a surprise for readers who think of this author as perhaps too dignified to indulge in this sort of storytelling. But Vidal was always playful and had a taste for the low as well as the high. He liked to surprise, even to shock. I think readers will be able to reconcile the playful, mischievous Vidal with the author of Thieves Fall Out.
What’s coming up next for Hard Case?
Oh, so much! We’ve turned up two early novels by Ed McBain that haven’t been in print for half a century, and those are coming in July (So Nude, So Dead) and next January (Cut Me In). In September, we have a brand new novel by the wonderful Lawrence Block, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes, debuting in hardcover, as well as an illustrated hardcover edition of Stephen King’s Joyland. In October we’re publishing new editions of Max Allan Collins’ first five “Quarry” novels with new covers by Robert McGinnis, to coincide with the launch of the “Quarry” TV series on Cinemax. And there’s more we can’t talk about yet. But rest assured that Hard Case Crime fans have plenty of good stuff to look forward to.