Reed Nightstand

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William L. Hamling started publishing Nightstand Books in Illinois in 1959. The little paperback originals with pink or yellow spines and titles like SEX GANG and SIN GIRLS were immediate best sellers, and Nightstand brought more out each month, a couple hundred of them over the next few years. And other lines were spawned by the same publishing house: first Midnight Readers, then Leisure Books and Ember Library and many more, a couple thousand of them over the next decade. The books were brilliantly edited from 1961 on by Earl Kemp and featured flashy cover art by such brilliant talents as Harold McCauley and Robert Bonfils. And by some combination of foresight, luck and serendipity, almost all of the early pseudonymous Nightstands were written by young authors who would become famous over the next few years. A lot of sixties “adult” paperbacks from other publishers were written by hacks, copycats, sub-morons and dweebs. But the authors who wrote the early Nightstands using pseudonyms were later revealed to be such well-known names as Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, Evan Hunter, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and John Jakes. Relying first on hungry young writers from his science fiction magazines, and then on a stable of talent pooled from the Scott Meredith Literary Agency, the Nightstand Books were the best of their genre. And no matter how you look at it, credit has to go to the man who had the original idea: William Lawrence Hamling.

Over the 60s and early 70s there were sweeping changes in the business, reflecting society's shift from the buttoned down Eisenhower era to the wide open summer of love. The Hamling group moved to sunny San Diego, California. The Supreme Court ruled on obscenity, there were lawsuits, and Hamling and Kemp were sent to federal prison on a trumped-up charge of pornography by the Nixon Administration, a case of two not-so-guilty citizens being sent up by a bunch of crooks and criminals. The very nature of the books evolved from PG-rated euphemisms to X-rated porn. There were persistent rumors that the Mob was muscling in on the adult book publishing business.

And then, in 1973, William Hamling went back to the well from which it all began, and reprinted the first 100 Nightstands as “Reed Nightstands” (Reed Enterprises being one of the many names of his multi-faced empire that at various times was also known as Greenleaf Classics, Corinth Publications, Blake Pharmaceuticals, Phenix Publishing and Freedom Publishing.) The original Nightstands were reprinted in order. The first Nightstand was LOVE ADDICT by Don Elliott; the first Reed Nightstand was LOVE ADDICT by Don Elliott. The books were printed in a taller format, but at first even the original cover art was copied, redrawn. (Gradually new covers from Robert Bonfils and Ed Smith helped make the Reed Nightstands collectible.) All of this, the titles, the pen names and the cover art, would change over the next two years. The new editors (Earl Kemp had retired to greener pastures) had the books updated for 70s readers. References to 50s movie stars were changed to 70s movie stars. Words not accepted in 1960 that were common in adult books of the 1970s were inserted, so a reference to “nice breasts” was now “nice tits”. But other than these editorial updates, the original stories were left pretty much as they were. Some of the early best sellers had been reprinted with a letter R for reprint on the spine, so collectors call those “2 nd printings”, which is why early Reed Nightstands were later called “3 rd printings” by book collectors. (But never ever on the copyright page, where they were passed off, as adult books usually are, as brand new publications.)

As you will see from the checklist that follows, the series starts out reprinting the originals in order. Nightstand 1501, that first Nightstand, becomes Reed Nightstand 3001, 1502 is 3002, 1503 is 3003, and so on. (The “3” in 3001 indicates the year, 1973, followed by the sequential number. The 1974 Reed Nightstands begin again with the number “4”, starting with 4001, and so on.). But after the first 24 books, after 3024 reprinted Nightstand 1524, something strange happened. The back page of some of the series had a list of “other Reed Nightstand books”, and my copy of 3023 announces the upcoming titles:

3025 THE LUSTFUL ONES – Clyde Allison (that would have been right, that was Nightstand 1525)

3026 THE WIFE SWAPPERS – Andrew Shaw (1526, check)


3028 THE LECHER – Don Elliott

3029 THE FLESH PEDDLERS – Don Elliott

3030 ONE BED TOO MANY – John Dexter

3031 BAD GIRL – Andrew Shaw

3032 RUNAWAY BEACH – Don Holliday

I've copied that list here because that's NOT what happened. The reprint of Nightstand 1525 didn't come out next as announced. The books were not reprinted in order, nor as planned (those books were eventually reprinted later, out of order). Something happened, and since the people who put out the books at that time are long gone, we can only theorize what might have happened. So keeping in mind it's just a theory, here's what I suspect. When they got to 3025, the reprinters suddenly ran into a snag they had not encountered with the first 24 books. The author who wrote as Clyde Allison had died in 1972, leaving no heirs, no widow (he had gotten divorced), estranged from his only relatives. Two of the Nightstand authors told me that in 1973 they suddenly started getting money, like “royalty checks” again from Hamling via Scott Meredith. But how could Hamling and Meredith pay a dead man? Could there have been some difficulty in assigning the rights through his agent, in delivering that royalty check? Of course, I'm assuming here that the publishers and/or agency cared at all about the rights of the original writers. Perhaps instead they considered the manuscripts their property to reprint whenever and however they pleased.

Instead of THE LUSTFUL ONES, Reed Nightstand 3025 is RUNAWAY BEACH by Don Holliday, a retitled reprint of a later Nightstand, NB 1533. They keep reprinting Nightstands, but no longer in order. They mixed them up for a while, and then muddied the waters so successfully that nobody I know noticed when they started reprinting them in order again. For thirty years collectors believed that the rest of the Nightstands were haphazardly reprinted in no particular order. But once they got back on track, as our checklist here will show, the reprints follow the original order. The later reprints are still the Nightstands, but now with different titles and in many cases new pen names, previously unknown authors like Jeremy Dunn and Thomas Carr. The publishers and/or the agent may have learned something when they reprinted THE LUSTFUL ONES.

Although THE LUSTFUL ONES was eventually reprinted a few months later out of order (as 3038), all subsequent Clyde Allison reprints came out under a new byline: Carter Allen. (I learned that Carter Allen was Clyde Allison from the same source I get a lot of solid information: a catalog by Brooklyn paperback dealer Chris Eckhoff.)

Carter Allen is a posthumous pen name. The man who wrote as Clyde Allison never knew about that name. His ex-wife told me she had never heard of it. And after the first Carter Allen book, all the rest have new titles. With a new title and a new pen name, there is on the surface no connection to Clyde Allison anymore. Only by actually reading the book could the connection be made. Did somebody figure that whoever got Clyde's royalties (if anyone did) would have no reason to ever look at, let alone read, a book by someone named Carter Allen? If so, somebody (publisher, agent, or both?) did not have to pay a dime to the writer. It was all profit, no expense. And after it worked with the dead guy, did they try it again? Reed Nightstand 3055 is THE DEFILERS by “Thomas Carr”. This later turned out to be a reprint of Nightstand 1561, THE SINNING SEASON by Tony Calvano.

Well, it's a great theory, but I needed proof. Some of these now-famous writers, for some reason, don't like to talk about these books. But lucky for us, Tony Calvano is still around. His real name is Thomas Ramirez, and last year we asked him if he had ever heard of Thomas Carr. Calvano was not one of the New York City group. He was more obscure, off in Wisconsin, busy living his life, unaware of a book called THE DEFILERS, unaware of Thomas Carr. He was outraged, livid, that his publisher or somebody at his agency had ripped him off, had reaped any and all profits, large or small, from the reprint all for themselves, without consulting, advising, or paying the writer. Tony Calvano proved the theory.

After Reed Nightstand 3051, they started changing many of the pen names on the reprints. I don't know how much they paid each writer in 1973, but one Nightstand writer told me it was $1000. So you're a publisher, you reprint a book without paying one writer. But now do it forty times. Forty of the remaining Reed Nightstands were reprinted with new, different pen names. The reprinters used the same initials to keep things simple. Clyde Allison became Carter Allen, Tony Calvano became Thomas Carr. And Will Newbury became Wallace Neville, house name John Dexter became Jeremy Dunn, Louis Lorraine became Lawrence Lake. Alan Marshall became Allan Mansfield (as I mentioned on our previous list, it was reading a Mansfield book and recognizing it as a book by Donald Westlake writing as Alan Marshall that led me to this discovery. Westlake has heard of Alan Marshall, but not Allan Mansfield). Some of the pen names were left unchanged, notably Don Elliott and Andrew Shaw. I asked Don Elliott (Robert Silverberg) about this and he told me his understanding was that since those were the most popular bestselling names, why mess with a good thing? Why lose a potential best seller for a thousand dollar royalty check scam? It was at all times a tough racket. One of the Nightstand authors once told me “adult book publishing was a battlefield where none of the land mines were marked.” But even in that world, why change the titles and pen names on books you are reprinting? Could it have been to rip off the writers for $40,000? Or to rip off the reader who thinks he's buying a brand new book? I think it was both.

With the new pen names and titles, the Nightstands started to be reprinted in order again, eight every month. (Later the first twenty Midnight Readers were also reprinted in order as Reed Nightstands, four of those and the next four Nightstands, for a total of eight books each month.) They had gotten out of order with 3025, possibly on purpose to obscure the records, but starting with 3059 they are all back in numerical order, (except for a couple that had already been reprinted, as we will show on the checklist). And now the books have new identities.

Then, as abruptly as it had started after all those years, late in 1974 the reprints stopped. There were more Nightstands to reprint, but for unknown reasons, perhaps a change in editorial regime, the Reed Nightstands just stop.

Today, some of the Reed Nightstands are common and have little value. Like some of our copies here, they often turn up in remaindered condition with a punch hole or ink on the cover. Other titles never turn up. I've never met ANYBODY who owned a copy of NO PLEASURE SO PAINFUL, Reed Nightstand 4040. Victor Berch, the dean of all research librarians, located a copy of the book in the collection of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University. This is the only copy of this book we could find.

The most valuable Reed Nightstand has always been 3003, SEX GANG by Harlan Ellison writing as Paul Merchant. The last copy that came up on eBay went for $800. The Don Elliotts are always in demand, there are a lot of Silverberg collectors out there. Other desirable numbers include reprints of Lawrence Block's first Nightstand (CAMPUS TRAMP, 3006) and Clyde Allison's first (THE LUSTFUL ONES, 3038). I've always admired the design of some of the other books in this series, especially those with clean white covers and dynamic graphics. We will show a sampling of those covers here.

This checklist will show you as many of the 136 Reed Nightstands as have been identified, which Nightstand (or Midnight Reader) they reprinted, and (when known) who really wrote the books.

The only Reed Nightstand missing from this checklist as of 2011 is RN 4031, FOR BITTER OR WORSE. If you have this book, please email me so we can show a scan of your cover on this checklist. 

2011 Update “thank you”s – Robert Speray, Earl Kemp, Tony Jacobs, and Mark Goodman at Green Lion Books.

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