Friday, November 12, 2010

Gutter Books is On the Make

Gutter Press has finally published its reprint of John D MacDonald's early thriller A Bullet for Cinderella, using the author's original title On the Make. Originally scheduled to appear last July, a series of delays caused the publication date to be pushed back to September, when production problems (water damage) necessitated yet another delay. My copy, ordered last May, appeared in my mailbox this afternoon with a cover different from the originally advertised version.

It's a handsome volume, a well done trade paperback with nice typesetting on good paper, and it includes two brief essays. The first is titled "The Two Sides of John D." written by Martin L. Kohler and the other is called "John D. MacDonald in Context," by Matthew Lewis. Kohler's piece, which appears as preface to the novel, discusses the dichotomy of the heroes of MacDonald's early novels and the later person of Travis McGee, and how those early protagonists, despite whatever travails are visited upon them, are always "on their way to becoming a family man," while McGee -- "essentially the same man" -- has eschewed most of the conventions of modern society. It's an interesting essay -- despite a few factual errors in discussing the author's biography -- and is the only place in the book where the novel's original title is revealed.

Matthew's Lewis' entry appears as an afterword and discusses the history of the paperback original and JDM's place in that narrative. Lewis, the editor and founder of Gutter Press and the pulp magazine Out of the Gutter, knows the subject matter and has produced a nice, succinct and instructive piece on how MacDonald became one of the early celebrities of the paperback novel. He also nails the appeal of JDM's writing style, calling it "strangely addictive prose that [he] evidentially produced at will."

As far as I can tell, On the Make is -- with the exception of The Executioners (Cape Fear) -- the only non-Travis McGee John D MacDonald novel currently in print. It is also currently available as an eBook (bearing its original title) from another publisher, leading me to wonder if there is some kind of copyright issue with this particular novel that would cause this good-but-not-great early JDM it be reintroduced to a reading public while other, superior works by this author languish in out-of-print obscurity. Still, it's always nice to get a new printing of an old JDM book, especially one redone with such lavish care.

The book can be purchased directly from the publisher here.

My own discussion of the original novel can be found here.


  1. No need to pay for the ebook version when has it for free. This may even be the source of the ebook text that other place is selling.

  2. Wow, I guess there really is a copyright issue with this title.

    Thanks for the info, Tim. I still recommend getting the new edition for the two essays.