Any of Phyllis Paul's Preternatural Novels in Your Local Library?

Extollager

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Elsewhere

Phyllis Paul: Twice Lost, Pulled Down, Invisible Darkness, A Little Treachery, more

I've started a thread for discussion of the works of this novelist of the preternatural -- should anyone get hold of one of them. Two might not be too hard to come by because Lancer Books in the US paperbacked them in the 1960s: Twice Lost and Echo of Guilt (Pulled Down). A third was reprinted recently: A Cage for the Nightingale, so it might show up.

Other titles include We Are Spoiled, The Children Triumphant, Camilla, Constancy, Rox Hall Illuminated, An Invisible Darkness, The Lion of Cooling Bay, Rox Hall Illuminated, and A Little Treachery.

My query responds to the situation whereby local public libraries might not have displayed their holdings on Worldcat. It's not that I intend to try to get some small British library to mail a Paul novel to North Dakota. I'm trying to gratify my curiosity. If you are so kind as to check, and especially if you find any of her books, I would like to know. It's possible that, if you report that the Barsetshire Library System has a copy of Camilla in its Hogglestock Public Library, someone will see your note and run down there and steal the book. She is a little bit of a cult author.

 

TheDustyZebra

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especially if you find any of her books, I would like to know. It's possible that, if you report that the Barsetshire Library System has a copy of Camilla in its Hogglestock Public Library, someone will see your note and run down there and steal the book.

This sounds more than a little suspicious, I must say. Do you have anyone in particular in mind for such a journey? :p
 

Extollager

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Ha! No. Certainly not myself, and I have no British agents working for me.

But there isn't much about Paul on the Internet, it seems. Therefore I expect that Paul fans will now and again discover the information that we have here. I don't seriously suppose anyone would be likely to steal the book, if a Chrons contributor says there's a copy of this or that Paul title at such and such a library -- but who knows? My guess is that if anyone here at Chrons does turn up Paul books other than A Cage for the Nightingale, Twice Lost and Echo of Guilt at the library, this will be in England. At least five of Paul's novels do not seem to have been published in the States at all. (The ones that I'm sure were UK-only are: Camilla, Constancy, The Lion of Cooling Bay, Rox Hall Illuminated, An Invisible Darkness. Actually, we can add A Cage for the Nightingale to this list.)

I don't know what prices canny booksellers would be likely to require for Paul books discarded by libraries (or, for that matter, for Paul books well cared for by private persons). However, Douglas Anderson, a Paul expert (author of The Annotated Hobbit), offers a copy of Paul's A Little Treachery in its UK edition (this one actually did have an American publisher) for $175 at abebooks.com. Here's his description:

"Heinemann, London, 1962. Cloth. Book Condition: Good. Dust Jacket Condition: Poor. First Edition. First edition, Ex-library copy, with usual markings, stampings and wear. The dust-wrapper is fairly bright, but with one problem in that the rear flap was cut vertically, thus losing about 1 3/4 inches of the 3 inch flap, leaving partial advertisements for Paul's other books on the remaining flap. The UK editions of Paul's books are rare."

If I had to guess, I'd suppose that a copy of any of the UK-only novels (other than the recently-reprinted Case for the Nightingale), in comparable condition, would be offered for nothing lower than, say, $500, unless some bookseller didn't realize what he or she had.

Before Glen Cavaliero and a few others drew attention to them, though, I'd guess that they could have been bought for just a few dollars.

Me? I have photocopied a few of the novels that I was able to get on interlibrary loan. The only two proper books that I have by Paul are the two Lancer paperbacks. The most I paid was $7.75 (not including shipping) for Twice Lost from an Amazon seller.

At present abebooks.com offers a few copies of Twice Lost in various editions, from $24.18 for the Lancer paperback to $500 for a copy of the American hardcover edition. I'll bet the seller will have to come down on that price!

Amazon has a copy of the Lancer paperback for $17.95 + shipping.
 
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TheDustyZebra

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Me? I have photocopied a few of the novels that I was able to get on interlibrary loan.

Bwahaha! I must admit, I did that once. I was going to just steal the book and pay the library for it as "lost", but they wanted something like $85 for it -- about 25 years ago. It was an old, old book that had been checked out maybe half a dozen times and I know it had never been read, at least all the way through, because quite a lot of the pages were still attached to each other from the printer. I would have been a far better home for it than the library that undoubtedly looked at it in bewilderment and threw it away when it came back.
 

Extollager

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I've photocopied a number of books over the years -- out of print things, and in my hands for the moment but perhaps not to be available again someday. I wonder if others have photocopied or will photocopy any of these Phyllis Paul books. I hope the books will continue to be available in their library homes.

So far as I know, no library owns all eleven, though I could make a guess at one or two private persons who might own them all.
 

dask

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Why don't they just bring out new printings? She's proved she can write and be published. What's the big deal?
 

Extollager

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Dask, I'll offer a few thoughts about your question.

1.Her UK publisher, Heinemann, seems to have got out of the business of publishing adult fiction. Perhaps someone has better information on that, but that's how it appears to me.
2.Paul died about 45 years ago and no prominent person, so far as I know, has advocated her work in print since then. Michael Dirda, who writes reviews for the Washington Post, is interested in Paul's work, but I don't think he's published a column about her. Likely his editors would balk at an attempt to use the space for that purpose. I don't know how much by Paul has actually been read by Dirda.
3.There's nothing known about her life to capture the public imagination, other than its great obscurity. (I wouldn't be surprised if she had cared for a friend or family member who had descended into madness. If that's ever confirmed and publicized, it might appeal to some prospective readers.)
4.Her novels would seem old-fashioned to editors today. The books that I've seen are all of modest length, around 260 pages of print in an age of sprawling novels. There is no description of sexual intercourse. The reader is not, I think, inveigled into identifying closely with any of the characters. The specifics of their times are not elaborated; you wouldn't pick up a Paul novel about a spinster in the 1950s in order to get a strong sense of what it was like to be a spinster in the 1950s.
5.A Paul novel may occasionally contain a literary allusion, but in general she doesn't go in for that. I think there are readers who like authors to do that in literary fiction.
6.The main audience for mystery novels would probably not like Paul's fiction all that much because the emphasis is more on character and theme rather than plot and puzzle.
7.The novels may have eerie qualities, but readers accustomed to typical horror detail would find them tame.
8.None of her books was filmed, although someone could have made a rather creepy movie from Twice Lost, for example. But that wasn't done and so that possible peg for a revival of the books doesn't exist.
9.I doubt that any of her books was a big earner, although they must have brought in enough sales for Heinemann to keep publishing new ones. On the other hand, I wonder if they had additional printings after first coming out. The Lancer paperback of Twice Lost did have at least one printing in the 1970s, with larger type and a new cover, after its mid-1960s issue. As far as I know, one Lancer printing of Echo of Guilt was all there was.
10.Glen Cavaliero described Paul's writing as "steely." That's not an adjective that would apply, I suppose, to any popular author. (On the other hand, if you acclimate to Paul and then pick up some other author, the latter may seem slack, "sentimental" in the bad sense, crude, or the like. What popular author would end a novel as Paul ends Twice Lost: "But as she had never wanted the truth, but only comfort, so she had not now found it.")

Those are some considerations that occur to me regarding why Paul's novels might not be attractive for reprint. And yet I think that, if they could get into the right hands, there is probably a big enough audience out there that some, at least, of the books could earn a modest profit. But major publishers might shy away because of the murkiness of the rights. Might someone appear after all who has a claim to Paul's legacy? Someone who might sue?
 
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dask

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Good information. Makes sense and makes me want to find a copy of one of her books, especially the Lancer paperback. Thank you for taking the time to write it up.

Just went to LiteraryDevices.net to find out what a literary allusion is and it sure seems challenging to write without using them.
 
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Danny McG

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Well, if it helps any, I had a dream that I found two of them in a section of old books in the library. Not, unfortunately, a library that I actually know -- but one that does appear in my dreams from time to time, so perhaps it's out there somewhere.

OMG! Not THAT library!
Is there a red haired man in a dark blue suit standing by the window?
 

Toby Frost

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I've never heard of her before, but from what you say, Extollager, she sounds very interesting.

Years ago, I was lent a book by Mary Stewart called Thornyhold, purportedly a romance, but actually about a woman whose relative might have been a witch. It had a sense of restrained eeriness that was more powerful for being so restrained. Sometimes, it's more powerful to know that Cthulhu might be out there, still sleeping, than for him to wake up and start destroying Tokyo.
 

Extollager

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Several US universities have Twice Lost. At a glance, I see that Worldcat reports:

Twice lost (Book, 1966) [WorldCat.org]

I'm a little confused here -- are some or all of these electronic editions?

Many local libraries are not on Worldcat, I believe, so it might be worth checking your local library system's records.

For example, I did a spot check for Paul's novel Pulled Down. Worldcat lists several libraries that own it. At "random" I tried also the Miami-Dade library catalog. They too list it, but they aren't listed at Worldcat.

Pulled down. (eBook, 1965) [WorldCat.org]

https://catalog.mdpls.org/Mobile/Search/Title/1.5.1.192508

I'm a little confused here -- are some or all of these electronic editions?

Thus I'm urging people to try searching their local/regional library catalogs, if they are interested in Phyllis Paul, and if their system isn't already represented on Worldcat, which is probably the first place one should check.

My guess is that bunches and bunches of copies of Twice Lost and Echo of Guilt in the Lancer paperbacks have been discarded, as the "Gothic" fad of the 1960s-70s gave way to more explicit and fatter books. Hardcover copies of these (Echo of Guilt is Pulled Down in hardcover) and of A Little Treachery will have been weeded by American libraries but copies may still lurk here and there. But I'm particularly curious about the possibility that smallish British libraries may have various Paul novels, particularly if those libraries are either quite big, or if they are poor enough that they might not feel inclined to weed aggressively. I'll be interested, if anyone turns up something.

British libraries might have A Cage for the Nightingale, which was recently reprinted (but in, I suppose, a small edition).
 
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Extollager

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A bookseller offers a copy of Paul's A Little Treachery here:

A Little Treachery by Phyllis Paul - AbeBooks

I've read this novel and was impressed. I don't know of anyone on Chrons for whom this book would be worth the asking price, but FWIW there it is.

Still hoping some of y'all (especially in Britain) will check your library systems and see if you turn up any Paul novels.
 

dask

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Only $175? Don't prices like this suggest not only rarity but demand as well? Why jack up the price to ridiculous levels if no one wants to read it?
 
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Parson

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Well, if it helps any, I had a dream that I found two of them in a section of old books in the library. Not, unfortunately, a library that I actually know -- but one that does appear in my dreams from time to time, so perhaps it's out there somewhere.

Owwwwwwwww, a recurring dream, how intriguing. My only recurring dream has to do with finding a bathroom. (More understandable, and less spooky)
 

pambaddeley

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Heinemann were passed around various publishers like pass the parcel - Heinemann (publisher) - Wikipedia - and along the way seems to have turned into an educational imprint. Owned by Pearson in UK, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in US. Random House have the UK trade publications but the Wikipedia articles on those publishers don't specify what kind of book is produced under the imprint. However, given that the books have been out of print for a long time and publishers contracts usually specify that the rights revert to the author if it is allowed to go out of print for a certain period, this presumably happened and the rights reverted to the author or whoever has inherited the copyright.
 

Extollager

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Thank you -- interesting information. Given Paul's apparent isolation, I'm wondering if the rights to her novels are in a legal limbo, and whether most of them, at least, couldn't be reprinted with impunity by anyone.
 

hitmouse

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Thank you -- interesting information. Given Paul's apparent isolation, I'm wondering if the rights to her novels are in a legal limbo, and whether most of them, at least, couldn't be reprinted with impunity by anyone.
There is a blog out there (which you may be aware of) suggesting that the ownership of Paul's literary estate is unknown, to the extent that a small publisher has simply gone ahead and reprinted some of her books.
 

Extollager

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Hi, Hitmouse -- I know of the reprint of one of the novels by Sundial Press, but not of reprints of any of the others in recent years.

Wormwoodiana: PHYLLIS PAUL - A CAGE FOR THE NIGHTINGALE

It seems to be out of print, although amazon.co.uk has one copy available at what I thought was a surprisingly low price:

A Cage for the Nightingale: Amazon.co.uk: Phyllis Paul, Glen Cavaliero: 9781908274113: Books

Still really interested to hear from any UK Chrons people regarding whether or not they have Paul novels in their local public libraries.
 

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