Thursday, 12 August 2010

Australian Romance Fiction

I'm in the National Library of Finland, and I want to note some observations from two days of a cursory examination of Finnish translations of Australian romance fiction. I'm here gathering some data for a SHARP conference.  Little did I know what I was to  uncover.  Most of the books aren't catalogued - as is usual for pulp fiction - so I've been selective.  It would take me weeks to go through each book and then to find their equivalent back home.

Richard Wilkes-Hunter was one busy writer. He contributed most of the romance stories as Kerry Mitchell, Shane Douglas, and Leslie Wilkes. Austlit claims that Karen Miller was Ray Slattery's pseudonym but as Karen Miller and Kerry Mitchell have the same initials I have suspect that Wilkes-Hunter might be responsible. Karen Miller was definitely a "house name". War story writer J E MacDonnell had a few romances reprinted in Finland too. Writers from Sydney's Calvert, Cleveland, and Horwitz publishing houses are represented -- I have no idea how this happened. Stanley Horwitz did travel the world negotiating contracts (according to my research), but I fail to see how smaller companies Cleveland and Calvert did this. I presume that they had an agent of some sort. If ever I have the time, I will contact Cleveland owner and see if he can shed any light on this. Any information about these writers, the companies or the pulp business would be greatly appreciated.

Kioskikirjallisuus is so-called because the material was in kiosks and though there were many independent companies in the 1950s today only one remains.

Australian romances appeared in three monthly series: Valkea Sarja (1964 -1969; 35 titles, 12 of which are Australian), Amor-Kirjat (1963-1978; circa 69 titles about half of which are Australian), Lääkäriromaani (1973 - ?; I didn't have any time to look at these books, note to self: the Finnish National Library catalogue starts at #66). Most of the books are not catalogued, so I have to see each book--unfortunately I don't have time: the library hours are generous but jetlag is my worst enemy. As I've only had two days here I have gathered only the most preliminary data for my paper but it's enough to start a dialogue about Australian romances in Nordic countries.  I think this an exceedingly strange aspect of the Australian publishing industry.

Of the Australian authors Shane Douglas has the most titles (37), Kerry Mitchell (12), Shauna Marlowe (6), Karen Miller (3), Sheila Garland ( 4), and J E MacDonnell (2; 35 of his war books are there). Doctor and nurse love stories dominate - I wonder why?  The books are printed several years after their Australian releases.

The covers are not Australian ones but appear to come from a cover agency -- I know little about this area of book publishing and am keen to follow up so if anyone knows about how the cover industry works, please email me.

There are the usual paperback screwups: sometimes the name on the cover doesn't agree with the name on the title page (Rescue Surgeon has JE MacDonnell and Shane Douglas), the 'original' title is occasionally misspelled (Douglas' Gae Bryant is Gay Bryant; Mitchell's Probationer Nurse is reinvented as Propationer Nurse).  Covers are used more than once on different stories (Dr Vernon's Secret and The Doctor's Desire above). All reflect an industry working quickly and without much attention to detail.

Although I cannot read any of them, the covers have captured *my* heart.  In the future I hope to research the series more fully to gain a great understanding of the outreach of Australian fiction in this period.  Please feel free to email me if you have any information about authors, publishers or covers. I am contactable through the University of Queensland.

(If my use of the above covers violates copyright please contact me, and I will remove them).

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