"A moral being is one who is capable of reflecting on his past actions and their motives - of approving of some and disapproving of others."- Charles Darwin.
Well, it appears that the mystery community has a large-scale, Harlequin-like holocaust to deal with and we haven't even come to terms yet with the previous massacre perpetrated against innocent, harmless and defenseless books of an advanced age. The news hit us a mere few hours ago when awrobins, a long-time member over at the JDCarr.Com message board, opened a thread relating the horrific discovery he made when thumbing through his newly acquired and recently reprinted edition of Ask a Policeman (1933) – the text of the original story had been altered!
The offenders of these abominable crimes against literature operate under the aptly chosen name of The Resurrected Press, but I think The Zombie Factory would've been even more fitting – because that's what you really produce when you churn out books that have been modified without consent of the person who put them to paper (and if the author is no longer among us you simply keep your stumpy, sweaty paws of their work). The concept of a zombie is the only monstrosity that stumbles around in horror stories and movies that ever made me genuinely shiver (and that's coming from someone who nearly chocked on his own laughter when he saw The Exorcist for the first time) because their origin is truly frightening. They aren't ancient bloodsuckers who curl up during the daytime in a coffin to take a nap or cursed people who grow a tail and whiskers during a full moon, but actual people whom we might have known during their lives, loved ones even, who rise from their graves as hollow shells of their former selves and make the living miserable – and that, in a nutshell, is the catalogue of this fifth-rate publishing outlet.
They've taken stories that we've enjoyed reading or were hoping to have the pleasure of reading in the near future and stripped them of their identity. The only reason they could've had for desecrating these books is to pander to 21st century sensitivity or a misplaced sense of creative superiority – because back then they really didn't know what they were doing, but their Übermensch of an editor does as
he she it goes through the story with a blue pencil to decide what's appropriate for a modern, sensitive audience and what our innocent eyes need to be shielded from. Just imagine being confronted with an unenlightened opinion or remark from the past! It can take seconds, maybe even up to a full minute, to get over it! Seriously though, haven't we learned anything from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four?
Thankfully, a chunk of their catalogue consists of public domain work and uncensored copies can be obtained from print-on-demand publishers like The Echo Library and The Dodo Press, and especially the latter one delivers decent editions of these copyright-free books. Finally, Curt Evans was surprised that The Resurrected Press had permission to reprint The Detection Club novels, since Harper Collins has only recently reissued one of them, The Floating Admiral (1931), and this might give their "legal department" a big headache. That wasn't me chuckling, I swear!
Oh, there will be a new review up tomorrow.