100 Years Ago at Fawcett
Fawcett Publications was founded in 1919 by Wilford H. “Captain Billy” Fawcett (1883–1940). Its first notable publishing success was a popular series of ribald jokes and stories called Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang.
The company expanded its magazine line to include popular titles such as “True Confessions” and “Women’s Day.” As a magazine distributor, it partnered first with Penguin Inc. and later with New American Library to distribute paperback books.
However, Fawcett’s relationship with those companies prevented it from entering the paperback market for reprints of previously published works. The paperback revolution was in full swing, and Fawcett wanted to be part of it.
So Fawcett chose the innovative strategy of creating original stories to publish as paperbacks. This was unheard of at the time. These were books that had never been previously issued in hardcover format.
Fawcett offered its authors generous terms of $2000 per book based on print runs rather than sales.
Although known for its male adventure genres of westerns and thrillers, it also carried books that portrayed lesbians in a sympathetic light. These were written by women rather than men using female pseudonyms. Fawcett published lesbian paperbacks under three imprints: Gold Medal, Crest, and Premier.
In 1952, Ralph Daigh, the Fawcett editor-in-chief, was called before the U.S. Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials to answer charges that the publishing industry was corrupting America’s youth.
Growth in the Industry
In 1955, Fawcett finally gained the right to reprint hardcovers in paperback. Thus, the Fawcett Crest imprint was created just for this reason.
Then in 1970, Fawcett Publications bought Popular Library and their vast catalog of books. The Fawcett Crest imprint remained.
CBS Publications would purchase Fawcett in 1977, becoming their parent corporation.
Fawcett was quite successful as a paperback publisher in the 1970s. Among the company’s bestsellers were The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.
Fawcett And Romance
Like many paperback publishers of the time, Fawcett leaped into the hot Romance market.
From 1979 to 1982, Fawcett Crest published a historical line called “Coventry Romance.” Most of the stories took place in the Regency era. Although some were set in the Georgian and Victorian eras.
Fawcett would publish Gothics as well, such as those by Victoria Holt. They would also publish romantic epics by Phillippa Carr, one of Holt’s pseudonyms.
Bodice Rippers and Mainstream Historicals
Jennifer Blake perhaps was the most popular author in their stable. She published Gothics under her real name Patricia Maxwell. When she moved to write historical and contemporary romances, she used her most famous pseudonym. Blake’s first historical, Love’s Wild Desire, was published under the Popular banner. As for the rest of her novels with the company, they were part of the official Fawcett line.
Authors such as Janet Louise Roberts, Natasha Peters, Fiona Harrowe, Parris Afton Bonds, and the aforementioned Victoria Holt were others who achieved success under Fawcett.
The End of the Road
Then in 1982, Ballantine Books would take over Fawcett. They sold off The Popular Library division to Warner Books.
By the year 2000, Fawcett Crest books were no longer in print.