Pinnacle Books began publishing in the late 1960s. Pinnacle was founded by David Zentner, publisher of Escapade and other girly magazines. According to The Romance of Publishing by Alex Jackson:
“From this low estate he branched out into deco-rating newsstands with glaringly sexy paperbacks. Sex sells, on as many levels as one can imagine.
“Success begets growth and expansion seeded Pinnacle’s birth.”The Romance of Publishing by Alex Jackinson, Cornwall Books 1987
Pinnacle was a spin-off of one of Zentner’s other companies, Bee-Line Books.
They first dipped their toes into the world of schlocky science fiction. Pinnacle knew from the outset to venture into what was popular.
Pinnacle would eventually produce some successful novels based on television programs, like Dr. Who, and soap operas, such as The Young and the Restless.
After the explosion of historical romance in the early 1970s, Pinnacle went on a trajectory similar to Playboy Press. They published any historical romance they could get their hands on–regardless of quality.
Their books were raunchy and pulpy, just the very thing that sold at the time. Authors such as Melissa Hepburne, Angelica Aimes, Iris Bancroft, and even Francine Rivers wrote for Pinnacle. The quality of their works varied from sexy to salacious and funny to trying-to-hard-to-shock.
As for cover art, Pinnacle hired some up-and-coming artists to produce as many illustrations as they could–on the cheap. Instead of oils, many artists used watercolors for their paintings.
Artists such as Bruce Minney, William “Bill” Maughan, John Solie, and Norm Eastman created most of the romance covers for Pinnacle, as well as Charles Copeland.
Pinnacle Bestsellers: Paula Fairman and Patricia Matthews
Pinnacle’s most popular authors were Paula Fairman and Patricia Matthews, selling millions upon millions of books.
Paula Fairman was a joint effort of science fiction & pulp author/editor Paul Fairman, who passed away in 1977, and his ghostwriter, journeyman Robert Vaughan.
Patricia Matthews (née Anne Ernst) was a sensation back in her day. Her Pinnacle romances were emblazoned with the moniker “America’s First Lady of Historical Romance.” Oddly enough, however, she is not as well-known as other big-named romance authors of the 1970s and early 1980s.
Matthews used various pseudonyms in her career, such as Patty Klein and Laura Wylie. Her second husband, Clayton Matthews, worked alongside her to help her write books.
Pinnacle often used male ghostwriters like Vaughan to help Matthews maintain a prolific output. Two books under the Patricia Matthews’ name that Vaughan is on record as having worked on were Love’s Bold Journey and Love’s Sweet Agony.
Both of those romances were New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly #1 bestsellers.
So there may have been many cooks in the proverbial kitchen regarding some of the many romance novels released by Pinnacle.
Paranormal Romance Publishers
After the historical romance craze died down in the 1980s and category romances ruled the day, Pinnacle underwent some reshuffling.
Although they would still publish historicals, Pinnacle embarked into other realms. In the mid-1990s, they would make another run for the bestseller lists by being on the cutting edge.
For one, they focused on the new trend of paranormal romances. Plots would include ghost heroes, vampires, futuristic science fantasy epics set on alien planets, and perhaps their most successful subgenre, time-travel romances.
Nancy Gideon, who wrote stellar romances for Zebra using the pseudonym Dana Ransom, would write a series of vampire romances under her real name.
Her first entry in the Midnight series, Midnight Kiss, was one of the first full-length vampire romances to hit the mainstream–if not the first.
Becky Lee Weyrich wrote several time-travel romances for publishers, which garnered her some acclaim for her skillful writing and creative storylines.
Arabesque, the First Black Romance Line
In 1994 Pinnacle launched a line of romances aimed at American Blacks under the Arabesque name. This was a novel and innovative idea for the publishing industry at a time when few romances focused on African-American love stories.
They published both contemporary and historical romances and, later on, inspirational and young adult books.
Authors such as Brenda Jackson got their start writing with Pinnacle.
Other authors who wrote for them were Mildred E. Riley, Sandra Kitt, and Francis Ray.
Eventually, Pinnacle sold the Arabesque line to BET-TV, which in turn filmed several books as movies.
Part of the Kensington Publishing Family
In 1985 Pinnacle Books went bankrupt. All of its assets were purchased by Windsor Publishing Corp. in 1988.
They were merged into Kensington Publishing Corp., Zebra’s parent company, as one of their imprints. Some authors who wrote for Zebra, like Sylvie F. Sommerfield and Carla Simpson, also wrote for Pinnacle.
Pinnacle Books still exists as a Kensington imprint. However, they now only produce westerns, true crime, horror, and thrillers.
Today Pinnacle does not publish romance novels.
Pinnacle Book Covers
- Bookscans: Pinnacle
- ISFDB: Pinnacle_Books
- Kensington Books Wikipedia
- Pinnacle Books on Goodreads
- Pinnacle Books, Inc. vs. Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
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