100 Years Ago at Fawcett
Fawcett Publications was founded in 1919 by Wilford H. “Captain Billy” Fawcett (1883-1940) whose 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 then New American Library to distribute paperback books.
However, its relationship with those companies prevented it from entering the paperback market for reprints of previously published works.
So instead, Fawcett chose the innovative strategy of creating paperback originals to publish books that had not been previously issued in a 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 and 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 got the right to reprint hardcovers in paperback, thus the Fawcett Crest imprint was created.
In 1970 Fawcett Publications bought Popular Library and their catalog of books. It was eventually renamed Fawcett Books, although the Fawcett Crest imprint remained. CBS Publications ultimately purchased Fawcett Publications in 1977.
They published a historical line called Coventry Romance from 1979 to 1982. Most of the stories were set in the Regency era, but also in the Georgian and Victorian eras.
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.
Jennifer Blake was perhaps the most popular romance author in their stable. She published Gothics under her real name of Patricia Maxwell, but when she moved to write historical and contemporary romances, she used her pseudonym. Her first historical, Love’s Wild Desire, was published under the Popular banner, but the rest of her novels with the company would be published as part of Fawcett books.
Authors such as Janet Louise Roberts, Natasha Peters, Fiona Harrowe, Parris Afton Bonds, and Victoria Holt published romance under Fawcett.
The End of the Road
In 1982 Fawcett Books was taken over by Ballantine, and their Popular Library division sold off to Warner Books. By the year 2000, Fawcett Crest books were no longer in print.