By Dale D. Dalenberg, M.D.
December 3, 2012
This book is exceedingly hard to find. It went through two printings, and then Mr. MacDonald would not let his publishers reissue it, although all but one other of his books remained in and out of circulation for the rest of his life.
I read Weep for Me voraciously when I first acquired it, partially because I was curious why the author, John D. MacDonald, wouldn’t let it be reprinted. I found it to be a wholly satisfying page-turner. In fact, I loved it and I couldn’t put it down. The story of a mild-mannered bank clerk seduced by a femme fatale to rip off the bank and go on the lam from the law is told with a cinematic sweep.
When I read it, I was all the while mentally designing the scenes for the movie version. I couldn’t imagine why MacDonald suppressed this book. Now, I find in my Internet searches that the implication is MacDonald felt like the book was an unsatisfying attempt to mimic the style of James M. Cain of The Postman Always Rings Twice. However, I felt like the book spoke clearly with MacDonald’s voice (which is pretty unmistakable and one of the reasons his readers are so fiercely loyal), and I didn’t pick up on any attempts to copy Cain. I think MacDonald was being too hard on himself.
I would love to see Weep for Me revived. I think MacDonald’s heirs still hold the keys to this. The perfect venue would be Charles Ardai’s Hard Case Crime series. Ardai would do justice to this nearly forgotten but very worthy book.
These early Gold Medal paperbacks are eminently collectible. The original Gold Medal publishing model was to do all paperback originals. There were no paperback editions of hardcover books, and most of the Gold Medal books were written specifically for that very first edition, many of them never to be reprinted. Therefore, most of the early Gold Medals are unique, collectible items.
Also, they are very charmingly rooted in the 1950’s. These days, when the large majority of novel-readers and book buyers are women, we forget that there used to be a market specifically for men’s fiction. Really, one of the only holdovers from those days iis the subtitle of Playboy magazine: “Entertainment for Men,” a slogan which seems prejudicial or even misogynistic today. But it made sense in the publishing milieu of the early 1950’s.
Of course, Playboy still publishes fiction that should at least theoretically appeal to men, but people tend to forget that there used to be a big market for the fiction, even in the absence of the nudie pictures. Gold Medal’s books of the 1950s exemplify that type of publishing program.
It is deliciously retro to re-discover the Gold Medal lineup of suspense, science fiction, crime and war stories, and salacious male-oriented potboilers.
About this copy
I acquired my copy about a decade ago in an eBay auction through some frantic last-minute bidding. I probably paid about $90. The book is a very rare find and there are still a lot of MacDonald fans. An AbeBooks.com search reveals only one other copies — of very good condition — for sale, priced at about $395.
This is one of my most prized vintage paperbacks. My copy is in very good to fine condition. It has been very carefully read, so there are no spine creases. The lamination on the cover is still intact. The glue on the old Gold Medals tends to dry out and be very fragile, so these books often fall apart. There are a few pages of our copy which are starting to loosen, but they are still intact. This copy is the first edition, 1951. There was one later printing, which was actually a second edition. I read somewhere that the second printing featured the same cover painting by a different artist.