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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Paperback Cover Cavalcade 15: Her

Anonymous has been responsible for an awful lot of books. There was a spate of books published under the name 'Anonymous' in the early 1980s, heralding a boom in mainstream pornography that lasted into the 2000s. And by mainstream, I do mean available widely through bookshops, W. H. Smiths and remainder shops rather than under the counter.

The earliest of these reprinted an American series of novels, the first of which had originally appeared in 1970. Here in the UK, it took until 1982, bar a hardcover edition of Her from Calder & Boyars in 1972, for the series to take off. Around that same time we were seeing Anais Nin's books (Delta of Venus, Little Birds in 1979-80) being published and New English Library and Star Books had just — in 1981 — published two classics of Victorian/Edwardian pornography, The Pearl (NEL) and A Man with a Maid (Star); even Grania Beckford's two novels (Touch the Fire and Catch the Fire (aka Virtues and Vices), published 1980-81 in the UK) have Gothic settings, the latter directly linked to the works of Jane Austen. Sexual language that was acceptable to the law following the failed prosecution of Lady Chatterley's Lover in 1961 but found sterner critics in the buyers for W. H. Smiths was suddenly widely acceptable.

Language was, according to the anonymous author of Her, the reason for writing the book. In his introduction, Anonymous says:
It seems to me that, in these recent years since the censorship bars have been lowered, the language of love, following Gersham's Law, has been debased into a coarse coinage, with neither tenderness nor love—nor, indeed, any true emotion.
__It has been my ardent desire to new-mint these words, this language, by writing them in the context in which they are most often spoken. For this, the earthy language of love, is the best and truest tongue in the world. There has been, in literature, a separation between the word and the deed. I have tried, in Her, to unite them again.
By the time Anonymous published Me some years later, he believed that "I have fulfilled the principals of the manifesto; and I believe that the readers of these novels have, by virtue of their very numbers, accepted with equal honesty of believe these enunciated principals." With that in mind, Anonymous planned to disappear, having penned five novels (Her, Him, Us, You and Me), although further novels continued to appear. Not that he needed to as the first two had, by 1985, sold around 3½ million copies.

The author behind the novels remained a secret that even the publisher, Bantam Books, knew. The manuscripts were supplied by attorney Maurice C. Greenbaum, who managed to keep their source private even from Bantam's editors, Allan Barnard, who worked on Her, Him and Us before retiring, and his successor, Peter Guzzardi.

It was only when author Borden Deal died that his authorship of the novels was revealed. Deal had written his own obituary in which he admitted to writing the books but Bantam made no attempt to repackage the books when he died in January 1985. The Anonymous brand was itself partly the reason why the books had initially sold so well, with Bantam's Director of Publicity Stuart Applebaum revealing: "The initial packaging was part of the appeal to the mass public . . . We wanted people to feel they were reading something very private. Part of that appeal was in the Anonymous name."

The books began to lose their appeal during the latter half of the 1970s: "Since the Anonymous books were at their zenith a lot of competition has evolved from different kinds of erotica," said Applebaum. "The advent of cable television and home video tapes with explicit material has made the market very competitive. Previously it was confined only to books."

This last statement sounds plausible for the USA, but it is interesting to note that here in the UK the big boom in explicit pornographic novels began in the late 1980s — not long after Applebaum was admitting "They have not been enormously popular in the last few years" — and peaked in the mid-1990s. The boom in mainstream pornography was almost certainly due to the far heavier censorship that continued to exist in the UK with regards to videos/DVDs and satellite broadcasts. While the VCR revolution meant widespread home viewing for porn fans in the USA in the early 1980s, the BBFC controlled the distribution of explicit movies by issuing them with R18 certificates which allowed them to only be shown in licensed members-only clubs; as a home video market emerged (the BBFC taking on the task of certifying videos in 1985), R18 films were allowed to be sold in licensed sex shops. R18 films are still prohibited from broadcast.

The decline in the porn paperback market reflected the growth of the internet. In 1998 the UK had some 8 million users, 12m in 1999, 15.8m in 2000, 19.8m in 2001 and 33.5m in 2002. By 2008, the figure was heading towards 50m, by which time the paperback porn boom had long ended.

HER (New York, L. Stuart, 7 Aug 1970; London, Calder & Boyars, 1972).
Arrow 0099-27400-0, 1982
---- [2nd imp.] 1982; [3rd imp.] 1982
---- [4th imp.] 1983, 294pp, £1.75. Cover: photo

HIM (New York, Bantam, 3 Apr 1973).
Arrow 0099-27390-X, 1982.

US (New York, Bantam, 1973).
Arrow 0099-30800-2, 1983.

YOU (New York, Bantam, 5 Mar 1975)
Arrow 0099-30000-1, 1982
---- [2nd imp.] 1984; [3rd imp.] 1985; [4th imp.] 1986;
---- [5th imp.] 1987, 294pp, £2.95. Cover: photo

ME (New York, Bantam, 1976)
Arrow 0099-27380-2, 1982, 273pp, £1.50. Cover: photo
---- [2nd imp.] 1982
---- [3rd imp.] 1983, 273pp, £1.75. Cover: photo

THEM (New York, Bantam, 17 Jul 1978)
Arrow 0099-27410-8, 1982.

I (New York, Bantam, 3 Nov 1980)
Arrow 0099-31020-1, 1983, 174pp, £1.50. Cover: photo
---- [2nd imp.] 1983.

TWO (New York, Bantam, 4 Oct 1982)
Arrow 0099-31680-3, 1983, 178pp, £1.60. Cover: photo
---- [2nd imp.] 1983.

WOMAN (New York, Bantam, 7 Feb 1983)
Arrow 0099-31940-3, 1983.


Jodi Kendall said...

Do you have any idea where i might find this series of books? I read some of them in the 80's and lost track of them... I've been trying to find them off and on since that time! Yours is the first mention I have seen regarding the series.

Steve said...

Hi Jodi,

Do a search at, which aggregates a number of book-selling sites (Alibris, Amazon, etc.). A search for Her turns up almost 50 copies priced from under a fiver to over fifty pounds.