New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Very Good+ in Fair dj. 1941 (c.1930). Reprint. Hardcover. [a good solid clean copy, some light shelfwear and minor bumping at bottom corners; the jacket, unfortunately, is hideously scarred right in the middle of the front panel, with a curving surface-peeled area measuring a little more than 5 inches top-to-bottom and about 1-1/4 inches at its widest point (more or less in the shape of South Vietnam, if that helps to visualize it), plus another dime-size surface scar (probably from a removed price sticker) at upper right-hand corner, just catching the "R" in "SILVER"; there's some additional edgewear and a few small tears, but the big scar really trumps everything else -- honestly, it's enough to make you cry, especially considering the rarity of this particular jacket]. Very scarce collection of World War I aviation stories (all of which, with one exception, were first published in Boys' Life), by this hard-boiled writer, who at the time of its first issue in 1930 was on the threshold of breaking out of the pages of "Black Mask" and other pulps into the realm of hardcover fiction with "Green Ice." Whitfield was an associate (read: drinking buddy) of Dashiell Hammett, and although he was "of the school," his work never did much more than brush up against that of such masters as Hammett and Chandler, quality-wise. Still, his aviation stories, as E.R. Hagemann has noted, "have a verisimilitude about them not always found in the pulps," due to Whitfield's own experiences as a pilot in the war (although by William F. Nolan's account his actual combat exploits were very limited). At one point, he was touted by an enthusiastic pulp magazine editor as "America's foremost writer of aviation fight stories," which might have been both a tad hyperbolic and yet altogether true. (Who would the competition have been, exactly?) The jacket blurb makes this sound like a novel ("a fast-moving story which describes the war crossing of a group of pilots on a transport"), but in fact there are a dozen more-or-less self-contained stories, divided into three sections: Wings of War; Wings of the Mail; Wings of Transport. (One of the most interesting is "The Camera Shoot," dealing with the use of motion-picture cameras (mounted in place of guns) at an aerial combat training school in France.) By the way, the book also features very stylized endpaper illustrations, which I believe are identical to those in the first edition. [Another couple of words about the horrible jacket-scar: it seems to me, due to the patterned design of the jacket illustration, that some talented graphic artist-type (definitely not me!) could Photoshop this jacket and digitally "fill in" the missing parts, thus creating quite a presentable restoration/facsimile. Whether this could be in any way the basis for an actual restoration of the original jacket, I couldn't say.] . (Inventory #: 13040)
Unusual, Uncommon and Obscure Books in many (but not all) fields, with particular interest in American Culture (Popular and Unpopular), Art, Literature, Life and People from the 1920s through the 1960s
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