Los Angeles: Times-Mirror Press. Good. 1923. First Edition. Hardcover. (no dust jacket) [good sound copy, only lightly worn but with an unfortunate one-inch scrape along the bottom edge of the rear cover, exposing the board]. (chapter-head sketches) Early fictional efforts by the budding young screenwriter (who would eventually bloom into one of Hollywood's most powerful moguls), issued just a year after he had sold his very first story to the movies, and just a year before he was to land a steady gig as a scenarist at Warner Bros. and begin his climb up the corporate ladder. The title of this volume is a little misleading, as you might expect a 311-page book to contain a dozen or so "short stories" -- but only "Habit" itself, a compact 23-page story about a Chinese nut peddler in San Francisco's Chinatown, properly fits within that format. The other three tales are novella-length yarns, each of which is divided into more than a dozen chapters: "The Scarlet Ladder," a sea-going story about an alcoholic sailor, that starts on the Shanghai waterfront and climaxes with the catastrophic fire at Smyrna, Turkey; "Say It with Dreams," a comic romance set on the Barbary Coast of San Francisco; and "The Forgotten City," set in the desert of the Southwest, and dealing with "the discovery of a miraculous fortune made from the juice of a strange plant." (This "discovery," involving "the amazing ingredients contained in the desert yucca plant," is also referenced in the book's dedication, to one A.F. Foster -- who, as Zanuck biographer George Custen has explained, financed the printing of the book as a quid pro quo for Zanuck's composition of that very story, which was essentially a promotion of Foster's putative hair-restoration product "Yuccatone" (made from the extract of guess what desert plant?). And to trace the lineage back just a little further, it was Yuccatone for which the young Zanuck had earlier devised a successful advertising slogan, which contributed to the temporary success of the product, one of several patent medicines in which Mr. Foster trafficked, at least up until the time when it began exploding on store shelves. But I digress.) In any event, the book was reviewed by the New York Times (who cited the "ingenuity of plot and great fertility and variety in the invention of incident"), and became a significant calling-card for Zanuck, who could then claim the distinction of being a "published author" as he continued to hustle up movie-writing jobs for the likes of Rin-Tin-Tin. (I've seen it stated that three of these pieces were made into silent films, but no titles are cited and I find this a dubious claim; you may prove me wrong if you wish.) . (Inventory #: 22574)
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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