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Friday Five: 5 Favourite Fawcett Gold Medal Authors

Cassidy's GirlWith the possible exception of Ace Doubles, my favorite vintage paperbacks are the under-appreciated Fawcett Gold Medals.

In 1950, Roscoe Fawcett launched a line of original paperbacks - he was prompted by a somewhat restrictive contract that prevented him from launching original books, and he felt that paperbacks could be snuck out the door without violating the agreement. 

The books took off like wildfire - Fawcett effectively launched the American paperback originals industry (the Penguin of the States), and, with it, the careers of hundreds of new authors. On the downside, Gold Medal probably killed off the struggling pulp magazines. Sorry.

For no particular reason, here's an utterly arbitrary list of five terrific authors to have published original fiction in the Gold Medal line:

David Goodis

An odd choice for number one, but Cassidy's Girl might be the unofficial flagship book for the entire Gold Medal line, and Goodis is the equal of Chandler and Hammett when it comes to noir. A half-dozen of Goodis' other books first saw the shelf as Gold Medals, including some of this best, like The Moon in the Gutter and Street of No Return

Harlan Ellison & Kurt Vonnegut

Yup. I'm cheating already. But Ellison had a single first edition from Gold Medal - Rockabilly. Vonnegut had two - Canary in a Cat House and Mother Night. 

John D. MacDonald

My favorite author (sorry about the bronze, John) and one who accounted for a substantial percentage of the entire Gold Medal output. MacDonald published his first Gold Medal original in 1950 and his last in 1973. Much of JDM's best work came out as a Gold Medal original - from the first appearance of Travis McGee in The Deep Blue Goodbye to one-off thrillers The Beach Girls, A Key to the Suite, The Only Girl in the Game, The Drowner and The Neon Jungle. 

Richard S. Prather

You've never heard of him, but Prather sold a billionty books (40 million!) featuring the LA private eye, Shell Scott. The broad-shouldered, silver-haired Scott is the epitome of the wise-cracking private eye, and Prather had a uniquely hilarious turn of phrase that guaranteed that each and every Shell Scott mystery was a blast to read. Largely - and sadly - forgotten.

Jim Thompson

The bulk of Jim Thompson's work was first published by Lion, but three of his later books came out as Gold Medals, including Pop. 1280 and South of Heaven

Also notable: Dan Marlowe, Stephen Marlowe, Louis L'Amour, Elmore Leonard, William Goldman, Richard Matheson.

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