For over 150 years, Grace Livingston Hill’s novels have published in many different formats and by many different publishers. After Grace brought her first big success, Marcia Schuyler, to J. B. Lippincott Company, she eventually published with them exclusively.
Once a book ceased to be profitable for Lippincott, its reprint rights, often along with the original printing plates and dust jacket artwork, went to the reprint house of Grosset & Dunlap. They produced hardcover books that, at the time, were called “Cheap Editions” or “Popular Copyright.” If you have a G&D edition with a jacket, you might see a notice on the flap like this one:
Eventually, as sales for these hardback editions waned, they went out of print. What was next for our beloved Grace Livingston Hill books?
Enter paperbacks and The Mystery of the Missing #21.
Grosset & Dunlap helped to launch Bantam Books in 1945. It was established as a mass-market paperback reprint publisher, much like G&D’s hardback days, so it’s fitting that Bantam Books would transition her work into paperback.
Author James A. Michener, who was acquainted with Grace and wrote about her work, talked with Bantam’s then-executive editor, Grace Bechtold, about this transition in preparation for his book, Literary Reflections:
“We began publishing [Grace Livingston Hill's] books in 1967 and have a total imprint figure of 23,942,000 copies for 64 titles [This was likely Bantam's GLH line-up at the time of Michener's interview]. At present, we keep 16 titles in print and have a reissue program of one per month. Although the books are not selling quite as well as they once did, there is still a remarkably strong, steady demand.”
Grace Livingston Hill was among the Bantam authors mentioned in the February 1967 edition of “The Month Ahead” in Paperbound Books in Print.
“…Hill is one of those prolific authors of ladylike romances who has a fantastic following. She is the author of some half-a-hundred books, which have sold almost four million copies in their hard cover Lippincott editions. This is her first appearance in paperback and Bantam will be bringing out the rest in due time.”
Three books debuted in 1967, complete with new cover art that reflected the times: Where Two Ways Met (#1 in the Bantam numbered series); Bright Arrows (#2 in the series;) and A Girl to Come Home To (#3 in the series).
Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, seventy-two more titles were released and some of those titles even appeared in boxed sets. More popular titles sported updated covers as they were re-released in new editions over the years. Paperback editions were also issued by Bantam’s imprint, Spire Books, which reached a different audience. The final Bantam release, The City of Fire (#76) debuted in November 1986. Several other publishers released GLH paperbacks, but that's a story for another day...
It’s unclear whether numbering was mapped out in advance, but Bantam ultimately numbered its 75 GLH books from #1 through #76 and #21 was missing! What happened? Why was it skipped? And was it slated to be The War Romance of the Salvation Army, as modern paperback collectors have supposed?
We were intrigued and went on the hunt for proof.
Armed with copies of a few old Bantam contracts, we began tracking down copies of Paperbound Books in Print. This publication was issued several times a year as a subscription for the publishing industry, booksellers, and libraries, but finding it proved to be a challenge in itself. We finally located volumes at Ohio State and Penn State Universities and began cataloging the “in-print” appearance (and disappearance) of various titles.
After compiling titles from the 1960’s and 1970’s, a pattern began to emerge. With a few minor exceptions, the books were released in numerical order. Eight books—from #15 to #23, minus #21—were published in 1970. One would assume that #21 was forthcoming, perhaps delayed by unforeseen circumstances. It never materialized. Collectors at the time waited patiently or searched the bookstores in vain.
But how did The War Romance of the Salvation Army get tangled up in all of this? Two words: Tyndale House.
GLH paperbacks transitioned from Bantam Books to Tyndale House’s "Living Books" in the late 1980’s. They re-released the 75 Bantam paperbacks with higher-quality paper and updated covers throughout the 1990’s. These numbered editions re-used the Bantam numbers but they went beyond #76, ending with #100. And the confusion? You guessed it—#21,
The War Romance of the Salvation Army, became part of the Tyndale House numbered paperback set at #21. Contrary to what you might think, this title is NOT a "romance" novel as we use the term today. It's a non-fiction record of the work of the Salvation Army in World War I and was co-written with Evangeline Booth, daughter of the Salvation Army's founder.
The question now became, “Was THIS book the missing #21? And, if so, why didn’t Bantam publish it?
Of course, we can speculate a bit...could it be that Bantam was unable to get permission from the Salvation Army in 1970 to re-release it? Had they already mapped out the numbers and didn’t want to change them? Perhaps they decided against it for financial reasons, since the Lippincott original did not sell very well?
The trail went cold. We refused to be defeated. The search continued.
Enter Publishers' Weekly, another trade publication that's been around since 1872. More searching...more paging...and then...SUCCESS!!
Apparently, the absence of #21 was so well-known that Publishers' Weekly made note of it when Tyndale House finally filled in the blank in the paperback series. In the August 8, 1991 issue, they note upcoming books:
Tyndale House: The War Romance of the Salvation Army by Grace Livingston Hill is the long-lost 21st in this writer's series of books.
Thank you, Publisher's Weekly! And to all of the GLH Bantam collectors out there—you can officially STOP LOOKING for #21.
Now, on to the next GLH mystery...