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. James A. Michener, who was acquainted with Grace, talked with Bantam’s then-executive editor, Grace Bechtold, in the early 1990’s for his book, Literary Reflections:
“We began publishing her 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 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 1980’s. They re-released the 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.
The question now became, “Was THIS book the missing #21? And, if so, why didn’t they 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). Or, did Tyndale House simply choose this book to “fill in the hole” in the numbered series? Without more documentation, the GLH world may never know.
HELP US!! So far we’ve proven that The War Romance of the Salvation Army was never published by Bantam Books. But the larger question remains…what was that mysterious #21 saved for?
Our #21 trail has gone cold and we would love to hear from someone connected to the days when GLH novels were published by Bantam Books or Tyndale House. Do you have inside knowledge? Old contracts? Or maybe you have advertising material or a first edition Bantam paperback that mentions upcoming titles?