Sunday, March 6, 2011

Paperback 390: Old Hell / Emmett Gowen (Blue Seal 2)

Paperback 390: Red Seal 2 (1st ptg, 1937)

Title: Old Hell
Author: Emmett Gowen
Cover artist: Howard Simon

Yours for: $35


Best things about this cover:

  • The single scariest mustache of all time. Don't believe me? Imagine kissing that guy. Yeah, that's right.
  • Two things you don't want to mess with: Ma's toothpicks and Ma's salt.
  • I have no idea what this book is about—it's a pre-Pocket Books paperback (pre-1939, rare), put out by Modern Age Books on what appears to be a subscription basis. There is a mint condition Business Reply Card (slash bookmark!) tucked inside the cover:



No point scanning the back cover—just a Blue Seal Books logo on a brown background.

Page 123~

It's so hot I can feel the drops of sweat like something I wouldn't name was a-crawling on my belly.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!? Part of me really wants to know what the "something" is, and the other (bigger) part is thanking god he wouldn't name it.


[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Marla said...


No really, WTF!

You MUST read this book and tell us what it's about. I can't even come up with any hare-brained theories.

D_Blackwell said...

"Gowen is a backwoods Thurber." NYT

Patrick Murtha said...

A Tennessee Erskine Caldwell, apparently. This was his third and final novel, after Mountain Born (1932) and Dark Moon of March, which has a great cover in this 1952 reprint. Gowen (1902-1973) had a sordid beginning:"Court-martialed from the Marine Corps, Gowen served three years in the Naval Prison at Parris Island, South Carolina before being dishonorably discharged in 1923. He taught himself the craft of writing as a reporter on several Memphis newspapers while churning out stories for pulp magazines." But he persevered after these early struggles with military justice and fiction-writing to become a freelancer for outdoor magazines and a field guide for hunters and fishers in Mexico and Central America. His final gift to readers was the formidably titled On Man and the Good Life: Leaves From the Notebook of Emmett Gowen, Being a Rather Loose Collection of Writings, Notes and Folk Beliefs on the Delights of Farming, and Other Subjects Related to our Earth, and Tennessee in Particular, Including Some Interesting Things That Grow on It, and Live on It, and the Health-Giving Properties Thereof (1974). You can find a bibliography here. I think I am Emmett Gowen's new biggest fan.

borky said...

Going by the cover, the old guy's descended from a mutant catfish that had sex with his grandmother.

The grandmother, who's also his sister - and technically his daughter - is the hooded figure to his left chewing on one of his catfish flavoured whiskers which he's offered her, apparently by way of procuring a little catfish love.

Incapable of human speech, he's signalling his intentions not to get her pregnant again by showing her the condom in his hand, but she's thinking: hell, what y'show'n' me that thing fo' - y'face's a contraceptive all to itself!

Anonymous said...

Surpisedly enough, I knew Emmett when I was growing up as a kid in LaVergne, TN (early 1960's). He would occasionally drop in the country store I worked at as a young boy and sit around the old pot bellied stove and tell us fishing stories from his travels in Mexico. Nice guy but a little strange. Just finished reading his book "The Joys of Fishing"

Unknown said...

I knew Emmett Gowen and spent some time with him on a hunting and fishing trip in Yucatan. He was married to woman named Claire.