By Terence McQUEEN
A SUMMER boom in paperbacks is breaking new ground: Publishers who previously hesitated to issue Catholic-interest titles for the paperback market are now plunging in with king-size editions of numerous outstanding works by Catholic writers. Last Friday. Pan Books, Ltd., printed 120,000 copies of The Devil's Advocate, Morris West's prizewinning novel about a Catholic priest's trials and triumphs. They also printed 30,000 more copies of Children of the Sun, West's impassioned account of Fr. Borrelli's work among the scugnizzi of Naples, which has now run up a print order of 100.000 as a half-crown Pan paperback.
This week, Collins began printing 10.000 more copies of The Hunted Priest, John Gerards thrilling autobiography which has already sold 38,000 as a half-crown Fontana paperback. And they are following up with 10,000 more copies of Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Cardinal Newman's classic account of spiritual development which has sold 25,000 as a three-and-sixpenny Fontana, and 12,500 more copies of The Day Christ Died, a re-telling of the first Good Friday by the distinguished Catholic journalist Jim Bishop (first published in a 50.000 paperback edition two years ago). Next month, Burns Oates are to add three remarkable titles to their Universe series of paperbacks: Hilaire Bellow Europe and Faith (20,000 copies), Newman's Loss and Gain (15,000), and Cardinal Suenens' Love and Control (20,000). Two months ago, in a printing which totalled 90,000 paperbacks. they issued Cardinal Newman's Callista, Cardinal Wiseman's Fabiola, Francis Thompson's Ignatius of Loyola, Gustav Thibon's Love and Marriage, and Catholicism, by Henri de Lubac, S.J. They also printed another 15,000 copies of Fulton Sheen's Peace of Soul, having exhausted a previous edition of 30.000. Their best-seller. out of a score of different titles, has been Mgr. Knox's translation The Gospels. This has run up a total print order of 120.000, large orders having been placed by Catholic schools in Australia.
le Pan Books' biggest bestseller in this field is The Nun's Story, by the American convert Kathryn Hulme. It has gone through seven editions totalling 660.000 copies, and is still one of the biggest sellers on the paperback market.
Another nun's story, Monica Baldwin's I Leap over the Wall, has notched up a Pan paperback print order totalling 230.000. The Called and the Chosen, by the same author, is now nearing a sale of 85,000 in its half-crown paperhack edition. Admittedly, the covers of these three books have been given the sensational and technicolour treatment to attract sales. But the actual writing will, without doubt, help to straighten out many of the curiously crooked notions which the general public still appear to retain about nuns and convent life.
Monica Baldwin, for instance, in I Leap over the Wall, makes a serious attempt to describe the interior life of the Community in an Enclosed Order. On the opening page she makes it clear that the wall she leapt over was a spiritual and not a material obstacle, and that the title of her hook is an appropriate extract from her family motto: "By the help of my God I leap over the wall". She says that she describes the religious vocation from the point of view of one who found she had no such vocation, and that an alternative title for the book might well have been "Impressions of a square peg in a round hole". Such a title, however, would hardly tit in with Pan Books' approach to the paperback market! It would be more suited to the Fontana paperback series issued by Collins.
Fontana paperbacks are pre dominantly scholarly works, soberly presented. Their bestseller in the Catholic field, for instance, is The Divine Pity, a wise and searching comment on human nature by Fr. Gerald Vann, O.P. It has sold 84.000 copies as a halfcrown paperback, and plans are afoot to print another 15,000 before the end of the year.
More reprints of 15,000 are also being lined up for The Confessions of St. Augustine (which has already had printings totalling 75.000) and The Autobiography of a Saint (St. Theresa of Lisieux's story which has twice been reprinted in Fontana paperback editions of 29,000 and 20.000).
A reprint of 12.500 is being ordered for The Diary of a Country Priest, by Georges Bernanos (bringing the total paperhack edition of this to 75,000). and reprints of 10.000 are on the horiion for G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy (present sales 25,000), Georges Bernanos The Carmelites (nresent sales 24.(x00), and Fr. Gerald Vann's Morals and Man (present sales 30,000).
Altogether. Fontana Rooks have printed over three-quarters of a million paperback copies of Catholic classics, and Burns Oates have almost reached the same figure with their Universe series a remarkable step forward from the days when Catholic titles for the paperback market were issued in editions totalling only five and ten thousand.
The ceiling has not yet been reached, publishers said this week, and many more new titles of Catholic interest are being prepared for mass distribution. Forthcoming Fontana titles include The Heart of Man. by Fr. Gerald Vann; The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis: The Vatican Council, by Cuthbert Butler, 0.S.B.; The Mind and Heart of Love, by Fr. Martin D'Arcy; and Father Malachy's Miracle, by Bruce Marshall (a heavenly story with an earthly meaning).
New titles due soon from Burns Oates include two 20.000 paperback editions of Fulton Sheen's Litt up your Hearts and Three to get Married. And Pan Books have tentatively scheduled a reprint of Henry Morton Robinson's The Cardinal, having already scored with a 55.000 edition of it.