IT'S started! The boom-period for paperbacks is on! With the bank-holiday exodus at the weekend, railway bookstalls began the biggest deal of the year: meeting holidaymakers' demands for something to read on the train. And away from the railway stations, at seaside bookstalls and the newsagents round the corner, there is an equally brisk demand for something to read in a deckchair.
"Sales of paperbacks are always biggest in August," say Pan Books, Ltd. And Pan Books should know! With Penguin Books, who pioneered the British paperback book in 1935, they account for more than a third of Britain's total paperback output. Sales of Pan Books this year have averaged nearly a million a month.
The first outstanding Catholicinterest paperback to be published by Pan Books was "The Mystery of Lourdes," by Ruth Cranston. This was in June, 1958, and the edition (still in print at 2s. bd.) ran into 50,000 copies. In the words of a CATHOLIC HERALD reviewer "this is a fine, well-written book, supremely honest and sincere and wholly convincing."
How much good it can do for Lourdes and the Church through being available to the general public is exemplified in a box notice at the story's end which advises readers who want further information about Lourdes to "contact their local Catholic authorities," bearing in mind the fact that "the journey to Lourdes is a deep spiritual experience and blessing, and should be so undertaken."
The letters and addresses of Pope Pius XII were brought to the attention of a vast new readership last November when they were published as a Pan Book entitled "Guide for Living " (2s. 6d.). Thirty-five thousand copies were sold within five months. The publishers are now considering the possibility of a reprint.
Three months ago 55,000 copies of "The Cardinal," by Henry Morton Robinson, rolled off the presses as a five-shilling Pan Major paperback. Booksellers throughout the country immediately plunged in with big orders and offers of generous display space.
And no wonder, for this 640page epic of the ordeals and triumphs of an American priest destined for the office of cardinal has previously been available only as a fifteen-shilling hard-back edition (Macdonald & Co.).
Pan Books' biggest success of the year is "The Nun's Story" (2s. 6d.). Two reprints have brought the total number of copies in print in the Pan edition to 475.000, A third printing of 75,000 copies is due this month.
Lest readers might have doubts about the nature of a paperback which has a technicolour nun gazing soulfully from its cover, it should be stated that the writer of the hook, Kathryn Hulme, is a Catholic (convert), who contributes frequently to leading Catholic magazines in America.
Her story is not a tale about how she herself sought the religious life, and finally found she was unsuitable, but it is based on the experiences of one who did. True, the author has combined fact with fiction, but this is not detrimental to the value of her story. Many outsiders reading it should get a clearer picture of the true calling of a nun.