James Hadley Chase

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(5215) Chase, James Hadley (1906-1985). Rekviem Dlia Ubiitsy [Requiem for the Killers]. Riga: [1970-5]

Original stapled wrappers. 16 pages. 28cm. An excellent example of detektiva samizdat which, if the copyists were to believe, was apparently printed to a run of 300,000 copies and priced at 1r 50k. Neither this nor the printed address holds any truth in them.

Before the reforms of the Soviet literary system in the mid 1980’s and the explosion of authorised publications of Chase’s considerable body of work “detektiva” samizdat were an extremely profitable means of speculation for those involved in samizdat. Printed with small type and margins, this samizdat contains much the same quirks of production as do pirate editions found in the West. Investigating Chase’s bibliography in Russian prior to 1995 presents its own particular problems too; for the ninety novels that Chase wrote during his lifetime there are at least twice as many titles in Russian. Unauthorised translations were published alongside authorised so that, as is the case with our samizdat, it is difficult to know what title in Chase’s considerable body of work the translation originates from without having an intimate knowledge of every book in his bibliography.

Conspicuous for not attempting to hide the financial motivation and making an effort to imitate the appearance of an authorised translation, our samizdat would have fetched a premium far above the listed price at no little risk to vendor or reader. Chase’s hard-boiled detective fiction made nothing out of referring to drugs, the black market, gangsters and corruption among other of the  less desirable elements of society that went unspoken and criticised in the Soviet Union. Interesting too is the daring choice of cover art, whereas most samizdat had drab covers (and even most of the post-Soviet Chase editions) the striking red and black printing of a naked woman to the very front cover is aggressively defiant for the period, impossible to read as anything else as a direct assault on the centralised organism of censorship.

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