Drunkard’s Walk

Another weird one. “Drunkard’s Walk” first appeared as a two-part serial in Galaxy in the June and August 1960 issues. (Consecutively: Galaxy was a bimonthly then.) Ballantine published it as 439K, a paperback “original” in November of 1960, original meaning no previous book publication. So the paperback is the true first edition of this book. Though the cover evokes 1984, seemingly with a looming Big Brother hisownself along with the smaller robotic face-like television watching the nude woman, the book is actually a satire of future education. Such a good cover should have resulted in the artist having a long career in cover art, but no. The cover is signed Puspurica and while the ISFDB gives him the first name of Nik no other Puspurica art ever appeared in the field nor is any other information provided.

Drunkard's Walk Ballantine coverThis being the Age of Google foretold in some ways by Pohl, the temptation to dig into Puspurica’s online presence was irresistible.

Nik Puspurica (the first name is sometimes given as “Nick” but Nik is correct) was born in 1929. He grew up in Dallas and graduated young from Southern Methodist University in the 1940s. Art was his first and apparently only career, with an exhibition of his mostly modernist work as early as 1951, after he moved to Brooklyn. Little of his flat art can be found today, although he did the album cover for Creation One by Danser’s Inferno in 1972. Claiming he was born “with a camera in his hands” he and siblings Doris and Richard filmed the world for at least two decades, then followed that with hundreds of videos. Edited early on with an Amiga, they’ve recently been digitized and reedited with iMovie. Many of them have been uploaded to Vimeo.

Gnome’s hardback edition was supposed to have been released simultaneously with the paperback and in fact Greenberg used Ballantine’s plates in printing the book. Greenberg broke out chapter headings onto separate pages so the pagination is different although each text page matches. An offset process must have been used: the hardback type is physically larger than the paperback’s. Something went wrong – Gnome was foundering in 1960 – and the hardback didn’t appear until later. CHALKER and ESHBACH say 1960; CURREY and the ISFDB say 1961. Since the book uses the Ballantine plates no information about release date appears in the book itself. I lean toward the latter as very little time was left in 1960. Whatever the actual date, this is the first hardback edition but not the true first edition.

Three Robert Heinlein titles – The Green Hills of Earth, The Man Who Sold the Moon, and Revolt in 2100 – are listed on the rear cover as part of “Our New Fantasy Classic Library,” which must have surprised Heinlein. Calling them fantasy instead of science fiction would have raised his eyebrows surely. The fact that they didn’t exist then or ever would have blown off the top of his head. The identical listing appeared as the rear cover of Gnome’s next book, #84, John W. Cambell’s Invaders from the Infinite – definitely a 1961 release and therefore a reason for thinking that Drunkard’s Walk also appeared in 1961. Book #85, The Philosophical Corps by E. B. Cole, replaces the phantom titles with two real Gnome releases, The Menace from Earth and The Unpleasant Professional of Jonathan Hoag, which contain some fantasy at least. Book #86, Gray Lensman by Edward. E. Smith, Ph.D. discreetly omits any mention of Heinlein at all. No doubt Greenberg got an earful. One wonders what he did with the money for the orders those titles must have produced.

Drunkard’s Walk, by Frederik Pohl, 1961, title #83, 160 pages, $2.75. 3000 copies printed.

Hardback. Tan boards with black lettering. No internal information. Back cover: 32 titles. Gnome Press address given as P. O. Box 161, Hicksville, N.Y.

Note: First hardcover edition, reprint of Ballantine Books paperback #439K.

Drunkard's Walk jacket frontDrunkard's Walk jacket flaps

Drunkard's Walk tan boards

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *