George Oliver Smith sold his first sf story to John Campbell in 1942 and appeared exclusively in Astounding for the next five years. They were a good match, with Smith writing mostly pure engineering stories without any taint of characterization or social awareness. After 1947 he vanished from the pages of Astounding for a decade. It perhaps may be relevant that Campbell’s wife, Doña, left him for Smith as soon as he divorced his first wife.
Although this is traditionally assigned as title #54, the first of the five titles Gnome published in 1956, there is no evidence to back that up and some contrary. Oddly, each of the five books – the others being #55 Undersea Fleet, #56 Plague Ship, #57 SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy , and #58 Interplanetary Hunter – have identical back covers with all five titles included, and the same typo of Groff Conklin’s first name as “Grof.”
Searching the Catalog of Copyright Entries. Third Series brings up registration dates for four of the titles:
• Plague Ship 5FEB56
• Interplanetary Hunter 15MAR56
• Highways in Hiding 15JUL56
• Undersea Fleet 1SEP56
I cannot find the Merril anthology at all, although her SF:57 was registered on 9JUL57, SF:58 on 15JUL58, and SF:59 on 30JUN 1959, all as Dell First Editions, which are therefore the true first editions.
The contemporary reviews listed on the ISFDB also give chronological clues from the cover dates of the magazines in which they were published:
• Plague Ship: 5,10,10/56; 2/57
• Interplanetary Hunter: 8,9,10,10,11/56
• Highways in Hiding: 10,12,12/56; 2,2,10/57
• Undersea Fleet: 6,9,10/57
• SF:The Year’s Greatest: 8,8,8,10/56; 2/11/57
My guess is that the traditional order is simply wrong – I’d put the 1956 chronology as Plague Ship, Interplanetary Hunter, SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, Highways in Hiding, and Undersea Fleet – but I don’t have enough positive evidence to prove that. It does not help one’s confidence to note that the Copyright entry lists Smith’s middle name as Otis.
Highways in Hiding originally appeared as a serial in the March, April, May, and June 1955 issues of Imagination.
J. Francis McComas reviewed the novel for the November 18, 1956 New York Times Book Review:
This is a tasty enough dish for those on a diet of pure melodrama.
Floyd Gale reviewed it for the February 1957 Galaxy:
You’ll go for this if you like suspense, crackling hard-boiled dialogue and a touch of Superman.
Highways in Hiding, Edited by George O. Smith, 1956, title #54, 223 pages, $3.00. 4000 copies printed.
Hardback. Gray boards with red lettering. Jacket design by Emsh. “FIRST EDITION” on copyright page. Back cover: 36 titles (Groff Conklin misspelled as “Grof”). Gnome Press address is given as 80 East 11th St., New York 3.