62. Two Sought Adventure


Yet another John W. Campbell find in that magical year of 1939, Fritz Leiber (1910-1992; usually billed as Fritz Leiber, Jr. until his Shakespearean-actor father died in 1949) is a member of that small band of writers who made a big splash with his first published work. “Two Sought Adventure” appeared in the August 1939 Unknown and introduced the characters of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, who would reappear for the next 50 years in about 40 stories and novels and be recycled in seemingly that many collections. Why Greenberg or Leiber kept the title of that first story for the collection but changed the name of the story inside, thereby confusing all potential buyers, is another mystery.

Arkham House, the fantasy specialist, ran two stories about the pair, one original and one reprinted, in his Leiber 1947 collection Night’s Black Agents. The introduction recalls how his friend Harry Fischer sent him a letter describing the Grey Mouser in 1934 and how he responded, back and back, back and forth, embellishing the description into a world. Gnome was the first to properly collect their yarns, reprinting all their stories up to that time with the exception of “Adept’s Gambit,” the Arkham original.

Despite twice winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel with The Big Time (1958) and The Wanderer (1964), Leiber is probably best remembered as a short fiction artist, with five short fiction Hugos, three of which also won Nebula Awards. Equally adept in all branches of the genre, Leiber has been honored with lifetime recognition awards by science fiction, fantasy, and horror associations.

Gnome Notes

All the early standard sources agree that the book existed in two states, black boards and gray cloth, with the gray cloth the later issue. CHALKER seems straightforward: 4000 copies printed, 3000 initially in black boards, 1000 in 1959-1960 in gray cloth.” KEMP says essentially the same: “3,000 copies printed in black boards. 1,000 gray cloth (c.1959).” But then CURREY recorded a red boards edition marked as “(not seen).” I was lucky enough to find an actual copy. The three books seem identical otherwise; even the paper is same cheap grade that Greenberg increasingly used in the later days.

The logical sequencing to me is that 4000 copies were printed in 1957. Following Greenberg’s usual practice, he bound 3000 of them and warehoused the other copies until demand called for them. In 1959 he had most of them bound in the gray cloth and a few leftovers in the red boards. Alternatively, he had some of them bound in 1959 in gray and finished off the rest in 1960 in red.

The latter is better supported by what few facts exist. The title falls off the back panels later in 1957, never to appear again. That’s almost always an indication that the book has sold out, since available stock needed to be publicized. Oddly, the title was publicized frequently in other media, providing some basis for the reprint binding timeline. An ad in the February 1957 Astounding lists it pre-publication. By 1958, though, Gnome ads proclaiming “The Cream of 1957 Science Fiction Books” failed to list it. (Well, three of the six titles actually were released in 1958, making dating mysterious. Greenberg obviously counted on advance orders for cash flow.) A different 1959 Astounding ad brings Adventure back but it’s gone again in 1960. The 1961 Pick-A-Book catalog from Gnome lists it, but the 1963 catalog doesn’t. That versions sold out in 1957 and 1959, necessitating a small 1960 variant, is the most likely conclusion. My guess is that the gray cloth is from 1959 and the red boards from 1960, but the data is not strong enough for proof.

cover art uncredited


Theodore Sturgeon, Venture Science Fiction, November 1957
Be glad to meet them, overjoyed to meet them again.

Contents and original publication

• “Introduction” (original to this volume).
• “The Jewels in the Forest.” (Unknown, August 1939, as “Two Sought Adventure”).
• “Thieves’ House” (Unknown Worlds, February 1943).
• “The Bleak Shore” (Unknown Fantasy Fiction, November 1940).
• “The Howling Tower” (Unknown Fantasy Fiction, June 1941).
• “The Sunken Land” (Unknown Worlds, February 1942).
• “The Seven Black Priests” (Other Worlds Science Stories, May 1953).
• “Claws From the Night” (Suspense Magazine, Fall 1951, as “Dark Vengeance”).

 Bibliographic information

Two Sought Adventure, by Fritz Leiber, 1957, copyright registration date 15May57, Library of Congress catalog card no. 57-7112, title #62, back panel #34, 186 pages, $3.00. 4000 copies printed, 1957; 3000 bound 1957; 1000 bound 1959 and 1960. Jacket design by Lionel Dillon. “First Edition” on copyright page. Printing & Binding by H. Wolff, New York. Back panel: 35 titles. Gnome Press address listed as 80 East 11th St., New York 3.

          Variants, 1) is known first, 2) and 3) priority unknown

1) (CURREY A) Black boards, spine lettered in red.

2) (CURREY B) Gray cloth, spine lettered in red.

3) (CURREY C) Red boards, spine lettered in black.


Two Sought Adventure, jacket front, all variants
Two Sought Adventure, jacket flaps, all variants
Two Sought Adventure, black boards, red lettering, variant 1
Two Sought Adventure, gray cloth, red lettering, variant 2
Two Sought Adventure, red boards, black lettering, variant 3