83. 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 having the meaning that the book had no previous book publication. The paperback, therefore, is the true first edition of this book. Though Ballantine’s 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.

This 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 appears 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 Notes

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 each text page matches, while the pagination is different. 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. No newspaper appears to have specifically mentioned the Gnome edition; I infer its first and only mention comes from a library addition in March 1961, although the paperback appeared frequently starting in 1960. No Library of Congress Catalog Number exists, nor could I find a copyright registration date, although the book itself says Copyright 1960. The Burns and MacEachern Canadian edition appears in April 1961; the Gollancz UK edition in October. Again, assuming that foreign editions postdate the American hardback, this put the Gnome release into early 1961. Whatever the actual date, this is the first hardback edition but not the true first edition.

CHALKER reports that Pohl thought that no more than 1000 of the 3000 copies printed were bound, but Greenberg insisted that all were.

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. 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 back panel of Gnome’s next book, #84, John W. Campbell’s Invaders from the Infinite – definitely a 1961 release and therefore bolstering the case that Drunkard’s Walk also appeared in 1961. Book #85, Gray Lensman by Edward. E. Smith, Ph.D., discreetly omits any mention of Heinlein at all. No doubt Greenberg had gotten an earful.

Cover art by Ed Emshwiller


unsigned, San Angelo [TX] Standard-Times, January 8, 1961
With this basic premise of plot and a lot imagination, Pohl has woven an intriguing, thoroughly absorbing tale. [Review of the Ballantine edition]

Alan Nicholls, Melbourne Age, January 27, 1962
The story is always interesting, but its improbability makes us impatient. Frederik Pohl has failed to create a world which remains true to its own laws. [Review of the Gollanz, London, edition]

Contents and Original Publication

• Chapters 1-18 (expanded from Galaxy Science Fiction, June 1960).

Bibliographic Information

Drunkard’s Walk, by Frederik Pohl, 1961, no copyright registration [book states 1960], Library of Congress Catalog Card Number [none], title #83, back panel #41, 160 pages, $2.75. 3000 copies printed. Hardback, tan boards, spine lettered in black. Jacket design by W. I. Van der Poel, Jr. Printed in the United States of America. Back panel: 32 titles. Gnome Press address given as P. O. Box 161, Hicksville, N.Y.


None known.


Drunkard’s Walk, brown boards, black lettering
Drunkard’s Walk, Ballantine 439K, 1960, true first edition, cover art by Nic Puspurica