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    Description

    W. R. Burnett. Little Caesar. New York: Lincoln MacVeagh, The Dial Press, 1929. First edition of the author's first book. Octavo (7.4375 x 5.1875 inches; 189 x 131 mm.). [8], 308, [4, blank] pages. Original dark blue cloth lettered in yellow on front cover and decoratively stamped and lettered in yellow on spine. Publisher's device embossed and in blind on front cover (the impression visible on front pastedown). Top edge trimmed, others uncut. A few small areas of slight discoloration to cloth on front cover and spine; rear cover with a small very slight indentation at fore-edge, a light scuff mark, and a bit of blistering to cloth; upper corner of rear cover bumped, remaining corners and spine ends lightly bumped; cloth beginning to chip at foot of spine; top edge with a few faint scuff marks and tiny brown spots. The text is generally very clean. Tip of lower corner of a few leaves lost when the leaves were opened; tiny piece at tip of lower corner of pages 237/238 still hanging; lower edge of a few leaves a little ragged from opening. In the scarce original color pictorial dust jacket designed by Irving Politzer (1898-1971), with the $2.00 price on front flap. Jacket lightly rubbed and browned at the edges and flap folds; front and rear panels faded to a blue green; spine faded, with an area of yellowing at foot of spine, most noticeable on the verso; half-inch tear to top edge of front panel; three-eighths-inch tear to top edge of rear panel; slight creasing at top and bottom of flap folds, with tiny chips at lower edge of front flap fold; small hole and tear in the rear flap fold; ink streak on rear flap verso. A beautiful copy of this classic American crime novel, in near fine condition overall, with only minor flaws, the cloth clean and bright and the dust jacket unrestored. A Haycraft-Queen Cornerstone title. From the collection of Donald Kaufmann.

    More Information: "W. R. Burnett [1899-1982] is one of the godfathers of crime fiction. He virtually introduced the realistic professional criminal as protagonist to modern popular literature and was instrumental in establishing the parameters, and the clichés, of the gangster story in fiction and in film. Burnett's first novel, Little Caesar (1929), set the stage for every urban mob tale to come. In High Sierra (1940) and The Asphalt Jungle (1949), which revolve around elaborate heists, he created a great subset of crime fiction known as 'the caper'...Little Caesar, brought out by Dial Press in 1929, told of the rise and fall of Cesare Bandello, known as Rico, an Italian immigrant who becomes a mob boss. Burnett told the story mostly through tough, slangy dialogue, with sparse paragraphs of description taking the characters along from gang confab to speakeasy party to shootout. The authorial perspective was objective, unblinking, but with a dollop of deadpan, contemptuous humor reserved for his ambitious crook, a primitive narcissist who 'loved but three things: himself, his hair and his gun,' and who reads the newspaper reports of his latest outrages with the mixed feelings of a playwright getting the opening night reviews...[When] Burnett's first book appeared [it] caused a sensation (which only increased with the release of the 1930 film version starring Edward G. Robinson as Rico)...From the time of Little Caesar's release, Burnett was in demand by the Hollywood studios and had constant screenwriting assignments-which included scripts and script contributions for Scarface (1932), Beast of the City (1932), This Gun for Hire (1942), Wake Island (1942), The Racket (1951), I Died a Thousand Times (1956), Sergeants Three (1962), and The Great Escape (1963). The screenwriting grind no doubt played a part in the mixed quality of Burnett's fiction during those years, but great books continued to appear [including] High Sierra (1940), the story of a last score by a John Dillinger-like bank robber, a fading legend named Roy Earle [and] The Asphalt Jungle (1950), a big-city thriller full of sharply etched portraits of working criminals, and the source for the masterful film version released the same year and directed by John Huston" (Lee Server, Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers (New York: 2002), pages 43-44).



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    Auction Dates
    March, 2017
    8th Wednesday
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