And Warren Beatty, Disney, Michael Moorcock, and just about everyone else in sight.
On Amazon, somebody behind Pulptastic Books decided to put up a bunch of public domain works and cash in on that sweet, sweet 35% royalty rate on .99 cents.
Only it seems like the person behind this wasn’t content with putting up the same old covers, either ripped off from the original editions or text-only covers. Some of them look real nice, like this one from “England Invaded.”
But something about this version of “England Invaded 2013″ seemed … off. Maybe because that looks like Michael York in the upper right hand corner rockin’ that sweet Panama. Turns out it looks real nice because he’s lifted the art from a movie poster.
Then there was something else about this book that didn’t seem right, like, who was “M. Moorcock”? Is that Michael Moorcock, the still-living British author and creator of Elric of Melniboné?
Yep. Back in 1977, Moorcock put together “England Invaded,” a collection of stories from the genre called “invastion literature” from the Victorian and Edwardian period. It was a popular genre that fantasized about what would happen if the Germans, or the French, or some alien force tried to bring down the Empire. This clown not only lifted the text (which, being public domain, he could), but kept Michael Moorcock’s name on it as well, which he shouldn’t have. Oh, and he tacked on the “2013″ to, I don’t know, make it look more current?
Now, there’s book publishers who take public domain stories and repackage them. Some of them, such as yours truly, add material such as essays and footnotes to make it worth paying the extra dollar or two.
Then, there are people like Mr. Pulptastic who seem determined to find new ways to give you less for more. I think he reached the apex in “Dick Tracy Shoots It Out.” As usual, he stole the poster from Warren Beatty’s “Dick Tracy” 1990 movie. But for a buck the unwary reader will get Chester Gould’s story from a Big Little Book that runs all of 11 pages.
Nice covers, right? Here, our fraudulent fellow accomplished a twofer. Not only did he rip off Disney’s designs of these characters, but the artists who drew them: John Devlin and Mareishon. Neither of whom, I’m sure, gave permission for their work to be used.
His inventiveness in stealing is not just limited to using other people’s works. Mr. Pulptastic’s found new methods. Take the book “The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher.” In 2010, Kate Summerscale published a riveting account of the murder of a three-year-old boy from a middle-class family whose throat was slit and the body dumped into a privy. Being it took place in 1860 and in an England with raging class divisions, the working-class Detective-Inspector Jonathan ‘Jack’ Whicher, encountered numerous obstacles to solving the case. (It’s a great book. Read it.)
For some reason, Mr. Pulptastic decided to rip off the title and the author’s name and publish his version of “The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher,” with the subtitle “The Oriental Pearl.”
As usual, he used a photo of the actor who played Whicher, Paddy Considine, from the TV movie version for the cover art.
All this asks the question: “If he ripped off Summerscale’s book title and name, what did he put between the covers?”Here’s where it gets weirder. He took the D.I. Whicher and inserted him into a public domain novel by R. Austin Freeman called “The Mandarin’s Pearl.” It probably took about five minutes, with two of them spent learning how the “search and replace” function worked on Microsoft Word.
Then, because he was on a roll, he did the same thing with Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Then — you must be ahead of me at this point — he put the faces of David Suchet and Robert Downey Jr. on the covers, which in legal terms is called “asking for a curbstomp from a herd of lawyers.”
(If that’s not enough for Agatha Christie Ltd. to get involved, Mr. Pulptastic’s also selling “Appointment With Death,” which judging from the reviews is Christie’s novel. As it was published in 1938, it is certainly in copyright in the U.S.)
This only scratches the surface of the variety of scams this guy’s pulling. Using movie posters for covers (like “Red Sonja”). Ripping off fan art. Publishing the same story under different names. Ripping off “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (poster and title) to package a series of “backstories,” so that any character who appears in Alan Moore’s seminal work is included (even if the name only appears in passing. He published “Les Miserables” in this 20-volume series because “Jean Valjean” appears in graffiti). Publishing Beatrix Potter’s stories, one at a time.
After awhile, you have to admire Mr. Pulptastic’s ingenuity and energy. Between February and May, he published 153 books, nearly 9 a week, and daring the likes of Agatha Christie Ltd., Disney and Iron Man to come down on Amazon to get this stuff pulled.