Item #732 Think Fast, Mr. Moto. John Marquand.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto

Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1937. First Edition. Hardcover. 1st edition of the 3rd Mr. Moto. Original cloth, near fine in a dustjacket with the blue faintly faded on the spine, little edge chips, and a soft crease, still very good, and among bookselling’s most self–defeating lies is to call chipping, rubbing, unless the expected buyer is farsighted and lacking even a cursory sense of touch. A rare 1st edition in jacket. ABPC lists only 2 copies sold at auction since 1975, one of them with a large chip to the jacket’s spine, and the other one better, and more recent, but still in a soiled and worn jacket, and they missed our copy, but it’s ex–Otto Penzler, $6,562.50, HA, lot 45745, Oct. 16, 2020. Now we have it and it’s priced what it’s worth. Near fine / very good. Item #732

“Young Wilson Hitchings is ready to take his place in the venerable family firm of Hitchings Brothers, Bankers and Commission Merchants: Honolulu, Shanghai, Canton. His first real assignment is to travel to Hawaii and deal with the Hitchings Plantation, a gambling house started by a black sheep of the family and maintained after his death by his lovely daughter, Eva Hitchings. Wilson’s orders are to shut the place down before it does further damage to the staid family firm’s image. Little does he realize that the plantation is the center of international financial intrigue involving Mr. Moto.” –James S. Koga   There is a reason why these 2 books may seem expensive. but aren’t. First, here’s the background. The Mr. Moto novels were a creation of The Saturday Evening Post. When Earl Biggers died in 1933, The Post went looking to replace his Charlie Chan serializations that had propelled the magazine’s sales. They approached the already established John Marquand, busy writing novels about the dilemmas of class, and after offering an unseemly bundle of depression era cash, they reached an agreement that included a trip to Asia so he could scout the terrain, atmosphere, and local customs. The first novel he gave them was Ming Yellow, set in China’s interior and following a treasure hunter’s pursuit of a prized piece of antique porcelain. The Post liked it but preferred a title character who was a detective or a secret agent, and they also preferred one who was Japanese, so Marquand delivered Mr. Moto.   And why the scarcity? It’s not because the books were all dumped in the Bermuda Triangle. The Saturday Evening Post was only interested in generating magazine sales and new subscriptions, and Marquand was more absorbed with his mainstream novels. So, when the Mr. Moto book publication rights were passed to Little, Brown, they published a standard size edition of the first Mr. Moto book (No Hero, 1935), and it is not scarce. But after that one, Little, Brown printed small numbers of the next 2, just enough to fill standing orders from libraries and a few retailers, then immediately handed over book publication rights to Grosset & Dunlap (a reprint house) who then published a mass market cheap edition the same year, sometimes within a month or 2. Consequently, starting with the 2nd novel in the series (Thank you, Mr. Moto, 1936), Little, Brown’s 1st editions mostly went to public libraries with a few to readers at retail, and both groups read them to rag (even nice 1st printings of Grosset & Dunlap’s large reprint edition are not often for sale in jacket). But after the 3rd Mr. Moto (Think Fast, Mr. Moto, 1937), Marquand won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for The Late George Apley, and Little, Brown realized they were going to miss out on some sizable sales. So, they significantly increased the print order for the next 2 (Mr. Moto is so Sorry, 1938 and Last Laugh Mr. Moto,1942) and it is only our 2 books, the 2nd and 3rd 1st editions in the series, that are so exasperatingly difficult to find in jacket.

Price: $4,000.00

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