I just ran across a comment from Bill Crider on the rara avis site about Harlequin censoring the six recent mystery vintage paperbacks that they republished. This really annoys me. See this site for more and a link to the Harlequin site where they cheerfully announce the censorship:

I wish I was joking but I’m not.

Best, Walker

Excerpted from the Harlequin blog:

Remember, our intention was to publish the stories in their original form. But once we immersed ourselves in the text, our eyes grew wide. Our jaws dropped. Social behavior—such as hitting a woman—that would be considered totally unacceptable now was quite common sixty years ago. Scenes of near rape would not sit well with a contemporary audience, we were quite convinced. We therefore decided to make small adjustments to the text, only in cases where we felt scenes or phrases would be offensive to a 2009 readership. Also, grammar and spelling standards have changed quite a bit in sixty years. But that did entail a text edit, which we had not anticipated. AND, we had to clear those adjustments with the current copyright holders, if we had been able to locate them.

And of course, the covers: Though we used the original covers, they had to be scanned and touched up.

Here’s the comment I left:

I’m a collector of old vintage paperbacks, and I have been since I bought them new off the circular racks in drugstores and supermarkets when I was growing up.

This business of sheltering our eyes from things you think might offend us now is absolute nonsense. Who do you think we are, a bunch of weak-kneed sissies? Even if it makes us uneasy every once in a while to look at our past, history IS history, and it’s ridiculous to try to cover it up.

Please do us a favor, and keep publishing your X-rated romance novels, and leave the mystery and noir genres well enough alone. You say you’re delighted to have been able to reprint these books. I think you should be ashamed of yourselves, trampling on the work of others, especially when (as far as I can tell) it’s been done without their permission.

[UPDATE] 01-17-10. David Rachels has done us all a great service, and for doing so, I thank him. He’s taken a copy of one the James Hadley Chase books that was one of the six that Harlequin reprinted, and done a line-by-line comparison with the original.

Not too surprisingly, considering Chase’s reputation (which the editors at Harlequin obviously knew nothing about), not only were there words, phrases and the occasional sentence removed, but entire chunks of text.

Needless to say, unless done with really skilled hands, besides the fact that’s tampering with the author’s intentions, it also hardly makes for smooth reading. See David’s blog for full details.