At Detectives beyond Borders, Peter Rozovsky asks this question: "Why do publishers change a book's title when translating or reissuing it?" And then he asks, "what title changes delighted or infuriated you?" I couldn't think of anything infuriating, but it just occurred to me that a few title changes frustrated me for years.
It all started with Ordean P. Hagen's pioneering crime fiction bibliography, Who Done It? back in 1969. I could hardly wait to get my own copy, and I was probably among the first to order it. The book has a number of well-known problems, the most notorious being the fact that E. Howard Hunt is listed as a pseudonym for somebody named Robert Dietrich. I suspect Hunt might have hand a hand in this confusion, but that's not what frustrated me.
What got me was some of the titles listed for Charles Williams, like The Concrete Flamingo, The Catfish Tangle, Operator, Stain of Suspicion, and Nude on Thin Ice. I'd been collecting Williams for years by that tme, and I was convinced I had everything. But I'd never heard of those books. Well, I'd heard of one of them, the last one, but I'll get back to that. I learned eventually, after years of searching in vain for them, that the first four were titles were given to British hardcover reprints of American paperbacks. Ah, those title changes.
Nude on Thin Ice was another story. It's a Gil Brewer title, and I've become convinced that the confusion resulted from a dropped line in Anthony Boucher's review, in which he compared the Brewer book to Williams's work. (This in spite of the fact that some guy wrote me years ago, swearing on his mother's grave that he owned a copy of the book by Williams.)
I'm glad I thought of this because it made me get down my well-thumbed copy of Hagen's book for the first time in quite a while. I enjoyed looking over it again and seeing some of my little notations, made when I was just a youngster (well, if you consider 27 or 28 young, and I certainly do). Those were the days.