A major popular classics revival: the return of the Yellowbacks

Hachette India is delighted to be reissuing yellowback classics of crime and thriller fiction – with the largest ever single batch release of titles. Almost 200 titles have been released in this yellowback revival, shares Thomas Abraham, Managing Director, Hachette India.


The yellowjackets or yellowbacks were a series of bestselling adventure and crime thrillers that had its origins in the mid to late 19th century following on from the ‘penny dreadfuls’ which were a kind of street pulp fiction sold for a penny on the streets in the Victorian era. They virtually began the mass market revolution of the early 20th century with a clear standard format and imprint/series livery (what would today be called branding). Hodder & Stoughton published the yellow jackets (colloquially called the yellowbacks) in two main series with series run dates of: 1923-1939 and later 1949-1957. Hachette India is delighted to be reissuing these classics of crime and thriller fiction – with the largest ever single batch release of titles. Almost 200 titles have been released in this yellowback revival.

As the tagline (‘where thrillers really began’) on the back cover implies, the imprint and series focused largely on thrillers that were the bestsellers of their time. This current reissue or retro revival if you will, brings back many of these masterpieces, now classics in their own way and extends it further by including key titles from that period that were either great crime or thriller or even general commercial fiction influences (including sub-genres of noir, horror, gothic, romance, westerns etc) of their time. There are some perennial favourites and many rarities either lost or not easily available being revived in the current series; and others that are collectible as omnibuses or ‘complete’ volumes. Writers and characters ranged from adventure heroes like Bulldog Drummond, Allan Quatermain, Richard Hannay or the Saint through thriller grandmasters Edgar Wallace and E. Phillips Oppenheim, crime and mystery maestros like Patricia Wentworth, GK Chesterton, Agatha Christie and the Detection club, to westerns and swashbucklers like Zane Grey, Max Brand, Captain Blood and even romance or general Fiction classics like Hermina Black, Denise Robins, Marie Corelli or Stella Morton. These were books that had storytelling at their heart and always entertained.

The yellowbacks had both hardback (with varying design elements) and paperback (which built the series look) versions with the latter still carrying the imprint ‘yellowjacket’. The current reissues pay tribute to both and use an amalgam of elements from both editions while retaining the complete yellow (or ‘mustard-plaster’) livery with the author’s name in blue beveled type with a ‘simulated emboss’ effect , the signature outer white ‘shadow’, and the book title in simple black. These reissues retain the distinctive size of the original ‘pocket’ mass market paperback and follow the three main category variations—the thrillers (crime, detective, westerns, mystery, adventure) had blue lettering for the author’s name, while Romance and ‘softer’ general Fiction had red; and other categories like humour had green.

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