AustLit logo
Horwitz Horwitz i(A37448 works by) (Organisation) assertion (a.k.a. Horwitz Publications; Horwitz Company)
Born: Established: 1921 Sydney, New South Wales, ;
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

BiographyHistory

Overview

The Horwitz Company was established in 1921 by Israel and Ruth Horwitz. The company remained a family concern for over ninety years, being later run by their son Stanley, who was eventually succeeded by his son Peter and daughter Susan. Horwitz initially specialised in trade journals and a sporting magazine, before expanding into mass-market publishing. In this respect, it was 'the first Australian publishing house of any consequence to treat books as production-line merchandise and sell them accordingly' (Hetherington p.22). This strategy saw the company flourish as a publisher of cheap paperback novels (pulp fiction) during the 1950s and 1960s, with the most popular genres being crime, thriller, war, and romance. Among its stable of successful house writers were Alan Yates (better known as Carter Brown, and J.E. Macdonnell . The company also expanded into comics during this period.

Horwitz distributed its titles overseas through Atlas Publishing in the United Kingdom, but it was not until the company on-sold the Carter Brown licence to Signet (New American Library) in 1957 that it achieved international success. In 1959, Stanley Horwitz took over the Grahame Book Shop in Sydney, and some books from around that period have Horwitz Grahame as an imprint/publisher. Horwitz's earlier imprints also include Associated General Publications (1940s) and Transport ( 1940s and 1950s). In the 1960s and 1970s, the company published fiction under a variety of series including Stag  and Scripts , and increased its activities in the area of educational publishing. During the mid to late-1980s, however, Horwitz began to scale down its publication of books. By the early 2000s, the company was focusing primarily on its magazine catalogue, which included TV Soap, Australian Penthouse, Inside Sport, the Australian edition of MAD Magazine, and Camera. In 2005, the company sold its educational division to Oxford University Press. Two years later, most of the company was acquired by Wolseley Media (later Nextmedia).

Detailed Biography

1921-1959: Peter Israel Horwitz migrated from England to Australia sometime during the 1910s, after graduating from university with a Bachelor of Economics. In 1921, he and his Australian wife Ruth established a small printing and publishing concern in Sydney after purchasing a Gestetner stencil duplicating machine. The business initially produced a variety of trade journals under at least two publishing names: Transport Publishing Company and Associated General Publications. Among its early successes were Hotel and Cafe News (later Hotel, Motel and Restaurant), which began in 1925 and continued until the 1960s, and Sporting Weekly, which ran from 1928 to 1971. While the business gradually expanded its operations throughout the 1920s and 1930s, it was not until the mid-1940s that the company began to cement its reputation and identity as an emerging book publisher. Up until that time, the business employed around ten people. By the end of the Second World War, it had acquired two suburban newspapers and a small printery in the inner-city suburb of Glebe.

The greatest impetus for change came at the end of the Second World War, when the Horwitzs' son Stanley joined the company following his discharge from the RAAF. Stanley realised that the demand for popular fiction would increase, since the mass-market demographic had been greatly deprived of reading entertainment during the war, and set about filling the demand. While his father concentrated on the company's professional and trade journals, newspapers (aimed largely at specialised audiences), and scientific and technical books, Stanley oversaw the expansion into what became known as pulp-fiction publishing. The company initially released a series of Western paperbacks (published by the Transport Publishing Company) and several lines of comics. Buoyed by the success of the paperback venture, Horwitz began to think seriously about expanding and modernising the paperback side of the business (Hetherington, p.22). According to former Horwitz editor Lyall Moore, Horwitz realised that the paper shortage that had deprived the Australian mass market of books and comics for much of the war would soon end and that the demand for cheap popular novels would increase markedly ('Faded Echoes,' n. pag.). In a 1963 interview with John Hetherington, however, Stanley Horwitz recalls that the decision to begin low-cost paperback publishing was also one of necessity, because the company still faced a paper shortage for some time. Another issue to be resolved was that of acquiring a stable of locally based writers who could work quickly as part of a production-line process. These writers (a largely unknown group of Australian authors and journalists) eventually became the backbone of the company's success by routinely churning out the type of adventure, thriller, and war stories that excited the imagination of Australian popular-fiction readers. By the early 1950s, the company was also publishing other genres, notably science fiction, detective, and romance.

The hub of the Horwitz system was its distribution, which, with a few exceptions, was modelled on the newspaper method: selling chiefly through newsagents. The decision to bypass booksellers included even the company's own bookshops, as the clientele for these businesses was deemed to be largely uninterested in the pulp fiction that Horwitz published. This distribution strategy also allowed the company an even greater opportunity to target a multi-readership audience (those interested in both paperback novels and magazines in particular genres). Between 1950 and 1952, for example, Horwitz also published Australia's first science-fiction magazine, Thrills Incorporated.

The 1950s were spectacularly successful for the company. During this decade, it dominated the paperback fiction market with crime/detective novels from bestselling authors such as Peter Carter Brown (aka Alan Yates) and wartime naval adventures by J. E. Macdonnell. The popularity of both these authors was such that their works were still being re-printed well into the 1980s. The Carter Brown mystery series, for example, sold over eighty million copies in twenty-two countries and was translated into more than a dozen languages.

The crime series, which featured fiction by both Australian and American writers, also saw the introduction of popular series characters such as Marc Brody (q.v.) and K. T. McCall (q.v.), both series penned by Australian authors. The company's success in producing pulp fiction was such that it managed to survive the lifting of import restrictions in 1958, a government policy change that resulted in many small Australian publishing firms going out of business. By the end of the decade, the company was publishing around twenty-four paperbacks each month. In addition to crime, these included romance, war adventure, Westerns, humour, and a regular selection of non-fiction subjects, such as cooking and sport.

The mid to late-1950s also saw Horwitz undertake further changes in its infrastructure and business strategies. One of the first of these occurred in 1956, when the company moved its headquarters to Horwitz House (Sussex Street, Sydney). Around the same time, Stanley Horwitz took over control of all the publishing operations, following the death of his father. Under his direction, the company moved away from saddle-stitched, digest-sized paperbacks and began to utilise the latest glue technology. These new paperbacks also featured four-colour covers and letterpress printing. In 1959, the company took over the financially flailing Grahame Book Shop, and some books from around this period have Horwitz Grahame as an imprint/publisher.

Horwitz then became involved in the publication of comics, initially releasing its own line of comic books. The decision to move into comics at this time was a considerable risk, given that the Australian industry was reeling from the impact of broadcast television (which began in 1956) and the resumption in 1959 of imported American comic books. The company managed, however, to carve out a niche for its local publications, which included such titles as Battle Action and The Phantom Commando (1959-1964), while also reprinting a number of American comics, including many Western and war titles from the Atlas/Marvel Comics line. Two of the more notable US comics published by Horwitz were Two-Gun Kid and Combat Kelly. During its golden period of comics publication, Horwitz released as many as forty-eight titles a month (some with print runs of up to eighty thousand).

1960-1985: In the early 1960s, Horwitz found a strong readership for their Perry Mason and Raymond Chandler titles. It was the company's stable of Australian writers, however, who were most extensively published. In addition to Alan Yates/Carter Brown and J. E. Macdonnell, other significant authors included James Workman, Ray Slattery, Jim Kent, and Richard Wilkes-Hunter (qq.v.). Each of these published under both their real names and various pseudonyms. For example, Graeme Flanagan notes that James Workman was also James Dark and Victor Kain; Ray Slattery was also James Bent, Frank F. Gunn, John Slater, and Terry West; and Richard Wilkes-Hunter was also Fiona Ashton, Tod Conrad, Diana Douglas, Shane Douglas, James Dunn, Caroline Farr, Adrian Gray, Teri Lester, Bradley Ross, and Lucy Waters. Both Ray Slattery and Richard Wilkes-Hunter wrote as Roger Hunt, as also did Mervyn Andrews and L.W. Riley (See Flanagan's The Australian Vintage Paperback Guide for a list of pseudonyms known to be used by Horwitz writers.) Stanley Horwitz indicates that the company was printing around 7,250,000 magazines, newspapers, and books a year by 1963 (Hetherington, p. 22).

The success of its local authors saw Horwitz gradually turn away from publishing overseas novels by the mid-late 1960s. However, the company did continue to reissue occasional titles imported from the US, particularly those from the Midwood company. The impetus for this move away from import titles was likely economic rather than patriotic, with these largely unknown Australian authors costing much less than their American counterparts. However, as John Harrison notes in 'The Lurid War Paperbacks of Horwitz Publications,' this decision yielded some unlikely fruits. 'Although they would have been considered little more than mindless lunchtime fodder at the time of their publication,' he writes, 'Horwitz's adult paperbacks have survived as little documents of some of the more extreme and oddball aspects of low-rent Australian culture, encompassing subjects as diverse as true crime, film tie-ins for local exploitation films, and the (mostly fictional) lives of sex workers in Kings Cross (a suburb of Sydney notorious for its prostitution and drug racquets).'

One of the more popular lines published by Horwitz during the 1960s was the sadistic war genre, written by prolific authors such as John Slater and Jim Kent, books that John Harrison describes as existing in 'a strange, unique twilight world all of their own.' He notes in this respect that 'while publishers in the US (Monarch) and the UK (Badger) produced war paperbacks with rough plots and provocative cover art, none were as intrinsically mean spirited as the Horwitz titles, which focused -- or to be more precise, wallowed -- almost solely on the cruel torture and punishments which the Nazi and Japanese powers handed out to civilians (in particular, comely young females) and the Allied armies during [World War II].' These publications were made even more salacious through their lurid, colour-saturated cover art, which emphasised the sex and sadism of the novels' content.

In the early 1960s, Horwitz acquired the Owen Martin firm, strengthening the company's already strong position as a publisher of educational, technical, and art books (the imprint was later known as Horwitz Martin Education). While it had been involved in publishing technical and scientific material since the 1940s, the move into educational publishing increased Horwitz's profit margin considerably. Stanley Horwitz notes in 1963, for example, that it had become the company's most rapidly developing division, with thirty regular titles being published that year (Hetherington, p.22). The following year, the company also bought the rights to distribute Prentice-Hall's educational titles. Another mid-1960s acquisition was publisher Ure Smith (q.v.), which merged with Horwitz in 1965. Although flushed with success in the wake of the enormously successful They're a Weird Mob, Ure Smith had been looking for potential mergers to offset both the book's strain on its resources and the company's subsequent launching of the Humorbooks paperback imprint and the Walkabout Pocketbooks series (comprising travel, history, and nature books). The merger saw Ure Smith retain 'editorial independence and control of production and sales, while accounting went to Horwitz' (Carter p.27). Pulp fiction still remained, however, one of Horwitz's principal concerns during the 1970s and 1980s. The most prolific Horwitz paperback author during this period was Leonard Meares (q.v.) who published over four hundred Western titles for Horwitz under his Marshall Grover pseudonym (or as Marshall McCoy in the USA).

1986-2007: The late 1980s and early 1990s saw Horwitz begin to gradually scale back its paperback activities. When the company eventually ceased publication in this area in 1996 to focus on its increasing stable of magazines, the decision had a devastating effect on in-house authors such as Leonard Meares. In his article 'Leonard F. Meares: The Man They Call Grover Marshall', David Whitehead records that Horwitz's decision to abandon its paperback publishing meant that Meares was effectively sacked. Furthermore, because the company owned both the name Grover Marshall and those of his most popular characters (notably Larry and Stretch), he could not continue writing his series for any other publisher. Meares eventually began writing for Black Horse Westerns and attempted to create new characters, but, as Whitehead notes, 'Larry and Stretch proved an impossible act to follow.' In low spirits, Meares later contracted viral pneumonia and died in early 1993.

The focus on magazine publication in the 1990s saw Horwitz produce several dozen popular titles on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, while continuing to maintain a significant presence in educational publishing. In 2005, however, Oxford University Press made a surprise approach and subsequent purchase of the company's primary textbook and literacy lists, including well-known series such as Maths Plus, Reading Between the Lines, and The News (as reported in Australian Bookseller and Publisher). Although Horwitz CEO Peter Horwitz stated publicly that the company would increase its focus on trade and magazine publishing, within two years the family had sold most of its business to private equity firm Wolseley for an undisclosed sum. Among the sixteen titles included in the 2007 acquisition were Inside Sport, TV Soap, Golf Australia, Geare, Sound and Image, Australian Hi-Fi, Pro Photo, and Australian Camera, along with the rights to the local version of Mad Magazine. The family kept Horwitz Publications operating, however, in order to publish Australian Penthouse. In 2009, Wolseley Media became known as Nextmedia.

Most Referenced Works

Notes

  • Further Reference:

    Carter, David. 'Case Study: They're a Weird Mob and Ure Smith.' In Paper Empires: A History of the Book in Australia 1946-2005, pp. 24-30.

    'Faded Echoes.' In Radar Returns 6.2 (2001), p. 4. [obituary]

    Flanagan, Graeme. The Australian Vintage Paperback Guide (1994).

    Goodman, Tom. 'Cumberland Leaders.' Sydney Morning Herald 14 Feb. (1965), p. 50. Re. Peter Horwitz.

    Gordon District Cricket Club. Re. Peter Horwitz (see Club News/Annual Reports)

    Harrison, John. 'The Lurid War Paperbacks of Horwitz Publications' in Sin Street Sleaze: The Lurid Pulp and Pop Culture Writings of John Harrison (blog).

    Hetherington, John. 'This is the House that Paperbacks Built.' Age 13 April (1963), p. 22.

    Johnson-Woods, Toni. 'The Mysterious Case of Carter Brown: Or, Who Really Killed the Australian Author?' Australian Literary Studies, 21.4 (2004): 74-88.

    --- Pulp: A Collector's Book of Australian Pulp Fiction Covers. Canberra, ACT: National Library of Australia (2004).

    May, Anthony. 'Case Study: Horwitz.' In Paper Empires: A History of the Book in Australia 1946-2005. Chapter 2. 'Sixties Larrikins,' pp. 50-52.

    Patrick, Kevin. 'Bramley's Last Gunfighter' and 'Unmasking the Phantom Commando.' Both on Patrick's Comics Down Under blog.

    Whitehead, David. 'Leonard F. Meares: The Man They Call Marshall Grover.' On Ben Bridges website.

  • Multi-Author Series:

    • Sporting Western (1945-1950)
    • Scientific Thriller (1948-1952)
    • Period Novels (1950)
    • Powder Smoke Westerns (1953)
    • Western Saga Series (1954)
    • Lion Books (1954-1955)
    • Gold Star Books (1955-1956)
    • Half Million Club (1955-1956)
    • King Books (1955-1956)
    • Triangle Books (1956)
    • GI Books (1956-1957)
    • Book of the Month (1958)
    • Pocket Books (1959-1974), 1st series
    • Name Author Series (1959-1966)
    • Sovereign Series (1960)
    • Commando/War (1960-1969)
    • Four Square Series (1960-1964), British Four Square Books reprints
    • Penguin (1961-1962), UK reprints
    • Trident Westerns (1964-1966)
    • Stag Modern Novels (1964-1965), mostly books originally published by Monarch Books, USA
    • Horwitz Australian Library (1965-1970)
    • Mystery Books (1966)
    • Caperbacks Series (1966-1968)
    • Gothic Library (1966-1967)
    • New American Library Series (1967-1968), USA reprints
    • Personality Series (1967-1968)
    • Libido Series (1969)
    • Adults Only (1969-1974), published under the Scripts imprint
    • Adventure Classic (1970)
    • Satyr Series (1970)
    • Sea Adventure Library (1970)
    • Pocket Books (1974-1981), 2nd series
    • Stag Books (1976-1981)

    (Source: Graeme Flanagan, The Vintage Australian Paperback Guide, pp. 3-44)

  • Single Author Series:

    • Carter Brown (1951-1984)
    • Marc Brody (1955-1960)
    • Dean Ballard Western (1956)
    • K. T. McCall (1957-1965)
    • John Laffin (1957-1958)
    • James Gant (1957-1958)
    • J. E. Macdonnell (1957-1989)
    • Tod Conrad (1957-1965)
    • Roger Hunt (1958-1963)
    • Michael Own (1958-1967)
    • Kid Colt Outlaw (1959)
    • Wyatt Earp (1959)
    • Johnny O'Hara (1959-1962)
    • Gerry North (1959)
    • Shane Douglas (1959-1975)
    • John Wynnum (1959-1967)
    • W. H. Williams (1959-1960)
    • Ivan Southall (1959-1960)
    • Willie Fennell (1959-1962)
    • Alastair Mars (1959-1960)
    • Alex Crane (1959), Alex Crane Suspense Stories
    • W. R. Bennett (1960-1969)
    • Kerry Mitchell (1960-1964)
    • Richard Wilkes-Hunter (1960-1967)
    • Ray Slattery (1961-1969)
    • James Holledge (1961-1970)
    • Karen Miller (1961-1963)
    • James Dark (1962-1966)
    • James Workman (1962-1968)
    • John Slater (1962-1973)
    • Rebecca Dee (1962-1963)
    • Noni Arden (1963-1967)
    • John Duffy (1963-1965)
    • R. Charlott (1965), Army War series
    • Jim Kent (1966-1976)
    • Carl Ruhen (1966-1973)
    • Marshall Grover (1967-1993)
    • Teri Lester (1967-1968)
    • Terry West (1969-1970)
    • Ricki Francis (1970-1977)
    • Stuart Hall (1970-1980)
    • Adrian Gray (1971-1975)
    • R.G. Hall (1971-1973)
    • Alison Hart (1976-1977)

    (Source: Graeme Flanagan, The Vintage Australian Paperback Guide, pp. 44-103)

  • Horwitz Offices:

    Sydney offices have included Hunter Street, Sydney; Horwitz House, Sussex Street (CBD); Denison St, North Sydney; Prudential Building, Martin Plaza (CBD); and 55 Chandos Street, St Leonards.

    Melbourne offices included Lonsdale St.

    International offices included Farrington St, London (England); Union House (Hong Kong).

Last amended 23 Aug 2017 13:52:46
Needs updating?
Update Update by email
Other mentions of "" in AustLit:
    X