Ghost Gunman History

Exactly when Harry Jones started on the book that became Ghost Gunman is unknown. What is known is that it was originally called Sodbuster’s Son, under which title it had been rejected “some time ago” according to a letter from the author to Muller on 22 October 1962.

Jones resubmitted it under the title of Ghost Guns on 17 January 1963 telling Muller that it had been substantially rewritten and that if the company wasn’t interested he would try to place it with another publisher under the name of Hal Austin. Muller was perhaps worried by the implied threat that another publisher might end up with the first option on subsequent Hal Jons/Austen novels and not only accepted Ghost Guns as the third book of the first three–book contract but also offered a second three–book contract almost by return of post.

In January 1963 Jones asked for a better deal for the new contract, based on an up–front payment plus royalties on sales over specified levels. Jones’ agency, Curtis Brown, was obviously not happy – better terms for Jones would probably mean a reduction in commission for them. They wrote what can only be called a stalling letter, dated 23 January, then advised on 25 January that a royalty was unlikely to be offered. The final say from Curtis Brown came on 30 January 1963 and basically said to accept the same terms as with the last contract and to be grateful! Three letters in five days must say something and Jones, having moved home from Priory Road, Shirehampton, to Burnham Road, also Shirehampton*,  in the meantime, philosophically accepted the offer. From Muller’s point of view the agency certainly earned its commission that time.

There was still an issue with the new title, however, and Jones asked if it could be changed to Ghost Gunman because he had recently discovered that a western titled Ghost Guns, written by W. C. Tuttle, had been published in Collins’ Wild West Club series in 1957. Muller agreed to the title change on 5 March 1963.

There was a long wait for publication because Jones had been so prolific that he was submitting manuscripts well in advance of Muller’s publication schedule – in fact over a year in advance. The book was published in March 1964, by which time, true to form, Jones had completed several more books.

*I wonder why the publishing company is called ‘Burnham Priory’?