One of the great things about collecting old paperbacks is that it’s an inexpensive hobby. Almost criminally inexpensive. Want a good condition copy of the first edition of Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, one of the rarest and most sought-after genre paperbacks? Copies at Amazon.com start at around 10 bucks… about the price of a brand new paperback. I bought a mint-condition, unread copy on eBay for a lofty $20 a few years back.
But there are exceptions. And some of the most interesting exceptions are the early paperbacks of Dean R. Koontz.
Koontz was (and is) a terrifically prolific writer, publishing as many as eight books a year. His first novel, Star Quest (cover here), was published as an Ace Double in 1968, and over the next few years he wrote more than a dozen other SF novels, under his own name and many pseudonyms, including Leigh Nichols, David Axton, and many others. His first bestsellers were Demon Seed (1973), The Key to Midnight (1979, as by Leigh Nichols) and his breakout novel Whispers (1980). With the money he made as a bestselling writer, Koontz famously bought up the rights to most of his early work and, with rare exceptions, has not allowed it to be reprinted.
Which brings us to Hell’s Gate, his fifth novel, published under his own name as a paperback original by Lancer in 1970. It is 190 pages, originally priced at $0.75, with a gorgeous cover by the great Kelly Freas (click the above images for bigger versions). The rights now rest with Koontz and, like much of his early work, it has never been reprinted. There is no digital edition. If you want a copy, you’ll have to turn to the collector’s market, and copies in good condition can be pretty expensive. Prices at Amazon.com currently range from around $15-35, and at eBay range from $7.50 to $100. If you’re interested, be prepared to shop around.