Scope and Content
Title: Black Lizard Press Archive,
Date (inclusive): 1977-1994
Collection number: Special Collections M0932
Black Lizard Press
2.5 linear ft.
Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain
permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.
[Identification of item] Black Lizard Press Archive, M0932, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford,
In 1976 in Berkeley, California Don Ellis formed the Creative Arts Book Company. Later that year, Don Ellis met Barry Gifford,
an author inspired by the nihilistic and violent side of the American dream presented in the crime fiction of the 1940's and
50's. Gifford later wrote Wild at Heart, the inspiration for the David Lynch movie of the same title. Shortly thereafter,
Gifford became a consultant to the Creative Arts Book Company which gradually reprinted works by Huxley, Stein, Forster, and
Kazantzakis. The Black Lizard imprint first appeared in 1980 when Ellis printed Gifford's novel Port Tropique: a story about
the protagonist's involvement with smugglers and revolutionaries in Central America. Ellis, however, began to focus on more
commercial ventures and Gifford drifted away, eventually ending up in France. In 1983, Gifford found a dozen novels in a Parisian
bookstore by a forgotten American crime novelist, Jim Thompson. Upon returning to the states, Gifford discovered that none
of Thompson's books had been in print since shortly before his death in 1977. With Gifford as the founding editor, the Black
Lizard imprint was resurrected to serve the gritty criminal ethos of fifties pulp, including the tawdry stylized covers. Black
Lizard went on to print 82 titles including two anthologies edited by Barry Gifford; new works by authors such as Murray Sinclair;
reprints of the works of Jim Thompson, David Goodis, James M. Cain, Gertrude Stein; and the obscure, sophisticated thrillers
of Charles Willeford. Black Lizard and Barry Gifford were, in fact, instrumental to the revival of the lurid romans noir.
The revival carried over into film as well, with several of Thompson's stories being adapted for the screen (Grifters, and
The Getaway) as well as Gifford's own Wild at Heart. For his editorial work, Gifford received the Max Perkins award from PEN
West. In 1990, Don Ellis sold Black Lizard Press, including the 30 unprinted titles to which the rights had been secured,
to Vintage Books. The sole exception in this sale were the rights to Port Tropique, which were retained by the author, Barry
Scope and Content
The collection contains information regarding 81 of Black Lizard's 82 titles, with the exception being Elliot Chaze's Black
Wings has my Angel. The 170 folders are arranged alphabetically in four record storage boxes by book title. Though the order
of the folders was changed, the original division of content amongst the folders, as well as their titles and sub-titles,
was maintained. Folders without sub-titles usually contain information regarding contracts, copies of the contracts themselves,
and other item regarding aspects of production. They are fairly synonymous with folders sub-titled "production." Reviews,
press releases, advertisements, photographs, other legal correspondences, and personal correspondences are included in separate
folders and marked accordingly. The collection also includes two posters: a poster of the Black Lizard logo advertising the
press itself and a poster with the cover art from You Only Live Twice. The collection does not contain information regarding
the broader business practices and situation (financial records, advertising practices, employee information, etc.) of The
Creative Arts Book Company or The Black Lizard Press. It is confined to information regarding the books themselves.
Alter, Robert Edmund.
Cain, James M.
Causey, James O.
Simon, Roger L.
American literature--20th century.
Detective and mystery stories.