Books: The Boom in Busts

The road to ruin in the publishing business is strewn with unsold copies of good books and the bones of the publishing-house editors who picked them. Nowadays, the most successful editors are often nonliterary chaps with a well-developed knack for betting right on the question: What will the most readers buy? For early 1953, the experts are betting on historical novels.

First-rate historicals are still being published, e.g., Edith Simon's The Golden Hand and Alfred Duggan's The Little Emperors (see below). But that many readers want them that good is doubtful. The big demand...