By Steven Barket
Las Vegas, Nevada
I’ve previously detailed the relationship between John L. Smith and the publisher of several of his books, Barricade Books.
Barricade is a bit of a notorious book publisher. And by notorious, I really mean sleazy. Just take a look at some of the titles they’ve published: “Naked Came the Stranger,” which was purposefully written to be a bad book — a hoax by a group of writers trying to show how awful and debased and over-sexed American literature had become — “Ordeal” by Linda Lovelace (who you must remember was the star of the breakthrough pornographic movie in the mid-70s, “Deep Throat”, “The Sensuous Woman” by “J”, “Sex and the Single Girl” by Helen Gurley Brown, to name a handful.
But there’s one that’s really just over the top. It’s “The Anarchist Cookbook” by William Powell. First published in early 1970, it truly was a book that provided detailed information on how to create anarchy. It described how to make homemade explosives and other lethal weapons, how to make illicit drugs at home, how to create telecommunications devices, sabotage and survivalist techniques –- all kinds of mayhem. It has been called “the most disquieting ‘how-to’ book of contemporary times.”
Upon deeper review, it seems clear to me why John L. Smith went with this publisher. Sure Barricade Books focuses on memoirs, true crime stories and Mafia titles – certainly subject matter that can have a Vegas connection; but those kinds of books could have connections with almost any major city – New York, Chicago, Boston, L.A., Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, etc.
The connection is the late founder of Barricade Books, Lyle Stuart. (Stuart died in 2006 at the age of 83.) Stuart had a pretty deep connection with Las Vegas. He was part-owner of the original Aladdin Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and he was a gambling authority, who wrote a number of books on gambling, and who also advised casinos on how to protect themselves from cheats and cons.
Stuart’s second wife, Carole Stuart, succeeded him in taking over Barricade Books at his death. The thing is, if I were Barricade Books, if I were Carole, I’d be staying far away from accepting any more books from John L. Smith. JLS already has been the source of a couple of multi-million dollar libel suits with the books he’s written: a $3.1 million libel suit for his book, “Running Scared: The Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn” and a $15 million libel suit for his book, “Sharks in the Desert: The Founding Fathers and Current Kings of Las Vegas.”
If I’m Barricade Books, and I see a manuscript come in from John L. Smith, I’m returning to sender unopened. But that’s just me.
Of course, it’s a little bit of a comeuppance for Barricade, to be involved in a couple multi-million dollar lawsuits. It was Stuart who it appears took advantage of a young author named William Powell who brought him “The Anarchist Cookbook.” Powell was only 19 years old at the time he was shopping his manuscript around, and he was doing so without an agent. To quote Powell, “I submitted the manuscript directly to a number of publishers without the help or advice of an agent. Ultimately, it was accepted by Lyle Stuart Inc. and was published verbatim – without editing – in early 1970. Contrary to what is the normal custom, the copyright for the book was taken out in the name of the publisher rather than the author. I did not appreciate the significance of this at the time and would only come to understand it some years later when I requested that the book be taken out of print.”
Stuart essentially appropriated the copyright of the book without the author’s knowledge – just took over the copyright of the work of an author who was too young to know any better and who had no professional representation to look out for him.
So now that I think about it, maybe John L. Smith and Barricade Books are just the right match after all.