Once called ‘the American Tolstoy’ Herman Wouk is widely regarded in literary circles as one of the stanchions of the American epic saga, falling in a tradition that stretches all the way back to Nathaniel Hawthorne or Mitchell’s North and South. Although Herman Wouk wrote on completely different topics, his study of the human individual, his place in society and of the direction of that society as a whole casts his fiction in a uniquely American light.
His most famous work is, of course, The Caine Mutiny (Doubleday, New York, 1951), and can be cast in that same category of writers (Salinger, the Beats, Hemingway even) who were dealing with the American civil project in modern times. Whereas Salinger and the Beats rejected the supposed stabilizing influence of society, using the recent war as an example of how anomic and fractured the individual had become – Wouk on the other hand saw the world wars as crucibles of character. It is through them (and despite them) that the characters of the The Caine Mutiny discover moral action.
Happily for the collector, it is still fairly easy to acquire a true first edition of The Caine Mutiny, thanks to its popularity in film adaptation. However, for a signed or annotated true first – expect to pay a few thousand dollars! Consider instead a slightly foxed copy, or a first edition paperback of the same – published the same year, but usually available at considerably cheaper prices ($5-750). One of the delights of collecting books, is the detective skills you develop when finding a true first. In many cases a true first may not appear the same as the luxurious hardcover presentation copy – if the publisher believes that it will have mass market appeal, or does not immediately foretell just how important the book will be.
In the case of The Caine Mutiny, the very first true edition had, of the author’s previous works written ‘City Boy’ (referring to the slightly earlier, less-successful novel of Wouk’s). The actual title of this earlier tome is The City Boy, and this mistake was rectified in later printings, but not in the true first. Look for this printers’ mistake for the sign of a true first!
Wouk, Herman. Aurora Dawn. Simon and Schuster, New York (1947). The True History of Andrew Reale.
Wouk, Herman. Caine Mutiny. Doubleday and Co. Inc., Garden City, NY (1952). A Novel of World War II; Paintings by Lawrence Beall Smith.
Wouk, Herman. THE CAINE MUTINY COURT MARTIAL. Paul Gregory, Los Angeles (1954). directed by Charles Laughton and starring Henry Fonda.
Wouk, Herman. City Boy. Doubleday, New York (1969). The Adventures Of Herbie Bookbinder Twentieth Anniversary Edition.
Wouk, Herman. Caine Mutiny. Franklin Library, Franklin Center, PA (1977). a Novel of World War II;Illustrated by George H. Jones.
Wouk, Herman. War and Remembrance. Little, Brown and Company, Boston (1978). Historical novel of World War II from Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima,the viewpoint is American.
Wouk, Herman. Marjorie Morningstar. Franklin Library, Franklin Center, Pennsylvania (1981). illustrations by Alan Reingold.
Wouk, Herman. Marjorie Morningstar. Franklin Library, Franklin Center, Pennsylvania (1983). illustrations by Alan Reingold.
Wouk, Herman. Language God Talks. Little, Brown and Company, New York (2010). On Science and Religion