Friday, February 19, 2010


McFarland and Company resides in a place in NW North Carolina. In Jefferson after a series of winding roads through the mountains you will find their long modern steel building with about 40 employees. They publish a lot of books every year, mostly in high class hardcover editions on acid free paper.

When it comes to chess books one of the main designers is Robby Franklin, president. Don't know how he has the time.

Most of their books are on chess history, usually involving Americans, but not always (Adolf Albin is an example: a Romanian who visited the USA for a few years). They have had authors such as Andrew Soltis, John Hilbert, Peter Lahde, Eliot Hearst, Leonard Skinner, Robert Verhoeven, Kurt Landesberger, Cary Utterberg. Jeremy Gaige, and internationals such as Edward Winter, Richard Forster, and Gino Di Felice.

Like all publishers they've had a few clunkers. But in the main, not one to waste review copies (I never get any), their work is excellent. Many of their books are sold to libraries.

The words of praise from some reviewers are annoying because often they say the same thing, the same words, and come from the same people/organizations. I don't see how these "expert reviewers" can have even read the book or even spent 30 minutes with it. "Four stars," what does that mean? McFarland doesn't even need reviewers.

I remember getting into a disagreement with the Prez over dust jackets, the lack thereof. They can be a pain, but now they are made of sterner stuff and you can get paper that doesn't tear. Color costs but it also advertises and saves the wonderful cloth covers from scratching. It also makes it easier to find these beautiful books on a shelve full of dark bindings.

Franklin prides himself on being stubborn. I asked if I could print up the covers myself for my own clients and he "preferred" that I not do that (it would make other buyers envious... which to me admits the mistake). Yes, it adds to the cost, what doesn't? If a book is $65 surely no one is going to object if it is $70! I wasn't persuasive except that I noticed there are color covers on the softcovers they produce!!

At times they take chances with fiction such as Soltis' Los Veraces 2019 and Yaffe's Alekhine's Anguish but their emphasis is on history. These books often include rare photographs or illustrations taken from older magazines (such as in the new Hodges book).

The late Ken Whyld was one of McFarland's historical editors; I don't know who occupies that position now.

Besides chess, they also publish on the Civil War, baseball, money, automotive and many other subjects (movie stars, general reference, etc.) The offices are packed with books and busy. I was there about 2003, across the street from their new warehouse.

If you are interested in such books on chess from McFarland, I have been selling their properties for many years and am one of the few regular chess sellers to do so as their books are not cheap, running from about $45-$125 (The high-end, fabulous Alexander Alekhine book!)

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