According to Contemporary Authors her early career revolved around the entertainment business. She claimed to have appeared on stage and in movies as an actress there is no proof of such work. She edited trade journals and fan magazines, presumably in the 1920’s; at a later time she edited at least one romance pulp magazine. She is known to have written prolifically for the romance pulps but these magazines are poorly documented and the handful of stories currently known are a drop in the bucket.
As a novelist her work was confined entirely to two closely related genres, virtually all of it written for lending library publishers. For thirty years she wrote traditional romances, almost entirely for one publisher, Arcadia House. For the last ten of those years she wrote principally nurse novels. She also wrote “love novels,” a somewhat sleazier form of romance that was invented by the lending library publishers. In the 1930’s she wrote them for William Godwin, Inc. and in the 1940’s for Phoenix Press. By 1951 this genre had been abandoned by the hardcover publishers and found a new home in the proliferating digest-size paperbacks. These publishers faded away by 1955, those that survived shifting to soft core porn. Most of the older authors, like Peggy Gaddis, chose not to follow this direction and fell back on writing traditional romances. In the early 1960’s Arcadia House found that there was a mass-market audience for their romances, especially the nurse novels. A flood of Gaddis’s novels were reprinted, some of them several times, under a bewildering array of titles and bylines.
Peggy Gaddis passed away on June 14, 1966. For several years her novels continued to be reprinted, but by the mid-1970’s tastes in romances had changed and her work gradually faded into obscurity. A number of her works have been reprinted in Large Print editions in recent years but this has failed to produce a revival of interest in her work at large and she has never become a “cult” author. By the time the first edition of Twentieth Century Romance Writers was published, in 1982, she was already passé. The only biographical entry in a major reference work is the one in Contemporary Authors, from which the above summary is taken.
A word of explanation is needed about some of the more obscure paperback publishers. In the 1970’s a new phenomenon sprang up, involving the large scale reissue, in facsimile, of paperback books originally issued by Belmont Books, Macfadden Books, and Lancer Books, including the latter’s romance imprint, Valentine Books. Reprints of the first two were issued under the imprint of Unibooks, without book numbers. Lancer Books were reissued as Magnum Books and Valentine Books were reprinted with the same imprint, in both cases using the original book numbers. These imprints were “instant remainder” publications, marked to sell at 25 to 50 cents, while carrying a higher “cover price” at which they were never sold. These books were sold to discount department stores, like Woolworth’s, at a much lower wholesale rate, on a non-returnable basis. The reissue of romances in these series apparently proved so popular that eventually some imprints, like Valentine Books, began to issue new titles, reprinted from hardcovers, that had not been in paperback before.
Peggy Gaddis's Books on Amazon: Peggy Gaddis
Peggy Dern's Books on Amazon: Peggy Dern