Friday, August 19, 2011

Norman Borisoff's teenagers

Norman Borisoff is a screenwriter who began writing for motion pictures in the 1940's. Starting in the 1960's, he also began writing for television. He worked on such notable series as The Saint, I Spy, Ironside and Starsky and Hutch. In the 1970's, he turned to writing books for children and young adults. Many of these books were illustrated with black and white photographs. For example, his 4 Adventures in the City books, featured pictures by Michal Heron. If I'm not mistaken, I think that might be the same Michal Heron found HERE.
The two photo-illustrated novels by Borisoff that I have actually read are:

Crazy George. 1974, Scholastic Books. Photos by Frank Delia.
This one is narrated by a teenager named Tom. He thinks his best friend, his crazy neighbor George, is a real klutz. He watches in bewilderment as George bungles his way around attempts at impressing a beautiful new girl at their school named Linda Carter. He can't believe that Linda actually likes George, because she is always hanging out with athletes. George tries to join the wrestling and diving team, only to get injured and humiliated. Tom starts to think that George has lost his mind. He's embarrassed by him. But even after hearing all the mistakes that George has made, Linda still likes him. And his friend Tom learns not to be so critical of his friends.
The photos include some nice two page spreads.
I don't know much about the photographer Frank Delia, but HERE is another random picture I found on the internet credited to him.
The Dropout. 1975, Scholastic. Photos by (?)

correction - 9-8-11
I was thinking of the wrong book! The book I was remembering is actually a title by Peggy Mann
called The Drop-In. This is also a photo-illustrated novel. It turns out that Scholastic also had a series of photo-illustrated hi-lo books in the late 1970's. It was called The Double Action Library. Weird! Now, I want to find The Dropout. Anyone know anything about it?

I purchased this book over 15 years ago, which is probably where the confusion comes from. I actually named a comic strip I did which ran in the Long Island Voice Newspaper (1999-2000) after this book. It was called "Drop-In" . Anyway, as you can probably imagine, this book is about a high school dropout. After his mom throws him out of the house, he gets his own apartment and a job at the supermarket. His girlfriend gets pregnant (if I'm remembering this correctly) and they struggle to make ends meet. In the end, he decides to go back to school and become a cop! Again, the supermarket setting was an influence on my comics...in stories such as "That's My Baby" and Afterschool Special.

Bewitched and Bewildered. 1982, Dell. Photos by Harold Roth
To my knowledge, this is one of the last young adult novels Borisoff wrote. Similar to Crazy George, it involves a teenage boy who is obsessing over a pretty girl. Except in this book, the girl has some supernatural powers.
As for the photos, I believe this might be the same Harold Roth famous for his pictures of New York City in the 1950's. He also photographed several non-fiction children's books.

And finally, here is a video I found on YouTube of Borisoff at age 89 fighting for the rights of writers. Go Norman!


For more on the subject of photo-illustrated teen books (or TRIUMPH books), please see my previous entry on Ellen Rabinowich.

update:

I just found this paperback original from 1973 entitled You Might Even Like It by Norman Borisoff. I love the cover and description. So I'm really looking forward tor reading this one too:

9-19-2011
I finally read this! It's definitely my favorite of Borisoff's books I've come across. Also, unusual for a YA book because the main character is 21. This one is set up like a mystery/crime story. Kenny has a secret that is worrying his girlfriend Debbie. Why is Kenny such a loner? And why don't the cops buy his story after he gets beaten up so bad that he ends up in the hospital for two weeks? This one involves suspicious parents and drug dealers. At times, it even feels like a police procedural. It's almost like an episode of The Rookies. Told in the third person, the story jumps around from the protagonists, to the cops and then the criminals. You really get the sense of Borisoff's style and the fact that he was a prolific writer for television shows. The ending does not disappoint. This is some classic "neglected" teen pulp!

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