Here at AbeBooks, we’re no strangers to weirdness. Not only are we a little bit odd ourselves, but we have been combing the literary world for bizarre books to add to the Weird Book Room for years. So maybe I should not have been surprised, this morning, to learn of a book called The Jewish-Japanese Sex & Cook Book and How to Raise Wolves by Jack Douglas. I felt my eyebrows raise despite myself.
Investigation reveals that the book’s author, Jack Douglas (1908-1989), was an American comedy writer (not to be confused with comedic actor, Jack Douglas from the Carry On films), making the book less likely to be any kind of how-to manual or serious tome bent on enticing one into a cult. What a relief. Rather, the 1972 title published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons seems to be a sort of memoir – Douglas’ tongue-in-cheek, comedic account of trying to raise (literal) wolves in suburban Connecticut. When the wildness in the wolves proves too much for quiet cul-de-sac life (as it would), Douglas and his family (two-legged and four-legged alike), head off to greener pastures – in this case, two small islands in wild northern Ontario that Douglas purchased in 1968.
Reviews of the book are mixed, with some readers put off by the 1970s language deemed definitely racist, sexist and otherwise prejudiced by today’s standards, and other readers able to suspend their outrage, forgive the trespasses of decades ago, and enjoy the silly humor and heartfelt story of the book, and of course the notion of owning pet wolves. The book also seems to hide some serious messages about conservation of wilderness beneath its raunchy, wisecracking surface. The book is out of print and there are currently only ~a dozen copies available on the site, ranging in price from $200 to $850.
Douglas was born in 1908 and named Douglas Linley Crickard, but chose the pseudonym Jack Douglas for his writing. He wrote primarily for television and radio, but authored humorous books on the side. He was known for his work on Laugh-In (I wonder if he was responsible for “Here come the judge!”?), as well as writing for both Red Skelton and Bob Hope. He had a decades-long friendship with television personality Jack Paar, and appeared on his show regularly, as well as on Merv Griffin. Douglas had three marriages in his life, the final and longest being to a Japanese singer, comedian and acrobatic dancer named Reiko Hashimoto, who he wed in 1960. The Jewish/Japanese Sex and Cookbook, and How to Raise Wolves was Douglas’ ninth book. By 1959, his appearances on television and work with big names had garnered him quite an interest in his writing. He eventually authored a dozen humorous memoirs in total, and died in 1989 at the age of 80. His books were No Navel to Guide Him (1947), My Brother Was an Only Child (1959), Never Trust a Naked Bus Driver (1960), A Funny Thing Happened to Me on My Way to the Grave (1962), The Adventures of Huckleberry Hashimoto (1964), The Neighbors Are Scaring My Wolf (1968), Shut Up and Eat Your Snowshoes! (1970), What Do You Hear from Walden Pond? (1971), The Jewish/Japanese Sex and Cook Book, and How to Raise Wolves (1972), Benedict Arnold Slept Here (1975), Going Nuts in Brazil (1977) and Rubber Duck (1979). All titles are now out of print, and vary from a couple of dozen copies, to quite scarce, to very rare.