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Showing posts from August, 2013

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)

I should have know things were about to get serious. The booth had my big four books. The Black Echo (with blue rebate band), The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie R. King, Heaven's Prisoners by James Lee Burke, and Lullaby Town by Robert Crais. Written in pencil on the inside of this particular copy of Lullaby Town was a price I had not seen since I started paying attention to the book. It has been well above $400 for decade, and this price made my throat close. Ms. King's book was reasonable as well, and the Burke was in my wheel house if, unfortunately for my purposes, inscribed to someone else.
The Connelly loomed there on the shelf daring me to name a price that I would pay. And wouldn't you know it I hit right on its head. It was a steal at this price. I put it back on the shelf. I walked around giving the room one last shake, but much like The Vinegar Works I had already bought the book.
I had a momentary debate about picking up the Crais as it was just as good a dea…

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)

I was wrong of course. I wasn't going to find The Vinegar Works for cheaper. And like most things the money did not really matter. With each step up the street to find my wife and friends, the book became more and more mine. By the time we hugged our friends good-bye for the third time, I should have walked back across the street to save myself the eventual postage I would pay a week later.
In the two weeks that followed I built a list of Crime Fiction books I planned to procure and picked a Gorey or two from his daunting catalog too focus my attention. Obviously, the next logical step was the Pasadena Convention Center. It had been a good long while since I had been on the floor of a proper book fair. Eleven of the thirteen years I lived in Rochester I went to the Rochester Antiquarian Book Fair. More than half those years I was able to survey the complete run of booksellers in fifteen minutes, and leave soon after. I do not want to bad mouth ROC too much. A few of those years I…

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)

"I'll show you some treasures" In a bookstore, as in life, you wait your whole life to see treasures. And the owner of this shop; she had them. Three Books from Fantod Press 1+2. The Beastly Baby. The Wuggly Ump, The Vinegar Works, The Unstrung Harp, A Limerick, The Broken Spoke. Lovely stuff. I would have bought them all. Still laboring under the extreme delusion that I wasn't going to spend a lot of money I grabbed most of the books south of $50. The others were seriously out of my price range. I was just happy to see them.
The two books that gave me serious pause were Mr. Gorey's first, The Unstrung Harp. At just over $100 I felt I could justify it based on it being his first and not in terrible condition. A small tear, a few chips but otherwise a very nice copy. The other was the three book collection entitled The Vinegar Works of which Mr. Gorey's most famous creation, The Gashlycrumb Tinies is apart. If a singular book can encapsulate an author's w…

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)

Friends had made the decision to marry near the small town of Hudson, New York. This part of New York is rabbit's warren of little burgs that are filled with many cutesy gift and antique stores for NYC residents during the weekends and Summer months. The wife and I traveled into Hudson to meet up with another set of old friends that we don't see nearly enough now that we are well across the country. What was a 5 minute ride a cross the Rip Van Winkle bridge for us was a three hour car trek for them. We are in there debt for the trouble they took to travel 6 hours round trip with two kids who seem to have excessive amount sass. Lunch was boozy and Mexican. And it turned into a walk around the three block main drag. The kids were bored by the adults, and promises of a cheap present for the ride home needed to be filled. While they hunted for something appropriate in a CVS. I ducked into bookstore.
Immediately I knew that I would find Edward Gorey books. While the owner smoked h…

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)

Edward Gorey produced books from the early 1950's right up to his death in 2000. During the 60's and 70's he produced two to three books a year.  Many of these books have been reissued, some as many as three times. Most of his output was widely available while not an insignificant amount was privately published. Scarce even upon release these books now brings hundreds if not thousands of dollars. The rest follow the typical pattern of the older the book the higher the cost. Then there are the collaborations, the work done under assumed names, and the work he did purely as an illustrator. It is a daunting catalog. I'm going to spend the rest of my life building it.
The work of Mr. Gorey still falls under the broad umbrella of Crime Fiction. Many of his books deal with disreputable people doing disreputable things. I enjoy them because of their relative brevity and their rather sweet nature despite their macabre settings. I buy serviceable copies that while not cheap ca…

Thanks and Safe Journey.

Photograph: Michael Brennan/Getty Images

Here is That List

Thirty books. A little shorter if I cut Olen Stenhauer's 'Yalta' series. A series I never read, but included based on my love for the 'Milo Weaver' books. Then again maybe slightly longer if I add a few more missing George Pelecanos.
I could depress myself by adding up suspected prices. A bunch are well over the $100 mark. But there is no end date to this assignment. I have certainly spent money on less important things.
This could take years. I hope it does.

[Editors Note: Updated 7/15/14 with recent purchases]
[Editors Note: Updated 10/5/14 with recent purchases]
James Lee Burke
Heavens Prisoner's
Black Cherry Blues
Morning for Flamingos
Pegasus Descending - 7/14/14

The Glass Rainbow- 7/14/14
Feast Day of Fools
Creole Belle

Robert Crais
The Monkey's Rainbow
Lullaby Town
Indigo Slam- 7/14/14

Sean Doolittle

Alan Furst
Night Soldiers
Dark Star
The World at Night
Red Gold
Spies of Balkan
Mission to Paris

Craig Johnson
Kindness Goes Unpunished
The Dark Horse

Laurie R.…

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)...

As plans do, it quickly morphed from filling in the gaps of James Lee Burke to filling in the gaps of all the authors in the core collection. I'm missing three Robert Crais books including the uber-expensive LULLABY TOWN. Books three-five of the Walt Longmire series by Craig Johnson are missing. One book from Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series did not survive the move, plus (speaking of expensive) THE BEEKEEPER'S APPRENTICE. I'm missing Sean Doolittle's first book, DIRT. There are some early Alan Furst books I would love to add to the collection. The Nick Stefano books from George Pelecanos would be a pretty penny but are necessary at this point.
And of course THE BLACK ECHO with blue rebate band. Fifteen years ago I could have picked this book up right around $100. That would have been pretty close to 10% of my yearly take home pay. Over the years I would run across the book. I remember a jump in price to about $150-175, and then suddenly it was $350 and above.…

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)...

James Lee Burke is the greatest living American Crime Fiction author. I could easily pull the 'Crime Fiction' qualifier from that statement and not be wrong. He is that good. Inexplicably, I stopped buying Mr. Burke's books. Primarily because they tend(ed) to show up on overstock tables, so I felt fairly confident I could grab a copy cheap if I was patient for the next nine months. Of course from THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN forward I had a run of bad luck finding a clean unmaked copy.
I could see the damage of my own shortsightedness. The missing are PEGASUS DESCENDING, THE GLASS RAINBOW, FEAST DAY OF FOOLS, and CREOLE BELLE. I sat there and made the decision to find them. Not too difficult a prospect as I need only walk into the right store to find CREOLE BELLE which was Mr. Burke's 2012 release. And given the relative recent publication of the the rest trusted internet providers should fill the gaps.
Scanning down the shelf at the my Burke's revealed other gaps. I she…

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)...

About 6 months before the purge I stopped buying books. The caveat here is that I never stopped buying the core authors that I loved. But, after a few years on the hunt for new and exciting authors I had only found a couple that meant a lot to me (i.e. Craig Johnson and Olen Steinhauer). Dozens of authors were picked up and discarded. If I was lucky, the book was terrible, and could be forgotten quickly. If I was unlucky the book was frustratingly serviceable that somehow obliged me to string an author along until I was 3-4 books deep with no hope of reading and no compelling reason to try.
A few were causalities, notably William Kent Kruger an author I like a great deal. But circa 2010 I had only read two of his books and was down about eight. It was not gonna happen. It was disheartening that reading became an obligation that frequently was not enjoyable. First world problems yes, but they were my problems, and it was depressing
So the realization that I had to stop acquiring books…

I recently spent alot of money on books... (cont.)

The biggest problem was the collection became, within my limited financial means, a library. I acquired authors that meant little to me based on the fact that they were easy to buy, and others spoke highly of them. This, of course, was a mistake. For me it was the accumulation that fueled me not the books themselves. A full bag of books was the satisfaction. Depressingly, the bag would go into the man cave. The books would be shelved and more often than not that was that.
The purge was correcting an activity that should have never happened. I lost focus in my focus. The proof of this is a year later I have had only one instance where I regretted giving the book away (Charlie Houston's The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death). 
With world headquarters for The Hungry Detective firmly established in Los Angeles and the books on the shelves, I could see the collection for the first time in a very long time.

It turns I did not give away Mystic Arts. I discovered the boo…

I recently spent alot of money on books...

Spring of 2012 began the slow, painful process of getting rid of a lot of books. My wife and I had made the decision to move. Our future was going to be a one bedroom white box apartment, not a multi-room house in the Suburbs. An in any case, the collection had long since expanded past the confines of the attic 'Man Cave'. Many of books had been in boxes for awhile. Technically those were the easiest to let go. Books bought on speculation that I either did not like or worse never read.
Many of these books were overstocks or remainder so the financial loss per book was not so great. Still, when donating about 75-100 books it gave me serious pause. The money spent was never an issue it was the realization that I had a lot more to purge. The second wave would need to be a ruthless Stalin-like purge. 
The details of that purge are unnecessary (surprisingly a bit painful), but at the end some 350 books were subtracted from The Hungry Detective Collection. What remained was the co…