A few weekends ago I went to the Rare Books LA show in Pasadena, California. I have attended that show or a version of that show more often than not in the last 7-8 years. In the earlier years I tended to walk out of there with something. I grabbed Michael Connelly's THE BLACK ECHO with blue rebate band. On a couple of occasions I was able to mine some moderately priced Edward Gorey books. But the last few shows, as my interests have narrowed, have been slim pickings.
On the Edward Gorey side, there always manages to be a bookseller or two. Gorey was a prolific producer. But as a prolific producer many of those books are small run, virtually hand produced copies. Some stray into the hundreds of dollars for that reason. I am not opposed to buying the occasional expensive book, but when there are 30 or 40 with that price tag... and as much as I like Edward Gorey... I am not quite there. [Editor's Note: He means 'yet'. He's not there yet.] I have, also, never really had a buying plan for Gorey. I am moderately chasing the Alphabet books, but I also don't feel like I have the core books. Most of my Gorey purchases have been by chance. Anyway, this show did have one dealer. Sadly no joy. Some nice examples, a couple titles I recognized, a few I did not. All of them with a price I was unwilling to pay.....yet. And not for nothing but these books can be tiny! I probably walked past a few other dealers but even when I am browsing in the booths they can be hard to spot.
The reason I go to the show is to fill holes in my Crime Fiction library. With certain authors I have the earliest and latest books, but what I need is Book 4. This show, regrettably, does not cater to that need. You can certainly find the highlights of Crime Fiction in the room. Someone always brings the A/B/C books from Sue Grafton. You are likely to dig out a copy of NEON RAIN or HEAVEN'S PRISONERS by James Lee Burke, or maybe eye popping copies of THE CONVICT or HALF OF PARADISE. There will be a copy of John Dunning's BOOKED TO TO DIE which I found reasonably priced for $200 after years of seeing this book in the stratosphere. Then there are the Unicorns. For illustrative purposes something like a copy of THE MALTESE FALCON that was owned William Faulkner and the given to Harlan Ellison and now available for $38,500. The room was and usually is lousy with Cormac McCarthy. My one celebrity sighting this time around was a favorite podcaster buying a copy of SUTTREE. In general, for genre fiction, your odds are so much better if you are a SciFi or Horror/Stephen King fan.
But if you, like me, are trying to fill a couple gaps in your Longmire run? Maybe an early Clive Cussler that is not RAISE THE TITANIC? Hoping to get the post-Nick Stefano books from George Pelecanos? The Yalta Blvd series from Olen Steinhauer? How about a Laurie R. King now that she has been named an MWA Grand Master? Forget it.
50 plus dealers in the room and there are 2, maybe 3, that brush up to my needs. And while I don't collect Randy Wayne White books I found 2 dealers that carried his early stuff which much like the Dunning have settled back into something verging on affordable. But that is analog collecting. Sometimes I just need the hunt to be over, and I'll buy copies on ABE. But if I judge my book show experience based on what I bought, I've missed the point.
In the end I had two books that gave me a bit of pause. The first was CALL OF THE DEAD by John le Carré. A US edition in wonderful shape that I put back because it was a book club edition. Incidentally there was a UK edition of CALL OF THE DEAD for over 10K in the room. The other that I picked up and put down more than once was a signed copy of Alan Furst's THE WORLD AT NIGHT. Occasionally at this show you can run into Mr. Furst's pre-Night Soldier novels, YOUR DAY IN THE BARREL or THE CARIBBEAN AFFAIR. Strangely never the other 2, PARIS DROP or SHADOW TRADE. Here was a mid-range... mid-range for me... book at $75 that would fill a gap on an author I adore. It was the first thing I picked up and it was all but purchased. I was even accepting of a small amount of dirt on the cover that I thought with some careful cleaning I could remove [Editor's Note: The 30 year old version of The Hungry Detective would be horrified by this admission]. Unfortunately right on the edge of the binding, the cover had been rubbed bare, just an inch or so. With the book being classified as Fine/Fine. I eventually had to pass. I know I can find a better copy.
So despite my usual kvetching the room had a handful of dealers with books I was happy to browse if having no real interest in buying. I am happy to have this show back and look forward to the next one.