The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blogger Nav Bar

I just added a neat bit of code to the blogger template to hide the Nav Bar at the top of the screen. It offended my eye. Code acquired from Derya's WebResourse.axd to give due credit.

If its absence bugs anyone overmuch, there's a button at the bottom of the right side bar to show/hide it.

Any other blog tweaks that you want to see? I'm looking into a "subscribe by e-mail" option.

Negative Feedback Bookplate

This hilarious, vengeful bookplate was recently posted by Lewis Jaffe on his blog Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie (together with a set of "special occasion" plates).

This is negative feedback for the ages.

Movie Break: Attack of the Crab Monsters

I finally saw a bizarre, Roger Corman picture that's been haunting me since I read about it years ago (likely in Bill Warren's Keep Watching the Skies--the essential reference book on 40s-60s sf film).

The plot summary--giant irradiated crabs absorb the brains of people they eat then use their voices to trick people into the giant crab den--really stuck with me. Apparently the fish as brain food thing works both ways.

Usually when I track down little obsessions like this, they disappoint, but this film was actually more bizarre than I could have hoped.

Okay brain-stealing giant nuclear crabs: weird.

Nihilistic crabs who systematically demolish an island so their prey has nowhere to run: scary.

Mercury-like, heat-radiating crabs who can't be killed because solid objects pass right through them: total "wtf?" Dada nightmare.

The set-up and scientist protags are likeably generic, but most of this (short) film is devoted to info-dumping the bizarre gumbo of monster ideas.

Here's the netflix link: Attack of the Crab Monsters

The transfer is fairly crap and looks like it was taken from a public domain VHS, but it doesn't matter. You will be absorbed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trash-talking George Eliot

I checked out Middlemarch from our library so I wouldn't fall too far behind on my Dailylit subscription. I'm enjoying it a great deal (to the extent that I'm ignoring Gil Brewer's Vengeful Virgin and the pile of Manga that I brought as back-ups).

I made a fun phrase origin discovery in chapter 45 (page 407 of the Bantam pb edition). In reference to some rumor mongering about the forward-thinking Dr. Lydgate, the author states:
The trash talked on such occasions was the more vexatious to Lydgate, because it was precisely the sort of prestige which an incompetent and unscrupulous man would desire....
This is actually in reference to some ignorant and misplaced praise offered by individuals from a lower-class, rather than insults or slander.

I don't have access to etymological texts at the moment but most internet resources indicate that "trash talk" is of colloquial African-American origin. The Eliot 1870-71 reference indicates that it might be associated with the term "white trash"--which can be traced back at least to the 1820s.

I'm gonna keep reading and see if I can sort out who made the first "booty call".

Monday, December 24, 2007

Found in a Book: Pi decal and Guylaine Guy

I found a pile of these very sf-looking decals of the old National Education Association (NEA) Pi logo stuffed into a book.

Looks like a Vulcan merit badge.

And this substitution announcement saying that actress Guylaine Guy will assume the role of La Mome Pistache.

I think this was from a 1950s production of Cole Porter's Can-Can. There's a picture of her on a French-language site devoted to French-Canadian performers here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New Yorker article: Twilight of the Books

The Dec 24/31 New Yorker published an interesting essay by Caleb Crain on the changing state of literacy and what it will mean to our culture if people stop reading books or it becomes only an esoteric pass-time for the elite.

This passage the discusses the difference between the oral and the literary mind-set:
Whereas literates can rotate concepts in their minds abstractly, orals embed their thoughts in stories. According to Ong, the best way to preserve ideas in the absence of writing is to "think memorable thoughts," whose zing insures their transmission. In an oral culture, cliche and stereotype are valued, as accumulations of wisdom, and analysis is frowned upon, for putting those accumulations at risk. There's no such concept as plagiarism, and redundancy is an asset that helps an audience follow a complex argument. Opponents in struggle are more memorable than calm and abstract investigations, so bards revel in name-calling and in "enthusiastic description of physical violence." Since there's no way to erase a mistake invisibly, as one may in writing, speakers tend not to correct themselves at all. Words have their present meanings but no older ones, and if the past seems to tell a story with values different from current ones, it is either forgotten or silently adjusted. As the scholars Jack Goody and Ian Watt observed, it is only in a literate culture that the past's inconsistencies have to be accounted for, a process that encourages skepticism and forces history to diverge from myth.
I've never read a better explanation for Bush's second term.

It isn't an entirely one-sided, pro-literary argument however. Cain also hi-lights findings from a 1974 Soviet study that defined ways of seeing the word that are more available to the pre-literate:
Luria found that illiterates had a "graphic-functional" way of thinking that seemed to vanish as they were schooled. In naming colors, for example, literate people said "dark blue" or "light yellow," but illiterates used metaphorical names like "liver," "peach," "decayed teeth," and "cotton in bloom." Literates saw optical illusions; illiterates sometimes didn't. Experimenters showed peasants drawings of a hammer, a saw, an axe, and a log and then asked them to choose the three items that were similar. Illiterates resisted, saying that all the items were useful. If pressed, they considered throwing out the hammer; the situation of chopping wood seemed more cogent to them than any conceptual category. One peasant, informed that someone had grouped the three tools together, discarding the log, replied, "Whoever told you that must have been crazy," and another suggested, "Probably he's got a lot of firewood." One frustrated experimenter showed a picture of three adults and a child and declared, "Now, clearly the child doesn't belong in this group," only to have a peasant answer: "Oh, but the boy must stay with the others! All three of them are working, you see, and if they have to keep running out to fetch things, they'll never get the job done, but the boy can do the running for them."
It's an interesting (and fairly depressing) read. Check it out here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Famous Mountaineer Bookplate

I found this bookplate--"Ex-libris Geoffrey Winthrop Young"--in a copy of Tudor Tracts 1532-1588, Archibald Constable and Co, 1903. I was tempted to remove it for my collection but I did a little googling first and it turns out Young was a famous mountaineer, author and poet.

Excerpted from wikipedia:
"Young made many new and difficult ascents in the Alps, including noted routes on the Zermatt Breithorn (the "Younggrat"), the west ridge of the Gspaltenhorn, on the west face of the Weisshorn, and a dangerous and rarely repeated route on the south face of the Täschhorn. His finest rock climb was the Mer de Glace face of the Grépon. In 1911, with H O Jones, he ascended the Brouillard ridge of Mont Blanc and made the first complete traverse of the west ridge of the Grandes Jorasses, and the first decent of the ridge to the Col des Hirondelles....He was elected president of the Climbers' Club in 1913...and later president of the Alpine Club."
He published numerous collections of verse, books on mountaineering and the very entertaining sounding The Roof Climbers Guide to Trinity, "a satirical parody of pompous early alpine guides".

The book also contains a bookseller ticket from "Spottiswoode & Co., Ltd., 17 High Street Elton" and vocabulary notes on the rear endpaper (possibly in Young's hand).

Quite a cool find.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Paul Rader Midwood Cover Model

Girls Dormitory (Midwood F343) 1963 AUTHOR: Joan Ellis ARTIST: Paul Rader, originally uploaded by Hang Fire Books.

While uploading a new batch of covers to flickr, I noticed that the woman in the background of this Paul Rader painting was done using the same model/photograph as in this 1964 Rader cover I posted previously.

Looks like a new painting rather than over-painting or art director recycling as you frequently see on these covers. It's an interesting glimpse into Rader's artistic process.

Lots of fresh cheesecake in my Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery. You can subscribe to an RSS feed of my covers here if interested
(this is separate from/in addition to the regular blog feed) .

Hang Fire Flickr Feed

Ririhong Netslice!

Alice found this Ririhong Netslice in the dollar store down the street. It's replaced both "thing-a-ma-jig" and "doohickey" in my vocabulary.

I think it perfectly illustrates why China is kicking our ass economically. They can make a closet organizer sound like a finishing move in Mortal Combat...and tweak my patriotism while they're at it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Recent Estate Sale Finds

I mentioned a few posts back that I purchased books from the estate of a champion cat fancier/fashion plate and her husband an award-winning toast master.

I finally made it through the boxes and I thought I'd hi-light some of my best finds:

What Shall I Wear?: The What, Where, When and How Much of Fashion
by Claire McCardell

Simon & Shuster 1956

A difficult book to find in any condition but here's one in the jacket and autographed.

Excerpted from Wikipedia:
Claire McCardell (1905-1958) was an American Fashion designer. Her clothes were functional with clean lines and an American look. She is known for her wrap-around sashes, monastic dresses, harem pajamas, and large pockets with top stitching. She launched her career as a designer under the supervision of Robert Turk. When he died in an accident in the early 1930s, Claire was made head designer. She found success in the fall season of 1938 with her monastic dress, one that had no back, front, or zipper, but was tied to fit the wearer. She kept designing for Robert Turk's, Townley, until her death in 1958. Her clothing is still recognized as timeless American sportswear.
The book is beautifully designed with McCardell's elongated, cartoon figures in the margins of nearly every page and a fold-out glossary of "McCardellisms".

Boy Scout Handbook
(Revised Handbook, First Edition, 3rd Printing)

Classic Americana with the Norman Rockwell cover. Not super-rare but the first one I've turned up and it's good to know what it looks like.

The Dog Cantbark
by Marjorie Fischer

Random House, 1940 First Edition

A charming children's book about a dog raised by musicians who isn't allowed to bark lest he disturb their practice. In dust jacket with no crayon marks (a rare occurrence with vintage kids' books).

Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words
Edited by Robert Anton Wilson

Playboy Press, 1974

A handy book to have if you want to know when a woman is "flying bravo" or if you're in the market for a "merkin". I was mystified about the relatively high demand for it though, until I focused on the editor and noticed it was Robert Anton Wilson, author of the cult conspiracy epic the Illuminatus Trilogy.

And lastly:

A box-full of vintage Air France silverware from the mid-60s. I love the mod design, especially the tiny paddle-shaped knife (and yes that's me looking even more pear-shaped than usual in the unfortunate spoon reflection...but fully clothed you reflectoporn pervs).

I love finding a few odd items to keep as mementos once the books (hopefully) fly off to new homes. Can't wait to picnic with these.

Also I'm currently running several auctions from this estate, including one for antique German lace craft books and patterns, and one for cat show souvenir booklets and ephemera. Check them out if interested.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hard-Boiled Papercraft

Photographer Thomas Allen has a new book of pop-up art created from vintage pulp covers called Uncovered.

I have mixed feeling about his methods (especially since Chip Kidd is attached to the project who--though an enthusiast of comic and pulp art--has presided over some extremely butchered presentations of said art) but Allen's images are beautiful.

I hope he doesn't inspire any copycat killings though.

Link via BoingBoing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Movie Break: I'm Not There

I just saw Todd Haynes' experimental Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There. It's a psychological exploration of Dylan through the musical personas he's created and inhabited. To make the transformations more dramatic, Haynes cast six different actors as Dylan (including an African-American teenager and Cate Blanchett).

I avoided reading the reviews because I generally love Haynes' movies and I wanted to approach it fresh. It wasn't a disappointment (though it had numerous flaws, embarrassing moments and went on for about 10-20 minutes too long).

Basically if you enjoyed Haynes' Velvet Goldmine (which was about Bowie, Eno, Roxy Music, etc), this is the precise same formula applied to Dylan. The films are so similar in structure (down to the dramatic revealing of the artist's true name--as if they were some kind of black magician who's power was bound to the concealing of identity) that Haynes frequently crosses from self-referential to lazy.

I'm a moderate Dylan fan--I love Blonde on Blonde, the classic 60s live recordings, and Don't Look Back. A friend has been supplying me some of the more kabbalistic items, like the 5-disk Basement tapes and Eat the Document. Even with that comparatively small cache of Dylan knowledge, it's clear that this film is incredibly dense. It walks into record covers, nails all of the interview footage I've seen, and will send you racing for your dusty vinyl and youtube to see where Haynes was coming from.

With 6 actors you're bound to get uneven portrayals. The best are Marcus Carl Franklin--who's hilarious representing Dylan's down-trodden, hobo days as an oppressed Negro--and Cate Blanchett who captures Dylan at his most strung-out, obnoxious and perverse. Less interesting are Heath Ledger as a womanizing hunk of beefcake and Richard Gere (!) as Dylan in Billy the Kid exile.

I also appreciated that (unlike Bowie) Dylan allowed for the creative use and adaptation of his music to Haynes' story ideas. The mixture of sharp covers (by Cat Power, Sonic Youth, Richie Havens, Calexico) and Dylan rarities make the soundtrack a worthy buy.

Recommended viewing for a more-than-casual Dylan fan, who has the patience for a biopic that's as slippery and sarcastic as its subject.

Bookselling Tools: Create-A-Stamp Kit

I haven't done one of these bookselling tools posts in a while but after my fourth inventory relocation, I was reminded of the usefulness of my changeable rubber stamp kit. Available at most office supplies stores and at Amazon. The miniature rubber type-setting is an eye and wrist killer but I've saved at least $100-$150 dollars on made-to-order rubber stamps.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Yellowed paperbacks, yellowed teeth

Last week's NYT Book Review contained an interesting essay on the history of (mostly) cigarette advertising in pocket paperbacks of the 1950s-early 80s. The results of the campaign were mixed. The authors hated them (and weren't cut in on the profits), they ended up in the hands of children when the affordable editions were picked for school reading lists and--it turns out--most Americans don't read anyway.

Though ugly and annoying, these ads were at least less insidious than the rash of product placement in novels that started a few years back. Is this still happening? or did bad publicity trump greed?

Read and Release

I have a quick post up at The Bookshop Blog on academic journals/magazines and their uses for a bookseller. Check it out if you get a chance.

Friday, December 7, 2007

French Legacy Porn

The French National Library is...mounting an exhibition of erotic texts and art from the forbidden archive of police-seized erotica. The collection dates back to the 1700s and became known as "L’Enfer" (Hell) when the works were isolated from the rest of the library in the 1830s. Hell ceased intake in 1969 but the works are now finally available for public view (well the 16-and-over public anyway).

The show will include manuscripts from the Marquis De Sade, filthy chapbooks, early erotic photography and numerous key items of historically important smut.

An unused metro station is being converted into an advertisement for the show and trains will slow to a playful tease so riders can glimpse a preview.

Article via The London Times, Link via Violet Blue.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ditmas Exploration

Exploring the new neighborhood today with a couple of small quests to drive me.

First I needed to find a wizened hardware store proprietor who knows the quirks of the neighborhood buildings and has the bits to fix them. Side mission 1: complete! Faucet cartridge collected.

My main task was to try the new post office. This, unfortunately, was a rout. It's a tiny satellite (no PO boxes, or package pickups) with only a couple of open windows. The line filled the place at 2PM on a Wednesday afternoon...not a good sign. And what a line! There was an aggressive cat lady who made the place smell like a stale litterbox, a Japanese woman in a SARS mask trying to ship a digital camera in a tissue box (via UPS mind you) and an elderly man, who--immediately after I tapped his arm to let him know he dropped his glove--shot an ENORMOUS snot rocket into the overflowing trash can next to my foot. I had to avert my eyes and keep the gag reflex in check the entire 28 minutes I stood in line. The staff was nice and helpful to a fault. If they snapped at a few Mo-mos the line might have moved faster.

Guess I'll be bike-messengering it back to the old PO. They're tough but fair and I've already won their respect.

I also discovered 2 new sit-down Mexican restaurants to sample, and a place for Jamaican patties. Still haven't found a bar that suits...

So I don't know what it says about me, but I kept hearing the Legend of Zelda village theme while urban exploring and thinking "What can this quaint shopkeeper offer me on my perilous journey?"

I think this completely un-Brooklyn archway of trees must have set it off

I'll get a better picture during the daytime but it's completely fairy tale.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Amazon Lover

"She was over 6-Feet tall, but that was the smallest thing about her--and we mean EVERYTHING you're thinking, mister!!!"

I'm not sure what I was thinking actually...mostly that with her bizarre coloration, she looks like potential Shatner-trim.

E-Mail Hijacking

Tonight was a rough night. I came home after tromping through sleet to find that my business e-mail had been hijacked and was happily sending spam for hours.

One top of that I received a perfectly timed phishing email saying that I had just purchased $2000 laptop from

Normally phishing e-mails don't phase me but because of the hijacking, I had visions of someone harvesting my credit card from my e-mail account settings and purchasing an island off Borneo. So I did the round of credit report calls before searching the text and figuring out it was a known phishing/malware beastie. Good times

I've been using Earthlink but as soon as I can shift my accounts, I'm outta there.

This is the text of the spam. If you're one of the thousands of people who received this ONE TIME OPPORTUNITY from me already, I apologize for the redundancy.

Payment Managers Wanted for 2007 Quarter
Job Processing Unit (Uatcltd-Group)
United Asian Trading Company.
Phone: +447045766996


Dom May

I wish I could decode e-mail headers because it's looks to contain good info as to the source.

The moral is:
a) Use long complicated passwords that you cycle periodically
b) avoid being a dumb-ass.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Curious Antique Newspaper Clippings

In the process of moving, I unearthed a c1900 scrapbook that I acquired several years ago. It's a technical engineering text with miscellaneous clippings pasted over most of the pages. I had put it aside, intending to conduct "further research" but you know how those things work...

Turns out that it wasn't very interesting, but I did find a handful of peculiar newspaper clippings that I thought I'd share.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holiday Sale 10%-20% off

In recognition of my 10,000th book (which sold already, yay!) and the holiday shopping season I'm offering 10% off my entire inventory, 15% off orders of $50 or more, and 20% off orders of $100 or more. The sale applies only to direct sales via paypal.

Here's how to get the discount:

Browse my catalogs, then send me an e-mail with "BLOG SALE 10,000" in the subject line, list the books you want and the "bookseller inventory" number (don't use the ABE shopping cart). Include your address and the method of shipping you prefer (media mail or priority). I'll send you a paypal invoice minus the discount and including the exact shipping charge. [NY residents add 8 3/8% sales tax]

NOTE: Books needed for the holidays should travel via priority mail to avoid unexpected delays.

The sale is on until December 10 (2007 in case you're reading this from the future).

Thanks for looking.

Monday, November 26, 2007

My 10,000th Listing

In honor of Cyber Monday I got on the ball and listed my 10,000th book. It was Governed By Lust by Ray Majors (1969).
Helen had suppressed her lesbian tendencies all these years, and now that she was running for governor, she had to meet Marla--a beautiful blonde who looked exactly like Helen's first love. Her mind told her to run, but her body was saying something else.

It was nearly three years when ago I listed my first book, 000001--a beautiful first edition in dj of Dr. Seuss's ABC....

I was such an idealist then....How far I've fallen. Maybe if one of you had purchased my Seuss, it all could have turned out differently.

Ah well, no turning back now.

Lot's more sleaze in my pulp fiction cover gallery.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dover Books Order Sheet 1961

I just found this order sheet for 1961 Dover new releases folded in a book (click on image for larger version). Dover was the first publisher I learned to watch for in my early reading career--and with such diverse offerings as Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes and Finger Prints, Palms and Soles, it's easy to see why they made an impression.

For those who don't know, Dover specialized in obscure public domain titles that hadn't seen print for decades. The books were chosen from widely varied fields and many were offered in facsimile editions including the original type design and illustrations. This definitely awakened a taste for out-of-the-way books to which I owe my present livelihood (okay, maybe it's a more of a lethargihood).

Print-on-demand, Project Gutenberg, Google Books and other digital delivery systems have put a hurt on this business model and Dover's current focus is on clip art (with CD-roms), beautiful ethnographic and mythological coloring books and thrift editions of staple reading-list novellas.

I started to compile a scouting list of Dover books that have a decent resale value ($20 and up) but I stalled since the market is in such flux. Maybe, I'll get back to it after the holiday.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Analysis of the Relister

Bookride recently posted a sharp analysis of the relister phenomenon, using a single book to track the ridiculous process of price inflation:
The book goes out of print and copies start appearing at about £300 and actually sell. About a year ago there were copies on Amazon at $300 to $500. While they are still around a RELISTER (the villain of the piece) relists the genuine copies at £900 (under a thousand they tend to treble up, over that a near double is attempted.) He does not own the book but if lucky enough to get an order will buy the £300 copy and pocket the difference. Meanwhile a slightly dim bookseller flown with greed and ignorance gets a genuine copy and sees the £900 price and not realising that it's a relister's price puts £800 on his copy. All cheaper copies sell, the £900 pragmatic relister now has only the £800 one to sell if he gets an order, a crap profit and risky to boot, so he now relists at £1400 - an almost certifiable price....
Check out the full post. Hopefully it will encourage booksellers to dig around a bit more before optimistically accepting an unachievable price.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vintage Matchbooks

I just purchased several boxes of books and ephemera from the combined estate of a 60s fashion-plate, champion Siamese cat fancier and her husband, an award-winning toast-master. A VERY interesting mix of material that I'll be listing and hi-lighting over the next few weeks.

I also found a basketful of vintage matchbooks that I couldn't resist. Here's a few:

I don't know much about them but the graphics are beautiful. I never knew that print advertising could be done on the matchsticks themselves.

So, I get the cross-promotion with bowling and steak but fresh milk and nicotine? Doesn't seem like a taste sensation.

It occurs to me that the smoking ban in restaurants must have been devastating to this hobby. Makes me want to do Hang Fire Books matches...maybe with a bookshelf design on the sticks.... Probably not a good idea though. They might combust in transit.

Now I have some suitable matches for my pin-up girl ashtray.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Freebird Books changes hands

Freebird Books in Red Hook Brooklyn was just purchased by Pete Miller, a publicist with Walker/Bloomsbury. Freebird is a mixed-stock new and used bookstore with a special focus on small and local presses. Since it's a haul for me, I've only been a couple of times (under the previous management) but I enjoyed the vibe, the stock, and the yummy coffee and sweets.

Miller claims that he wants it to remain a place where people “can go and hang out and not feel pressured to buy something”, but do him a favor and buy something anyway. NOTE: The store has limited hours (Thurs-Fri 6-10 [beginning after Thanksgiving weekend]; Sat-Sun 10-10), I guess because of neighborhood foot traffic and staffing costs.

While you're waiting for Freebird to open, have a meal at Alma a high-end (but not terribly high-priced) Mexican restaurant a few doors down. They have a rooftop deck with a great view of Manhattan (it's even heated and open in the winter). Everything I've tried is delicious.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Hard-boiled Deja Vu

The Rap Sheet--a great crime-fiction blog--has done a series of posts on "Copycat Covers"--stock images that have been recycled in multiple designs.

These book to book comparisons offer a fascinating insight into the design process and there are numerous examples of both laziness and of extremely creative photo-manipulation.

Check them out here and if you discover any new ones, submit them to Rap Sheet.

Chains of Silk, Paul Rader Cover

Numerous additions to the Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery including this beaut by Paul Rader.

Cover copy reads:

She let him know she would keep him in style...
as long as he could keep her satisfied.

Seems like a win-win situation. I feel like there aren't as many gigolo career opportunities as there were in the 60s. Maybe it's more specialized these days and requires post-graduate work.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Movie Break: Fritz Lang's Indian Epic

In the process of moving I tried to pare down some of the shamefully unopened DVDs that've been sitting on my shelf (for--in some cases--years) so I finally got around to Fritz Lang's Indian Epic; a two-disk set released by Fantoma comprising The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb (1959).

This is very late Lang working in Cecil B. DeMille mode: exotic adventure, beautiful location shooting, massive and elaborate sets, and authentically-costumed cheesecake.

The films follow a dramatic triangle between a dashing German architect, a young Maharaja, and the temple dancer they both love. The architect is summoned to Eschnapur in India to build hospitals and schools based on ideas the Maharaja picked up during his European education. While traveling to Eschnapur on a caravan the architect saves the temple dancer (Debra Paget) from a man-eating tiger. This earns him the love of the dancer and the gratitude of the Maharaja, who desires the dancer but is unaware that her heart's been stolen away by the handsome foreigner. That's about it. Lots of drama ensues.

These films--reworkings of a script Lang wrote with Thea von Harbou, originally filmed in 1921--have an extremely retro feel, even for 1959. They're most reminiscent of a Buck Rogers serial (there's even a title card at the end of the first film to the effect of "Stay tuned to see if our lovers prevail"). Despite this innocent format, the films are shot through with Lang's traditional cynicism, sinister yet complicated villains, and some surprisingly racy bump-and-grind from Debra Paget.

Both films have dance numbers. In the first Paget wears transparent chain mail, in the second, practically nothing:

According to IMDB Debra Paget (35 1/2 - 21 1/2 - 35 1/2) tested for the lead role in the 1955 TV series, "Sheena: Queen of the Jungle". One of the great missed opportunities in pop culture history IMHO.

10-dollar words worth 10 grains of rice is hosting a vocabulary quiz that--for every word you correctly define--gives 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

The quiz has a self-adjusting difficulty level and the money to purchase the rice is generated by ad revenue from each word reload.

Ingenious and really addictive.

I keep topping out at 47. I will hit 50 if I have to feed all of Malawi to do it.

Thanks to Book Trout for the link.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vintage Miami Parade Photos

One of my last and coolest finds from this year's WLGS was this suede-covered souvenir photo album from Miami, Florida.

It was stuffed with photos and "real photo" postcards from the Miami area as well as somewhere in New England (judging from the 5-foot snowfall in several of the images).

The photos span from the 1910s to--I'd guess--the early '40s and many of the postcards are addressed to a "Mrs. Grace Hammond."

My favorite photos show parade floats bedecked in coconuts and giant paper-mache dragons.

Here's a few of the highlights:

Vintage Miami Parade Photos
Vintage 1910-20s Family and Friends Photos

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Presenting Yourself

I have a new post at the Bookshop Blog on presenting yourself to a book client and how to spin the occasional awkward question. Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Hangman Bookplate

I found this bookplate some time ago (before I started collecting or bookselling) but I just turned it up in the move.

It has a great threatening hangman / executioner theme:

This boke is one thing
The halter another;
He that stealeth the one
May be sure of the other.

An eBay seller credits this to Rockwell Kent "commissioned and published by the Antioch Bookplate Company, Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1950." Barbara Gelhard (?) is faintly penciled in the lower margin.

This next is a child's homemade bookplate by "Shirley Jean, 1929":

Found in the rare 1920s children's book The Lost Princess: A Fairy Tale of Marie Queen of Roumania. I wonder if Shirley was copying her parents bookplate or if this was her own creation.

I love finding signs in children's books that the owner grew into a true bibliophile. I once found a library-like pocket made out of construction paper and held in the book with cartoon animal stamps. Very cute.

New Digs

So it came right down to the wire but the last papers were filed, frightening amounts of money changed hands and Alice and I are finally in our new apartment.

The neighborhood is great--Ditmas Park is supposedly one of the most diverse in the country. It's right between two trains. There's a public library 20-yards away, numerous interesting restaurants, a coffee and book shop (Vox Pop), 24-hour delis, a food co-op...pretty much everything a demanding and spoiled New Yorker needs.

I wanted to do a mock Dell Mapback with our actual floorplan but after 2 hours on the fun but trying Google Sketchup, I gave up. Maybe we'll save it for the housewarming party.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Web of Women

Not a bad painting but the blond looks like she could use a little Endust.

Bookseller Ticket Collection Grows by Leaps and Bounds

Bookseller Sarah Faragher of Sarah's Books in Bangor, Maine made me a generous gift of a fat envelope of bookseller tickets (doubles from her collection).

Here are a few of my favorites:

She also offered useful advice on extracting these little buggers.

I find that the easiest way to get tickets out of books is this (if they don't just pop out because the glue is so old): wet a small square of paper towel with enough water so if you squeezed it out water would be visible, then fold the bit of paper towel up until it's the same size as the ticket you want to remove, put it over the ticket and let it sit for a few minutes. The water will soak into the ticket and loosen the glue, then the ticket will almost always (unless it's foil) let go very easily. Set the ticket aside to dry off, leave the book open to dry, too. It doesn't take long and it really works. Same technique for removing book plates, but I've seen people use larger damp pieces of felt for that. After the ticket dries I usually write on the back of it the date of the book it came from, just to get an idea of when that bookseller was in business. Or if someone else sends me tickets I write their name on the backs. All in pencil of course...
This has already saved me hours of heartbreak and disappointment. Check out Sarah's blog. She posts on running her dream business, books about books, landscape painting and nature. It's always a nice contrast from the mean streets of NYC bookselling.

Anyone have any photos or know anything about The Satyr Bookshop of Hollywood, CA? All I'm Googling is that the store was designed by architect Julius Ralph Davidson who apparently worked in the Beaux-Arts style, created sets for Cecil B. De Mille and designed famous nightspots: The Cocoanut Grove (Hollywood) (pictured below) and The High Hat Restaurant (LA).

More bookstores should be designed like nightclubs says I, with shady mob ties and Paris Hilton slagging it up in the poetry aisle and stumbling out at 4AM...sorry, I'm drifting.


A commenter left a useful link from the Rara-Avis Archives containing more info on the Satyr Book Shop.

--From the LA Times magazine section about the 81-year-old Musso & Frank restaurant:

Two remarkable bookstores within a block or so of Musso's made the Grill an even more attractive hangout for writers. Faulkner, Chandler and Aldous Huxley often browsed at Louis Epstein's Pickwick Bookshop (opened in 1938). Stanley Rose's store, literally next door to Musso's, was a more social place, where writers drank whiskey and swapped stories with the Texas-born bookseller. Musso's served as the Rose store's unofficial banker; patrons of both establishments moved back and forth freely in (as Starr wrote) "a nonorganized movable feast."

An earlier store in which Rose had been a partner, the Satyr Bookshop on Vine, was busted for pornography; it inspired the salacious Bennett's Bookshop in Raymond Chandler's 1939 novel, "The Big Sleep." (Rose's defense lawyer on the porno charge was Carey McWilliams, whose nonfiction work "Southern California Country: An Island on the Land" in 1946 inspired its own L.A. fictions, notably Robert Towne's script for "Chinatown" in 1974.)

Thompson, the pulp-noir master ("The Killer Inside Me," "The Getaway"), lived four short blocks from Musso's and used the Grill as a virtual office throughout the '60s, according to biographer Robert Polito. The old writer favored the pot roast special and the zucchini Florentine, washing them down with Jack Daniel's and Heineken chasers. At Musso's, Thompson played the hard-bitten raconteur, spinning tough yarns to an eager audience of one or two. And in a booth at Musso's, he made deals and signed papers with sharp young producers, acts he later regretted.

This sounds like the most hard-boiled bookstore ever. (Thanks Diana!)

Thursday, October 25, 2007


For the next week or so, I'll be absorbed in a never-ending apartment move that will undoubtedly crush the life from me. My connectivity (and energy-level) will be erratic at best. I'll try to prevent the blog from grinding to a halt. Bookselling will go on more or less normally.

If anyone wants to know, my personal library amounts to 84 cubic feet. I'm doomed.


Evil Friendship by Vin Packer

I recently finished The Evil Friendship by Vin Packer (pseudonym of Marijane Meaker) in preparation for her appearance at the 2007 NY Paperback Expo. Sadly she couldn't make the show but the book was great, so no hard feelings.

Evil Friendship is based on the 1950s New Zealand Parker-Hulme murder case in which two school-girls--joined in an obsessive relationship--murder the mother they see as a threat to their happiness. This case was the inspiration for Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures and an incident from the life of a widely-read mystery novelist (who probably gets enough internet grief so you'll have to google her yourself).

My only previous knowledge of the case came from Heavenly Creatures so I can't say how close this book cleaves to the facts, but there are some interesting differences from the film. Meaker relocates the girls to rural England and introduces other lesbian figures into their lives. One a sadistic school-girl who joys in the fact that her ex-crush slit her wrists in despair at being dumped, the other an older butch gym coach who's filled with sad longing and is lead-on and emotionally black-mailed by the students.

It's interesting to see the girls in this more explicitly lesbian context and--stuck between these archetypes--it's understandable that they need to escape into a fantasy world. And as much as I like Heavenly Creatures the fantasy world Jackson creates was its biggest weakness. The animated clay sequences are too detached from the rest of the film and the effects haven't aged well. Meaker gets the escapism across in a much subtler way that feels much more tied to the girls lives, class and the other characters in the novel.

Evil Friendship is a good read if you’re interested in early lesbian fiction or psychological suspense in the Highsmith or Simenon vein. I’ll definitely pick up more of Meaker’s work. Given the variety of her titles (and pseudonyms) she seems to be an extremely versatile talent.

Shop my Gay/Lesbian and Vintage Paperback catalogs.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tissue and Beer Can Hot Air Balloon

I found this cool and simple plan for a hot air balloon and inflater in a vintage issue of American Aircraft Modeler. Tissue paper a couple of tin cans and you're ready to go. Looks like a lot of fun.

Here's the full plan:
Tissue Paper and Beer Can Hot Air Balloon

Plan by Roy W. Beeching, Jr.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Die Swart Luiperd

I found this digest-sized photo-novel (comic book format but B+W photos with word bubbles) featuring the cat-masked "Swart Luiperd" at the recent NYC Collectable Paperback & Pulp Fiction Expo (which was great BTW, but I was too busy digging through boxes and juggling want lists to blog it properly).

There was a huge stack of digests featuring this character going at least back into the 40s, and spanning a number of popular children's genres (jungle adventure, western, mystery, etc).

Here's a few page spreads:
Die Swart Luiperd 1
Die Swart Luiperd 2
Die Swart Luiperd 3

I can't pinpoint the language and I can't find anything about the character. Seems like he was in the Zorro, Phantom tradition (though he may have flirted with super-crime--like Diabolik and Kriminal--at low points in his career).

The publication data isn't very legible but it seems to be South African in origin "Republikeinse Pers...Suidkuswegg 1322...Republikeinse Nousagenentskap, Empirewegverlenging S. Aucklandpark, Johannesburg".

Anyone know more about the character?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Little Sparks and the Electric Song

Another cool find from the WLGS : Sparks and Little Sparks (Albert Whitman and Co., 1940), a children's book on maintaining the electrical grid (click on images for larger version).

I sing this every day before I turn on the computer.

Pulp / Smut Reviews at Groovy Age

Curt Purcell of Beyond the Groovy Age of Horror just posted two long, thoughtful reviews of Nightstand Smut titles Lust Dream (likely written by Evan Hunter/Ed McBain under a pseudonym) and Harlot Hater both of which I'm ashamed to say I don't have in stock (yet).

I definitely second his appreciation for Don Holliday (whomever he/she may be). He also points out a couple of hard-boiled / sleaze reference sites that I wasn't aware of.

Beware, the archives at Groovy Age are very deep. I just lost most of the morning following link trails.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Beware Irving the Vampire. Also beware the Were-Chicken.

Flickr Feed

I just added an rss chicklet for my flickr feed if anyone wants to subscribe to my cover scans. It's in the sidebar below the cover gallery.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Book CSI: Stealth Smut

A while back I promised I would start posting on egregious sins committed against books. So here's the first in my series of Book CSI cases.

I recently picked up a large lot of vintage paperback smut and about 2/3 of them had the spines completely blacked out.

Looks like the owner lined them up and hit 'em with the spray can. I guess he didn't want to broadcast his reading taste to the people are going to assume blacked-out mass markets are Remembrance of Things Past or something.

I've seen a lot of interesting things done to these books. Necklines raised with magic marker, pasties drawn on, 3/4 inch staples through the open edge, it's a shame but the varied attempts at censorship are fascinating.

So if anyone finds unique examples of book destruction, take some photos and send them in. If we keep quiet about these crimes they're just going to keep happening.

Shop my Vintage Sleaze Paperback catalog.


Given I've never been one for the hillbilly smut but this one is notably bad. Long johns with the trap door down are not sexy, and with that double-jointed neck, and tiny head it looks like she escaped from his emu pen rather than his bedroom.

The Lolita Lovers, Rafael DeSoto cover

Just uploaded a bunch of new covers to my Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery, including another beaut from Rafael DeSoto. He seems to knock them all out of the park....I want a coffee table book.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Naughty Side

Post-Victorian Punk.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Two last bookplates...

and then I will try to cool out on the ephemera jag for a while. I started hitting the dollar carts at local bookstores just looking for plates. That's when you know you've got it bad.

Here's a storied plate in kind of a Thomas Hart Benton-style, found in a copy of Western Star by Stephen Vincent Benet, 1943.

"From the Library of Lee Bradley Ledford Sr." & Jr.

Lee Ledford Jr. was a native of Harlan County, Kentucky, and a Major in the U.S. Army at the time of inheriting this volume. As a 1st Lt during WWII, it looks like he served with the 489th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Armored Division. Later in life he established a foundation to benefit college undergrads from Appalachia.

I found this next plate "Judy Reisman's Book", in a copy of Popular Stories for Girls, Cupples and Leon, 1913.

Don't know anything about it, but I like the rough, block-printed style.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Bookseller Tickets: Brentano's, Carroll's and Newbegins

I recently started collecting bookseller tickets. These are small tags identifying the store where a volume was purchased. You can usually find them at the back of a vintage book, in the bottom corner near the hinge. Some of them are quite ornate and attractive and they give me something else to look for when the books themselves are lackluster.

I thought it would be interesting to post them together with any information I can gather about the stores.

I found this one for Brentano's, Union Square NY in a book from 1900.

and here's an image of the building from the period.

There's a long (and rather boring) history of the store here, but for those who want the highlights...
New York Times, January 22, 1892, Wednesday


The Spingler Building, 5, 7, and 9 Union Square, a five-story, pedimented structure, nearly 200 feet deep, with an L 70 feet deep in Fifteenth Street, was wrecked to the beams of the second floor yesterday by a "basement fire" which broke out at noon

and caused a loss of more than $600,000. The well-known book and newspaper store of August Brentano shared the fate of other business concerns in the building.

New York Times, May 11, 1899, Wednesday

August Brentano of the old firm of Brentano’s, booksellers and stationers, died yesterday morning in the sanitarium of Dr. Edwin A. Goodridge, at Flushing L.I. He had been an inmate of the sanitarium for six months and was adjudged insane by Justice Truax and a Sheriff’s jury in the Supreme Court on Jan. 20 last.

Mr. Brentano’s illness followed serious business troubles of his firm, which reached a climax on Aug. 24 last, when a temporary receiver was appointed in a suit brought by Simon Brentano against his two brothers and co-partners for a dissolution of the firm. The firm was not insolvent, and the business has been continued. Simon and Arthur Brentano, brothers of the deceased formed a company a few weeks ago.

Here's one for Carroll's Book Store, 26 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn NY from a 1910 volume.

There's another similar looking ticket--posted here--listing the address as Fulton and Pearl but I'm not sure it's the same Carroll.

And the nicest of the lot, Newbegins San Francisco from a 1926 volume

Book-shaped with attractive lettering, embossed printing and a tear-off price stub. Another ticket lists the address as 358 Post Street.

Book collector and blogger Greg Kimball maintains an extensive gallery of bookseller tickets. Take a look. They're definitely a lost art....I think I need to make one.