The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

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.

Galley Slaves

I have a new post up at Bookshop Blog on the PMA's efforts to rein-in "illegal" galley sales. Check it out if you feel like it.


Received my first tenacious piece of comment spam. I guess that means I've arrived. Hate to do it but I've turned on moderation. I'll read and approve comments (that aren't trying to sell me real estate in Viagra acres) ASAP.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Bizarre Bookplates

Lewis Jaffe of Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie is having a contest for "bizarre" bookplates. The winner receives an original (and quite beautiful) plate by Jessie M. King.

I can't wait to see more of the entries.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tijuana Bibles: Betty Boop

I just picked up a rare lot of 6 "Tijuana Bibles". These were cheaply produced, 8-page stapled booklets from the 1930s-40s featuring the pornographic adventures of cartoon characters, politicians, mobsters and anyone vaguely sexy who stumbled into the public eye.

TBs were the Depression-era equivalent of the celebrity sex-tape, so turn your monitor towards the wall and enjoy "Betty Steps Out" (WARNING: Not even slightly worksafe...feeelthy in fact.)

This one is pretty well-drawn for the form. Since all of the characters (besides Betty) look line-for-line like their overground counterparts, I'm betting some tracing was involved. If your browser isn't showing it large enough to--ahem--read use the magnify function or download to your desktop.

This one and five others (including: Harold Teen, Fred "Killer" Burke, Moon Mullins) are available from my store here.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Young People's Records

More WLGS finds. Two selections from the Young People's Records label with fantastic vintage cartoon cover art. "Let's Play Zoo" and "Animal Supermarket". The first is signed "Ajay". Anyone know anything about this artist?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Return of the King

The Jawas are confused and irresolute no more.

My first WLGS 2007 find. I've always loved these guys. Junk-dealing midgets in filthy cloaks. They're like my spirit aliens.

Three Bookplates

Some new bookplate acquisitions.

This first one is my favorite to date. A stylized Art Nouveau / Deco ship on a stormy sea. If I'm reading the lettering correctly it was designed for (or by) "AMO Peet", "From My Mother's Library".

The next two are less stylized (and probably off-the-rack) but still nice.

An arboreal scene with a bookcase frame, belonging to "Sylvia Kraunz."

Lastly an astrologically-themed "Leo" bookplate with some nice Roman columns, belonging to "Helen M. Brown" an editor at Doubleday until the 1990s.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Careful out there

Don't trust anyone in lederhosen.

"World's Largest Garage Sale" Report

So it started with a comedy of errors--I rented a smaller car than planned, the campsite wouldn't budge on check-in time so we had to take two vehicles, AND I managed to get lost only a mile from the house where I grew up--but the WLGS in Warrensburg NY was fun and relatively successful. I won't make a profit on the books I purchased anytime soon but they'll take the edge off the road trip costs.

Here are some highlights:

Warrensburg is full of these beautiful, weathered Victorians. The town was built up around the paper and logging industies and when they mostly died out--during the Depression--these houses were left untouched.

If I didn't already have a name for my business "Cheap, Trashy Books" has a great ring to it.

I would've killed for this mid-century modern card table and chair set but it would take up a whole room. It's hard to make out in the picture but the chairs are actually the table legs and they rotate outward on casters. The dealer said this came from a lodge that had a set of eight. This was the last one. Anyone recognize the designer?

And more furniture I couldn't fit, afford, or carry:

A sorting station from an 1800s post office....Man would this class up my shipping department.

14 feet of oak drawers that would fit decades of crap that I don't need to look at again.

more garage sale photos on my Flickr page.

I'll be posting some of my finds from the sale over the next few days.