The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bookseller's Gazette #2

The second installment of the Bookseller's Gazette is up at The Bookshop Blog. The Gazette is an on-going feature collecting references to specific rare or out-of-print books that pop-up in national media (magazines, radio, top o' the pile blogs, etc).

The Gazette is tip driven so if you see something say something.

Please send your tips/links here (change "(at)" to @). I'll give credit and/or a link to the first source for any tips I use (please include your desired credit info with the tip).

Thanks for the tips I've received so far, but still I need more eyes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ugly and Bizarre

Lest you think that all paperbacks from the 40-60s were salacious miniature masterpieces, here are a few new additions to my Ugly and Bizarre cover gallery.

First Hoke Jackson's Orgy Days (Nightstand NB1903) featuring topless, high-heeled rock climbers on their way to the sex chalet.

Next John Dexter's A Thousand Beds (Companion CB521) demonstrating the proper way to apply bottle tan.

And lastly Stan O'Dair's Shame Sluts (Boudoir No. 1017) showing a subtle appreciation for the female form about equal to that of a 3rd grader.

Plenty of new additions Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery, and you can satisfy all of your vintage smut needs in my PB new arrivals catalog.

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Finger Ring Pistolet

Flickr user --Marcus-- just posted a photo of an amazing finger ring revolver. I'm not usually a gun nut but this little beauty stirs me deeply.

Give me a ring pistol and a sword cane and I'm ready to take on the world...or at least blow off a finger and stab myself in the foot.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Field Report: New Treo Phone

My new phone and the mild weather got me out and scouting again. I found some nice items and the improved functionality of the Treo browser made the research more pleasant and efficient (my brain is still my primary scouting tool, the phone just improves the margins).

I found a number of 1sts for the Vault. These are hi-grade first printings of books--fairly common now-- that I'm going to bury for a decade or so while looking for signatures and other improvement opportunities. Including:
  • 3 Lemony Snicketts
  • and finally (after a year or more of looking at an average 2 copies per 3 feet of shelf I scan) a Da Vinci Code jacket unfortunately
I also found a signed copy (with a cat sketch) of the Peter Sis title, Three Golden Keys.

The hard-to-find neuroscience title Dynamic Patterns: The Self-Organization of Brain and Behavior by J. A. Scott Kelso.

And lastly Dispensational Truth, or God's Plan and Purpose in the Ages, self-published by Clarence Larkin. Larkin was a mechanical engineer, draftsman and manufacturer, who heard the call and became a Baptist pastor. He used his technical background to create elaborate charts of biblical symbolism and historical eras.

Not sure about the soundness of his theology. I'm betting it's a little...quirky. The charts however are beautiful and absolutely frameable. The Larkin estate sells prints here.

Lili St. Cyr's Underpants!

I found this full page ad for Lili St. Cyr's Lingerie line in a 1964 issue of Police Detective Magazine (which is actually a treasure trove of vintage burlesque and stag film advertising).

When Lili St Cyr recommends panties you listen. That's like Monet recommending a paint brush.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Where textbooks go to die

Flickr user Sweet Juniper posted a stunning set of photos taken in a Detroit warehouse filled with rotting textbooks.

The books are about half-way back to soil, sprouting mushrooms and (I can only imagine) host to millions of roaches, earwigs, and silverfish.

This is probably the most interesting and educational that these texts have ever been.

Link via Boingboing via Making Light.

The Strand's Field Agents

The NYT recently ran an article on the miniature economy of homeless book scavengers supported by The Strand.

Some NYC flavor for non-urban booksellers

Friday, January 18, 2008

Built-in Bookcase

When Alice and I first viewed the apartment we eventually bought, I walked through the front door, saw this spot and yelped "THAT'S A PERFECT SPOT FOR A BUILT-IN BOOKCASE!"

The agent gave me an odd look, nodded and finished showing us trivial things like the bedroom and kitchen, but this nook was what stuck with me.

Finally about two weeks ago we purchased $100 dollars worth of cheap lumber and made my OCD bibliophile dreams come true.

Here's the structure. There are four fixed shelves (including the header and footer) that are attached to slats that serve as wall anchors. The rest of the shelves are adjustable.

This left cubby holes above and below the header and footer which I knew exactly how to use...

When I was a kid, my dad brought home a mint condition copy of Superman #100 that he found inside the wall of a building he was helping to tear down. I thought this was the coolest possible way to date a bit of construction, so Alice and I collected some offerings to tuck into the cubby holes.

We found:
  • 1 ivory-handled curved pocket knife
  • 1 wind-up cow
  • 1 Photon iron-on patch
  • 1 back issue of Trunk Stories
  • 2 wooden nickels
  • 2 mysterious keys
  • 1 screwdriver charm
  • 1 Korean medallion
  • 1 Terry Schiavo pin
  • 1 2007 penny
and here they are in place

The molding is what really kicked this up a notch, and says HOMEOWNER rather than shiftless rental transient.

Here's me (in my heavy construction pajamas) tacking on the footer molding strip. The bottom-most piece of molding is attached separately because floors tend to be uneven and you can use it to cover up the gaps.

Finally here's the finished product pre- and post- smutty paperback inundation.

We used a semi-gloss paint on the outside and nearer to a matte on the inside (because things tend to stick to glossy I learned building the DVD shelves in the background) then buffed the whole thing with furniture wax.

Alice and I agree it's the most substantial thing we've ever constructed and it came out so inexplicably beautiful that I'm posting these pictures to prove we actually built it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bookseller's Gazette

I started a new feature over at the Bookshop Blog called The Bookseller's Gazette.

My intent with the Gazette is to collect references to specific rare/out-of-print books that turn up in current magazine articles, tv and radio shows, blog posts, etc. Media notices of this type are a big driver of the used and rare book trade and I'd like to collect these references in one place so alert booksellers can take advantage of spikes in demand.

It's going to be a group project so I'll need everyone's eyes and ears. I’m looking for stories from non-specialist publications (not Fine Books and Collections, for example, because most booksellers already read it) with national/international audiences that contain reference to rare or out-of-print book titles. English only for now, unless you want to do the translation.

I know book dealers have to carefully guard their sources, but I believe this is the kind of information that will benefit everyone to share.

Please send your tips here (change “(at)” to @). Match the format below if possible, otherwise just give me enough info to find it. I’ll give credit and/or a link for any tips I use.

Radio: NPR - WNYC “Fishko Files” 12/21/07
Biographical essay on outrageous jazz musician and bandleader, Cab Calloway with a mention of his reference book on African-American Slang The Hepster’s Dictionary (no copies currently on ABE, several wants).
Here's the first installment: Bookseller's Gazette #1. It’s short…and a little dated but will become more robust with your help.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Recent Bookplates and Tickets

I recently went through my book database looking for notations of bookplates entered before I started collecting. I extracted a few nice ones:

First, from the "East Hampton Free Library, Marjorie Woodhouse Memorial Collection, 1935". a beautifully detailed plate by designer George Wharton Edwards, 1859-1950. (click for larger version).

Edwards was an American Impressionist painter, and the art director for Collier's Magazine from 1898-1903. While at Collier's he worked with Maxfield Parrish, Remington, Jessie Willcox Smith and others.

Next this attractive German-language pastoral plate "Mein Buch, Herma Lang" found in a volume from 1924.

Next this personal bookplate from Frances Steloff, founder of the late, lamented Gotham Book Mart:

And lastly two bookseller tickets: "H. Tuchner, Buchhandlung" from a 1924 volume and this beautiful, two-tone medallion from booksellers and publishers "The Sunwise Turn Inc, 51 East 44th Street, NYC". An interesting sounding book titled Sunwise Turn: A Human Comedy of Bookselling was written about this shop by Madge Jenison in 1923.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Robert Bonfils Newsstand Library Covers

I just scanned in a few great Newsstand Library covers by pulp artist extraordinaire, Robert Bonfils:

Craftsmanship and reproduction-wise the Newsstand covers are some of my favorite work of his. I'm not sure why they're not more widely collected (maybe because Newsstand didn't have as interesting a stable of pseudonymous writers as did Nightstand/Corinth--Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake, Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, et al). That means that you can grab them up for the covers at nice affordable prices though.

I spent all of yesterday working through this massive pile of sleaze pbs.

Now I'm completely cross-eyed, and I feel like the kid who got caught smoking and then his Dad makes him finish a whole carton.

See the fruits of my sickness in the Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery (now broken down by decade), and shop for smut in my PB new arrivals.

And as always you can subscribe to an RSS feed of my covers here:

Hang Fire Flickr Feed

UPDATE: Speaking of filth, I busted out all of my sleaze, sexploitation links into their own section in the side-bar.

Venture not, if ye are below the age of XVIII or bonded in IX to V servitude (nsfw).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Quick Reviews: The Vengeful Virgin and "Finisterra" by David Moles

Gil Brewer often pops up on lists of the best second wave, pulp/noir writers. I picked up a copy of Hard Case The Vengeful Virgin recently (originally published by Crest/Fawcett in 1958) and discovered that his reputation is well-deserved.

The plot is a fairly standard Double Indemnity/Postman Always Rings Twice triangle but it's written in a vivid and seemingly artless style; the characters are realistically motivated and Brewer builds in unique period detail.

The novel was written in the early days of color television, when sets were still an expensive luxury. Our doomed hero is an electronics salesman/installer and Brewer gives him just the right amount of technical knowledge to make this trade convincing. It's a regular job-call that draws him into the noir world; all of his sharp schemes arise from his knowledge of electronics while his failings are things that an over confident engineer would miss.

I love it when a writer can do justice to working stiffs and this is some of the best specialist job info used in a genre context that I've encountered since Sturgeon's "Killdozer".

The novel builds to a horrifying and operatic conclusion and Brewer brings you all the way there.

Gregory Manchess' cover for the Hard Case edition is a thing of beauty.

He somehow manages to get everything a man needs all onto a 4X7 cover (with room for type).

"Finisterra" by David Moles. F&SF (December, 2007)

The story is set on a gas giant planet circled by enormous flying islands. The islands are living beings--something like massive manta rays or hump-backed whales. They produce hydrogen as a biproduct of their life processes, so they float about like Manhattan-sized zeppelins.

A female aviation engineer has escaped her oppressive family and has used her father's stolen plans to land a job with space pirates. The pirates are poaching the leviathans to turn them into some kind of artificial pleasure barges and they may or may not care what happens to the refugees who are currently living on them.

Great story. It has a lot in common with Dune in that it's an Islamic Galaxy and power depends on the control of a single element. I'm hoping it's a novel in progress because it definitely has room to grow. I'd love to see more of the head pirate who has a great Harry Lime joyous moral ambiguity about him.

I added this to Hang Fire Books Short Fiction Reading Guide. I haven't finished moving my lists over yet but now that I have a slightly smarter phone that will allow me to view LibraryThing while book-shopping, maybe I'll get to it.

The Zombie Welfare State

Two men have been arrested in New York after wheeling a dead friend propped up in an office chair through busy streets to a check-cashing outlet in an attempt to cash his social security payment.

The apparent plan to cash ---------'s $355 welfare check, even though the 66 year old had recently died, was foiled after an off duty policeman spotted a crowd which had gathered around the seated corpse....(more at Guardian Unlimited)
We'll need more than a lockbox to save social security now!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Exclusive: Why Men Love Chorus Girls

hilife.0.jpg, originally uploaded by --Marcus--.

Flickr user Marcus has a great set of men's magazine scans from various eras (not work safe...unless you happen to be a go-go dancer or something).

He also has some other photosets of hi-fi porn, record covers, typewriter ribbon tins, and more. Definitely something for everyone--or at least lots of things for me.

Link via Bedazzled.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Arthur Bittner was a seaman, landlocked in a large midwestern city. He had peculiar urges...and he started searching for something to put down the strange impulses of desire...but in the words of a local bookseller this was 'a tight town; no hot books here.' And so the vicarious means to settle the blood-lust coursing through Bittner's body were unavailable. And once the sickness had taken hold, nothing could act as an antidote to Bittner's sex-crazed, poisoned mind.
See? I provide a valuable depraved landlocked sailors anyway.

Looks like a Bilbrew cover but I'm not 100%.

New stuff in the Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery and a new organizational system. The Sex/Cheesecake set was getting out of control so I broke it down by decade. It's actually much more illuminating now that all the traveling salesmen, bored suburban housewives, beatniks, JDs, and hippies are sorted into their appropriate time periods.

As always you can subscribe to an RSS feed of my covers here (this is separate from/in addition to the regular blog feed) .

Hang Fire Flickr Feed

Mystery is next in the queue for a good working over.