The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, February 29, 2008

High-Five Fridays #7


#1. Where Do You Get Bookplates?: A seasoned bookplate collector shares some tips and strategies for honing in on the beauties, Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie.

#2. The Blog on the Bookshelf: A blog devoted to imaginative and stylish bookshelf design. WARNING: I approve of maybe 1 out of 5 of the shelves pictured, due to low capacity and harmful storage conditions...but they sure are pretty. Link via Bookthink News.

#3. Car Repair Erotica: A themed series of vintage nudie-cuties all working on early automobiles. The first photo in the series is my current desktop, Vintage Pultricitude.

#4. Flu, Libraries and Sammies in Oklahoma: Historical overview of WWI-era Army libraries, The Exile Bibliophile.

#5. Yardsalers and eBayers: Newletter and blog for the thrifty entrepreneur. Yours truly was a co-recipient of this week's "flip of the week" award for an item purchased at thrift prices turned around for a major profit (a modern tube stereo amp purchased for...a single digit, sold at auction for $500+).

Find out how to give your High-Five Fridays here!

The purpose of this meme is to give high-fives to 5 people, posts, blogs and/or websites you've admired during the week. I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 5 high-fives on Friday. Trackbacks, pings, linky widgets, comment links accepted!
Visiting fellow High-Fivers is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your High-Fives in others comments (please note if NWS).

Find more High-Five Friday folks here!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bar Code Battlers

I went to a FOL sale this past weekend that I was both anticipating and dreading. I've attended this one since long before I was a bookdealer and I've always found a nice pile of books. Last year's sale was kind of a nightmare though with an army of dealers choking the aisles with unweildy carts and boxes, and seemingly every attendee out to turn a profit by any means necessary.

I expected further escalation this year and I wasn't disappointed. It seems that everyone has upgraded to the smartphone/barcode scanner combo. I saw swat teams huddled around tables all blasting away at the same books (I was afraid I'd be blinded by a stray laser beam). And the titles that many of these "dealers" were inspecting weren't worth the 1/3 of a second it takes to scan them. Your typical laser commando has little to no knowledge of publishers, print runs, copyright pages, or even the kind of books that have lasting value. They just race for the best barcodes, slap them on Amazon with a generic description--undercutting the next guy--and drive the market into the toilet while providing a crap customer experience.

This is happening every weekend at library sales across the country; all for the limited dollar of the online used book buyer, spread over a finite number of venues. And these venues have total control over the selling conditions. The slightest tweak in listing fees, display order or postage reimbursement drastically cuts into a bookseller's profit margin (which sends them back out in the field desperately hunting for more barcodes. "Gotta Catch 'Em All" TM).

Not to be a total hypocrite because, yes, I too was looking for books to resell (and I don't snub technological tools that make this easier) but this definitely had the feeling of the tail end of the Beanie Baby craze. So, I decided I wasn't going to play the game. I ignored the other dealers, used my brain and experience first (and technology second), circled the sale two or three times, and checked out with a small but quality pile of books that I could carry home.

My experience at this FOL--added to the fact that my best sales lately have all come from inventory purchased on eBay, Craiglist, or through private connections--has made me extremely disinclined to go any further down the technology route. My new battle plan is to find more and new out of the way book sources and check them regularly, develop my specialties, get a standalone e-commerce site together, and work on branding and repeat business.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Goodbye Coney Island


Wonder Wheel, originally uploaded by van swearingen.


For those who don't know it Coney Island is about to get the 42nd Street treatment and everything that's fun, shabby, sexy and possibly life-threatening will be bleached right the f*** out of it.

The Brooklyn Museum is hosting a retrospective (and memorial) photo exhibit and has started this Flickr pool of Coney Images. Please visit and contribute.

Friday, February 22, 2008

High-Five Fridays #6


Yet five more things I liked this week.

#1. A gallery of vintage condom wrappers from the 1930s-40s with great colorful graphics. I can't imagine more ephemeral bits of paper. If your grandparents weren't in such a hurry that they ripped them to shreds (or crumpled them in shame), then the contents of the packet should have moldered and ruined them. Gallery curated by Ethan Persoff, link via Silent Porn Star.

#2. Bookhunter, hard-boiled adventures of library police. A 1970s-set, crime thriller comic about the recovery of a rare tome, stolen from the Oakland Public Library. Loosely based on a real case, the comic is manga-paced with CSI details of book-binding knots and card catalogs. The art is a bit on the crude side but stick with it. Shiga Books, link via Making Light.

#3. An ode to the likeable characters that wander through your shop by a bookseller on a much needed vacation (who's feeling home sick apparently), The Book Trout.

#4. Internet Commerce: Building a Bridge to the 20th Century: A look at the changing face of internet bookselling and thoughts about the future. Tom Nealon for The Bookshop Blog.

#5. Who is N.R. De Mexico? by Fender Tucker: A print article in Paperback Parade #69 on the mysterious pulp novelist who penned the highly sought-after 1951 novel Marijuana Girl (which has been snatched from my claws TWICE now). Purchase an omnibus of De Mexico's work from Ramble House here.

Find out how to give your High-Five Fridays here!

The purpose of this meme is to give high-fives to 5 people, posts, blogs and/or websites you've admired during the week. I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 5 high-fives on Friday. Trackbacks, pings, linky widgets, comment links accepted!
Visiting fellow High-Fivers is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your High-Fives in others comments (please note if NWS).

Find more High-Five Friday folks here!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Gay / Lesbian Pulp Covers

I added a few nice covers to my Gay / Lesbian Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery.

First this great Robert Bonfils skin-diving cover (I love the frame of undulating seaweed and the shorts tanline): Venus of Lesbos by Steve Bell (Newsstand Library 1961).


and then Slim by William Wister Haines (Bantam, 1959). The text of this book isn't explicitly gay, but come on...

Not sure who the artist was.


Slim was made into the 1937 film Starring Henry Fonda.

Lastly Paul Rader's fantastic cover for Her Private Hell (Midwood, 1963), featuring a really innovative use of side-boob.

Marilyn Chamber's Love Oil

I found this Gift Certificate and ad for a Marilyn Chamber's endorsed love oil in a 1981 issue of Club Magazine. Marilyn was a former Ivory Snow Girl and star of the classic porno-chic film Beyond the Green Door.

The certificate links to the full ad (NWS) with a Chamber's testimonial and a run-down of the ingredients.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

MoSex Report

We had houseguests this weekend and tried to get out and do some of the NY stuff that we always forget about.

Paid a visit to the Museum of Sex. I've been once before but they recently installed two new exhibits: "Action: Sex and the Moving Image" and "Sex in Design / Design in Sex". Both focus on the parallel developments of overground and underground sex culture and how/when they cross-over.

Here were a few of the highlights:

The Aphrodite Project is designing a high-tech, feature-packed shoe for the use of sex workers.



The shoes feature an alarm system that will send an emergency signal to the police (or a support network), GPS, a customizable video billboard and speakers, plus they're part of an integrated program that includes access to chatrooms, e-mail and an online calender. These are still in the beta phase and I'm not sure when/if they will make their way to the sore feet of the world's sex workers.

Also showing were dioramas by--and a short film about--the work of stop-motion animator Michael Sullivan, who turns industrial scraps and Barbie dolls into gigantic and witty robot bacchanals.

Here's an artist profile and making-of video:



The completed trailer (for the work-in-progress film) was pulled from Youtube. It's supposedly hosted by Wired here but it's just load spinning for me. I'd love to find a full version of the video if someone can point me to it. What I saw was incredible and looked like a rusty Bosch painting.

Possibly my favorite exhibit was a terminal that let you search through (at least) dozens of patents for sex apparatus--mostly of the discouraging variety--all with new CAD drawing. Who knew there were so many painful and embarrassing ways to prevent masturbation? I wish MoSex would host some of these on their website.

All in all it was a good time. I had a few complaints though. The first floor of exhibits are layed-out from right to left (which feels backwards). That, paired with the minuscule signage and numbering, led to a lot of crossed paths and blocked views. The "Sex and the Moving Image" exhibit was interestingly installed (with many of the films projected downward onto podiums on the floor) but the room was stifling and if you've paid attention to Something Weird's video releases (or grew up in NYC in the 70s) there's probably not much you haven't seen. The most interesting part of this exhibit was the side booths featuring interviews with film-makers, stars and audiences but these were difficult to get to and I gave up quickly.

Also--with their hushed reference, ancient artifacts and smart/well-put together people--I've always found museums sexy. But MoSex was just not doing it for me. Maybe it was all the tourists and the awkward giggling or the fact that (since Alice had a stomach flu and stayed home) I was kind a third wheel and felt like a pervert whenever I slipped-up next to another patron to admire a well-designed dildo....something was missing. Maybe they should spray pheromones.

The Sound of Hang Fire

A bookstore can be eerily quiet when there aren't any literary debates, shy flirtations or insane muttering drifting through the aisles.

To fill this uncomfortable silence, I've added a stereo system to the HF Blog. Go ALL the way down in my browser-choking, right side bar and you'll find my current favorite songs and custom radio stations (supplied by Pandora).

Play some music while browsing or commenting.

Apparently I like music with: "punk influences", "minor key tonality", "intricate melodic phrasing", "extensive vamping" (?), and "classic soul stylings". Sounds about right.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ikea hacked homemade light tent

Here's an interesting mod to turn an ikea trash bin, a few bits of plywood and some mounting hardware into a simple and effective light tent.

The plan is the work of Tanya the Art Butcher, link via Ikeahacker.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Plates and Tickets

I found a great new cache of ungleaned vintage books with some nice inventory and ephemera (and no I won't talk since it will take a few trips to get through all of them).

Here's my new acquisitions:

A "King's Walden" bookplate from an 1826 volume of Scott published in Edinburg, showing a snake twined around crossed arrows. King's Walden is north of London in Hertfordshire (not sure what the crest indicates. Anybody?).

and then this "F. and M. Weston" Raven plate (found in the 1907 Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography). There's a volume entitled Camera Pictures of Malta authored by an F. and M. Weston, but not sure if it's the same pair.

This "Arbury, Elizabeth and Lea Berger" bookplate (found in a 1908 collected George Eliot). Not a beauty but it seems to indicate a very particular garden location that I'm curious about.


Lastly a few tickets: "The Book Shop, 5 Grosvenor Building, Providence Rhode Island", found in While Benefit Street Was Young, a 1943 Providence history; "Old Corner Book Store, Boston Mass. 1828-1928", found in Jan and Cora Gordon's On Wandering Wheels, 1928; and "Charles E. Lauriat, Co., Importers and Booksellers, 385 Washington Street Boston", found in a 1917 John Masefield poetry collection. Lauriet was a survivor of the sinking of the Lusitania and his stores were in business until 1999.


UPDATE: There's a beautiful image of the Old Corner Bookstore (a large, hi-rez scan sourced from a glass plate negative) posted on Shorpy: The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog.

Friday, February 15, 2008

High-Five Fridays #5



Five--mostly dead--things I liked this week

#1. Maureen Johnson, author of Devilish, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and the (banned in Oklahoma) Bermudez Triangle is guest-blogging at Inside A Dog. She's hosting an inspired contest asking readers to insert a zombie into otherwise tragically zombieless books. I submitted Remembrance of THINGS Past and Notes from the Underground...Looks like their server is having trouble at the moment (no doubt due to its having been shoved in front of a window to hold off the the relentless dead), so try back later.

#2. Diary of the Dead: Against her better impulses, I convinced Alice to go to last night's preview screening of the new installment in George Romero's Dead cycle. This one is a low budget throwback to his indy days and attempts to take on the youtube, blogging generation. It's uneven, and a bit creaky (as you can probably tell from the MySpace link) but the best moments are blackly funny and inventive. I'm perculating a more complete review of this...

#3. Gospel of the Living Dead by Kim Paffenroth: An analysis of the ethics and theology of Romero's Dead films, particularly his representations of original sin and his parallels with Dante. The book makes some very interesting points--the fact that zombies are the only movie monster that you don't envy on some level (since they don't have any sexy powers) never occurred to me--but perhaps over-emphasizes some plot conveniences into dogma.

Okay enough with the zombies.

#4. Alta-Glamour.com is selling a large collection of cover paintings, pin-up photos, illustrations, and cartoons from vintage men's paperbacks and magazines (and at very affordable prices). Take Bush's tax bribe and revitalize the economy in a way he would never approve. REQUEST: the reproductions could be larger.

#5. Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930 is hosting a huge gallery of decoratively bound hardcover books. Some of these are incredibly stunning and this is a great resource for designers. It will, however, make you very sad about the current state of book production.

Find out how to give your High-Five Fridays here!

The purpose of this meme is to give high-fives to 5 people, posts, blogs and/or websites you've admired during the week. I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 5 high-fives on Friday. Trackbacks, pings, linky widgets, comment links accepted!
Visiting fellow High-Fivers is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your High-Fives in others comments (please note if NWS).

Find more High-Five Friday folks here!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tijuana Bibles: Fritzi Ritz of Nancy

I just received another nice lot of Tijuana Bibles. These ones found me because of my previous Betty Boop TJ scan so--to keep building the karma--I'm going to post another one.

My favorite of this lot stars Fritzi Ritz, the saucy flapper and parental figure in Ernie Bushmiller's sublimely dumb, Nancy.

Click on the image to read (NWS).


Though Nancy doesn't appear in this (thankfully), the technique of having two characters stare over a wall at off-stage action feels like a nod to Bushmiller's minimalism.

More Tjs for sale from my ABE store here.

And while you're at it, new 60s sleaze in the Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery.

Monday, February 11, 2008

It's June in the Year 2000....


Bob and Betty Cragmore are celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary by returning to the scene of their honeymoon...

to their horror, they find it a blood-soaked landscape plagued by hunger-maddened grizzly bears. Thankfully their Hehr recreational vehicle is near impregnable, and they are well-armed.

from a 1970 issue of Mobile Life. Illustration signature looks like D. (something). Head

Friday, February 8, 2008

High-Five Fridays #4


#1. The Town Cleaners Bookstore: On a palimpsest (I love that word) of small businesses occupying the same building in Chicago, Keith Phipps also Has a Blog via, The Double-Breasted Dust Jacket

#2. Death Photo of War Reporter Pyle Found: 63-years after his death, the first publication of battlefield photo of the remains of Ernie Pyle, one of the best-loved and widely-read correspondents in WWII, Comcast.net News, Associated Press

#3. The 10 Star Wars Toys that Unintentionally Look Like Other Celebrities: Eerie plastic lookalikes to tickle the geek quadrant of your brain, Topless Robot via BoingBoing

#4. Comment: On Misperception and Making The World: Rant on the twee and condescending way the media discusses (and creates) the presumed extinction of independent bookstores, The Written Nerd

#5. Vintage Girly Magazines: Blog archive of scanned pin-up magazines and strip-tease reels (I was going to reserve this one for Silent Porn Star or Slip of a Girl but alas, no takers)

Find out how to give your High-Five Fridays here!

The purpose of this meme is to give high-fives to 5 people, posts, blogs and/or websites you've admired during the week. I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 5 high-fives on Friday. Trackbacks, pings, linky widgets, comment links accepted!
Visiting fellow High-Fivers is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your High-Fives in others comments (please note if NWS).

Find more High-Five Friday folks here!

Overheard in Salvation Army

Heard this conversation between two Salvation Army workers:

First guy: "...and a young guy like that, don't even have a job. Lives at home. Just buys books and keeps them in a room. Just a big room with books. Doesn't even work"

Second guy: "It's eBay and Craiglist, all of them. That's how they do it these days."

First guy: "Lives with his mother in a big room with books."

I wanted to defend myself (on the mother point anyway) but by then, they'd moved on to someone else. They kept a great running commentary on everyone that walked by. Next time I bring a recorder.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Trunk Stories #4, Part I

Readers of this blog may or--more likely--may not be aware that for the last five years I've been publishing a 'zine entitled Trunk Stories, a tiny magazine of literary fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

In that half a decade TS has staggered into print three times (with the fourth issue on hold while lots of life got in the way).

At this point printing costs have climbed past reasonable levels for me. Not wanting to give it up, I've decided to integrate Trunk Stories into the Hang Fire bookstore and blog as a virtual reading series. So without further ado, here's the first story in the newborn 'zine.
A once notorious stage actress--a contemporary of Sarah Bernhardt--goes to outlandish means to recapture her former glory; set in a provincial town in upstate New York.


Tobias Seamon is author of the novel The Magician's Study (Turtle Point Press) and a chapbook of poetry Loosestrife Along the River Styx (Foothills Publishing). Other work has appeared such places as the Mississippi Review, the Rhysling Anthology, and Strange Horizons. He lives in Albany, New York.

Timothy Dedman is a writer and illustrator living in Brooklyn, New York.

Trunk Stories online is an evolving project that may eventually produce limited edition chapbooks, dramatic readings of short stories, and animated illustrations (I'm pie-in-the-skying-it here). I went pdf with this since my web-coding chops are lacking (and this way you can print if you absolutely can't read fiction on-screen). I'd love to hear your comments. Leave them below or e-mail me.

Back issues of Trunk Stories can be purchased from the side-bar (Issue #1 is OP and can be downloaded for free).

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Area Eccentric...



I'm so spoiled by the Onion being free on every corner that I forget to pick it up.

Link via Mark Hurst, Good Experience Blog.

Friday, February 1, 2008

High-Five Fridays #3

5 Things I liked this week in no particular order.

#1. Bookplates From The Hollywood Compost Pile, Chapter2: Custom-made bookplates of long-dead celebrities, Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie

#2. eBay Fee Calculator Now Live: A rejiggered calculator to ponder the effects of eBay's dramatic fee restructuring, Auctionbytes Blog

#3. ‘It’s So Incredibly Tulsa’: Bill Hader’s Book Picks: One of the funny cops from Superbad gives his sf reading list, Papercuts

#4. parisian underground (i.): On why secret Parisian orgies feel like Twister (NWS--text only), Debauchette

#5 Miguel Covarrubias's "Green Mansions": Beautiful scanned illustrations from an artist who's new to me, Goofbutton

Find out how to give your High-Five Fridays here!

The purpose of this meme is to give high-fives to 5 people, posts, blogs and/or websites you've admired during the week. I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 5 high-fives on Friday. Trackbacks, pings, linky widgets, comment links accepted!
Visiting fellow High-Fivers is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your High-Fives in others comments (please note if NWS).

Find more High-Five Friday folks here!

Book Review: Crimson Orgy

Crimson Orgy by Austin Williams (Borderlands Press, January 2008) is a gruesome and enjoyable whodunnit set in the early days of gore film-making.

In 1963, producer David F. Friedman and director Herschell Gordon Lewis, pioneers of the “nudie-cutie” and the “roughie”, discovered a new kind of exploitation. "Blood Feast"--a film about a cannibal gourmet catering an engagement party--was amateurishly acted and surreally flat, but it was punctuated by juicy and lingering frolics in guts. Convincingly (and cheaply) portrayed with butcher scraps and stage blood, the effects provided just the right amount of distraction for drive-in, make-out crowds and created huge word of mouth advertising. Thus the gore phenomenon was born.

Williams sets his fictional producer/director duo, Gene Hoffman and Sheldon Meyer, as direct competitors to Friedman/Lewis. They fight for the same screens, scan the same bars and beaches for potential starlets, and create their art in the same Kaopectate and cranberry juice-soaked motel rooms (that have since been bull-dozed under by Disney World).

The book does a great job of evoking this period and the constant patter between Hoffman and Meyer is a sharp and funny commentary on the battle (probably a nude cat fight) between Mammon and the Muse.

“Sure I can give you eighteen tits in seventy minutes,” he would say when pitching a plot to Gene. “But why can’t I put all that tit in a story that actually says something?”

“Say whatever you want, Shelly. Just make sure you do it on 9,000 feet of raw stock, because that’s all you got.”

I’ve listened to Drew Friedman on numerous Something Weird Video commentary tracks and Williams has pretty much nailed his style here.

More complicated though are the director’s motivations. Sheldon Meyer’s new project is his most ambitious and personal yet. He’s planned elaborate gore set pieces to out-splatter Blood Feast; he has a method-actor playing his killer who skulks around the set and serially decapitates Barbie dolls, and his script is intended as a giant “fuck you” to the bigoted, small-town world that proves a constant obstacle to him, and destroyed the lives of his Jewish parents.

With all this riding on a throwaway piece of pop-culture, something was bound to crack. And--like the rivalry between the Beatles and the Beach Boys that left Brian Wilson playing in the sandbox for three decades and a legendary fragmented record—Meyer’s “Crimson Orgy”; becomes an unfinished cult work, existing only in controversial edits and spoken of in reverent whispers by horror film devotees. This film within the book is a convincing artifact that you feel should exist somewhere.

Williams is adept at capturing on-the-set tensions of low budget film-making. Exhaustion, frustration and disappointment infect the crew and turn a series of bad breaks into a cursed production.

The book operates on many of the same rules as the classic gore film. The set-up, with a band of fast-talking operators scamming the yocals, was one frequently used in splatter films. It also shares the same gruesome and tragic inevitability. The hatchet seen in the first reel will be in someone's head by the last.

Highly recommended. An exploitation history lesson, and a unique setting for a mystery/thriller.

NOTE: I just want to say that this is why I have a blog. I had no idea this book existed but through my daily blatherings about pulp fiction, zombies, and vintage pornography, it found me.