The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Plates

I just purchased a large book lot from an estate and it contained a nice selection of bookplates. Here's a few:

Helen Larrabee and Charles Burton Robbins, found in Ferdinand and Isabella, V3 by Prescott (1899). An attractive plate done with red ink that unfortunately bled a bit on removal. Signed by the artist "E. K. Hess" - Emma Kipling Hess Ingersoll, portrait painter and miniaturest from Chestertown Maryland (1878-1941).

Next this nice gilt bordered-sailing ship plate belonging to "Clarissa J. Duff" found in The Dream Detective by Sax Rohmer (1925). The book was inscribed: "From Bill, Allegheny Gen'l Hospital".

I love the perfectly geometric sun surrounding the realistic ship. Beautiful color too. This plate was produced by "Rust Craft USA" who seem to have printed a lot of Valentine and Birthday cards.

These next two plates belonging to "Samuel Oram Farrand"--one aviation themed the other music/violin--were both found in the same book: Life of Emerson by Van Wyck Brooks (1932). What a great score!

This last plate from the "New York Society Library" was originally engraved in the 1700s by "P. R. Maverick, 66, Liberty Street" but was reproduced well into the 1900s (this one was found in a book from 1960).

Thanks to Lewis Jaffe for the info. Hopefully they replaced the plate with something a little more PC.

More to come.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Teaches of Piggy

Piggy and the Electric Mayhem tear into Peaches' "F*** the Pain Away". Watch before Mickey brings the hammer down (NWS).

Link via Fleshbot.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Movie Break: Stalags

I finally caught Stalags on the second-to-last day it was playing at the Film Forum. This is a documentary on the bizarre phenomenon of Israeli-produced, concentration camp fetish-porn paperbacks.

Gross? Yes. But completely fascinating.

According to interviewees in the film, because of the understandable hesitancy of survivors (and perpetrators) to talk about what went on in these camps in the immediate post-war period, rumor, fantasy, and just plain kink swept in to fill the void.

The earliest "Stalags" (as the genre is called because nearly all have the word in the title) took their cover illustrations from American men's magazines. The plots all followed a similar pattern: an American or British pilot is shot down behind German lines, he's imprisoned in a camp run by female Amazonian SS officers who rape and torture him. He eventually turns the tables, rapes and kills his captors, then escapes to tell the tale (the stalags all claim to be translations of first person accounts, though there were never any female officers in the SS).

The books were massive sellers and seemed to fill a basic need to reclaim the power role through fantasy while simultaneously capturing a curious self-loathing (sublimated by casting a rugged Allie pilot in the central role). They were advertised side by side with newspaper accounts of the Eichmann trial and were frequently the first erotica seen by Israeli adolescents. After a prolific two-year period, the books were judged obscene and banned from sale.

The second half of the film discusses a widely-translated book from the 50s (the title is eluding me but the author's last name begins with "tz") which offers a matter-of-fact account of female Jewish camp prisoners who were forced to act as prostitutes for the Nazi officers. According to the book these prisoners--while suffering a miserable, degraded existence--were kept in a separate bunker, given better rations and were more likely to make it out of the camps alive than others. Two different scholars in the film (Israeli women) state that there are no first hand accounts to support this arrangement but despite this, the book has been canonized and is a regular part of Israeli high school curriculum. One of the scholars claims that because of this book, single, attractive Jewish women were stigmatized after the war because people assumed they had whored their way through it. The film claims that this text planted the seed for the Stalags.

The comparison of the underground and overground dissemination of fetishized history is both instructive and disturbing. I highly recommend catching the film if it comes to a nearby arthouse.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

ABE can suck it

Due to recent changes in ABE's (Advanced Book Exchange) fee structure and some extremely anti-competitive (and desperate) buy-ups, ABE can officially suck it.

ABE adjusted their fee schedule so that they now charge an 8% commission on SHIPPING, a fixed (and constantly increasing) charge over which a bookseller has no control. This is a particularly cruel time to do this as, due to the weak dollar, international buyers have been making opportunistic (but very welcome!) purchases from US sellers. The standard cost for overseas shipment is $11 via international priority mail and can easily go up to $20-40 for oversize books. That's a fee increase of from $.88 to $3.20 on each international sale ON TOP of ABE's already considerable commission on the list price.

In addition ABE recently purchased Bookfinder and Chrislands (a website building and hosting service, popular with internet booksellers) and despite promises to remain hands-off they recently notified Chrislands customers that:
There are two fees involved in enabling your books to be available to searches.

1. Flat fee of $10.00 per month. The monthly fee covers the cost to increase your bookstore capacity to handle the amount of searches generated by

2. Commission on sales from The commission is a 7% commission on sales in your store from customers that came to your store from The commission amount is based upon the order total less taxes. There is a maximum sales commission per book of $35 (7% of $500).
(I guess that is still technically "hands off" but it is certainly both hands out)

So even booksellers who've made an effort to hack out their own web presence are once again corralled by ABE.

Despite these greedy buy-ups, my ABE sales are down 62% from last year (Jan 1-Apr 24) even with a somewhat larger inventory. So instead of effective promotional efforts or selling innovations (like customizable bookseller RSS feeds that I've suggested to them like 50 times) ABE just gives another push and further alienates their already poorly compensated booksellers.

I've been using ABE links on this blog because they were the only venue that listed my complete inventory with images. Going forward I will make no further links to ABE and I will steadily redirect the old links to Antiqbook which so far has been very responsive (I just started listing with them) and allows for sticky searches (staying within a single bookseller's inventory), image links, and exact shipping quotes after the sale.

Monday, April 21, 2008

1950 NYC Business Directory

I just listed this copy of the Greater New York City and Surrounding Territories Business Classified Directory: The Modern Buyers Guide 1950. It's a fascinating historical record of mid-century NY commerce and all of the phone numbers are in the classic tough-guy (cause I only hear it in gangster movies) format with the first two numbers of the exchange made into a word, ex: "PLaza 7-6300".

There are some really bizarre business categories included like "Adult Games -- Jbrs", "Doll-Voices -- Mfrs" and more, but most interesting to me was the full page of listings for book- related businesses; binders, publishers, book clothe manufacturers and more. Here's the book entries.

Page 1, Page 2

Amazing how many binderies are listed.

Please DON'T call these numbers.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Abandoned Russian Library

A reader sent me this link to a photoset from an abandoned library in Russia (thanks!). Looks like a river of books with the shelves swept along in the current.

Not quite a picturesquely decomposed as this abandoned textbook warehouse in Detroit Michigan, but well on the way.

Link via

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quick Reviews: Money Shot - Heart-Shaped Box - Rocky Point Park

I haven't had much down time to blog lately--and in fact I can barely reach my computer due to the large number of book-buying calls I've made this week. Lots of interesting stuff coming in, some of which you can see in my new arrivals section with more coming soon.

Anyway, I've recently read a few things that I think people should check out.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

When I read the synopsis for this first novel--aging heavy metal icon and collector of macabre items (macabrabilia?) buys a haunted suit in an internet auction--I expected a quirky and slightly black-comedic story (and maybe that's what the protagonist thought when he purchased his suit) but Heart-Shaped Box turns evil fast. I don't want to give much away, because the suspense depends on a series of revelations, but the suit's former owner--a gaunt Johnny Cash-lookalike with scribbles for eyes--was a formidable fucker even when alive and he crossed over with the express intent of dragging our hero down to hell with him.

The appearance of the ghost was definitely influenced by the Tall Man from the Phantasm films. He has the same surreal/absurd edge and the same refusal to fade into the shadows when company comes. I also noticed a hint of Matheson's The Legend of Hell House too with the ghost a deliberate pioneer and exploiter of the ethereal realm. He lurked around my apartment for several nights after finishing the book, let me tell you.

The tension lets up a bit once Judas hits the road with his 20-something goth girlfriend to try and shake the ghost but the book plays fair and pays-off big.

Money Shot by Christa Faust

I knew I had to read this Hard Case Crime release as soon as I saw the Trompe L'oiel stripper cover (by Glen Orbik) and heard it featured a porn-star detective. Thankfully the book more than lives up to the packaging and the author uses the porn setting in smart and playful ways to comment on the generally phallocentric genre tropes.

The protagonist, Angel Dare, is simultaneously femme fatal and gumshoe. She's tough and merciless in the Mike Hammer vein (though her handle is actually less pornie than Hammer's). The sex / death link is played on (though funnily enough the intrigue of the story provides far fewer opportunities for sex than Angel's normal life). And since porn and organized crime have always gone hand in hand the novel moves into noir territory neatly and swiftly. And who could be more world weary and hard-boiled than a porn-star after all?

Check out Faust's website too. It's pulp-eriffic.

Tales of Rocky Point Park by Jason Mayoh

Horror comic and work of urban archaeology on a defunct Rhode Island amusement park that was the source of many pleasant memories and bizarre tales. The author/artist is involved with the production of a documentary on Rocky Point and this comic uses attendee accounts and ephemera to record the myths the have sprung up around the park's House of Horrors.

I've never been to Rocky Point Park but this comic definitely evokes memories I have of the former "Storytown" in Lake George which is now the Six Flags owned industrial "Fun" park "Great Escape" (with the Storytown attractions rotting where they stand). My memories would be safer if they had just bull-dozed the place.

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Plates and Tickets

Here's a new batch of plates and tickets from the Donnell sale and some cheap tables.

First this nautical silhouette bookplate that manages to include a heavy-limbed tree, kids, and a sailing ship, all popular bookplate themes. From an undated decorative volume of Virgil (c 1910) owned by "R. Savadge".

Next this crude but attractive library-themed plate belonging to "Elizabeth Kimball". Forgot to note where this one came from (crap!).

The last and best plate is this aviation combat-themed plate belonging to "Edward E. Greiner" from a 1927 biography of Napoleon. This one is signed but I can't make it out. Here's a blow-up of the sig.

Here's a ticket from the "Polish Book Import Company, Inc. - 38 Union Square, New York, NY". Found in a translated children's book (c1940)

Finally this "Chicago Booksellers Row" belly-band. Probably c 1980. I like this method of promoting a bookselling district.

Brooklyn Flea

I attended the debut of the Brooklyn Flea last weekend. I meant to post this Monday as a review but I waited so long I guess it's a preview for this coming Sunday.

All in all it was a decent mix of vendors, the space was nice and will allow plenty of room for expansion. The food selection was yummy but pastry/breakfast heavy and there were some coffee complications that will hopefully be ironed-out next time. Food highlight was the filled-to-order mini-canolis!

There wasn't much in the way of books or ephemera (but they may have been scared off by the iffy weather report and heavy wind). Housing Works was represented by a small book table but the stock was general interest and nothing caught my eye. Most of the vintage dealers had the standard single box of unsorted crappy books, I picked up two or three things but that was it. I understand that Lewis Jaffe of the Bookplate Junkie blog will have a table this coming Sunday so I'm looking forward to seeing his offerings.

When I first heard about this flea--and started following the promo blog--I was afraid it would only be high-end items. I did see some decent junk though. But it's a pet peeve of mine that if you're going to ask top dollar, CLEAN YOUR JUNK so it at leasts appears worth it. I'm thinking of one dealer who had a nice selection of 1960s kitchenware and Gex-Xey tchotchkes but everything was way too grungy and rust-flecked for the marked prices (and unless I'm buying a 2-foot stack of books, I'm not a bargainer, I'll just walk away).

Also in the mix was a nice assortment of original arts/crafts from web-savvy crafters and etsy sellers. Here are few of the highights:

The Small Book Company: Miniature hand-bound books as earrings.

I missed these at the flea and only discovered them in an etsy coupon booklet so I'm not sure about the functionality/contents. I like the earring hardware. It reminds me of the days when books were unique and incredibly expensive and had to be chained to the shelves in reading rooms. Hooking them to your ear is much more secure.

Drink and Dream: Hipster, Rockabilly and Punk icons printed on window-blinds.

The artist does custom designs and window fittings. They had a great booth display with the blinds attached to vintage/beat-up old window frames. I need to do some thinking about who I want looking down on me.

Kimmchi Unique Jewelry and Tee Shirts: Floral and graffiti inspired designs silk-screened on American Apparel t-shirts.

I like the placement of the designs and the artist told me it was all about avoiding boob-induced distortion.

Odette NY offered this attractive silver Jellyfish Pendant

as well as some spooky Watership Down-looking rabbits.

Lots to look for. I'll see you next Sunday!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Flying Witch and Charybdis Plans

I just sold a large lot of model magazines to an overseas buyer and I didn't want to let these two peculiar aircraft plans get away.

First this plan for a Flying Witch's Broom by Frank Scott (American Aircraft Modeler, Nov 1972)

Page: 1, 2, 3

Next this spiraling, single-wing craft named "Charybdis" by designer Charles W. McCutcheon (American Aircraft Modeler, Oct 1972)

Page: 1, 2, 3, 4

Don't hurt yourself!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

High-Five Fridays #12

Day late but not a dollar short.

#1. Extinct Attractions Club: Fan site that compiles and sells Books and DVDs on vintage Disneyland rides and attractions. I found them because they bought an elaborate 1950s Disneyland papercraft book from me. I hope they assemble it and take pictures.

#2. Deep Value: A paean to simple and repairable technology that's recession and global catastrophe proof, Abi Sutherland on Making Light.

#3. Retro-Futurism from Modern Mechanix: Yesterday's Tomorrow Today. Scan blog of innovative, quirky, and bizarre ideas from a technology magazine begun in 1928. And while you're at it check out Grandpa's Secrets, an eBay store specializing in vintage hobby plans from similar magazines.

#4. The Earl Kemp Interview: Part 1 of a gonzo journalism interview with Earl Kemp, science fiction critic and editor of Greenleaf Classics the groundbreaking 1960s erotic paperback publisher, Silent Porn-Star.

#5. Upward Departure: Fascinating blog on book theft; methods, law and consequences. This is why having an open shop would kill me. Link via Lux Mentis, Lux Orbis.

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, April 3, 2008

Field Report: Donnell Library Sale

Last Friday I attended a sad FOL sale at the Donnell Branch of the NYPL. Sad not because the books were of low quality but because it marked the move into limbo of New York's best circulating collection of children's literature.

The NYPL recently sold the real estate occupied by the Donnell Branch to the Orient-Express Hotels for 59 mil. Apparently the library was in need of more renovation than the system could afford and this was the only way to raise the $$.

The hotel will still devote two floors to the library but there won't be room for children's reading room so--while the collection will remain intact (the sale was mostly to liquidate duplicates)--it's currently homeless.

I attended the sale with a born-and-bred Manhattanite who's used the Donnell for years and she said we were pillaging her childhood.

If you're a library-loving New Yorker write the administration and tell them how much you want the Donnell children's collection to get a good home...and soon. I understand that the main branch (the famous one with the lions) is going to go partial circulating soon, maybe the Donnell collection would fit there?

What happens to city librarians when their branch closes? Are they laid-off? Relocated? If so, how much say do they have in their new assignments?

Depressing. Anyway here's what I pillaged.

A nice stack of NYC ephemera and tour books from the Woolworth building, at one point the tallest building in the world (and still one of the top 50). I think I can see this building from out of our kitchen window, but neither my eyesight nor my city geography is good enough to say for sure.

A booklet called Villages and Hamlets within New York City yielded this great description of the founding of Luna Park in Coney Island.

I picked up a number of beautifully bound and illustrated classics including Down-Adown-Derry a Walter De La Mare verse collection with plates by Dorothy P. Lathrop.

And this charming lift-a-flap / pop-up book by Italian designer Bruno Munari, The Elephant's Wish.

I love the text in this book.

The ox is bored with being
a fat, lazy ox with flies
buzzing all around him,
and he is wishing...
The find of the sale though was this first edition of The Day the Cow Sneezed by hep-cat record jacket designer, commercial illustrator, and children's book writer Jim Flora.

Very hard to part with this one.

See the rest of my new acquisitions in my Children's catalog new arrivals.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ironing Paperback Spines

I frequently receive vintage paperbacks where the spine glue has separated from the text block (probably due to reading-wear) and then frozen/dried in a lumpy uneven way that keeps the spine from laying flat.

My usual answer to this problem (if the book is worth it) is to pull off the cover, scrape as much of the old glue away as possible and then reapply the cover with binder's adhesive. This isn't a bad method but if the glue is still hard enough you risk damaging the spine.

I was wondering if it would be possible to soften the glue with heat so you could smooth and reflatten it.

I just experimented with my iron on medium heat with a paper towel protecting the book.

I had to gradually up the heat until the glue softened and then I could mold it with my fingers and smooth it down with my bone folder.

Here was the result:

I think it was reasonably successful.

The problem with learning a technique like this is that you immediately feel guilty about all the past patients you lost that you didn't have to. I'm sure Jonas Salk felt the same way.

Warning: If you try this technique, start out on worthless books until you find the right heat level and I WOULD NOT attempt this on vintage paperbacks with laminated covers (Dell Mapbacks for instance) unless you first remove the laminate (which is probably half-peeled off anyway).

UPDATE: Turns out you an use an iron to reaffix the laminate as well (thanks to Gary Lovisi of Paperback Parade for the tip)! For laminate fixing, start at a lower temp that needed for the spine, again use a paper towel for protection, and iron from the middle to the edge of a book (or else you might iron a wrinkle in). I've done this a few times and it can greatly improve the appearance of a book.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Dirty Business Card

Sounds like the draft and farm horses were the only things that were "high class" at this Clintonville, Wisconsin establishment.

Business Card: Front/Back