The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Pulp

Just added 40+ new covers in the Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery (including a doozie for my "Artists with Issues" tag). I also created a--broadly defined--"Sports" category since I've never had a good place to put them. There are a lot of great prize-fighting, noir covers that will eventually end up in there.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wedding Reception

Here's a Flickr slideshow from Alice and I's recent wedding reception:

And in case (like me) you were running around like chicken sans head and missed most of the music, here's the playlist.

Thanks to everyone who showed up, helped out, and provided advice, cash and/or cupcakes. Was a great time.

UPDATE: That's thistle btw. I swear.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Charging for Yearbook Inquiries

Like many bookdealers I always pick up vintage yearbooks when I find them. These are generally good (if slow-selling) stock since the books were done in small print runs and there's rarely more than one or two copies listed online for any given volume. Also they're frequently purchased as gifts and people need them in a hurry (and don't blink at gift-level price).

Lately though I've been getting queries where it's clear I'm just being used as a genealogical researcher and the questioner has no intention of purchasing the yearbook. Questions on most books--even if they don't lead to a sale--are generally helpful because they reveal selling points on a title that you didn't notice and give you information to add to the description. With yearbooks though the information is generally only useful to the one person asking it, and answering the question can actually decrease the saleability or allow them to purchase the book elsewhere (perhaps from a less helpful seller).

Anyway the fifth or sixth time I had to haul an eighty-pound bin out of storage to check if someone's great Auntie was in chess club only for a "Thanks for your help!" was a bridge too far. So after much deliberation I've decided to start charging for yearbook queries and scan requests.

The charge would be $10 for an inquiry $20 for a scan, and would count towards the purchase price of the book (or perhaps any book in stock).

I don't like doing this but it will hopefully cut out all but the serious/motivated inquiries and make my unsold yearbook stock into a small income generator.

What do other booksellers think? Love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Surreal + Erotic Marionettes (NWS)

Like Hans Bellmer and George Grosz drawings come to life! Not sure if these are technically marionettes, automata, or both. Damn cool though
Los Grumildos are automated puppets, miniature beings that skulk about a world somewhere between Victorian dollhouse and red light district. The brainchildren of Peruvian artist Ety Fefer.... this voyeuristic experience was inspired by the characters that inhabit the shady areas of downtown Lima, Peru. Fefer creates a kind of magical world that serves as a home for these marginal creatures that tend to be rejected and despised by society. The hyperrealist details of each plasticine puppet bring out their most intimate feelings, but the narrative is left to the viewers.
This was in New York at the beginning of August. Can't believe I missed it. That's what I get for letting my RSS reader grow wild.

(link via Daily Burlesque)

Model/Actress in Afrikaans photo-novels

A reader recently left a link and comment--on one of most unexpectedly popular posts: Die Swart Luiperd--about her experience working as a model and actress in the Afrikaans photo-novels.

Dianne (above, right) was featured in the "Tessa" books (among others) about a bikini clad...spy? PI? enforcer? These bikini-babe titles (particularly the Tessa books) were derogatorily referred to as "Poes Boekies" (which translates exactly as you'd guess) by the readers.

She gives this account of a typical shoot:
Most of the filming was done at Republican Press in Mobeni, Durban. They had a separate section which was used for photo stories and they had various "sets" arranged. We had a jail, operating theatre, doctors office etc.

On the whole, it only took a morning to shoot the entire book. We used to get there by 08h30 and were finished between 12h00 and 14h00 depending on your part in the book. [We would] bring 3 day outfits, 1 evening outfit and a bikini [and] all of us were quite adept at changing in the back of the Combi!.... It was a good laugh to go through the books when they were published and see all the mistakes that were made!
Visit Dianne's page. She also mentions an intriguing sounding documentary entitled "The Glow of White Women":
which looks at white women in the Dark Continent and focuses on the forbidden sexual desires of blacks and whites under Apartheid.... The film is put together using images from vintage magazines, the covers of pulp novels, anatomical drawings and family photographs, as well as archive news footage, South African tourism promotional films and commercials for skin whitening creams.
I'd be curious to see this if anyone can point me at a torrent.

Thanks for the info and pics Dianne!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Eaton Awful Food Jigsaw Puzzles

I was going through my game closet the other day--trying to make some room--and I pulled out my collection of Eaton puzzles. I hadn't looked at these in a while so I thought I'd share.

I found my first Eaton at a yard sale ("Good Morning!"). This was a jigsaw puzzle featuring fantastically bad photography of dangerously unrefrigerated food so, of course, I bought it immediately.

Putting it together I asked myself questions like "Is this part of the gristle near to that gluey milk puddle?" or "Should I sort out all of the mushy cereal pieces and work on those first?". I have a fairly weak stomach so this was a race between my gag reflex and compulsion to finish.

After "Good Morning!" I was hooked and tracked down 9-10 more on eBay (6 of which were classics).

There's "ethnic" food via 1980s mall food court ("Oriental Chow", "Chili Today-Hot Tamale!"), quaintly obscene melted pastel confections ("Oh Fudge!"), venereal potatoes ("Stuffed Spuds"), and train wrecks of meat ("Deli Fare").

("Deli Fair" even features a handy diagram on the reverse so you can tell that the block of...what looks like the stuff they cleaned out of the wood-chipper at the end of Fargo, is actually head cheese.)

Last night Alice and I sat down with "Oh Fudge!". We choose to do it with dinner for some reason and as always it was Eatonic. I was reminded that these are actually really well-crafted puzzles, lots of texture and color variety, thick board stock, and bizarrely-shaped pieces that break up the standard grid layout.

Anyway they're great fall weather fun and (now that I have all I want) any jigsaw and/or kitsch fans out there should track them down.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Artists with Issues

Numerous new items in the Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery, including this gem in the "Ugly and Bizarre" category labeled with my newly minted "Artists With Issues" tag.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New Favorite Thing

Headed to the Upper East Side yesterday to pick up my Craigslist-find Paradigm surround speakers (which rock BTW), and stopped by a thrift store that I haven't visited in a while.

Last time there I saw a great vintage wooden toy but since it was pricey--and I wasn't sure I could eBay it for more than the sticker--I let it go. In the succeeding months though I couldn't forget the thing, so I took a long shot that it might still be there.

Went in. Looked around. Didn't see it. Deflated.

I noticed the same volunteer clerk from previous and asked her about the toy. She lit up, recognized me instantly and was overjoyed that I came back since the manager wanted her to throw it away. She knew how great it was though and just stashed it in the bottom of a stuffed animal bin.

Heart-warming, no? I even got a discount.

Here it is:

A child-size rotary-phone from the Brio Company in Sweden, founded in 1884 and still active today (in fact our friend's kid has a Brio toy crane that he has to fight me for whenever we visit). It's about 3 1/2" tall, 4" wide. I can't find date information but judging by the typography on the Brio label, I'd guess mid-60s. It has a nice weight, makes a satisfying light clunking sound when you replace the receiver, and the rotary dial is spring-loaded and returns to the start position when released.

Anyway I'm keeping it. I tried using a rotary phone a few years ago and it was exhausting. We were a hardier breed back then.

I love the idea of a toy representing something that has evolved into a new form. It's original purpose was to familiarize a child with adult tools, but now it would just be mystifying. Maybe when kids visit they can pretend they're in Madmen or something.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Newish Blogs

In my extended period of summer blogging interia I found some new resources that having been awaiting a plug.

Here's two newish projects from Jim Linderman, author of Take me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950 (blogging at Dull Tool, Dim Bulb):

1. A blog supporting his up-coming book on the lost art of hand-painted photographic backgrounds The Painted Backdrop--still under construction but already featuring some tantalizing imagery like this:

2. Camera Club Girls: The Work of Rudolph Rossi (tame but probably NWS). Jim's description:
"The extraordinary hand-painted photographs of Rudolph Rossi. Rossi was an informal member of the New York City Concorde Camera Club in the repressive 1950's. For a ten dollar fee, he photographed Bettie Page and a plethora of interracial models, then later meticulously hand-painted the photographs creating the illusion of color photography. An exceptional body of work by a previously unknown and unrecognized photographer and erotic artist from a time when such activity was taboo."

Both are worth a look and I'll add them to the side-bar in the appropriate categories.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Paper Sculpture Sex Education

Going through a recent large book acquisition I came upon How Babies Are Made by Andrew C. Andry published by Time Life Books, 1968; on the exterior a rather dated and pastel birds 'n bees primer. But opening it up, I found it was illustrated with quirky paper sculptures of chickens mounting each other, puppies coming down paper birth canals, and paper people sharing "personal and special" moments.

The sculptures--created by Blake Hampton for whom I can find only one other illustration credit (The Cookie Tree)--are well executed and charming and I love the idea of a professional illustrator spending days carefully cutting out delicate paper sperm and curling umbilical cords.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Visit to old HP

Over the summer we paid a visit to the new brother-in-law in Providence, RI and I made him take us to se H. P. Lovecraft's grave.

As a pilgrimage, it didn't disappoint. The cemetery walls and entrance were made of huge, sharp roughly hewn stones (sorry, no picture) which would not have seemed out of place in the sunken city of the Old Ones. Lovecraft's grave (evidently purchased by fans and not precisely marking the place of his interment) was decorated with a mysterious key, notes and tokens like some Goth Jim Morrison.

Wandering down some stone steps on the eastern side of the cemetery you come to the shore of of the Seekonk River which is close enough to the ocean that salt water backs up into the bay and leaves behind ancient and unspeakable things like this:

As a capper--on leaving the cemetery--a ground's keeper pulled up next to us and asked us if a backpack and sneakers she found on the trail belonged to us. We said no and that we'd seen no sign of other visitors. She solemnly rolled up the window and drove away, undoubtedly to leave these sad relics as an offering to Nyarlathotep for the appeasement of the blind idiot god Azathoth.

Photos link to a Flickr gallery with a few more images.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Book Report

Back from my holiday and slowly dipping my toe in the internet. I made a great vacation discovery this year that if I swam for 30-minutes (which is a hell of a lot longer that I imagined), I could eat what I wanted, stick to my diet, and remain completely immobile otherwise.

I had Alice time me and found that the lake's island was about 15-minutes away, so every day I would swim out, gasp for breath while watching moose and loons, then swim back, flop in the hammock and knock out a book.

Very efficient.

Here are my 2-minute book reports:

Hoodtown by Christa Faust. I was instantly hooked by the concept of "Lucha Libre Noir" (masked Mexican wrestlers) but expected a gimmicky read. I was delighted to find the book solid and well-thought out, presenting a surreal but believable ethnic community descended from the first generation of luchadores (of which "El Santo" is a literal Saint). The masks are treated like burkas with the wearers faces never fully exposed. A series of dressing, sleeping, and washing hoods are described as well as civil institutions (hospitals, police stations, barber shops, etc.) that either cater to the masks or discriminate against them. We follow "X"--a 40ish female wrestler whose career was ended early by a traumatic event--through this world as she investigates the grisly murders of masked working girls. Highly recommended.

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. Another title that every bookdealer must read per the Bibliophile Compact. I found it twee and painfully dated. Especially annoying was that while the book is set in Park Slope, Brooklyn (my old neighborhood) there's almost no actual Brooklyn detail and all the streets are named after British authors. Well at least I'm one book closer to compliance.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. A beautifully bound hardcover for which I came up with the contrivance of storing it in a ziplock bag with a silica packet (to stop it getting all wobbly in the humidity). Three of the stories ("Mr. Simonelli..."; "Tom Brightwind..."; "Antickes and Frets") were strong and memorable, the rest were Faery overload.

Born to Explore by Richard Wiese. Great survival and camping ideas. I'm dying to cook "bacon and eggs in a paper bag" and I think I might make people Altoid tin survival kits for Christmas.

Cry of the Owl by Patricia Highsmith. Novel of loneliness and voyeurism in which a peeping tom ends up being the most well-adjusted character. Like all Highsmith, this is not a comfortable read but she turns the screws perfectly and I would place it just behind Found in the Street of her non-Ripley novels (that I've read anyway).

Adventures in Unhistory by Avram Davidson. "Conjectures on the Factual Foundations of Several Ancient Legends". Erudite, convincing and hilarious essays on the evolution and truthful core of mythological (and semi-mythological) figures like the Phoenix, Prester John, Mermaids and Aleister Crowley. Davidson is one of my favorite short fiction writers so I savored this one over the whole vacation. You'll probably find yourself reading huge passages of this to anyone near you. I would have, but people were avoiding the hammock by this point and I wasn't getting up.

The Lizard in the Cup by Peter Dickinson. Another Pibble mystery with a beautifully imagined, eccentric setting and (mostly) well-painted characters. This one takes place on a Greek Isle which is home to an order of monks founded around a man-bird saint. The other characters are equally peculiar. Pibble (as usual) feels like a blank slate, the mystery plot is unsatisfying and Dickinson recycles a character type (the drop dead sexy, multi-racial, political revolutionary) that I've seen in at least one other of his books (not sure if it was earlier or later). A decent read but not a great intro to the author.

Confessions of a Yakuza by Junichi Saga. The oral memoir of one of the last traditional Japanese gangsters and the book from which Bob Dylan lifted several lines for "Love and Theft". A huge swath of Japanese history told in a fascinating underworld voice. The gangster sees his profession as rather noble (or at least ruled by an honorable code) but you can tell this is an old man's softened/selective memories because (among other things likely) he never mentions the tattoos that cover his body and would have taken weeks to apply.

The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh. A mystery novel that you'd think was written for me. An auctioneer is given the chance of a lifetime to sell a stunning estate and discovers a secret room filled with rare erotic books and evidence that the deceased owner may have violated one too many taboos. Great detail of the Edinburgh porn and drug underworld and worth a read if you're in the trade (ummm...the book and antique trade). One thing that annoyed the crap out of me though is that when the main character discovers an ominous photo after an hour of looking through the deceased's papers, he runs all over Scotland trying to verify it rather than just looking through the rest of the papers, which certainly would have been the character's (and my) first instinct.

Alright those took much longer than 2-minutes. I'm off.

I feel like I should be swimming now but I'm once again surrounded by asphalt. Sigh.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Sabbatical

Jumping off the grid tomorrow for 10 days of lazing about in Canada's Algonquin National Park. A long uninterrupted stretch of swimming, hammock swinging, eating and summer reading.

Here's my pile for this year:

I'll try to pick up the pace with blog posts once I'm back and refreshed.

Bye all.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

IMG_4111, originally uploaded by Hang Fire Books.

Slideshow on Flickr.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

WWII Ephemera

I stumbled on an interesting WWII-era collection at a local thrift shop and found a few interesting items worth sharing:

First this pamphlet of "Recommended War Books...Planned and Selected by The Council on Books in War Time" (Their motto was "Books Are Weapons in the War of Ideas"), distributed by the Brooklyn Public Library.

Page 1, Page 2

This is "List 14" of recommended war books. I'd be curious to see the other lists.

Next, "Honorable Spy" by John L. Spivak, a 1939 digest-size PB original "Exposing Japanese Military in the United States" with a great sinister, xenophobic cover.

This will go well with my recently acquired copy of Punch Below the Belt, The: Japanese Ruses, Deception Tactics, and Antipersonnel Measures.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Awful Library Books

A friend recently directed me to a newish book blog called Awful Library Books. It's a submission-based blog--for and by librarians--containing scans and summaries of book culled from library collections for being particularly dated, absurd or politically incorrect.

It's an entertaining read and I'm actually seeing a number of books I would snap up at an FOL sale for my shop (like this teen inspirational title by Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider).

Reading this blog has hi-lighted for me the difference in outlook between a public librarian and a bookdealer. Librarians want titles with a broad, current appeal and a long shelf-life while bookdealers seek titles for which a specific and rarified audience will pay through the nose.

Ironically though--if this blog becomes widely enough read--librarians will probably start getting requests for these titles again.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Very Fine Junkie

I'm currently auctioning a stunning copy of Ace D-15; a 1953 paperback original double of Junkie / Narcotic Agent by William Lee and Maurice Helbrant (cover art by Al Rossi).

This is a fine copy of William Burroughs' rare first novel, one of the key collectible paperbacks.

This is the finest copy I've ever seen. It's unread, bright and sharp with only a few marginal flaws (detailed in the auction listing). I'm using all the bells and whistles on the auction so hopefully it will be bid up high enough that I won't hate myself too much for letting it go.

Ends Sunday, June 28th around 7pm EST.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Junk in My Trunk: June 14th, 2009

(click on link to view photo on flickr with annotations)

My recent stoop haul from. My neighborhood held a 15-block community sale on my birthday weekend. Finally the respect I deserve.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New Covers the Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery. Buying slower so not uploading as many scans but still some gems.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Anticlimactic Vero Fight

I recently decided to focus my eBay store on vintage paperbacks. They're a good fit for the storefront presentation for a few reasons: it's a visual browsing experience; they're cheap to ship which encourages multi-book purchases; and many people who collect PBs don't look deeper online than eBay.

I uploaded several author batches to my Mystery and Science Fiction catalogs. All was going well and--for the relatively small percentage of my inventory I'd shifted over--sales were healthy.

I delayed uploading my racier books because I wanted to work out a prude-proof disclaimer that would specifically point out why these books ARE allowed in the main eBay categories and don't need to be banished to the invisible adult categories. I parsed eBay's ridiculously contradictory adult guidelines and came up with this:

These books are generally less explicit that a "1980 Playboy" and the sexual activity described (when it isn't hilarious) is comparable to a contemporary "steamy" romance novel.


"Pre-1980 Playboy, Playgirl, and Penthouse magazines are permitted in the main eBay categories...Romance novels are permitted outside of the Adult Only category...Books on sex, relationships, sexual education, and self help are generally permitted in the appropriate category outside of the Adult Only category."
I uploaded a 13-15 books with the disclaimer (carefully excluding titles that actually are too filthy for the regular categories) and called it a night. Next morning 8 of the books had been Vero'd (and two of them were recognized mainstream lesbian classics).

I got my dander up for a Sisyphean struggle (hopefully followed by a Pyrrhic victory) and wrote asking why these books had been Vero'd since:
They're collectible books from the 50s-60s, not sexually explicit by today's standards, display no nudity, and aren't described in an explicit manner. Also most of these books were purchased from eBay's general audiences categories to begin with. Is it the word "Lesbian" because there are currently hundreds of books listed with that word in the title.
I was hoping the Vero people followed the Amazon adult fluff-up and would read into my veiled threat.

I received a boilerplate reply restating the adult guidelines from which it was clear no one had taken a second look at the item #s in question.

My second email was was snottier (but essentially the same), included my disclaimer, plus the text and images from two of the Vero'd titles (one of which was Patricia Highsmith's Price of Salt).
There are currently at least 20 copies of this book listed on eBay....eBay currently lists numerous modern books that collect this same vintage cover art...Explain to me what could possibly have gotten these books pulled besides the word "Lesbian". I don't see anywhere where the term Gay or Lesbian is disallowed (and it better not be because you must have seen the bad press that Amazon received when they degraded G+L material in their search function).
More indignation, a bit of logic, and a less veiled publicity threat (signed-off with my blogger and Twitter ID in case they still didn't get it). Received this in return:
I've reviewed your case and can inform you that these books are permitted to be listed in the general categories but you are not permitted to make any comparison to materials that are only allowed on the Adult Only categories. Your listing compares this book to a 1980 Playboy magazine. Your listing was also removed because it referred to items in the Adult Only category.Once you've removed all elements that aren't permitted and checked to make sure your listing complies with eBay listing policies, you shouldn't have any problem relisting your item.
Ah perfectly clear, my listings were pulled because I cited the eBay policy stating why they shouldn't be pulled. The first rule of eBay adult categories is you don't talk about the eBay adult categories.

So, I guess I "won" (at least until a random shopper comes along, with no knowledge of the adult guidelines that are no longer cited and decides I should be Vero'd again). I trimmed the disclaimer from the template and my G+L catalog is now up and filled with plenty of books that "the gayest man on earth would call over the top".

I was hoping my struggle would be more epic to make for a more interesting post but what are you gonna do?

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Pulp Resources

Gary Lovisi (publisher of the essential Paperback Parade) just released his second book for Krause Publications: Dames, Dolls & Delinquents.

This book will be a much appreciated expansion on his "Social Issues" (Sex, Drugs, Juvenile Delinquents) category in The Antique Trader Collectible Paperback Price Guide. I haven't received my copy yet but if the Antique Trader is any indication it will be a fun and informative guide with tons of high quality cover reproductions.

Also, I recently hooked a new customer who blogs at Pulp Serenade:

Cullen's blog is one reader's odyssey, started because he couldn't find enough locals who shared his pulp fiction obsession. He writes long, thoughtful posts on classic era mystery, science fiction and westerns (books and film). Pay him a visit and see what he's reading.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paperback Restoration Service

In the course of adding to my vintage paperback inventory, I often come upon books that can be greatly improved through some moderate fixing-up. After handling thousands of these books, I've developed some gentle and effective restoration techniques that can turn G-VG books into gems and Poor-Fair books into serviceable reading-copies.

Here are some before and after images of my recent restoration of a rare 1st of Black Wings Has My Angel, a PBO by Elliott Chaze.

As I received it:

Text block slanted and cracked into several pieces, peeling/splitting to spine and some deep creasing to the corners that were threatening to break away.

Using professional techniques and archival bookbinding materials I turned this into a square/solid, fair-good copy.

More pics from the restoration: 1, 2, 3, 4

These are repairs I regularly perform:
  • tipping in loose pages
  • fixing cracked bindings
  • reinforcing heavy creases
  • re-squaring spines
  • removing/minimizing spots and stains
  • closing page tears
  • restoring cover gloss
and more.

I have this down to a one man assembly line procedure and can get through large stacks of books quickly.

I don't believe in--nor am I capable of--erasing all signs of age and character, but I do believe in preserving the book in a solid (and potentially readable) state and slowing or halting deterioration.

Since I'm doing so many of these for myself I thought I would extend the service to other collectors. Simple book repairs can be done for $4-15 per book. More complex and time-consuming repairs and can be costed out ahead of time.

Do you have vintage PBs that need some TLC? Contact me and we'll work out the terms.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Junk in My Trunk: May 16, 2009

(click on the photo to go to the flickr page with annotations)

My stoop sale haul from this past weekend. My life will be greatly improved by darts, waffles, and Mojo. Plus I have the electronics lab in case I have to work on a career switch.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Buying Book Inventory: Striking the Right Balance

Due to drastically slowing sales volume--leading to nervous tic refreshing of my inbox and blank staring at the internets wondering "Is this thing on?"--I've been rethinking my buying strategies recently.

Back when the world wasn't like this, I could count on Amazon and eBay as income pillars and the five others venues I list on as light gravy with the occasional surprise. My buying was divided about 60-40 between eBay / estate sale finds (slower selling but more interesting and financially rewarding) and thrift store hunting (ISBN checked quick-selling utility titles). I bought until I felt like stopping--based mostly on gut.

This is no longer working. My Amazon sales are down to the equivalent of an entry level job in a no future industry and--because of exhaustion and disgust at the high maintenance and ever changing conditions at eBay--my storefront has been nearly empty.

Starting NOW I'm going to much more strategically look at how I buy (a bookdealer is like a can't stop buying or you die) and try to more effectively sell what I have. I'm going to total my monthly fixed expenses, see what's left over and allocate that mostly to--hopefully--quick-selling stock.

I can't ignore eBay because so many people are unloading good books at desperation prices but the at least 3-week delay between sending a paypal payment for an auction won and the day you can relist that item has become a barrier. I need to focus on only the most promising lots and bid at 15-20% of my presumed resale price rather than my usual 25-35%.

Sales-wise, I'm starting to repopulate my eBay store focusing on speciality areas in a way that will hopefully attract multi-book buyers. I'm uploading vintage paperbacks in select batches of collector friendly authors and genres. I've included an explicit and straight forward shipping chart that should encourage bundling (especially for international sales). And as always I'm auctioning crack lots of common and low-grade titles in the hope that buyers will come back for the heavy stuff when they see the care and attention I give my product.

I'm also digging out those 'reseach' items that are stuffed in drawers and getting them listed (since they're long paid for) and opportunistically buying up cheap non-book items (toys, games, wacky crap) that I’ll quickly turnaround and--again...hopefully--pay for the slower selling books I pick up.

So, that's all I got. As a bookdealer how are you wading through the quicksand?

METAPHORICAL LESSON LEARNED: A bookdealer is like a dying--yet hopeful--shark in quicksand.

But seriously people. Support your favorite bookdealer (even if it's not me). It's cheaper than a bank bail-out, war, or health care and you'll have a new BFF.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book CSI: Dumbass Killfile

I recently listed a first paperback edition of Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and--in the process of pricing my copy--I noticed one on ABE that was underpriced and restorable so I bought it up.

This is what I received in the mail:

Transparent plastic baggy, no padding or stiffeners whatsoever and--if that wasn't bad enough-- the bookseller had stuck an inventory label directly on the spine of a delicate 58-year-old paperback.

After a careful 10-minute application of sticker removal the best I could do was this...

I recovered and readherred the chip, but what a pain in the ass.

It's true that I was deliberately buying a low-grade book from someone who doesn't know how to catalog or price a book but do they have to suck at their trade so badly that they damage books more than they already are (and more than is described in their listing)?

I was so livid that I ended up spending 45-minutes restoring a maybe $25 dollar book.

As of now I'm officially starting my dumbass killfile of booksellers that I will never buy from again. Does anyone have such a list going already? Want to share info?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Studying Filth

I picked up three "Tijuana Bibles" (8-page erotic comics from the 1930s-1950s) at a flea market recently and I thought my process of researching them was worth documenting.

Tijuana Bibles were illegal to sell in most states, there's no publication information or artist signatures in the booklets, and they were widely pirated and reprinted. So dating them is a bit of an art form.

TBs were distributed more like drugs than like paperbacks. To buy them you had to know a guy who had a connection. We he needed a restock, he had to contact his source and usually drive to pick up new stock personally (since sending "obscene" materials through the mails and across state lines was--and sometimes IS--a serious offense). The source usually had one or two in-house artists who drew the material (generally parodies of movie stars, comic characters or headline makers) or else would shamelessly reprint TBs acquired from another source.

Knowing this I looked at my three newly acquired TBs. All are bound in the same manner--a one-piece folded cover with a single staple in the middle; are on similar paper stock; and show the same level of age toning, so they're all likely from the same source/publisher from around the same time. They're also likely first printings or from the original art. I determined this by the vivid, high contrast reproduction. Later printings can appear faded or difficult to read because of detail loss (which has sometimes been filled-in or redrawn by a second, less-skilled hand).

Two of the bibles are generic gags and feature unrecognizable characters but the third is a parody of the Casey Ruggles strip by Warren Tufts with started in 1949 and ran until 1955. So we can safely put the bibles somewhere in the 1950-52 range (TB publishers were quick to find new material to parody so I'm putting these in the early years of the Casey Ruggles strip's run). Were the Ruggles bible not part of the lot, I might attempt to date these by the gag contents...or the folk popularity of French hair dressers and cunnilingus, but that would be trickier.

Lastly I believe all of the bibles were drawn by the same unknown artist. This is due to the identical cross-hatching/shading technique in each of the bibles, the similarity of the figures and the joke contents (which all seem fairly progressive for the medium--showing a woman coming out on top--and are actually funny and well-told).

Here are the bibles in question (NOT WORK SAFE repeat NOT WORK SAFE): Andrie's Beauty Shoppee, These High City Prices, Casey Ruggles

...and if you're seeing this on my Facebook page and happen to be a family member or old grade school teacher DO NOT CLICK ON THESE LINKS (or at least don't tell me about it).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Me, Elsewhere

Like most bloggers these days I'm finding myself spread thin over too many platforms and my ability to put together a well-thought out and coherent blog post is close to nil. So if you're finding my posting here a little diluted/sporadic feel free to join me on Twitter (HangFireBooks, ThriftscoutNYC) and Facebook. That way you can keep up to date on what I'm having for breakfast and my five favorite everythings.

Friday, April 24, 2009

49 New Scans my Flickr cover gallery. Including 3 from a beautiful Penguin SF series designed by David Pelham.

and numerous new additions from Bob Pepper and the Dillons.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Virtua Shadowbox

My shadowbox is nearly filled with charming and bizarre little dust collectors. Thought I'd share. Click-through to see it on flickr with notes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Linkage

Designer/Blogger Michael Newhouse and the proprietor of Windy Hill Books left comments on one of my old posts about Young People's Records perhaps identifying the mystery artist of this charming record cover:

Abe Ajay is the often unsigned artist of the majority of the YPR And CRG covers, according to the book Revolutionizing Children's Records by David Bonner. Bonner has a blog here.
Bonner's book looks like a fascinating reference on this storied series of records--which recorded talents like Raymond Scott and Groucho Marx--and came under the eye of Joseph McCarthy. Must read more.

Engraver, bookplate artist and blogger, Andy English shows off his designs for the Oak Tree Press limited edition of Philip Pullman's A Outrance ("To The Death") a lost chapter from the Golden Compass series.

Looks like a stunner. Sign up for an email publication notice here.

And collection development blog The Private Library explains why a pile of well-preserved science fiction paperbacks is more bibliographically valuable than "fine press publications, printed on handmade paper using hot metal type, bound in full Niger goatskin or similar materials, with no title having been produced in more than 100 copies"...and therefore more worth collecting and buying.

Seems obvious to me but it's a good argument.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New York Panorama

Those of you who listen to New York Public Radio or read the Times probably heard about the cool fund-raising effort by the Queens Museum of Art for the updating and maintenance of the New York Panorama.

If you haven't, in short you can "purchase" buildings in the massive scale model of New York City that was Built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, a "9,335 square foot architectural model includ[ing] every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs; a total of 895,000 individual structures."

As soon as I heard this I printed the form (pdf) and bought our apartment (private house/apartments are mostly $50) and last week I went out to survey my property; probably the safest real estate purchase one could make right now.

The model is fairly overwhelming with a cool pseudo helicopter tour, city sound effects and tiny planes taking off from JFK.

I found my neighborhood after a bit.

Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

And with the help of Photoshop picked out my building.

Approx 3/4" tall, 1 1/4" wide.

And here's the Flatiron building where I worked for a few years at Tor Books.

14th floor. My window was on the opposite side of the building.

I wanted to find all my apartments, places of employment and the shitty dive bars I've frequented since moving to New York, but I was getting serious eye-strain.

Wishing for street level views on Googlemaps.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Watchmen Embroidery

Crafter Kittyzilla posted these fantastic Watchmen embroidery patterns on the Handmade Stuffs Blog. My two favorites are below with her explanation of the design process. I might have to learn how to embroider just to make a Rorschach.

I think Nite Owl II is my favorite of the bunch. I love the way the frame and background came out and he's making that "I'm a paunchy nerd who fights crime" face. Plus his quote is stupid and makes me giggle.
I wanted these to sort of look like a cross between a portrait and a religious icon. The religious icon I like not only for the look, but also because there's a certain mythological aspect to super heroes. Working with that, almost all of them have sort of the suggestion of a halo behind them. Also, I am one of those people who finds Rorschach absolutely adorable. I am properly ashamed of myself, don't worry.
Link via Kimmchi

Monday, April 6, 2009

Junk in My Trunk: April 4, 2009

(click on the photo to go to the flickr page with annotations)

My haul from last weekend. This was the second trip with my estate sale cohort found on Craigslist. The arrangement is still working great and I picked up many things that I would have had no access to otherwise.

My goal is usually to buy some non-book items that I can eBay immediately, make back my investment and then the books (and any items I keep for myself) are gravy. So far this strategy has been working but I am occasionally stuck with an albatross.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lazy Linkage

Running with a pretty low energy bar lately (If I were playing Gauntlet it would be saying "Warrior needs food...badly") so here are a few lazy links.

Craig Yoe (author of Clean Cartoonists' Dirty Drawings, and Modern Arf) has collected rare fetish art from Superman's co-creator Joe Shuster in a book called Secret Identity. This is the first I've heard of this period in his career so this is high up on my wish list. (link via Drawn!)

Parka Blog posted a fascinating photo set of artists'/graphic designers' work spaces. I always love these peeks into the creative process.

Lastly John Waggoner Jr.--a retired archaeologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers--searches for lost cemeteries and "grave houses", miniature wooden structures built over graves (early 1800s into the 1900s) that sometimes contained furniture, books, pictures etc. They're disappearing fast and he's on a quest to find and document them.

(from, link via bldbblog on twitter)

Monday, March 30, 2009

Oddball Item of the Week

A bathroom cigarette caddy /ash tray in the shape of a toilet.

Because there's no reason to lose any smoking time ever.

Ceramic in attractive brown with hand-painted gold hi-lights.

Cigarettes are stored in the tank, and you ash in the bowl, with a notch in the back for wall mounting.

This "Cigarette Set" brought to you by Thames "to complete your bathroom and add to your comfort". Circa 1960.

This came from the estate of a plumber so I'm guessing it was a trade promotional item.

On ebay now (ends Sunday night at around 6PM EST).