Sunday, July 31, 2011

Newberry Library Book Fair 2011

Well, I went. I wasn't going to because in the heat of Thursday evening the short three block walk from the Clark & Division subway stop to the library was something I didn't look forward to. Walking even one block in 90 degree weather causes me to break out in back drenching sweats. But I'm glad I did brave the sun. I found two books that made me open my eyes wide in surprise.

The Newberry Library is one of the leading research libraries in the Midwest if not the whole country. They are probably best known for their awe inspiring collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts and are also one of the most famous genealogy libraries in the world. I have yet to set foot in their stacks. I keep meaning to but have yet to come up with a research interest that would make it purposeful. However, I do attend their special exhibits somewhat regularly. Several years ago there was an amazing Sherlockiana exhibit and I made sure to get there for that. Daniel Stashower, a mystery writer and Edgar award winning Doyle biographer, was there as a speaker and I remember having a pleasant chat with him about his detective novels featuring Harry Houdini. I got most of my Stashower books signed by him that day as well.

I thought I'd probably find five or less books. I didn't want to spend a lot of money because I went a little overboard in Minneapolis (see this post) and I'm trying to rein in my accursed bibliomania and save some money for my upcoming trip to St. Louis in September. But the book gods (demons?) smiled upon me and I left with a lot more than I expected I would. And for only $27 which is usually the cost of one book for me who is seriously addicted to vintage 1st editions in dust jackets.

For you viewing pleasure, here are the highlights of another big take. As always click on the images for much larger pictures. And you know the clicking drill by now.

The Third Eye
Sinister Light (aka Put Out the Light) both by Ethel Lina White
White wrote The Wheel Spins which later became the excellent Hitchcock movie The Lady Vanishes. In the 1960s all of her books were reissued by Paperback Library as "Gothic suspense." None of them really are. She's more in the Eberhart tradition of the "woman in peril" suspense novel. A few of her books can be classified as detective novels as well. White is one of those hit and miss writers. She can write something that becomes a classic like The Wheel Spins but then she can deliver something plodding and formulaic. I tried reading While She Slept last year and I was bored with it and gave up. But I've been wanting to read some of the more weird ones like The Third Eye (which is probably the one that closest resembles a true Gothic) for quite a while. All of her books were for sale. In fact, scattered throughout the paperback mysteries was someone's huge collection of Gothic suspense and Gothic romance novels. There were hundreds of them including many by Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, and Charlotte Armstrong books (see below about Armstrong).

No Good From a Corpse by Leigh Brackett
Hardboiled detective novel. Author's first mystery. Based on the strength of this book alone she (yes, she!) was invited to Hollywood to help with the screenplay on Howard Hawk's The Big Sleep. Impressive. Knowing this I had to find a copy and read the book.

The Murderer Invisible by Philip Wylie
Another book linked to the long gone days of classic Hollywood movie making. This was used in part as source material for the Universal horror movie The Invisible Man. Although it is largely the story of the H. G. Wells novel the screenwriters combined elements of the two books. The madman turned misanthropic murderer element is what was taken from Wylie's book.

Lay On, MacDuff! by Charlotte Armstrong
Author's first mystery novel. It's a true detective novel once again in the Eberhart vein and not a Gothic Romance. What a ridiculous and trite cover! Nothing to do with the story. It's also one of the most difficult Armstrong books to find in any edition. Took me over 10 years to find this one. A post about her neglected and forgotten detective character MacDougall MacDuff is coming soon. 

When Michael Calls by John Farris
This was turned into a TV movie back in the 1970s. Long before slasher movies replaced true scares with gross-out horror there were some very effective and creepy TV movies made in the 1970s. I'll always remember this one from my days as a scary movie addicted teen. A woman starts receiving phone calls from her nephew who supposedly died years ago. I don't think you can make movies about the terror of anonymous phone calls anymore. Cell phones have pretty much removed the terror. People simply don't answer anymore. Looking forward to revisiting this to see if it has any power as a book. Farris went on to write some classic modern horror novels most notably The Fury turned into a movie directed by Brian DePalma and with Farris as screenwriter.

TCOT Village Tramp by Jonathan Craig
This has eluded me for a few months. While I wish it could have been the Gold Medal original, I'll settle for this Belmont reprint. It's in nice condition, so that helps. Only one more 6th precinct book to find - Morgue of Venus. These are a series of police procedurals all set in the Greenwich Village of 1950s. Eventually all of Craig's books will be written up here at Pretty Sinister Books.

Hardcovers with Dust Jackets
101 Years' Entertainment edited by Ellery Queen
A seminal anthology of detective short stories. The introduction is one of the best surveys of Golden Age detective fiction. If you come across a copy of this book and it costs less than $5 (like mine did) I'd snap it up for the introduction alone. It has a few stories by some obscure writers worth reading like Vincent Cornier and Arthur Porges in addition to those well known authors listed on the DJ. And I'm a sucker for any old book with a DJ in great condition like this one.

Sporting Blood edited by Ellery Queen
Detective short stories that deal with professional sports. I guess the editors couldn't find enough good stories about the usual sports and so also covered are stories featuring games like croquet and hobbies like stamp and coin collecting.

The Queen's Awards, 7th series (1952) edited by Ellery Queen
More detective short stories including the only short story published in book form by A.H.Z. Carr who wrote the Edgar Award winning novel Finding Maubee.

The Mardi Gras Murders by Gwen Bristow & Bruce Manning
The Mystery League books are collected primarily for the DJ art and not for the content in the books themselves. This is one of the better examples of the DJs in the series and one that's fairly hard to find. Although there are a few really good stories (The Secret of High Eldersham and Death Walks in Eastrepps in particular) most of the books are utterly dreadful as mystery novels written by deservedly forgotten writers. One of these days I should write something about these odd books published by The Mystery League. Some have earned "alternative classic" status like Turmoil in Brede about a hairdressing salon that is a front for a hypnotizing blackmail ring. That book was ripped off by the writers of the campy "Batman" TV series for the final episode with Zsa Zsa Gabor as Minerva -- the owner of a hair dressing salon who brainwashes her customers and steals from them.

The Red Lamp by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Had to have this for the DJ even if there is an ugly price tag scar on the front. Why do used book store owners and antique mall owners put price tags on old dust jackets? It's sacrilege as far as I'm concerned. The scar was already there when I bought the book. Newberry prices everything in pencil on the flyleaf. The rear of this particular DJ is one big advertisement for other books in the George H Doran catalog circa 1925 when this book was first published. Waste not, want not. Both sides of the dust jacket served their purpose back in the early days of book publishing.

And the Grand Prize...

Powers of Darkness 
by Robert Aickman
(Collins, 1966) 1st edition in the original dust jacket

This is a stupendous find to anyone well versed in collecting supernatural fiction. The book is the second collection of Aickman's "strange stories" and a true rarity in the antiquarian trade. I was stunned to find it sitting far away from the science fiction, fantasy and horror books where it should have been. Instead it was ignominiously lodged in the mystery section amid a pile of ratty old book club editions of some author I can't even recall. I opened it up expecting to see a price tag well over $25. The tiny pencil scrawl on the flyleaf said $2. I laughed and said "Now that was a big mistake!" The man next to me peered over my shoulder but I closed the book and added it to me pile before he could see. Then I headed for the cashier area to pay for my booty.

There are only three copies with a dust jacket for sale on the internet. When I checked my secret book search engine that brings up over 30 sites all over the world those were the only three for sale in the entire world. Go ahead and look up this book. Look what the prices are for those three books. Two bucks was grand larceny. Sometimes the book gods are not only smiling down on me they are laughing hysterically. Just like me.


  1. Howard Hawks made THE BIG SLEEP.

  2. Thanks, kindly invisible movie expert. The post is now corrected. There goes the middle aged memory again. Huston directed The Maltese Falcon, of course and not The Big Sleep. They all blur together after a while. But they shouldn't, should they? [...sigh..] I should always double check using the numerous resources at my fingertips while I'm on-line, too.

  3. John....I now have serious book binge envy. Your Red Lamp find is waaaaayyyyyy better than my piddly little paperback version.

    The closest I've come to owning Armstrong's Lay On, MacDuff is reading the copy from the library. I am waiting with bated breath for the discard fairy to decide they don't need it any more and shift it to the Library Book Store. And you're definitely right about that cover....hello, cover artist, this is not a gothic romance here.

    Price tags on books (of any sort) are a MAJOR pet peeve of mine. Why--why--why do they do that?! Especially used book store owner who use garage-sale-type stickers that seem to be fastened on with super glue?

  4. I looked up the specific edition your purchased, and there's definitely a charge of grand larceny looming over your head. I'm tempted now to start leaving ominous comments, "I know what you did last Newberry Library Book Fair," before I start dropping blackmail demands.

  5. Very nice, John, very nice indeed. Thanks for sharing.

  6. What a haul! I am so envious of your vintage book proclivities, John. Esepcially when you go to great sales like this one.

    Something I rarely, if ever, get to do any more.

    So I go along with you on your jaunts, vicariously. :)