Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Snail-Watcher and Other Stories by Patricia Highsmith: Signed First Edition

Two years ago I wrote about Graham Greene, Patricia Highsmith and Eleven, Highsmith's first collection of short stories, published by Heinemann in 1970. I hadn't expected to return to Eleven; as well as exploring in that post Highsmith and Greene's mutual admiration and the foreword he wrote for the book, I also reviewed the best stories contained therein, so there wasn't really much more I could have added. But then I went and bought this:


the American first edition of the collection, published by Doubleday in 1970 under the title The Snail-Watcher and Other Stories, with a dust jacket designed by Tim Lewis, and, well, here we are. There are no significant differences between the Heinemann and Doubleday editions – both contain the same eleven short stories; both boast the Graham Greene foreword (although it's titled 'Introduction' in the American edition) – so there's no excuse, really, for my buying the US first edition when I already owned the UK first edition... except that this copy of the US first edition is signed:


Curiously, it's also an ex-library copy, liberated from, according to the indented stamp on the title page, the Westbrook Memorial Library in Maine (I think; it's hard to make out and the library docket that was affixed to the rear endpaper has been removed). I'm guessing that's the Walker Memorial Library. The signature looks genuine to me, but I am intrigued as to the circumstances by which Highsmith signed a library book. Was it signed after it was removed from the library? Or while it resided in the library, during a reading or event of some kind – or perhaps even covertly during an incognito visit by Highsmith...? I don't suppose I'll ever know.


At least, that's what I figured when I first posted this. But then an hour or two later Book Glutton emailed me and drew my attention to this 2015 obituary for Bonny Muir. As Book Glutton noted, Muir was a good friend of Patricia Highsmith's who at one time lived in Portland, Maine, not far from Westbrook. An avid user of the South Portland Library, it's conceivable Muir frequented the Walker Memorial Library too, and that she acquired this copy of The Snail-Watcher there and got Highsmith to sign it at a later date. Then, when Muir died, her books were sold. Conjecture, of course, but it's plausible, and certainly excellent detective work on the part of Book Glutton.

Linked in Friday's Forgotten Books, 20/1/17.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Signed Inscribed Tom Ripley Books: Patricia Highsmith's Ripley Under Ground and The Boy Who Followed Ripley

I'm of a mind to post some of the signed books I've acquired over the past year or two – at least, I'm of a mind as I type this; whether or not I'll remain of a mind to do so, or indeed retain any enthusiasm for blogging whatsoever, remains to be seen. For now, though, here's a pair of signed Patricia Highsmith books, both of which are novels in my abiding obsession, the Tom Ripley series.


On the left is a 1970 US Doubleday Book Club Edition of Ripley Under Ground, the second novel in the five-book Ripliad, and on the right a 1980 US Lippincott & Crowell first edition of The Boy Who Followed Ripley, the fourth novel in the Ripliad. The dust jacket design on Ripley Under Ground is by Alex Gotfryd, while the dust jacket design on The Boy Who Followed Ripley is by Pat Voehl.


Ripley Under Ground has been signed, inscribed ("Best to you") and dated (19 May 1981) by Patricia Highsmith on the half-title page – in pencil, unusually (every other signed Highsmith book I own – a dozen in total – has been signed in pen). As noted, it's a book club edition, which ordinarily would make it less interesting to me, but it's the only copy of Ripley Under Ground – not just one of my favourite novels in the Ripliad but one of my favourite Highsmiths, and therefore one of my favourite novels, full stop – in any edition I've ever come across, so it's a remarkable thing indeed.


The Boy Who Followed Ripley is an association copy, signed by Highsmith on the front free endpaper and inscribed to Lou Kannenstine – or rather "Kannenstein", as Highmith has misspelled it. Kannenstine, who died in 2014, was the publisher of Foul Play Press, an imprint of Countryman Press which issued crime and mystery novels by, among others, Reginald Hill, Max Allan Collins and another abiding preoccupation of mine, Donald E. Westlake (the three Grofield novels written as Richard Stark).


I've added both books to the Existential Ennui Patricia Highsmith First Edition Book Cover Gallery (under 'Patriciaphernalia'), where my inscribed association copy of the fifth Ripley novel, Ripley Under Water, also resides – meaning I now own three-fifths of the Ripliad in signed editions (two copies in the case of Ripley Under Water). And if the mood takes me, I'll be posting some other signed Highsmiths soon.

Friday, 30 December 2016

The 2016 Big Long List of the Books and Graphic Novels and Comics I Read This Year

Here, for the sake of posterity, as if anyone's remotely interested, is pretty much everything I read in 2016, in roughly the order in which I read it. Not many novels... lots of comics and graphic novels... lots of Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel space opera (see here for why)... lots of Hickman: this was my 2016 (in reading, anyway). Happy New Year.


Novels, Graphic Novels, Comics
The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch (Marvel, 2005) (reread)
The '44 Vintage by Anthony Price (Gollancz, 1978)
The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin (Image, 2015)
Pilgrim on the Island by Desmond Cory (Frederick Muller, 1959)
Mills by Manning O'Brine (Herbert Jenkins, 1969)
The Little Prince by Joann Sfar (Walker, 2010)
Crambo by Manning O'Brine (Michael Joseph, 1970)
Copra Round Three by Michel Fiffe (Bergen Street, 2015)
Secret Warriors vols 1–6 by Jonathan Hickman, Stefano Caselli et al (Marvel, 2009–11)
S.H.I.E.L.D.: Architects of Forever by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver (Marvel, 2011)
The 6 ​Voyages of Lone Sloane by Phillippe Druillet (Titan, 2015)
Secret Avengers: Run the Mission, Don't Get Seen, Save the World by Warren Ellis et al (Marvel, 2012)
No Earth for Foxes by Manning O'Brine (Barrie & Jenkins, 1974)
Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Box by Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi (Marvel, 2009) (reread)
Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis by Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews (Marvel, 2011)
​Fantastic Four: Dark Reign by Jonathan Hickman and Sean Chen (Marvel, 2009)
Avengers by Jonathan Hickman vols 1–3 (Marvel, 2015–16) (reread)
New Avengers by Jonathan Hickman vols 1–2 (Marvel, 2015–16) (reread)
Infinity by Jonathan Hickman, Jim Cheung and Jerome Opena (Marvel, 2014) (reread)
Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic (Marvel, 2011–12) (reread)
Avengers: Time Runs Out by Jonathan Hickman et al (Marvel, 2016) (reread)
Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic (Marvel, 2016) (reread)
Revenger: Children of the Damned by Charles Forsman (Bergen Street, 2016)
Ultimate Comics Thor by Jonathan Hickman and Carlos Pacheco (Marvel, 2011)
Ultimate Comics Hawkeye by Jonathan Hickman and Rafa Sandoval (Marvel, 2012)
Ultimate Spider-Man: Death of Spider-Man Fallout by Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman et al (Marvel, 2011)
Patience by Daniel Clowes (Jonathan Cape, 2016)
Annihilation Conquest Omnibus by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning et al (Marvel, 2015)
Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett and Lanning Omnibus (Marvel, 2016)
Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash by Dave McKean (Artist's Edition, 2016)
Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam by Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics, 2016)
The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin (Orion, 2016)
Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol 1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli (Marvel, 2012)
Fantastic Four Omnibus vol 1 by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting et al (Marvel, 2013)
Fantastic Four Omnibus vol 2 by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting et al (Marvel, 2014) (reread)
The Mighty Thor vol 1 by Matt Fraction and Olivier Coipel (Marvel, 2011)
Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes (Jonathan Cape, 2011)
Nicolas by Pascal Girard (Drawn & Quarterly, 2016)
​"Cash on Delivery"/"Soft Drink"/"Bed and Breakfast": three short stories by P. M. Hubbard (Argosy, 1969–70)
Mooncop by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly, 2016)
Astonishing X-Men: Exogenetic by Warren Ellis and Phil Jiminez (Marvel, 2010)
Billy Hazlenuts and the Crazy Bird by Tony Millionaire (Fantagraphics, 2010)
Absolute Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross (DC, 2006) (reread)
Amazing Fantastic Incredible by Stan Lee, Peter David and Colleen Doran (Simon & Schuster, 2015)
The Demon by Matt Wagner (DC, 1987)
"Give Till It Hurts: A Christmas Story" by Donald E. Westlake (Mysterious Bookshop, 1993)
Various Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel cosmic comics​, including: Marvel Presents #3–12 by Steve Gerber and Al Milgrom (Marvel, 1975–77) (part reread); Guardians of the Galaxy by Jim Valentino (Marvel, 1990); Annihilation by Keith Giffen et al (Marvel, 2006) (part reread)
Various Marvel comics – research for Marvel Fact Files articles, including: Spider-Verse: Warzones! by Mike Costa and Andre Araujo (Marvel, 2015); Secret Wars 2099 by Peter David and Will Sliney (Marvel, 2015); Civil War: Warzones! by Charles Soule and Leinil Yu (Marvel, 2015), The Ultimates: Omniversal by Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort (Marvel, 2016); Moon Knight: Dead will Rise by Brian Wood and Greg Smallwood (Marvel, 2015)


Ongoing Periodical Comics
Kill or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)
Velvet by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (Image)
Criminal 10th Anniversary Special by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)
The Black Monday Murders by Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker (Image)
East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta (Image)
Sex by Joe Casey and Piotr Kowalski (Image)
Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
Captain America: Steve Rogers by Nick Spencer and Jesus Diaz (Marvel)
Captain America: Sam Wilson by Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna (Marvel)
Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Michael Bendis and Valerio Schiti (Marvel)
Civil War II by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez (Marvel)
DC Universe: Rebirth by Geoff Johns et al (DC)
Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp (DC)
Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Image)
Jupiter's Legacy by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely (Image)
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard)
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang (Image)
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)
Stray Bullets by David Lapham (Image)
James Bond by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters (Dynamite)
Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey (Image)
Vile by Tyler Landry (Study Group)


Started but Nowhere Near Finished
Found in the Street by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1986)
A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene (Heinemann, 1936)
War of Kings Omnibus by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning et al (Marvel, 2016)

Linked in this Friday's Forgotten Books round-up.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Denis Healey's George V. Higgins Book Collection

Every year, the East Sussex village of Alfriston – not far from the East Sussex town of Lewes, where I live and work – holds a Summer Festival. Often as not I'll pop over there on the summer bank holiday, usually on the Monday when there's also a boot sale in the playing field as well as, on the beautiful village green beside the River Cuckmere, a selection of stalls and games and rides. Best of all – and this is something I'd completely forgotten until I got there this year – there's a secondhand book stall; more of a marquee really, with tables arranged in a circle, laden with boxes stuffed with fiction and non-fiction (hardback and paperback).


Rifling through the wares this year I started to notice a number of George V. Higgins books among the selection of hardback fiction. Higgins is an author I've tried once (The Friends of Eddie Coyle, his 1972 debut) and keep meaning to return to – a noted stylist whose novels, many of them of a crime fiction bent, others of a political persuasion, are largely comprised of long stretches of dialogue, with little if any description. The more I looked in the boxes of books, the more Higgins I found. Evidently someone in Alfriston was a fan... but then I started looking inside the books, at the ownership signatures on the front endpapers of one or two of the books and, in some cases, inscriptions on title pages from Higgins himself, and realised who that fan was: former Secretary of State for Defence (1964–70), Chancellor of the Exchequer (1974–79) and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party (1980–83) Denis Healey.

Healey, who passed away in 2015, and his wife Edna, who died in 2010, amassed a huge book collection over 40 years at their Alfriston home, much of which was bought by local bookshop Much Ado Books (a shop I've written about more than once on Existential Ennui), and some of which wound up in an Alfriston book sale in September (which, annoyingly, I didn't find out about until well after the fact). The collection ranged across a variety of subjects – art, photography, history, poetry, literature and, it seems, George V. Higgins.


Only a couple of the Higgins books I found on the stall had Healey ownership signatures in them, and just three were signed and inscribed by Higgins, but I bought the whole lot anyway (twelve books at a quid each) as it was almost certain they all belonged to Healey and it seemed right to keep the collection together (or at least as much of it as possible; there may have been other Higgins book bought by other folks before I got to them). According to the dated ownership signature in the earliest book I came across, a 1973 Secker & Warburg first of The Digger's Game (Higgins' second novel), Healey bought that one in 1977, and then at some point his and Higgins' paths must have crossed, judging by the warm author inscriptions in Victories (Henry Holt, 1990), Bomber's Law (Henry Holt/Owl paperback, 1994) and Swan Boats at Four (Little, Brown, 1995).


A couple of the books are association copies: a 1979 Harper & Row edition of A Year or So with Edgar, which is inscribed to Healey by Kit McMahon, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England; and a 1987 Holt edition of Outlaws, which is inscribed by political scientist Graham Allison, with a compliment slip from Libor founder Milos Zombanakis.


And on a separate book stall in the boot fair field I found a 1974 Doubleday edition of Penelope Mortimer's Long Distance, inscribed by Mortimer to Edna Healey, thanking her for "a BBC birthday".


Quite the collection all told.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Mike Ripley's Not Single Spies, a Readers' History of Thrillers, Published 2017

Now this is rather exciting. Crime writer and thriller aficionado Mike Ripley has announced the publication next year of "a readers' history", as Mike himself puts it, of "the boom in British thrillers" from 1953–1975. Titled Not Single Spies, the book takes as its starting point Ian Fleming's debut Bond novel Casino Royale (1953) and its end point Jack Higgins' The Eagle Has Landed (1975), featuring along the way the likes of Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley, John le Carre and Frederick Forsyth, and drawing on discussions Mike has had over the years with such luminaries as Len Deighton, Anthony Price, Alan Williams and Gavin Lyall.


Set to be published by Harper Collins on 18 May 2017, Not Single Spies also boasts a foreword by Lee Child, who, when approached to write the foreword, apparently noted that he knew: "It would be a book I would want to read – maybe even pay for!" I couldn't agree more.

Monday, 31 October 2016

London Paperback and Pulp Book Fair 2016


Absence, they say – and who am I to naysay 'they' – makes the heart grow fonder, which was why I was delighted to see the return on Sunday, after a three-year absence, of the London Paperback and Pulp Book Fair – as were a good many others judging by the crowds at the 2016 event. Now at a new venue – the Royal National Hotel in Russell Square, tacked onto the monthly Bloomsbury Ephemera Fair – this year's fair was a busy, bustling, er, affair, with the likes of Jamie Sturgeon, David Hyman and others purveying fine selections of vintage paperbacks and pulps (as one might expect, given the name of the thing). I came away with this little lot:


Top row, three Cornell Wooolrich paperbacks: The Black Curtain (Dell, 1948), The Black Path of Fear (Avon, 1946) and, ah, The Black Path of Fear again (Ace, 1968); middle row, three John D. MacDonald paperbacks: Death Trap (Dell, 1957); Deadly Welcome (Dell, 1959) and The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything (Frederick Muller/Gold Medal, 1964); bottom row: C. S. Forester's Payment Deferred (Guild Books paperback, 1950), Margaret Millar's Beast in View (Corgi paperback, 1960), Elmore Leonard's Hombre (Ballantine paperback, 1967 reprint) and John Fowles' The Collector (Pan paperback first printing, 1965) – that last one actually bought from a paperback dealer in the main Ephemera Fair. A pretty good haul, all told. Here's hoping the wait between fairs isn't quite so long next time.