Monday, 30 November 2009


Just filled two holes (ooer) in my collection by winning first editions of Kingsley Amis's James Bond Dossier and Book of Bond, a job lot on eBay, for less than it would've cost for one of the books on their own. Splendid.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

What I Done Got This Week

Ever felt like you're talking to yourself? That's what writing this blog is like. But if I am just writing it for myself, then I guess it can act as a diary of my various obsessions and how they wax and wane in comparison to each other. At present, as I've outlined more than once, book collecting is floating my boat more than comic collecting. But I did go to the comic shop this week, after giving it a miss last week, and here's what I got:

Criminal Sinners #2
Dark Avengers #11
Invincible Iron Man #20
New Avengers #59
Thor Giant Size Finale
Uncanny X-Men #517

Dark Avengers
is a holdover from last week, and having read it on the train, I wouldn't have missed it much if I hadn't got it at all. There were a few others from last week (and this week) I didn't but, either 'cos they'd sold out, or I couldn't be arsed:

Irredeemable #8
Ultimate Comics Avengers #4
Underground #3 (of 4)
X-Men Legacy #229

So that's four more comics I won't be getting anymore. And y'know what? I don't think I'll miss 'em. Little by little, I'm chipping away at my comics habit...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Tremor of Forgery

Speaking of Patricia Highsmith, I finished The Tremor of Forgery recently, and found it a really unusual book. It's not a crime novel really, although there is an unconfirmed killing in it. It's much more about one man losing his moral compass, or rather questioning what morality is. It's incredibly internalised: Howard Ingham, the 'hero', is in Tunisia writing a book, and there are long passages where he turns events (both 'real' and in his novel) over in his mind. The book isn't written in the first person – I don't think any of Highsmith's books are – but we really get inside Ingham's head, and, in that brilliant way of Highsmith's, start to accept a kind of amoral view of the world. You're almost lulled into it; the writing's so matter-of-fact that questionable thoughts and acts become somehow everyday, acceptable even. But what's really interesting about the book is that, essentially, nothing much happens. Ingham writes his novel, meets a few people, goes on a few trips, eats, drinks, and thinks. The one 'death' we witness impacts on Ingham's state of mind, but not in an obvious way. It's something he returns to, mulls over, but it's one of many things: his work, his relationships, his sexuality. It's a fascinating novel.

New Arrivals

Two treats waiting for me when I got home today:

A 1965 first UK edition of Patricia Highsmith's A Suspension of Mercy, and a first UK paperback edition of her debut novel, Strangers on a Train. Both nabbed on eBay for a very reasonable price. And in other Patricia Highsmith news, I should soon have a full set of Ripley first editions (with the exception of Talented, which I have a nice 1960 Pan edition of), with both The Boy Who Followed Ripley and Ripley Under Water hopefully winging their way towards me soon.

And at this point I should probably stop buying books for a while. I've got quite enough to be getting on with, and really the only book I'm currently keen to get is Kingsley Amis's The James Bond Dossier. I've got my eye on a copy of that on eBay, twinned with his Book of Bond. But then that's it. Really.


For a while anyway.



Oh sod it. I'm an inveterate collector. If it's not books it's comics; if it's not comics it's records; and if it's not records it's DVDs. At least with books I'm bettering myself slightly, expanding my horizons through fiction. Yes, I do actually read the books I buy, not just stick 'em on a shelf. Although they do look good on the shelf...

But yes. There are no local book fairs until next year, so it's time to regroup, take stock, and try and make headway with the books I do have. I'm nearly done on Stephen King's Under the Dome, and am also partway through Live and Let Die (James Bond has just had his first encounter with Mr. Big). Under the Dome has been great, although a strange thing: as with Cell, King hasn't really imparted a description of the ostensible hero, Dale Barbara. I've got a mental image of him as a black man, even though I'm almost positive he's not. It just feels right to me that he is, and King hasn't described him at all, so far as I can recall. Which is odd, as I'm pretty sure King's at least sketched the appearances of all the other characters in the book.

And after these two, I think I'll try Kingsley Amis's The Green Man and Highsmith's afore-mentioned Strangers on a Train next. And dip back into the Highsmith biography I started. Ah, sweet anticipation.

Monday, 23 November 2009

The Haywards Heath

book fair was another charming provincial affair. A decent-sized hall with maybe twenty dealers there. I got there early and stood in the short queue, and I recognised the two guys in front of me: they had a table at the Rye book fair the weekend before, selling rare children's books. One of them must have slightly recognised me too, because he turned around and asked if I had a ticket. I said no, and he gave me a spare one! Very nice of him. Once inside I did a few circuits, picked up something for Rachel for Christmas, and also bought a hardback first edition of the 1990 revised version of Stephen King's The Stand, which may well be my favourite ever book. I recall borrowing this version from the local library years ago, and reading it twice through. Flicking through it on the train on the way home I still remembered so much of it vividly, even King's introduction, where he explains why he decided to publish this extended edition (basically because lots of fans asked for it, and the original was only cut back in length because the accounts people wanted to keep the price down). So, another lovely book for the shelves.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Ripley's Claim

It's always nice to come home to a package from the postman (sounds a bit smutty, but anyway...), and waiting for me yesterday was a book I won on eBay for £3.50: the first Pan edition of The Talented Mr. Ripley. An actual 1957 first edition of this book (UK, that is; 1955 in the States) is somewhat out of my price range (hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds), but this 1960 paperback version is just as good really. It has a great, evocative cover:

by David Tayler, about whom I know virtually nothing, other than he used to take about a month to work up his covers. The large, dark head in the background is, I imagine, Tom Ripley, and the grinning smaller head Dickie Greenleaf. I can't find the Pan edition for sale anywhere online at the moment, but I suspect I got a rather good deal. The book's in lovely condition, with a bright cover and slight tanning to the pages, but nothing you wouldn't expect from a book that's nearly forty years old. A good find.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Spandex Mania!

The world and his wife seems to have gone crazy for my friend Martin's small press comic Spandex. Mart sent out a press release to various people and all of a sudden it's been picked up by the Sun, the Metro and is all over the interweb. Martin is now panicking slightly. Bless. It's all well deserved though.

A Momentous Decision

I think (I think) I have decided not to go to the comic shop this week. There are a number of reasons for this. The first two are interrelated – one reflects the other to the extent that I'm not sure which came first. They are: there aren't many comics out this week that I want (four, in fact: Dark Avengers, Irredeemable, Underground, and X-Men Legacy); and I'd quite like to save the expense of a trip to Brighton and the cost of four comics. On top of those two reasons, there are a couple of others, also interrelated: I don't feel a burning desire to buy any of those four comics (and indeed wouldn't lose any sleep if I didn't get, say, Underground, at all); and I'm still in the grip of a more general comics malaise – this in spite of drastically cutting down on my consumption.

So, for the first time in I-can't-actually-remember-how-long, I almost certainly won't be going to the comic shop this week. (Obviously I reserve the right to go anyway if the mood takes me.) This may not sound like a particularly momentous decision to anyone reading this (anyone? Anyone? Bueller?), but for me, it's a biggie. Or at least it would have been, not so long ago. Less so now. So clearly it's not a momentous decision for me either, thus making a nonsense of this entire post.

Anyway, on a not unrelated note, yesterday I strolled up to the amusingly named A. J. Cumming bookshop on the high street and emerged clutching this:

No, it's not a proper first edition; it's a Book Club edition. But it was only a fiver, and it's the same murky, moody cover as the first edition, and I haven't read it. Result.

Monday, 16 November 2009

To Rye-Aye

God that's a dreadful pun. Anyway, the Rye book fair was a fun affair, similar to the Lewes Book Fair, and with some of the same dealers too. A few circuits of the hall in Rye College produced a 1961 first edition of Gavin Lyall's The Wrong Side of the Sky for a fiver, sporting a cute jacket of a flier on a blue background. I can't find the cover anywhere on line, but it's a splendidly old fashioned wrapper. I shall look forward to reading that one (I also have a Pan edition of Lyall's subsequent novel, The Most Dangerous Game).

For anyone interested, Steve Holland has a good piece on his website about Lyall here.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Ze List

Here's wot I done got this week:

Batman and Robin #6
Chronicles of Wormwood Last Battle #2
Punishermax #1 (Steve Dillon Variant Cover)
Supergod #1 (of 5)
Unwritten #7
Walking Dead #67

I also flicked through these:

Batman Doc Savage Special #1
Strange #1 (of 4)

but decided against them. And y'know, even the comics I did get I'm finding it hard to get excited about. The weekly trip to the comics shop is feeling more like a chore these days, like a habit. Just something to get me out of the office. I'm still feeling the books more than the comics at present. Just started on Stephen King's Under the Dome, and it's pretty gripping thus far, certainly more so than any comics I've bought. Should I stop going to the comic shop? Has it really come to that?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


and I was amused by the appearance (or rather non -appearance) in the The Anti-Death League of one L. S. Caton, who featured in Amis's first novel, Lucky Jim. How's that for a shared universe.

The Anti-Death League by Kingsley Amis (A Very Brief Review)

I finished reading Kingsley Amis's The Anti-Death League about a minute ago, and decided to Google the title and see what other people have said about the book. And blow me if the fourth hit wasn't this very blog. That gave me a start, I can tell you.

Anyway, it's a brilliant novel, not at all what I was expecting. The eponymous League barely features as such, but of course the whole novel is essentially about the League, even though it doesn't actually exist. Or rather, it's about death, and God, and love. And it has a wicked little kick in the gonads to finish it off.

(UPDATE: This post was written when I was still feeling my way around what Existential Ennui could and should be as a blog. If I posted it now, it would be more of a proper review and contain lots of nerdy information about the cover artist and so forth. I also wouldn't be so concerned with its Google ranking, although I can't say I've completely rid myself of that unattractively needy trait, as I did just notice this post currently lives on the second page of hits if you Google the book's title. Anyway, the novel has only grown in my memory. It is excellent. For more recent – and better – posts on Kingsley Amis, go here and here.)