Friday, 16 April 2010

Strike One

As a little aside to the previous post, despite my fretting over its whereabouts, I think I might have been a bit disappointed if my copy of Butcher's Moon had turned up any earlier. See, the strike-off line on the imprint page doesn't have a '1' on it. It runs "9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2".

For anyone who doesn't know, strike-off lines are what publishers use to keep track of which printing of a book is in circulation. If a book's strike-off line runs "10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1" (or "2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1" if the text is centred rather than ranged left), it usually (but not always) means it's a first printing. If the "1" is missing – or the "1" and the "2", or the "1", "2", "3", etc. – it means it's a second printing, or third printing, and so on. For book nerds like me, first printings are what it's all about. (Used to be the printer would manually scratch off a number on the plate for each printing, but in the days of in-house repro etc., that happens less often.)

So my copy of Butcher's Moon is a second printing, right? Well, no. After I ordered the book (and was assured by the seller it was a first printing as well as a first edition), I did some research on another Random House book from the same period. (Astute followers of this blog – if there are any; followers I mean, not astute people – might be able to work out which book, but we'll come back to that another time.) And it turns out that during the 1970s, when Random House used a strike-off line (they didn't always), they generally ended at "2". So the only way to be sure an RH book from that period is a first edition is if it says "First Edition" (or "First Printing") under the strike-off line. Which my copy does.

Bloody confusing, but at least I worked that out before the book arrived. So now I know. And, probably to your eternal regret if you've read this far, so do you.

Butcher's Moon by Richard Stark

Here's what I was waiting for:

A first edition of Richard Stark's Butcher's Moon, published in the US by Random House in 1974. It's the sixteenth Parker novel, coming at the end of the original run of Parker novels from 1962–1974. It's also, I believe, either the longest or one of the longest of the Parker books, clocking in at over 300 pages. Most of the novels before this one are about half the length.

Took a wee while to track this one down, at least at a price I could afford. It's one of the rarest Parker novels; there have only been three editions of it up to now: this one from Random House, a UK Coronet paperback in 1977, and an Avon paperback in 1985. The Random House edition is the only hardback edition. There'll be a new paperback edition from University of Chicago Press (who've been reprinting the Parker books) either later this year or start of next.

This is a nice copy; it's not ex-library, the jacket (which I love; it was designed by one Ira Teichberg) is clean and bright with a few small marks on the spine, and the pages are cream. The only defect inside is on the listed previous Parker novels at the front, where the book's last owner has, rather sweetly, put a small, neat tick next to the titles he or she owned at that point.

You can just about see they're missing The Mourner, The Green Eagle Score and Plunder Squad. I hope she or he tracked them down eventually.

And for good measure, here's the board cover too, with its black spine and cute mirrored buildings deboss on the front:

The wait is over.

The book has arrived. So what was it I was so worried about? Why I reckon that deserves a post all of its own.

Still no sign

of the book I'm waiting for. And now the seller's clammed up. Plus, we have the extra wrinkle of UK airspace being closed because of the ash from the Icelandic volcano. Did the book make it into the country from the States before that happened? Is it in the UK but dawdling towards me? Is it stuck in the US? Does it even exist? I have no way of knowing. And there's not an awful lot I can do about it anyway. Apart from wait. And, of course, fret.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Wrong Book

Further to the previous post, typically, the other book turned up instead. Tits.

Still, shouldn't complain. It's still a New Addition. That's New Addition as in a new arrival, not New Edition as in the popular R&B combo best known for 'Candy Girl'. And it is this:

The 2002 Robert Hale UK hardback edition of Firebreak, the 20th Parker novel. Or, if you prefer, Parker vol. 2 #4, as it's the fourth Parker in the second run of books, which started with Comeback in 1997. I mentioned the Robert Hale editions a little while back – they're interesting in that they boast painted illustrations on the jacket, something that fell out of favour in publishing some years previously, and in particular the kinds of portraits seen here. (The US editions of these later novels have largely typographical covers, for example.)

I'm guessing that's Parker himself there on the cover, as painted by artist Derek Colligan. It's not really how I picture Parker – Darwyn Cooke's version's nearer the mark I reckon – but I like the painting. Colligan's obviously an experienced cover artist; note the way he's playing with the need for a cover to have space for the title and author name by having Parker in front of a literal space on a wall where there was once a painting (you can see the lighter area where the picture was). That's actually pretty clever.

It'll be a while before I get to read this one – I'm only up to The Jugger (Parker #6) at the moment – but that's good 'cos I'm missing the couple of novels in between Comeback and this, as well as a couple of the books from the first run of Parkers.

For the moment, anyway...

The Waiting

I'm waiting for a book to turn up. Actually I'm waiting for two books to turn up, but I almost don't care if one of them doesn't turn up. It's the other one I'm really waiting for.

It's coming from America. The seller has assured me it's shipped. So all I can do is wait. And fret. I can fret too. I'm good at fretting. In fact I'm much better at fretting than I am at waiting, as readers of these three posts might have gathered. So that's what I'm doing. Waiting. And fretting.

What am I waiting (and fretting) for? Well you'll just have to wait (but not fret – please, don't fret) and see.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Call that a List?

Another pathetic showing for new comics this week, at least for me anyway. Either I'm being incredibly picky these days about which comics I buy, or there are a disproportionate number of shitty comics being published.

Actually it could be both those things.

I mean, last week I managed to find three comics I sort of wanted to buy. I say "sort of", 'cos the only one I had any great enthusiasm for was Batman and Robin #11. I picked up S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 as it looked reasonably interesting (weaving the likes of Leoonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton into Marvel continuity) and Turf #1 because it's Jonathan Ross' first comics effort. But tellingly, I haven't read any of those yet.

This week, we have one comic I would kind of like to read – Mike Carey and Peter Gross' The Unwritten #11, which I sort of enjoy when I do read it, although it's nowhere near as brilliant as their much-missed (by me) Lucifer – and one comic I'm half interested in having a look at: Brightest Day #0. This is DC's new fortnightly series spinning out of Blackest Night. Except I didn't read Blackest Night, having got bored an issue or two in. So that doesn't bode well for Brightest Day, does it?

So, once again, is it even worth going to the comic shop?

Probably not.

Ho hum.

Monday, 12 April 2010

I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me...

I'm not a terribly competitive person. Generally speaking, 'winning' doesn't interest me. I don't mind if I win something, but equally I don't mind if I lose either.

Unless it's eBay. For some reason, eBay brings out the worst in me, in a couple of ways. Firstly: if I want to bid on a book – and it is usually a book, unsurprisingly – I'll almost always stay my hand until the last thirty seconds of an auction (unless I know I'm going to be away from a computer). This tactic has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, if there are already bids on a book, it means I won't tip my hand to other bidders and thus drive up the price of the book. On the minus side, if my bid's too low, I won't have time to increase it. But all that aside, it has to be said that it's a fairly sneaky, even underhand way to go about things. And I'm not terribly proud of that behaviour. So there's that.

Anyway, most times it works out for me. If I'm interested in a book on eBay, I'll have already done my research online to see if there are any other copies out there on Amazon or AbeBooks. Those other books may not actually exist – they might have already been sold and the listing might not have been updated – but if there's enough copies around a certain price, it's a safe bet a few of them will be 'real' listings. So I'll know how high I want to go on eBay, and that's what I'll bid. And usually win.

Except when I don't. For example, I bid on a book at the weekend, employing my usual last-thirty-seconds tactic, and lost. Which leads me to the second thing about eBay that brings out the worst in me. On one level, not winning that book is fine. I know there are other copies on Amazon, for less than the book went for, and I'm actually happy for my rival bidder to have that book. But on another level, I lost an auction. So now in my summary of recent actions, under "Buy", I've got a glaring "Didn't win". (And thanks for that, eBay: I know I didn't win. I was watching the bloody auction. No need to taunt me.)

So why, when I don't ordinarily have a competitive bone in my body, does that bother me? Why do I care?

Why? Why?