Saturday 31 July 2010

Badgers Books Bargain: Carol by Patricia Highsmith (Uncorrected Proof)

On to the second bookshop I visited during the past week's bookshop bonanza, Badgers Books in Worthing, West Sussex. This is a great shop, four or five rooms stuffed to the rafters with old books, on shelves and in piles, but not to the extent that the shop felt chaotic. They had a couple of sizable fiction sections, with lots to look at, but being an online dealer also (via AbeBooks, of course), I imagine the best stuff is snapped up via the internet (and in fact I have a feeling I've bought from them online myself...). However, still a really good shop, well worth a look if you're in the area, and I did manage to find something to take away with me:

An uncorrected book proof of Patricia Highsmith's Carol, published in the UK in 1990 by Bloomsbury. Essentially it's a trade paperback advance copy of the hardback, for press and the like, with info missing (page 5, for example, bears the legend "BLURB: Copy to follow"). You can see the cover sports a picture of Highsmith herself, which isn't the cover of the actual book, while the back cover carries info on pub date, price, extent etc. So it's not so much a first edition as an advance edition. Makes a change, eh? And only three quid.

Carol was actually Highsmith's second novel, published under the original title The Price of Salt in 1952, and under the nom de plume Claire Morgan. But it took till 1990 for a UK hardback edition to appear, by which time it'd been retitled. It's the most autobiographical of Highsmith's books, dealing with a lesbian affair between a shop worker and a suburban housewife, although in reality the housewife, though based on a real person, was someone Highsmith was smitten with but never actually had a relationship with (I think...). Should be an interesting read though. Of all the Highsmiths I've read (excluding the Ripley novels, which are in a class of their own), the ones that have struck me most are the least typical – The Cry of the Owl, The Tremor of Forgery – and Carol certainly sounds atypical, at least for Highsmith.

Friday 30 July 2010

Shoreham Score #3: Experience by Martin Amis

And the third book I bought in Bookworms of Shoreham (other two spotlighted below) was this:

A first American edition of Martin Amis' Experience, published in hardback in 2000 by Hyperion. Experience, for those who don't know, is Amis Jr.'s memoir about his father, Kingsley, so obviously it's of interest to me. I'd been planning on picking up a copy at some point, so this US first was irresistible at a fiver. Not much more to say on it for the moment, except that, like a few of the American firsts I own, it has deckle edges. What the buggeration are they when they're at home, you might reasonably ask? It's the curious practice among certain American publishers of printing their books with the page edges ruffled and uneven instead of straight, so they appear handmade. No idea why they do this, but they do, in some instances, and this book is an example of such.

Faber Thrillers Class of 1996: The Achilles Heel by Reg Gadney / Walking Back the Cat by Robert Littell

Right then. Better get started blogging about all these books I've acquired recently. And we'll kick off with the ones bought in Bookworms of Shoreham, which is a strange old shop on Shoreham seafront on the south coast of England. We'd driven past it once or twice previously, on our way to or from somewhere else, so naturally I was interested in checking it out. Turns out it's not great for fiction (it seemed more history and military inclined) – or rather, for first editions; there are plenty of paperbacks in there, but not really anything collectible. But while I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to visit the place, I still managed to bag three fairly cheap books there – two of them thrillers published by Faber in 1996, nestling next to each other on a shelf with a scant few other hardbacks. First up:

That's a UK first edition of British writer Reg Gadney's The Achilles Heel, published by Faber in 1996. I'd never heard of either of the authors of the two Faber thrillers I bought (I don't think I was doing an awful lot of reading in 1996...), but I've now discovered The Achilles Heel is the second of Gadney's series starring Alan Rosslyn, an officer in HM Customs & Excise. Usually I steer away from the countless fiction series featuring police officers or detectives – I'd rather follow quirkier series about criminals (stand up, Parker) or reporters (take a bow, Fletch) – but Customs & Excise is an unusual environment to set a thriller in, and this book pits Rosslyn against child pornographers, which again is a bit different.

Gadney has written either eleven or thirteen novels – depending on who you believe on the web – plus a few non-fiction titles. Interestingly, he doesn't have a Wikipedia entry. I know Wikipedia's an unreliable source of info at the best of times, but it's usually a good start and can lead to more reliable sources. Not in Mr. Gadney's case though. Hmm.

And the other Faber thriller was this:

A first UK edition of Walking Back the Cat by Robert Littell, published by Faber in 1996. Again, I'd never come across Littell before, but he's a US writer with sixteen novels to his name, plus one non-fiction title and one somewhere-in-between title (called If Israel Lost the War, which posits an alternative outcome of the Six Day War, a conflict I coincidentally know at least a little about, having read Jeremy Bowen's excellent Six Days). Many of his novels are espionage-themed, and Walking Back the Cat seems to lean in that direction too, focusing, as it does, on the battle of wills and wits between a deep cover KGB agent and a Gulf War I veteran on a Native American reservation.

Oh, and the jacket design on both of these is by Pentagram. I'm assuming that's not the heavy metal band. As for the third book I bought in Bookworms... see the next post.

The Michael Vyse Addendum

Just a quick update on the previous musings on science fiction author Michael Vyse. As determined by Book Glutton and followed up on here, we'd pretty much established that Mr. Vyse was alive and well and living in France. But I've just noticed a new comment on that last post, from one Owen Vyse – Michael's son, who Vyse Sr. dedicted his collection of short stories, The Outer Reaches, to. Owen says his dad's not online, but Owen will send him a print-out of the relevant posts about his dad, and reckons Michael will be 'tickled pink'. So there you go. Amazing the connections the internet can make possible, and also some small vindication of what I kinda hoped Existential Ennui might turn out to be: an occasionally useful resource for those seeking info on particular obscure pursuits (just Google 'Patricia Highsmith First Editions', for example). Huzzah.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Wot I Did On My Summer Holidays, By Louis XIV, Age 372

Well, it's been a particularly fine few days for book collecting, so much so that I now have a towering (well, ish), tottering (well, kinda) pile of first editions sitting on the coffee table waiting patiently for me to blog about them (and, of course, read them too... at some point). To give you a sense of what I've been up to, I've been here:

Bookworms in Shoreham, West Sussex (note Random Lady in foreground helpfully exclaiming the name of the shop; as you'll see as this post progresses, I didn't take any photos of my own on me travels, and Google Maps is a bit glitchy when you're trying to take screengrabs), as well as here:

Badgers Books in Worthing, also East Sussex (that weird map overlay of the road is also courtesy of Google Maps), not to mention here:

Sotheran's in Sackville Street, Picadilly, London (which is a real shop, despite this picture of it, the one that adorns their website, in fact, being a weird Photoshop line art jobbie), and also here:

Henry Pordes Books on Charing Cross Road, London (complete, once again, with Random Lady, or rather Ladies), and finally here:

The famous Cecil Court, just off Charing Cross Road. Phew. Bookworms and Badgers in West Sussex were the source of the acquisitions I mentioned yesterday, while the London bookshops were where I was at today (as well as at the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition – where there was an amazing, mountainous Anselm Kiefer painting, the highlight of the show for me – plus the Photographers Gallery and the Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery – the usual selection of the bad, the worse and the truly bloody awful there). Central London bookshops tend to be somewhat overpriced, so although I like to have a good old mooch around them, I rarely buy anything in 'em. This time, however, I did rather well, unexpectedly plugging a glaring hole in my Richard Stark collection and picking up a few other things besides, both on and off the Westlake tip, and all at surprisingly reasonable prices. And then when I got home I had another Stark Score waiting for me courtesy of eBay and the postie.

Now all I need to do is find the time to blog about them all, instead of merely posting daft pictures of the bookshops I got them in. Oh I'm such a tease...

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Must Be Thursday 29/7/10

I may be back from Guernsey but I'm still on me summer hols at the moment, which means I'm not online so much right now, which in turn means I can't post here as often as I'd like (but which is probably still more often than many people would wish). In any case, I've got a bunch of new acquisitions to blog about, a couple of reviews to knock out (the aforementioned Rogue Male and Black Ice Score), some thoughts on William Boyd's Ordinary Thunderstorms and J. G. Ballard's Concrete Island to get out (purely by chance I happened to start reading them at the same time and there's a definite shared plot element between the two), and likely other stuff besides. But instead of all that, some of which might be quite interesting, I've decided instead in the brief moments I've managed to snatch at the computer to bang out a severely truncated guide to the comics I'll be getting this week. Sorry about that.

Action Comics #891
Batman The Return Of Bruce Wayne #4 (Of 6)
Wonder Woman #601
Secret Avengers #3
Rasl #8 (delayed from last week)

And not even any accompanying pictures either. Sheesh. What a gyp.

Sunday 25 July 2010

The Island Without Any Bookshops

Actually that's not quite true: Guernsey does have some bookshops. It's just they're of the WHSmiths variety: new books only, and a limited selection at that.

Yes, I'm back from a week's break in the Channel Island known as Guernsey, where you'd think, with a population of 65,000, there might be a second hand bookshop or two. But no. You'd be wrong. They do have the occasional book fair there – I missed the most recent one by a matter of days – but no second hand bookshops, as a befuddled man in a stamp and postcard collectors' shop explained to me. Still, they do have a lovely coastline:

so it's not all bad. And of course I did manage to ferret out a few books here and there in charity shops and the like, including at one point a little stall by the side of the road (Guernsey is dotted with little boxes on garden walls containing what's known as 'hedge veg': local produce for sale to anyone passing):

That's me having a rummage. I didn't find anything there, but I did pick these up elsewhere:

A 1971 UK first edition of Hammond Innes' Lekvas Man, published in hardback by Collins, and a 1984 UK first edition of Frederick Forsyth's The Fourth Protocol, published in hardback by Hutchinson. Not exactly scarce either of 'em, but at 50p apiece I can't really complain, and with so few books on offer on the island, well, beggars can't be choosers. Not sure if the Innes will be my cup of tea, but I liked the jacket, which was designed by Richard Dalkins. As for the Forsyth, I read The Day of the Jackal years and years ago, and The Fourth Protocol is supposed to be a solid read. The jacket was designed by Raymond Hawkey, who I've mentioned before, and which I was surprised about: it's not particularly creative. I mean, it's striking enough, but not up there with, say, The Book of Bond.

I did manage to polish off a couple of books in the past week: Richard Stark's The Black Ice Score and Geoffrey Household's Rogue Male, but I'll blog about those separately. So yes. I'm back. Hang out the fecking bunting.