Sunday 12 June 2011

The Labyrinth Makers and The Alamut Ambush: First Editions (Victor Gollancz, 1970 / 1971)

So then, I mentioned at the end of my final review of Anthony Price's terrific espionage novels (which was on 1972's Colonel Butler's Wolf, if you're either a latecomer or have a dreadful memory) that I might be able to squeeze in one more Price post over the weekend, depending on the efficiency of postal deliveries. But as it turned out, I wasn't at the mercy of the vagaries of the British postal system, because the books I was waiting for were sent Recorded Delivery (thank you, Amazon Marketplace seller Sam McCarthy, alias "mccbooks57") and arrived the next day. As to why I was so keen to get my hands on these books... well, take a look:

Those are the UK hardbacks of Anthony Price's The Labyrinth Makers and The Alamut Ambush, published by Victor Gollancz in 1970 and 1971 respectively. Now, if you've been following my Anthony Price posts all week, you'll know that these are Price's first and second novels. You'll also perhaps be wondering, if you read this post on collecting Price, if those yellow jackets denote that these are the first editions/first printings of the novels, and if so, if they're ex-library copies. The answers to which lie inside the books, on their respective title and copyright pages:

i.e., yes, they are first editions/first printings, and no, they're not ex-library. Furthermore, you might recall my mentioning how expensive first editions of Price's early books are, certainly beyond my (slender) means: AbeBooks currently has only four copies of the Gollancz first of The Labyrinth Makers listed worldwide, ranging from £150 to £350, while there are only a few non-ex-library copies of The Alamut Ambush listed on either AbeBooks or Amazon Marketplace at £75-£200. All of which is true. However, I paid only a fraction of that for these two copies – a fraction of a fraction, in fact. But how, I hear you cry?

Well, I was snooping on Amazon UK Marketplace (having noticed another copy of the 1983 Gollancz edition of The Alamut Ambush pop up for sale and the other one come right down in price after I blogged about it... coincidence...?) when I spotted a new seller – the aforementioned Mr. McCarthy – had listed what he'd identified as firsts of The Labyrinth Makers and The Alamut Ambush for absolute bargain prices. Amazon Marketplace listings can be notoriously untrustworthy, so I sent him quick email question and he confirmed that they were indeed the first editions. So I nabbed 'em both, for the grand total of thirty quid. Bargain. I mean, how could I pass up the opportunity to own firsts of two of the best books I've read in yonks – particularly when The Alamut Ambush is set in large part in my local area?

Curiously, I also noticed another very cheap copy of The Labyrinth Makers for sale on Amazon Marketplace, which again the – American in this instance, so there'd be added postage for any interested Brits – seller has identified as the 1970 first edition. I'm not sure if it is or not – it might be a mislisted reprint – but it'd be worth asking the question. It's still there as I type. (Update: but now it's not. Sorry.)

One last note about my first of The Labyrinth Makers; there's a little sticker on the front paste-down endpaper, under the dustjacket flap:

A pleasingly old-fashioned sticker for famed independent bookshop Foyles, which is still there at the top of London's Charing Cross Road to this day. So I know exactly where this copy of The Labyrinth Makers was bought, although probably not on publication; I seem to recall Foyle's also sold secondhand books years ago (they only really sell new books now). Even so, a nice provenance.

Anyway, that really is all from Anthony Price for the moment, although there will be much more on him on Existential Ennui in the future. And I still have that Price news I teased, too. Next though: Patricia Highsmith.

(NB: a two-part interview I later conducted with Anthony Price can be found here and here, along with this postscript, which reveals what became of these copies of The Labyrinth Makers and The Alamut Ambush...)


  1. Anthony Price Week was great. While I have yet to get any of his books, I am thrilled to have a new series of something to read. I had seen his name around before and looked at a book or two (I have visions of an orange paperback) but I never thought he was for me. I often do not like the way certain thrillers are packaged and marketed - obviously, that is not the best way to judge a book but that stuff can have an strong influence - especially when one already has too much to read. But I think I will like Price. And I am eager to read the Lewes book. (Anything else good set in/around Lewes? It is delightfully fun to read things set where one lives. I enjoyed that with Ross Thomas.)

  2. I can't recommend Mr. Price highly enough, BG. His novels really are top notch, among the best you'll read in that intelligent espionage sphere. As for Lewes-related books, I believe there's a Malcolm Saville children's book set around Lewes, The Secret of the Galleybird pit, but I haven't got round to tracking that down yet. There are bound to be others too; I have in the past had a quick look online, but I really should do some more thorough research one day.