Tag Archives: book buying

“One of Britain’s most talented contemporary crime writers” (The Times)

I have enjoyed reading mysteries for as long as I have been reading, from juvenile series and on to more serious crime fiction, both vintage and modern. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of discovering many authors – the early books of James Lee Burke to Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane, from Denise Mina (I heard a review of one of her books almost 20 years ago on NPR and as Michael Connelly commented “It took only one book for me to become a fan”) to Ann Cleeves (and not just her Scotland and Vera stories, but her earlier novels.) I had read a few books by Gladys Mitchell, but it was only when I binged on about 20 in a row that I really appreciated her! And, of course, by definition, authors who only started getting published in the 21st century are all new discoveries – two who stand out are Attica Locke and the Australian writer Jane Harper.

This digression is just to put the following comments in context: I recently unpacked and began cataloguing several signed copies of books by the English author John Baker and I picked one to read – “The Chinese Girl” – and found it quite good – how many crime thrillers use a word like “pullulation”? Even the title is more a metaphor for “otherness” than a description of the actual character: the young woman is Vietnamese, who was adopted by a British couple living in Hull and who now lives in Los Angeles. The story is both a violent and rather sweet, with an unforgettable “bucking” Shogun automobile as driven by Stone’s tiny but indomitable aunt. This was a stand-alone novel at the time (Baker wrote a sequel four years later), so now I have to try his Sam Turner detective series.

I am left wondering why I never heard of this writer who has been publishing novels since 1995….

Part of the reason is that his books do not seem to have been published in the US – which creates an even bigger mystery – why not?

Just a quick note – we have comments turned off, since we were buried in spam – but we would still love to hear from you – just send a quick email to chris at bookfever.com and let us know if you would like your comments to be public –

CALIFORNIA AUTOGRAPH BILL SIGNED INTO LAW!

Both as President of IOBA (Independent Online Booksellers Association) and as a bookseller who specializes in selling signed and inscribed books, I was pleased to post the following announcement:

“From IOBA and ABAA member Marc Kuritz, Churchill Book Collector –

“On Thursday, 12 October, California’s Governor signed into law California State Assembly Bill 228, amending California’s disastrously onerous autograph law to totally exempt books, manuscripts, and correspondence, as well as ephemera not related to sports or entertainment media. Because AB 228 was an “Urgency Statute” it goes into law immediately. As already. As in “Whew!””

Marc mentions that there was a lot of heavy lifting involved, as well as significant negotiations between competing AB and Senate bills, and more – but in the end, booksellers got the results, in large part because of the efforts of Marc, Laurelle Swan and others in both IOBA and the ABAA. The efforts of the ABAA in general, from first raising awareness of the unintended consequences of the original bill to hiring a lobbyist to support the legislative fight, were essential to this successful outcome and we all owe them a debt of gratitude.

Thanks are also due to all those involved in writing about the bill, and those who took the time to sign the change.org petition and to promote this issue and support Todd Gloria, who agreed to author this bill in the Assembly.”

AB 228 removes the “unintended consequences” for booksellers in last year’s AB 1570, but still preserves consumer protection in the areas where it is most needed.

Good old-fashioned bookstores?

Years ago, in the early and mid-1990s, when I was a new bookseller, we used to make frequent trips towards the coast of California north of San Francisco – to Marin and Sonoma counties – and we could easily spend a day scouting in the used bookstores we found there, and return with a carload of boxes.  As the years went on most of those stores closed – and not much came along to replace them.   Much as I love buying and selling on the internet, it is not quite the same thing.

I still miss those bookhunting trips, so this month, driven by nostalgia (and a desire to forget the present) we  hit the road again.  We live further away now, so it became a three day trip,  with a great stay in a lovely little airbnb apartment in Lucas Valley,  complete with a Bruce Johnson large wood sculpture in the courtyard and a welcoming bottle of wine.

Despite the pleasant accommodations,  in our first full day of searching, good books –  books worth buying –  were pretty hard to find.  We even came up empty in several thrift stores.  Mystery hardcovers at the  Friends of the Library store in Novato were only $1 each, but there were none we could use, although I did find a few books in other sections of the store (one of the advantages of having several specialties means that if one doesn’t work out, another might.)

The weather was perfect – 70 and sunny with a light breeze – the kind of autumn day that makes you glad to be living in California.  Point Reyes National Seashore was just a few miles down the road, through the redwoods and rolling hills.  Lunch in town consisted of  oysters on the half shell,  artisan pizza and local beer on the patio – it doesn’t get much better than that, even if we only had one small bag of books in the car so far.

Rebound Books opened in San Rafael in 2005, after most of the other stores had closed,  but a newly opened (or even a 12 year old)  store  – with maybe 10% of the space –  just cannot replace a store like Hal Bertram’s  old Mandrake Bookshop with its high shelves, and enough inventory to be nicknamed “the Strand of Marin County.”  Still Rebound does have a pretty eclectic selection in a fairly small space, reasonable prices (I found a couple of juvenile series books here)  and very friendly and helpful owners (it is also conveniently located next door to The WhipperSnapper, a very good Caribbean fusion restaurant) .

The next day we headed to Santa Rosa, where there is still a survivor of the “good old days” – Treehorn Books on 4th St in downtown.  Founded in 1979, it always had a good selection of children’s books but now it has lots more books than it used to, including  just about the biggest selection of poetry books you will find in a used bookstore.   Trehorn has shelves going all the way up to their 12 foot ceilings (or are they 14 ft?),  and lots and lots of the shelves are packed with double rows of books, so browsing is challenging.  They list a very small selection of their books online,  but even though very few are online, and their prices are reasonable, they really know their books so those prices 68528 reflect the current market pretty closely.

Nevertheless, I found a couple of items irresistible – the first was a small die-cut children’s book, published early in the 20th century by a printing company founded in Scotland in 1851 – a retelling of The Three Bears.  Valentine & Sons, the publisher of a series of shaped books for children, became the largest printer of postcards in Scotland. Although it was later sold to Hallmark, this little book stands as testimony to its work over 100 years ago.

The second book was a signed copy of Howard Pease’s The Secret Cargo – just a reprint, unfortunately  – but in a d68595-1ust jacket – and quite uncommon signed.    But it wasn’t the book alone that attracted me – it was the laid in mimeographed program for “Howard Pease Day” in 1961 (the same date as the book was signed) complete with lyrics for a song to be sung to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell. ”   For me, it is these kind of connections that make a copy of a book really special.