Friday, May 07, 2010

The Case of the Missing Starks

A literacy charity is running a book sale since mid-April in the building I work in. I, of course, have been going in every day since they opened. And I am not finding anything good. At all. Ever. Even though I have searched through dozens of boxes and tables of books, I have not found a single Donald Westlake or Richard Stark novel amongst the 50,000 or so books they have. Which is all I really want. Some people seem to find Starks everywhere. But not me. I'm losing auctions for them on eBay. The library can't find the few Starks I need. I can't even find pirated ebook versions of them. I know the four Starks I need will be republished by the University of Chicago Press this fall and next spring but I don't think I can wait that long. (I can remember when I used to see Starks all the time - back when I didn't want them. I remember standing in Second Story Books looking at copies of the Grofield books and thinking, How can a crime novel about an actor be any good? So I crossed Stark of the list of writers I was interested in - even though I made the judgment based on the wrong series of books, not knowing that Stark primarily wrote the Parker novels. In fact, my booksense has failed me twice when it comes to Donald Westlake. I always turned my nose up at his Dortmunder books, too. I thought I only liked non-Dortmunder, non-Stark books. I only tried the Dortmunder books after Westlake died a few years ago. Now I love his Dortmunder books, too.)

I did manage to find a Simenon novel that I did not have - Maigret and the Tavern by the Seine.
This is a significant accomplishment because it turns out I have approximately 160 Simenons (Maigrets and non-Maigrets) and it is very difficult to to find a recognize one I don't have. To celebrate, I vacuumed my Simenon bookcase tonight and cataloged all of the books.

Since this book sale started, the only other books I've bought are:
Savages by Shirley Conran
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Straight Man by Richard Russo
The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason

Savages really confuses me because it seems to be regarded as chick-lit (not my cup of tea) but it looks good. Of the reader reviews I've come across, most people seem to have had a wonderful time reading it. And I can't get enough of jungles and survivalist stuff these days (the effects of repeated/prolonged exposure to Lost, Bear Grylls, Survivorman, Freddie Spencer Chapman, and the HBO mini-series The Pacific). And the book has maps in it.

The two Russos are nice Vintage trade paperback editions. I've been wanting to re-read Straight Man and couldn't pass it up. And I'm stockpiling Scandanavian crime fiction so I had to grab the book from Iceland. I've got two of his other books and hear very good things about him.


Trent said...

The reason you can't find the last four original Starks is because they are extremely rare. If you can't wait for the reprints, try Advanced Book Exchange (abebooks-dot-com). You'll have to pay through the nose, though...

Book Glutton said...

I knew that these books would be hard to find but I did a lot of hunting for them in the kinds of places where these things should sometimes turn up and found nothing. Over several months.

And I mostly have you to thank/blame for this because I never read any of the Parker novels until after I discovered The Violent World of Parker. I can't thank you enough for all of the wonderful work you've done on these Stark books. If Parker ever needed a blogger to fill out a string, you would be his man.

Trent said...

Thanks much for the kind words!

I mostly lucked out on the "final four." The toughest one to find, Butcher's Moon, I scored at a rare books show here in Austin for six bucks. This was about ten years ago, when stuff like eBay was around but it hadn't reached the point where every book dealer knew to check prices online before selling anything. I knew I was practically stealing it when I bought it--Butcher's Moon goes for about $80 these days, and should certainly have gone for more than $6 back then.