Sunday, December 12, 2010
Went shopping for books again today. At a giant warehouse full of used books in Maryland. For about five bucks each I got first edition hard covers of Richard Stark's Firebreak and Ask the Parrot. And a trade paperback copy of Breakout. And a first edition hard cover of Humans by some guy named Donald Westlake. I never find good Stark stuff and this really made my day. I have a fair number of Starks and Westlakes now but not many nice first editions. And I had a 10% off coupon, too. I was a little nervous about how much I'd have to pay for the hard covers because they were unpriced. I tried not to fidget or act nervous when the guy at the register was trying to price them - I figured he would try to read me and apply whatever information he gleaned from me into the price. He knew who Stark was but didn't know these were Parker novels. And I explained that they were and that they are being reprinted by the University of Chicago Press. And then he said he thought that Westlake may have just died. And I said yes, on December 31, 2008 in Mexico City. Then I started to get nervous that I was revealing my hand and showing how much I wanted these books. (I'd make a terrible card player.) I was thrilled to get them for so little.
I also found Changes and Chances by Stanley Middleton. An unread first edition (American) hard cover of his novel. Middleton won the Booker Prize in 1974 for Holiday. Actually, he had to share the Booker with Nadine Gordimer that year - her co-winning entry was The Conservationist. Middleton was a teacher in Nottingham who didn't start to publish until he was 38 and went on to publish 45 books. On the whole, copies of all these books are scarce. This is only the second Middleton I've been able to find. (I got Entry to Jerusalem for free from the Book Thing in Baltimore. It is a great place - and everything really is free. When I do a spring cleaning around here that is where I want to send my discarded books. If I able to let any go.) I only knew of Middleton because the crime writer John Harvey (who also started out a teacher in Nottingham I believe) wrote about him after his death. I love Harvey's Charlie Resnick books - police proccedurals set in Nottingham - and everything he's written since he retired Resnick. There's a lot of yapping about the rivalry between literary and genre fiction (like in today's Observer) but reading almost anything Harvey has written proves genre fiction can be as well written as literary fiction. I like Harvey so much I always buy his books from Amazon UK the day they are published. Of all crime writers working today, Harvey may very well be the best.