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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Quick Trip To San Francisco

We took a brief trip to San Francisco early this month. Katie has a graduate student who was presenting at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) December meeting. We left Tucson during the afternoon of Wednesday, December 5th, and arrived at SFO after dark and just behind the last of the heavy rains that week. We took the BART into downtown and walked up the hill to our hotel. We actually had a great view from our room (a bit different than the usual city view of adjacent brick walls). The photo below was taken

from the room, looking down on the Christmas tree in Union Square Park and ice skaters to its left. In the background is the large Macy's store, where we had a late dinner at one of celebrity Chef Hubert Keller's Burger Bars - an interesting but noisy place.

On Thursday, I walked the streets of San Francisco, sort of like Karl Malden, but in search of bookstores to  investigate. Did have some success - more on that later. Katie and her student spent the day at the AGU meetings down at the Convention Center. We had dinner in a nice Italian restaurant on Sutter Street, Cesario's. It has mixed online reviews, but we were lucky and had a very good dinner there. On Friday morning morning I returned to a bookstore, while Katie finished attending another session at the AGU.

We then met Katie's sister, Lisa, and her husband Jim, and took a cab over to the Old Ft. Mason area. Great views on the sunny day we had - below is a panoramic photo I grabbed from the internet. The Ft. is now under the care of the National Park Service and is home to restaurants, museums, and stores, as well as a great Friends of the Library bookstore. We had reservations at a well-known, vegetarian restaurant - Greens. Details about this wonderful restaurant are at their website - http://www.greensrestaurant.com/

This was the third time we'd gone to the restaurant and it is one of our San Francisco favorites. While we were eating, a seal popped up next to the pier to take a look at what was happening. I shot the photo of

him/her right from my chair in the restaurant - picking up some artifacts from the window. I also got a restricted shot of a large cargo ship (below) steaming into the Bay after a long trip across the Pacific. It is

loaded with hundreds of truck-sized shipping containers, undoubtedly filled with cheap goods from China that are headed to WalMart stores across the country. So it goes. After we finished our visit to Ft. Mason, Lisa and Jim headed off to do some shopping before heading back to Davis. Katie and I took a taxi back to downtown and then the BART back to SFO for an evening flight home.

The bookstore that I visited at length during this trip was the Argonaut Book Shop at 786 Sutter Street.

Above shows the store from across the street - will be hard to see when those newly planted trees mature. Photo below shows an interior shot that captured owner Robert D. Haines, Jr., sitting at his desk back there on the left side. The store was founded in 1941 by Robert D. Haines, and was a founding member of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America. Bob has run the store for the last 40 years. I have visited here each time we've been in San Francisco and spent hours browsing the shelves, always finding a few .

items that are too tempting to leave behind. Angela C. Haines and Aaron C. Haines have joined their father in the business, becoming third-generation booksellers. Details concerning the Argonaut are at:

Some of the items that returned to Tucson with us are shown here. Above are two books concerning the "Apache Kid," who evolved from a trusted Army scout into a hated and hunted outlaw. I hope that some of my customers who study Southwest history may find these titles of interest. Below is a Steinbeck-related item. It is actually a beautifully produced brochure advising of The Yolla Bolly Press' publication of a special, limited edition of Steinbeck's Zapata. Wish that I had one of the limited editions to show, but the brochure is a rare and interesting item itself. So, that's a brief summary of our quick, end-of-the year trip.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Squid Ink Holiday Catalogue Available

Squid Ink Books Holiday Catalogue for 2012 is now available. I can send a pdf version electronically, or a hard copy via snail mail. If you'd like to browse a copy, send me an e-mail.   bob@squidinkbooks.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Two Very Different Nonfiction Titles

 I have gotten ahead of this blog in my reading and will try to catch up during the next few weeks.

Did Adam and Eve Have Navels? Subtitled: “Discourses on Reflexology, Numerology, Urine Therapy, and Other Dubious Subjects.” By Martin Gardner; published by Norton in 2000. Copies are readily available at $10 to $20.

Martin Gardner (born 21 October 1914, in Tulsa, Oklahoma; died 22 May 2010, in Norman, Oklahoma) was the long-time (25 years) author of the Scientific American column “Mathematical Games.” He was also a frequent contributor to The Skeptical Inquirer. Gardner was a prolific writer and there are numerous books by him. This book collects a number of his columns, mostly from The Skeptical Inquirer. One of his long-term missions in life was to debunk bogus science and expose frauds, such as the famous spoon-bender, Uri Geller. This book is wide-ranging, and I especially enjoyed: “The Great Egg-Balancing Mystery”; “Zero-Point Energy and Harold Puthoff”; “Claiborne Pell, Senator [Rhode Island] from Outer Space”; “Thomas Edison, Paranormalist”; “Isaac Newton, Alchemist and Fundamentalist.” It is interesting that while Senator Pell was a believer in psychic phenomena and had a Geller-bent spoon hanging on his office wall, he was also a six-term Senator and introduced the bill that led to Pell Grants. I picked this book up to read and its next stop will be in a donation to our local Friends of the Library.

Blues of a Lifetime Subtitled: “The Autobiography of Cornell Woolrich.” Edited, annotated, and with an introduction by Mark T. Bassett; published by Bowling Green State University Popular Press in 1991. The book was simultaneously issued in hardback and trade paperback. The print run of hard covers was probably small, and this is a difficult book to find in collectible condition. Copies have probably gone to the libraries of collectors of Woolrich's books.

Woolrich (born Cornell George Hopley-Woolrich on 4 December 1903 in New York City, died there on 25 September 1968) lived a strange and somewhat mysterious life. Except for a period spent in Mexico with his father during his youth, he lived much of his life in NYC. He was a long-time resident of several hotels and lived with his mother until she died in 1957. He attended Columbia University but did not graduate, leaving sometime after his first novel, Cover Charge, was published in 1926. He spent time as a screenwriter in Hollywood but the exact dates are not clear. He wrote as Cornell Woolrich, William Irish, and George Hopley. Many of his short stories and mysteries were adapted into film noir screenplays. A short story, “It Had to be Murder,” led to Hitchcock’s movie Rear Window. His “Black” novels are the most coveted by collectors and include: The Bride Wore Black, Black Alibi, The Black Angel, and three others. Collectible copies of the early “Black” mysteries, in original dust jackets, are scarce and usually command prices of $1000 and up.

This sketchy autobiography consists of five chapters, each written as if it were a short story and each with a somewhat surprising ending. It was a work in progress when he died and was discovered as a typescript in a safe deposit box after Woolrich died. The reader really doesn't learn much about his life reading these five stories. However, Bassett has added substantial annotations to explain things that Woolrich mentions in the stories.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The End Of The World - Part 1

I have been reading several cold war novels from the late 1950s and early 1960s, and then Katie and I have been watching related movies. This period was the most intense portion of the cold war, after Russia had developed its own arsenal of nuclear weapons. Those of us who were in school way back then remember the numerous Civil Defense recommendations, especially bomb shelters of both public and private types. In essence all of these programs were psychological propaganda to give the public a feel that if atomic war happened there was hope, if they were prepared. Two examples are shown below. A poster telling you what to do if a bomb suddenly flashed in the sky was an example of this propaganda. In the Midwestern schools I went to, we had frequent preparedness drills, particularly “Duck and Cover,” as per the first photo. The “Duck and Cover” drill was also essentially practice for tornado warnings, where it actually made some sense.

I recently finished reading Nevil Shute’s On the Beach. Shute was an Englishman who had successful careers as an aeronautical engineer (using his full name of Nevil Shute Norway) and as an author. He wrote more than 20 novels and was an extremely popular author during the years after WWII. Not surprisingly, many of his novels had aviation aspects. Distressed with the way things were evolving in England after the war, he moved his family to Australia in 1950. In Australia he also had a brief career racing sports cars. He died, a victim of a stroke, in 1960 at age 60.

On the Beach was published in 1957 by Heinemann in the UK, and also by William Morrow in the US. First editions of both versions are not difficult to find; however, condition is often an issue and higher prices ($100 to $300) usually are asked for copies that have survived in Very Good to Fine condition (although, as is sadly typical, prices on the internet are all over the place). The book spent 29 weeks on the New York Times best seller list reaching the number 2 spot, but never quite making it to the top. The copy shown below is a UK first edition.

The story takes place mostly in Australia during the 1960s, following a nuclear war in the northern hemisphere, where nuclear blasts and radiation have obliterated civilization. Shute avoids directly accusing the two nuclear super-powers of starting this war (he has it begin with an unlikely exchange of atomic attacks between Italy and Albania), however all atomic nations quickly joined the exchanges. Post-war radiation levels are extreme and are gradually circulating on the winds into the southern hemisphere. Radiation sickness is progressing southward, as evidenced by sequential losses of communications from northern cities. Melbourne is the southernmost major city in the world, and this is where Shute lived and where he set much of On the Beach.

The story follows five people as they face the end of the world and their own deaths. This was a grim story for grim, frightening times. Peter Holmes, an officer in the Australian Navy, and his wife Mary (they have an infant daughter) live outside of Melbourne, and he commutes back and forth to the Naval yards as best he can (petrol is extremely scarce and folks are getting around mainly by horse or bicycle). Commander Dwight Towers has piloted his US nuclear submarine to Australia after surviving the war, which occurred during an extended cruise. He has put his submarine at the beck and call of the Australian Navy, since there is no longer a US Navy. Moira Davidson, a young woman whom the Holmes introduced to Towers, has become his nearly constant companion, but not lover. Moira is trying to cope with the approach of death by drinking heavily at every opportunity. Dwight is coping by holding delusions that all is well with his family back in the states, and that he’ll see them again.

The Australian Navy sends Towers on a short voyage to search for life in Australia’s northern cities. Peter Holmes is assigned to the submarine as Australian Navy liaison, and a young scientist, John Osborne, is also sent along to monitor radiation levels. The voyage reveals no indications of life in northern Australia. Towers is next asked to cruise as far north in the Pacific as possible, again searching for indications of survivors. He is also ordered to investigate strange, intermittent radio signals coming from near Seattle. The results of this long voyage are the same. One crew member of the sub abandons ship near Seattle and rows away to see his home town. He must stay ashore because of the radiation, but he does report to Towers from a fishing boat that everyone is dead or gone.

The sub returns to Melbourne and the rest of the story focuses on the final activities of the five key characters. As radiation levels increase, the government provides suicide pills, or injections, for those who want them. There is sports car racing, as enthusiasts who had saved petrol stashes hold a final Australian Gran Prix. The scientist, John Osborne, races his prized Ferrari and wins the final race. There is an amusing dilemma posed for Australian bureaucrats – should trout fishing season be opened early? Eventually Dwight and Moira go off on a chaste, fishing junket in the mountains. During the final few days, the principals use the suicide pills, except for Towers and a small crew. They sail the US submarine to international waters and scuttle the ship, going down with her. This is the way the world ends. On the Beach is a serious read, and my main reflection is that it was essentially a miracle that the world survived the era of mutual destruction strategies.

The Movie

The movie version of On the Beach was released in 1959. The screenplay was written by John Paxton and the film was directed by Stanley Kramer. The main players were: Gregory Peck (Dwight Towers), Ava Gardner (Moira Davidson), Anthony Perkins (Peter Holmes), Fred Astaire (John Osborne, but called Julian Osborn in the film), and character actress Donna Anderson in her first film appearance (Mary Holmes). We thought he film was quite well done, especially considering it is a story of the end of the world. The black and white was especially appropriate. The casting was, however, a bit “off” regarding two characters. Moira was a young woman in her middle 20s in the book, but Gardner was nearly 40 when the film was shot. Osbourne was a young scientist, but Astaire, in his first dramatic role, was 60 years old when he acted in this film. The screenplay by Paxton made many changes from the details of Shute’s story. Among others: in the movie Towers and his crew decide to return to their home base and are seen cruising away from Australia at the end of the movie; in the movie the mysterious radio signal is coming from an oil refinery along the coast near San Diego, rather than from somewhere near Seattle. However, the most substantial change that Kramer and Paxton made was that Towers and Moira obviously become lovers near the end of the film. This enraged Shute and Peck also argued against the change. From               http://www.nevilshute.org/

In spite of its many accolades, Nevil Shute hated the film. He was enraged by its production to the extent that Shirley Norway believes his anger over the film hastened his death.

Like all his best stories, "On The Beach" was about ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances, rising to the occasion, and behaving very well. The problem was that Nevil felt behaving very well included remaining true to one's dead spouse. In the book, Captain Dwight Towers refused to give in to his passion for the Australian beauty Moira, and she was above trying to seduce him into betraying his dead wife. In the film, Towers, played by Gregory Peck, and Moira, played by Ava Gardner, left no doubt about whether or not their relationship was consummated. Nevil felt that this destroyed the central message of the book.

Notwithstanding Nevil's dislike of the film, it is a classic, and the power of its message is as strong today as it ever was.

The Nevil Shute web site also has perspectives on the movie from Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck – see the “Flimography” section.

Finally, the US Department of Defense and the Navy refused to cooperate with Kramer during the filming. The submarine used in the movie is a British, Royal Navy, non-nuclear vessel. Our Defense department felt that the movie was too negative, and that the existing nuclear arsenals of the US and Russia were not large enough to result in complete destruction if there were a war.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Back To Dealey Plaza

Since I had taken the time to read Stephen King’s time travel novel relating to the Kennedy assassination, I decided to read a bit more about the events of November 22, 1963. It happened that Don DeLillo’s novel, Libra, was sitting on my “to read” shelves (as are a couple of hundred other books). I’ve just completed his book and will share some comments.

Libra was published in August of 1988 (25 years after the assassination) by Viking. The book is 456 pages long. Signed copies of the 1st printing can be found at around $75 to $100. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for only 4 weeks – never getting higher than 13 - and had fallen off by the time November 1988 rolled around. DeLillo won the National Book Award (Fiction) for White Noise and Libra, his next novel, was a finalist for the same award.

Even though DeLillo’s novel is built upon fact, he has done an amazing job of blending his fictionalization with actual events and characters. It is hard for the reader to realize when facts meld into DeLillo’s story of how things might have happened. The characters are complex and they move within many fuzzy subplots, most of which converge in DallasDealey Plaza on November 22nd. The main focus is, of course, on Lee Harvey Oswald and his strange life on the fringes of society, both here and in Russia. Other key characters include a variety of CIA agents, retired or semi-retired, anti-Castro Cubans, mobsters, FBI informants, and Jack Ruby, who seemed to have had some association with almost all of the other players.

DeLillo’s position is that the assassination was a conspiracy, or scheme, or plot that took on a life of its own, often driven by elements of chance and even chaos. There was no real structure or leader or even very good communication. Things just evolved. The tipping-point event that triggered all of this was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (April 1961). The invasion was orchestrated by the CIA, working with Cuban refugees. The CIA hoped to persuade the young President (who had been in office for less than 3 months) to authorize USAF air support, once the invaders were struggling onshore. Kennedy refused, as he had warned he would, but many in the CIA, as well as Cuban refugees in the U.S., felt they’d been terribly betrayed.

In the novel, several quasi-retired CIA agents develop a scheme designed to focus the country, and the administration, against Castro. A failed assassination attempt on JFK that could be traced directly back to Castro would get things back on track. Lee Harvey Oswald just happens to surface in key places at key times, and the conspirators decide he would be the perfect patsy in their scheme. I won’t go into the details of Oswald’s life that make up much of the core of the novel. The reader knows what is going to happen in Dallas, but how all the subplots evolve into the shots in Dealey Plaza is the intrigue in this read. Indeed, wouldn’t an assassination actually be better than a failed attempt?

The difference between the King and DeLillo novels is huge – one is an easy, but very long read, and the other requires the reader to pay very careful attention. Libra is definitely not for all readers. George Will hated the book and railed publically against it – from my perspective, that’s a damn good endorsement. Anne Tyler wrote a very comprehensive, and positive, review of Libra.


 I found, as I worked through Libra, that I often grabbed a different book to help me follow the players and the details. This book, The Assassination Please Almanac, was the first published book of local writer Tom Miller. It was published by Regnery Press as a magazine-sized, soft cover book in 1977. It is a comprehensive, actually amazing, collection of factoids and media quotes relevant to the assassination. After being out of print for many years, it is now available as a “Print-On-Demand” book.

From the front cover – “This sourcebook/collection is the nerviest in years.” Rolling Stone

From the back cover – “The Assassination Please Almanac is a consumer’s guide to conspiracy theories, an annotated bibliography of JFK assassination books, a chronology of events leading up to and away from November 22, 1963, and a black humor look at the Kennedy assassination. A rare find in high demand on the assassobuff circuit, now back in print for all to appreciate.”  Publisher’s blurb

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Comments on: "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie"

I recently picked up a copy of Alan Bradley’s “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.” It caught my eye while I was browsing in a Bookman’s. I had heard some good things about and bought it to read. The book was published in the U.S. by Delacorte in 2009 (apparently published nearly simultaneously by Orion in the UK and Doubleday in Canada). It was issued in pictorial boards (see above), without a dust jacket, that are rather fragile. The author is from western Canada and has turned his heroine into a full-fledged business – see www.flaviadeluce.com.

The novel is essentially a “cozy” mystery featuring an eleven-year old English girl, Flavia de Luce, who is a child prodigy. Her specialty is chemistry, especially poisons. Her mother is deceased and her well-to-do father spends all of his time with his stamp collection. She has two sisters and the three girls are quite different from each other. They live in an English Country mansion and the story is set in 1950. She has inherited a complete chemistry lab that had been created by a decreased relative, who had lived at one time in the family mansion. The mystery revolves around a stranger who is found, by Flavia, dying in the cucumber patch. It is murder, but the authorities can’t seem to figure that out. The book is a delightful and entertaining read.

A complete review can be found at:  http://literarycornercafe.blogspot.com/search?q=sweetness

What’s a “cozy” mystery? – think of Angela Lansbury and her TV series, “Murder She Wrote.” Want to know more details about “Cozy” mysteries? See   www.cozy-mystery.com

When I read a book of any type or genre, I am not happy unless I learn some new things along the way. I was not happy with King’s book (see previous post) because I didn’t feel I learned any new. However, after reading Bradley’s book, I know some more about British stamps and chemistry. However, the thing that intrigued me most was the question: Did Bradley read Oliver Sacks’ “Uncle Tungsten – Memories of a Chemical Boyhood” (see below) before he came up with his heroine? Sacks’ autobiographical account of his boyhood in England has many similarities with Flavia’s situation. Oliver grew up in a family mansion, in London, and inherited a complete laboratory on an upper floor. This was where he hide away doing experiments, much like Flavia. An interesting coincidence, or was Bradley inspired by Oliver’s chemistry adventures?

Finally, “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie” has won an amazing number of awards, including: The Agatha Award, Arthur Ellis Award, Barry Award, Debut Dagger Award, the Dilys Award, and the Macvity Award.

I definitely recommend this one (as well as any of Oliver Sacks’ books!).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Review Of "11/22/63" by Stephen King

I am not much of a fan of Stephen King, and I have read only two of his novels. These two were “The Shining” and “Firestarter.”  I read “The Shining” when it was published back in 1977. I had seen the Stanley Hotel up in Estes Park, and I enjoyed the read. I certainly have never forgotten Kubrick’s movie, nor Jack Nicholson’s performance. I really don’t remember much about “Firestarter,” since I read it over 30 years ago and did not see the movie.

I have tended, over the years, to agree with John Dunning’s comments regarding Stephen King. In his classic bibliomystery, “Booked to Die,” Cliff Janeway is scouting along Denver’s Book Row on East Colfax. An old dealer sells Janeway a first of “The Shining” for $4.00. Janeway tells him he’s not charging enough for the book. The dealer replies: “I don’t believe in Steffan King.” Many years and many King books have come and gone, and I’ve not been tempted to read another. But, a couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of King’s “11/22/63.” I remembered that I’d seen good reviews when Scribner published it in November 2011, 48 years after John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The book is huge – 849 pages, weighing in at almost 4 pounds. I certainly didn’t read through it quickly. I figure that I averaged 20 to 30 pages at a sitting, and so picked it up and set it down many times, getting some real exercise.

The tales told here by King revolve around a fantasy type of time travel (i.e., a Jack Finney way of easing back into the past) – quite different than science fiction tales where there is a “machine” or some deterministic control over time travel. As I was reading early sections of the book I was somewhat reminded of time travel tales from the 1950s. Ray Bradbury’s short story, “A Sound of Thunder” (a dinosaur hunting expedition changes politics back in the future), or Wilson Tucker’s “The Lincoln Hunters” (again with politics at play in time). In fact, after I’d been thinking of the connections, King’s main character refers to “The Lincoln Hunters,” so King may have been a member of the Science Fiction Book Club back in the 1950’s.

I can’t summarize King’s book here, since it is so long and very convoluted. The primary plot revolves around Jake Epping (aka George Amberson), who returns to 1963 to prevent the assassination of JFK. A dying friend, who runs a café, has discovered a tangle in the strings of time that allows him to step back into the past, always into 1958. No matter how long the time traveler remains in the past, when he returns to the present only two minutes have gone by. This is the first quirky aspect of time travel ala Stephen King. Another is that the traveler has physically aged whatever length of time he/she spent in the past. Jake is urged by his friend to step through the time tangle and experience 1958. He does this a number of times, until the dying café owner convinces him that he should remain in the past for 5 years and prevent JFK’s assassination. So, this is the basic thread of the book – Jake Epping, school teacher from 2011, steps back in time to 1958 and stays until 1963, when he will try to prevent the assassination.

Unfortunately, King can’t head straight down the main plotline. He adds a large number of confusing, and at times quite slow, subplots. There’s one about a young woman disabled in a hunting accident, that’s replayed several times. There’s a much longer tale about a dreary, factory town in Maine, where a man goes off the deep-end and murders his entire family. Then there’s a subplot about the mob, bookies, and betting on sporting events whose outcomes Jake already knows (this is how he funds his long stay in the past). There’s a love story, after George meets Sadie, a 1958 high school teacher in a fictional, Texas town south of Dallas. George has gotten a job as a substitute teacher to help both his finances and to pass five years while he waits for the fatal date to arrive. This story is very long and involved and introduces yet  another violent and crazy character. The love story has its own subplots. It appears that King has gathered together a number of short stories and novellas, not previously published, and hammered them into the time travel plot of this book. No wonder it’s so massive.

There is an extended account of George shadowing Lee Harvey Oswald, so that he can learn whether or not Oswald is acting on his or if there is a conspiracy. King has to provide his answer to this question that will never go away. However, getting to an answer takes up several hundreds of pages that are not very interesting, and this part of the tale drags along. The final hundred or so pages are the best part of this novel, as events, characters, the Kennedy motorcade, and time converge on Dealey Plaza. It’s an interesting climax, but the effort required of the reader to get here is substantial.

And then there’s the final and fatal quirk of King’s version of time travel. The time string of 1958 “resets” to exactly how it was the previous time the traveler had stepped into 1958. This is a real “What the hell?” aspect of the novel. It allows Jake to go back again and again to redo things in the past, if he doesn’t like how 2011 turned out due to his fiddling in his previous trip. This aspect of King’s story deflates the tensions and suspense associated with more classic, time travel, science fiction stories. Recommended only to folks who have a lot of time on their hands.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Quick Trip To San Diego

We took a short trip over to San Diego at the end of last week. The trip was partly to use a Southwest Rapid rewards ticket before we lost it, and partly to escape the heat for about 36 hours. San Diego is usually cool in the summer, if you stay close to the ocean. The Balboa Park complex provides more interesting museums than one could visit in a single trip. It's a great place. Above is the Marston House, a Prairie Style mansion built in 1905. It sits at the north end of Balboa Park, with tours every half hour. An interesting place with beautiful wood work and several original libraries still in place. It's owners played an important role in the development of Balboa Park. We spent Friday wandering around the park and then caught an evening flight home.

Our first afternoon (Thursday, August 2nd) we headed up to Adams Avenue to visit book stores. Adams Avenue used to be called Book Row because of all the store fronts along the street. Alas, no more. There are only three book stores left. Adams Avenue Book Store (above and below) is one of the survivors, and has been there since 1965. It's a nice store with both general used and collectible books housed on two floors and in many rooms. It also is home to two resident, mostly inert and snoozing, bookstore cats. The person working at the counter told us that rapidly rising rents in this part of San Diego had chased out almost all the booksellers. This store is definitely worth a visit, if you're in San Diego. Their web page is http://www.adamsavebooks.com/

On our last visit (has been 9 years ago), we browsed in at least five stores and were enchanted by The Prince and the Pauper - Collectible Children's Books. It appears that they are still in business, with a store front out in an eastern suburb now. The other stores still open on Adams Avenue are: The Scarlet Letter, which is small and which has irregular hours - they weren't open on Thursday afternoon - and The Book Tree which specializes in metaphysical, spiritual, and controversial books.

I wasn't able to resist several books. Above is a nice UK first of Edward Abbey's 4rth novel - Black Sun - published in the UK as Sunset Canyon. Below is one of two mysteries that Cornell Woolrich wrote as "George Hopley." I am slowly building a run of Woolrich's (also aka William Irish) books.

Finally, I picked up Dykes "Western High Spots" which is an important and very useful reference for western writing and also western illustrators. This is the 1977 edition published by Northland Press. Although the copy has underlining and some notes (which of course doesn't particularly hurt a reference book), it has been signed and inscribed by Dykes. All-in-all, a nice outing.

Monday, July 30, 2012

More From Our June Road Trip

Browsing the antique malls in Prescott (there's a serious concentration of such along North Cortez Street) we happened on a display of very nice, collectible books in one of the malls. The books, from Charles Parkhurst Rare Books and Autographs, were worth a close look - even though I managed not to purchase any. Very tempting. Parkhurst sells mostly online these days, after being a partner in a high-end storefront in Scottsdale for a number of years.

From Prescott we headed west out to Kingman, where we picked up Old Route 66 and headed back to the east. The longest surviving stretch of the famous highway stretches from Kingman to Seligman, Arizona - it survived because  it takes a loop to the north, considerably away from where the interstate was built. The famous Delgado brothers were a major force in saving the stretch of old highway. Seligman is a serious tourist town now - among all the cars crowding the streets were two tour buses filled with Japanese tourists.
The dinosaur (below) was at the turn out for Grand Canyon Caverns, which is a few miles east of Peach Springs. I just couldn't get a shot of him without that telephone pole - he wasn't painted on the other side.

On to Winslow, where we stayed at the restored, Fred Harvey Hotel that faces the Santa Fe RR tracks. La Posada (above from the back which faces Route 66) is a wonderful place with a great restaurant - The Turquoise Room. Well worth the stop, and it even has a nice selection of new books in the Lobby/Trading Post. Winslow's other claim to fame comes from the Eagles 1st single - Take it Easy (written by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey and recorded originally with Frey singing lead vocals). The Standing on the Corner corner boasts a statue and now (below) an actual flatbed Ford. The flatbed truck is a recent addition and wasn't there when we visited last summer. It is crowded with tourists and photo takers all summer long. It was a great road trip and we returned home with a few new books and many photos.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ugly American

I recently picked up a copy of "The Ugly American" (by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick) at a Friends of the Library sale. I thought that it might be a first, but when examining it closely at home found the statement "Sixteenth Large Printing" at the top of the front flap. So, I put it on my reading stack and have just finished it.

It was published by Norton in 1958 and was on the New York Times Bestseller List for 78 weeks - reaching as high as number 3 during its time on the list. First printings are quite scarce, especially in near fine condition. Several are listed online at around $150.00. Signed copies are not often seen.

The book is a series of quasi-fictional vignettes, strung together, as a novel, through the story of a newly assigned ambassador to the fictional country of Sarkhan (obviously based on Vietnam). The vignettes present the authors' views of what was wrong with American Foreign Service during the middle 1950s. They touch on the Americans' inability to speak the languages of the countries where they work; the fact that the goals of politicians usually do not relate to the real needs of the populace (big road projects, dams, and military hardware don't often improve the lives of common people).

In their factual epilogue they note that:

"In Japan, Korea, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and elsewhere, our ambassadors must speak and be spoken to through interpreters."

Little has changed over the years, so this book remains relevant today. Ambassadors are appointed because of party loyalty and fund raising skill. The US Foreign Service still does not require foreign language skills of its employees - I just checked their employment webpage.

Supposedly John F. Kennedy felt this book was so important that he sent a copy to every member of the Senate. Sadly, little took. As the French fell to defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the US helped negotiate the split of what had been French Indochina into North and South Vietnam. As the French retreated home in defeat, the US waded into the morass of South Vietnam.

There was a movie of the Ugly American that was released in 1963. It featured Marlon Brando as a somewhat naive Ambassador MacWhite. Although some critics praised Brando's performance, the movie essential flopped at the box office. People just weren't very interested then, as now, in complex issues. The movie ended up focused just on MacWhite, and most of the interesting vignettes were not included - thus, another movie that was only sort of based on the book. The producers hoped to film in Thailand, but our State Department and the Thailand government refused to cooperate and the movie was largely filmed in Hollywood.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Our Recent Road Trip - The Old Sage Bookshop

We have been away on a week-long road trip, and I plan to recount several aspects of that trip here on the Squid Ink Spots blog.

Our first stop was in Prescott, Arizona, (photo above is looking northwest across the town) which is located north of the Bradshaw Mountains at an elevation of 5400 ft MSL. It is a popular escape destination for Arizonans wanting a bit of relief from the low-elevation heat of the Sonoran Desert. Population is around 45,000. Prescott was the first Territorial Capital of Arizona. It is home to Yavapai Community College, Prescott College, and a campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical College. It is also home to The Old Sage Bookshop, which we visited twice during our time in town.

The bookshop is owned and operated by Susan McElheran and is located on the shopping-level (1st floor) of the historic Hotel St. Michael (located on the northwest corner of the Courthouse square) - across from the Prescott Brewing Company, making this a choice spot.

The shop, although small, has an excellent variety of stock - including collectible books, fiction, children's and other genre, and nonfiction. A careful browse through the store takes a couple of hours. Photo below is looking through the front door. This was the only open bookshop we were able to visit during our trip. Don't miss it if you're in Prescott.

And finally, below is a photo of a sculpture at the entrance to the Prescott Public Library.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Peek At Last Week's NY Times Book Review

I looked through last week's Book Review and found several things of interest. I usually scan the best sellers - print hardcover of course, not the e-stuff. There are two titles on the list for May 27 - June 3 that have very long runs as best sellers.

George R.R. Martin's A Dance with Dragons is at #9 on the Fiction list and has been on the list for 43 weeks. This is his fifth book in a fantasy series - Song of Ice and Fire - that was inspired by England's War of the Roses. I searched Biblio ( http://www.biblio.com/ ) for signed, first printings and found 8 copies offered at prices from $65 to $135. I do have to admit that I'm not a reader of fantasy.

Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken is at #3 on the Nonfiction list and has been on the list for 81 weeks. This is Hillenbrand's second book, following her also long running best seller Seabiscuit. This time her focus is on a human runner - Olympic runner Louie Zamperini. After competing in the 1939 Olympics in Berlin he ended up in WWII as an Army Air Force bombardier in the Pacific. Hillenbrand writes of his survival of several years of savage abuse in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. Signed first printings are very scarce - I found only one offered at $395. There are actually several copies offered that have been signed by Zamperini, who is still around at 94.

Finally, Bauman Rare Books is offering Shakespeare's Fourth Folio of Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies published in 1685. The folios were printed in very small runs of a few hundred copies and most are now in institutional collections. This very rare volume can be yours for $235,000.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut's "Bluebeard"

The last couple of months I've been reading Kurt Vonnegut's later novels. For some reason, I had stopped reading Vonnegut after "Welcome to the Monkey House." I'm currently reading "Bluebeard" - dust jacket shown above. While it is not up to his earlier work, it is nevertheless an interesting read. I found the start to Chapter 10 quite relevant to today's current affairs (messes), even though it was written in 1987:

"Back in 1933: ... The Great Depression was going on, so that the station [New York's Grand Central Station] and the streets teemed with homeless people, just as they do today. The newspapers were full of stories of worker layoffs and farm foreclosures and bank failures, just as they are today. All that has changed, in my opinion, is that, thanks to television, we can hide a Great Depression. We may even be hiding a Third World War."

Photo below is of Vonnegut in 1987, taken by his wife Jill Krementz. I'll do some brief reviews of Vonnegut's later novels in the coming weeks.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ray Bradbury - Rest In Peace

Ray Bradbury passed away on Tuesday, June 5th, this week. He was the last of what some would call the big three US writers of Science Fiction - Asimov, Bradbury, and Heinlein. The photo above was taken at the park named in his honor by Waukegan, Illinois, his birthplace.

Eventually he and family settled in Los Angeles. Remarkably, especially given California's car culture, he never drove a car, but was a familiar sight pedaling his bicycle to and from bookstores. As a teenager, I read all of his early books and still remember details of some of the stories. I recently read "The Illustrated Man" again and felt that it had stood the test of time quite well.


Above and below are the jacket covers of four of his most famous, and very collectible, titles (from top to bottom 1947, 1950, 1951, and 1953)


Bradbury's first book (top above) was published by Arkham House in 1947 in a printing of about 3000 copies. August Derleth's small press was (still is) located in Sauk City, Wisconsin, northwest of Madison.

In an ironic twist of fate, Bradbury was presented the National Medal of Arts (2004) by one of our most non-literary presidents - ceremony shown below. Kurt Vonnegut would say: "So it goes."