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News and musings about books, authors and collectible first editions brought to you by Squid Ink Books.com

Monday, December 7, 2015

Holidays 2015

We will begin mailing our hard-copy Catalogue 31 tomorrow and will have a pdf posted at our web site by the coming weekend. Our themes for the listings this Holiday Season are prize-winning books and books-into-film.

If anyone would like a hard-copy via snail-mail, please send me an e-mail at:

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bookmans In Flagstaff

We visited the Bookmans store in Flagstaff on Friday, October 9th. Katie and I both felt like it was the nicest, and most well-organized, Bookmans we’ve visited. Bookman Bob (Bob Oldfather founder and head of Bookmans) has six stores in the state now (3 here in Tucson, 2 in the Phoenix area, and 1 in Flagstaff – at one time he had a store in Sierra Vista but that has been closed for several years now). We had a nice chat with the Manager of Books at the Flagstaff store (Matt Christiansen) who was most interesting and very helpful.

Bookmans has been trending away from its original main focus on books and CDs for a couple of years now, and this has resulted in considerable disarray in the Tucson stores, where antiques, collectibles, musical instruments, and miscellaneous junk has been squeezed into the stores. It has reached a point where I actually curse to myself whenever I walk into the store on Grant. I am not quite sure what has motivated this helter-skelter diversification, except a desire to make more money. But the loss of focus seems serious to me, and Bookman Bob should consider some reorganization for the Tucson stores – the used sporting goods and outdoor equipment store he opened on Speedway could be a model for returning at least one of the stores back to a focus on books.

Regardless, the Flagstaff store has managed to keep these distractions controlled in a separate area of the store, which was very nice to see. The store even has a Cafe, which was quite busy, tucked into one corner. All very nice and quite an upbeat place compared to the Tucson stores (I should note that we haven’t been in the two Phoenix stores for several years and so don’t know how things have evolved in those stores.)

Books that came home with us:

These two books by Martin Cruz Smith were both signed and I picked them up for a collection of novels by Smith. I am hoping to get all his books signed and perhaps write an article about collecting his first editions. Wolves Eat Dogs is an Arkady Renko novel – Renko first appeared in Gorky Park and has been featured in a recurring series of eight mysteries, usually appearing in every other Smith novel during recent years. Much of this novel is set in the Ukraine around Kiev, especially in the Zone of Exclusion around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear-reactor disaster. This zone has been mostly reclaimed by nature and wildlife, including packs of wolves. I felt that this was one of the better Renko novels, ranking it with Gorky Park as a good read.

December 6 is a stand-alone novel that is set in Tokyo in the weeks leading up to Pearl Harbor. The main character is an American who grew up in Japan – is he a spy? As in most of Smith’s novel, his research results in interesting history being interwoven into his plots. As usual, I learned much reading this book, but felt that it dragged some and didn’t quite work as well as most of Smith’s novels.

The two books below are ones that I wanted to read. The first, Inherent Vice, by Thomas Pynchon has recently been made into a movie that we plan to watch one of these days. There was a fine, unread copy at Bookmans and so home it came. Pynchon is widely considered nearly unreadable because of his dense, hard-to-follow fiction. However, Inherent Vice reads quite easily and I have been enjoying the read (about half way through this title). Pynchon seems to be the most reclusive of modern authors and his first several novels are highly collectible. He rarely signs books and there are only two signed first editions online at ABE – both priced at over $25,000!

Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City – Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America - has been hard to find locally in a first edition. His nonfiction has become very popular with and following this title. It is about the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and revolves around both the architect who made the fair a marvelous reality, and also a serial killer who stalked victims among the fair-goers. This book won a 2004 Edgar Award for nonfiction and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Small Bookstore At La Posada Hotel On Route 66

We went up to Winslow from October 8th to 10th to celebrate our anniversary a bit early (it’s actually on the 11th). We visit Winslow several times a year and stay at the historic La Posada Hotel – designed by Mary Colter and the last of the famous Fred Harvey Hotels. The Turquoise Room restaurant there is our Arizona favorite. 

The Hotel also has a small bookstore that features mostly regional books on topics ranging from Mary Colter, to the Navajo and Hopi, to the Santa Fe railroad and Fred Harvey, to Route 66. The entire hotel complex is an interesting place to stop, if you're out looking for kicks on old 66.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Our 30th Catalogue Is Available

Squid Ink's Catalogue number 30 is available for viewing on-line at:


Part of the first page is shown above and photos of six of the titles available from the catalogue are shown below.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Town Books – Grass Valley, California

On a recent trip to California we visited Book Town Books, which is in historic Grass Valley, a town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The map here shows Grass Valley’s location (northern portion near center), other foothills towns, and Calaveras County (shaded pink near bottom). The gold rush was focused in these foothills and many of towns have their roots in the mining activities of the middle and late 1800s. There are many literary links to this area and period. Examples include: Bret Harte and his stories: “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” and “The Outcasts of Poker Flats.” Calaveras County is where Mark Twain set his famous story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” This story gained Twain national notice and was the featured story in his first published book, a collection of stories, in 1867.

Although we visited only Book Town Books, the brochure pictured above lists 20 independent booksellers in the area of Grass Valley and Nevada City. Book Town Books is a cooperative with 21 dealers having booths within the building. There is a rare book room and a huge variety of topics are covered within the various booths. Some photos of Book Town Books are shown below.

Although there was not as much focus on collectible first editions as I had hoped, the browsing experience was quite interesting. The books pictured below came home with us. I picked these titles up to read, or reread, and none of them are particularly collectible. Although the 1956 Eric Ambler mystery could fetch a fair amount if it were signed.

Finally, we had an excellent lunch to start our Grass Valley adventure at Cirino’s – see  photo below and                                                            

All-in-all our brief visit to Grass Valley was a completely enjoyable outing.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Harper Lee

I happened across a photo of Harper Lee being awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 by George W. Bush, probably the President way on the other end of the literary spectrum from say Thomas Jefferson. I did an earlier post about Ray Bradbury and "W" - see post of April 29, 2013.

Curious as to what this medal signifies I found: The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with the comparable Congressional Gold Medal, bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award of the United States. It recognizes those individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors".[3] The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform.

So Harper Lee joined a strange and varied group that includes such previous award winners as: Tony Blair, Whittaker Chambers, Dick Cheney, Alan Greenspan, Andy Griffith, Richard Petty, Nancy Reagan, Donald Rumsfeld, and very ironically, Strom Thurmond. George W kept out of Cheney's way partly by awarding many of these medals - shown below is his presentation to Arnold Palmer!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hemingway, Big Two-Hearted River, and Beer

I was putting together a mixed, six-pack of craft beer the other day and saw a bottle of “Two Hearted Ale.” I thought, ah ha, a literary brew and saw that the beer was indeed from a brewery in Michigan. Of course, I added it to my six–pack. The name and label, showing a flashing trout, were clearly referencing Hemingway’s short-story “Big Two-Hearted River.”

The story is outwardly about Nick Adams hiking along and fishing in the river, located in Upper-Michigan. The story has underlying, subtle implications about war and Hemingway’s experiences in WWI. It is outwardly a simple, but actually, very complex story. I had first read the story, I think, in the book The Nick Adams Stories, which was published by Scribner’s in 1972 after Hemingway’s 1961 death. I liked the story and have re-read it a number of times since.

The background and geographical aspects are interesting. Although the river of the story was in Upper-Michigan, the brewery (Bells Brewery, Comstock, Michigan - below) is actually located far away from the Michigan Peninsula,  just east of Kalamazoo, in southern, Lower-Michigan. So, the Michigan link to Hemingway’s story is there, even if a bit remote from the setting of the story.

The story has its roots in a fishing trip Hemingway took with two friends in Upper-Michigan. This was after WWI and Hemingway was still recovering from injuries he suffered from a mortar explosion near the front lines in Italy.  Hemingway and his friends were actually fishing the Fox River (below), but the nearby (above) Two-Hearted River’s name better fit the themes Hemingway was developing in the story. Early drafts had Nick Adams fishing with friends, but subsequent versions ended with Adams hiking the river and camping on his own.

This story originally appeared in In Our Time, which was Hemingway’s first book to be published. The book was printed in 1924 by Three Mountains Press of Paris and was issued in a numbered, limited edition of only 170 copies. Copies of this edition are available on the collectors market, commanding hefty prices of around $50,000.

Other editions of In Our Time quickly appeared. Boni & Liveright published a U.S. edition in 1925; a UK edition was published by Cape in 1926; the first edition published by Hemingway’s long-time publisher, Scribners, appeared in 1930. All of these editions are quite collectible.

Amazing what a simple trip to the liquor store can trigger.