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Last Sunday with the Antiquarians

by  in Comic News Comment
Last Sunday with the Antiquarians

Well, we couldn’t buy anything at last week’s Antiquarian Book Fair, but we still had fun.

We love the Book Fair because it’s everything we enjoy about being on a convention floor, without any of the downsides. It’s not crowded, there’s nobody blocking the aisles for a photo-op, the level of ambient background noise is such that you can converse comfortably, and everyone is nice. The vendors are all incredibly easygoing; it’s the kind of thing where you can answer a question like So what are you interested in today? with “Looking and sighing, mostly,” and they’ll still talk to you, without any resentment at the fact you’ve just said flatly you’re not buying anything. Doesn’t even slow them down. It’s a very soothing show to attend.

Unfortunately this year what with all the car stuff and medical stuff we’ve been shelling out for over the last six weeks, we didn’t have any money to spend at all other than the admission ($5 gets you in for both days.) But Julie and I were determined to go anyway just because it’s fun to look at all the books, it’s like being in a museum. My excuse was that at least I could take pictures for this column, and so here they are.

These are the guys from Fantasy Illustrated up in Mill Creek, Washington.

The shorter gentleman there with the Santa beard is Dave, the owner. He’s always fun to talk to and we usually end up shooting the breeze about pulp fiction for a few minutes. I have to take a picture of his giant display of pulp magazines every year just because it’s so awesome.

The books he has out are always cool too. I was amazed to see the Street and Smith hardcover versions of the Shadow and Doc Savage; I had no idea such things even existed. And of course, I was salivating over the Burroughs limited-edition hardcovers from Canaveral Press; those are almost within our means, but sadly, not this year. I actually own several of the other older Burroughs books, but not such beautiful copies. Mine are missing the jackets and pretty beat up. I’ve restored several of them and they’re nice enough, but there’s not much you can do about a missing dust jacket.

As you can see, there are also several Clark Ashton Smith hardcovers on the shelf as well. If we’d had the money I’d certainly fallen for something on that shelf.

Or maybe this one. Probably The Prisoner by Thomas Disch.

When Dave heard I was writing up our visit he brightened and said, “Well, I’ve been doing a little magazine of my own,” and gave us one. I don’t know what I was expecting– some sort of catalog with a lot of ads, I guess– but I was pleasantly surprised. Dave’s Clubhouse is a real magazine. More specifically, it’s a very classy fanzine full of thoughtful articles about pulp collecting and anecdotes about his experiences as a dealer. And both Julie and I were impressed with the color center pages, which are just old pulp covers Dave likes.

Dave had some cool stuff under glass, too. I pointed at one of them. “Hey, that’s Kurtzman’s HEY LOOK,” I told Julie. “I’ve read about that for years but never seen one. You’ve heard me talk about Kurtzman, he’s a legend. The original Mad…”

“And Humbug, Trump, Little Annie Fanny,” put in Dave’s assistant, a gentleman with a crewcut whose name I have forgotten. He was incredibly nice and I feel terrible for not getting his name, but you can see him in the photo above.

“I’ve only seen pictures,” I admitted. “But never the real book.”

“Well then you should get to really see it,” he said, and pulled it out of the case and slid it out of the mylar while I was still protesting.

See, this is what I’m talking about. Even knowing we were poor and not buying, he got something super-expensive out of the case for us just so I could have a a fanboy moment. That’s the Book Fair in a nutshell.

Our other never-miss booth is Bud Plant. Usually the place is swarmed but this was Sunday afternoon and the crowds had thinned out quite a bit. Julie and I spent a pleasant few minutes talking to Mr. Plant and also his partner Anne Hutchison.

The hardcover Robert E. Howard rarities caught my eye because, well they always do– Bud was the one that sold us Tigers Of The Sea, a few years ago. And I’d just been talking about those books on Radio Vs. The Martians.

We had a nice chat about the slipcased Conan books; I thought I knew all the limited edition hardcover Howards, but I hadn’t seen these. Bud told me all about them– not just who did them, but also about the various delays and such. I can’t remember all of it, but it tickled me that he had the entirety of the publication lore of the project at his fingertips. People think I’m an expert, but the antiquarian bookmen at the fair are the ones with serious game.

We almost always buy something here, because Bud carries newer books as well as the older stuff. (A couple of years ago after sighing over a $5000 Lone Ranger pulp that Dave had on display over at Fantasy Illustrated, we stopped at Bud’s booth and I was able to console myself with a $10 facsimile reprint of a Ranger pulp. That kind of thing.) Of course, he’s got cool old stuff too; lots of Big Little Books and things like that.

We were lamenting our lack of funds, and Bud handed us a catalog. “We do all kinds of mail order… week after a show there’s always people emailing about ‘have you still got that one….’ whatever, and we usually do.” The catalog is actually more entertaining for me to look at than PREVIEWS, I enjoyed it just for itself.

And we always like to look in on Garcia-Garst Booksellers. Her thing is juveniles– it was Beverly Garcia-Garst that gave us a very nice deal on Tik-Tok of Oz at our first Book Fair a few years ago. She has a lot of Stratemeyer stuff — Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, that lot.

This year it was especially frustrating to be so broke because she had a lot of Three Investigators, the later ones by Mary Carey that are almost impossible to find. I have none of these pictured except for Singing Serpent.

So I took pictures and sighed.

Usually Bud Plant and Fantasy Illustrated have the whole of the pulp market covered at the Book Fair, but this year there was a new player. The Book Bin, from down in Salem, Oregon, had a booth. Complete with another wall-o-pulps display I had to get a picture of. It’s possible they’ve been before and we just missed them, but I think I’d have remembered seeing this.

And these. Like Hey Look!, I’ve read about the old Weird Tales and even written about them myself, but I almost never have seen one in person. And here was a whole display.

The proprietor was busy with a paying customer so we didn’t accost him, but, mindful of what Mr. Plant had said, we snagged a photocopy catalog from a pile at the end of the table.

And Don Myers from Pacific Coast Books down in Lincoln City was up here as well. I’d written up our delightful visit there in one of the road-trip columns a couple of years ago, and we always have meant to go back; we have a standing dinner invitation from two different writers who live there and it’s a great place for bookstores. Of all the bookstores we visited on that trip, we loved Pacific Coast the most just because Don made it fun.

He was with a buyer and we didn’t want to interrupt, so we were browsing. I was looking at the Steinbeck display and the woman helping him asked me if I was a Steinbeck fan and I explained no, we were really more Don fans. “But I have an old English teacher I’m still in touch with and SHE loves Steinbeck, so I better at least get a picture,” I added, and so I did. This one’s for Letty.

Eventually Don was free. He remembered us, greeted us effusively, and demanded to know when we were going to be in Lincoln City again. We assured him that it would be as soon as we could figure out how to get the time off (it would totally be this year’s Fugitive Thanksgiving if we weren’t stuck here working all that weekend.) And he had to hear all about how we were doing, and Julie’s new job, and we really didn’t even talk about books very much at all. But that’s Don. He’s genuinely interested in everyone he talks to. I sneaked this one of him with another customer, and that’s Julie in the red looking at the shelf.

So that was our day at the fair. As we were leaving, Julie let out a happy sigh and said, “I can’t believe all those dealers remembered us. Book people are so nice. I was feeling kind of grumpy about work but that really lifted me up.”

I agreed. It was almost as much fun this year, without money, as it was in past years when we were able to actually shop. We enjoy the dealers and their stories as much as the books, really.

But even so, I did not completely go without cool old pulp stuff this year. Because in the mail, my old friend Joe had sent me a box of old pulp magazines with the note, Found these at a flea market years ago and am finally sending them to you. Enjoy.

Fantastic, Amazing, Mammoth Detective, all kinds of great stuff. Seven in all.

To my delight, I just realized as I was going over our photos from the Book Fair that there are a couple of these from Joe that were also in the Book Bin’s wall display; the issues of Fantastic and Thrilling Wonder.

The Thrilling Wonder is probably the best of the lot, with the novelette from Leigh Brackett, but I am enjoying all of them.

Even the no-name cannon-fodder stuff; I get excited over all kinds of things. I’m probably one of the only living folks in North America that would let out a woohoo! of delight to see “Paul W. Fairman” in the credits of an old SF pulp magazine. (It helps if you know that Paul Fairman wrote licensed books for some of my very favorite shows when I was a kid– including the first book I ever bought with my own money, the Big Little Book Aquaman: Scourge of the Sea.)

Julie could only shake her head. “Your friends are so cool,” she said. And it’s true.

But a lot of it is really what she said earlier. Book people are nice. These events don’t get advertised much, but there are a lot of them out there and I recommend them without reservation. Not only because you’ll find a fair amount of comics and comics-related stuff, but also because antiquarian book fairs are a lot of fun just for the people there. It’s worth it if you’re any kind of book person at all to do a little online search and see what’s coming in your area– the Antiquarian Booksellers of America Events Page is a good place to start.

As for us, we’re planning our next trip to Lincoln City. Maybe that’ll be Fugitive Christmas, if we can scrape the money together. Should be out from under the medical bills by then.

In the meantime, I’ll be back here next week. See you then.

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