Sunday in Duvall

Well, we didn't get our weekend road trip as planned but we at least stole an afternoon to drive east out towards the falls past Echo Lake and see if we could find anything interesting on the back roads around Snoqualmie.

(That's Twin Peaks country, for those of you that are Northwest-impaired.)

Since we were primarily thinking about bookscouting for me and thrift-shopping for my bride, we weren't particularly interested in the falls or the lodge, though it's pretty country up through there. That said, one of these years we're going to try to get up that direction for the annual Twin Peaks fan gathering, or at least stop in at Twede's Cafe and try the pie. With all the Peaks devotees making the pilgrimage, you gotta figure they make damn SURE it's "damn fine."

But not this trip. My idea was to take us out a road we'd never been on, the old Highway 18 out towards Route 203, through Fall City and then Carnation, ending up in Duvall for a stop in at Duvall Books and a late lunch. We'd been to Duvall Books once before and knew it was awesome, and that way no matter what we did or didn't find on the way, there'd be a payoff. Plus we'd only blown through the town once before and hadn't really taken the time to look around Duvall itself.

So that was the plan. Not a huge outing but at least it would get us out of the apartment. We desperately needed a change of scenery, if nothing else.

That, we got. One of the nice things about the Northwest is that it's pretty easy to get lost in some really pretty country in no time at all, once you're out of the city limits.

Even better, once you are away from the interstates, there's almost nobody on the road with you. Good news for us, because a huge part of what we needed the break from was traffic and people. When I moved up here from Portland, in the 1980s, Seattle was the cool livable city that had the vibrant arts scene and the low rents and all the other stuff that lured twentysomething creative types like me. Those days are long gone; now the place feels like any other big city, with all the attendant traffic and crime and ill temper... and expen$e.

Ironically, Portland, once a gray and ugly bastion of everything I was trying to get away from in 1984, has slowly morphed over the last couple of decades into the beautiful, swinging arty place Seattle used to be. Although friends of ours that live there are saying darkly that the same big-city unpleasantness is creeping up on Portland too. Word's out on Portland now. The Pacific Northwest town that currently holds the position of having genuine urban amenities, yet remaining cheap enough for people like us to have a reasonably comfortable lifestyle while working in the arts, is apparently now Olympia, but that's probably going to get swarmed as well.

All this is by way of saying that once we were on the road and the city fell away, we could feel a great deal of tension instantly evaporate.

Mostly, though, it was about scenery and enjoying the afternoon. Not a lot of bookscouting to be done along 18, we found-- it's all rolling hills, horse farms and forest. That was okay with us, we knew we had Duvall Books to look forward to.

We did stop in Fall City. Which is, by the way, not a city and there are no visible falls, just a quiet little bend of river, but that's the Northwest for you. Names don't mean a lot.

They did have a couple of antique malls right next to each other, which is what caught our eye. Not much in the way of books or comics. Really there was just one display that had anything of interest....

There was the single intoxicating second's fantasy about actually scoring the real Action Comics #1 at a dilapidated antique mall in Fall City, Washington and retiring on the proceeds; especially since Julie and I had been grousing half an hour earlier in the car about how nice it would be to move out of the city if we could figure out how to get off the hamster wheel of living check-to-check. But of course it was just a replica. (By the way, here is a handy guide to how to spot fakes, for those of you that might have been tempted by similar displays in out-of-the-way places.)

Honestly I was more interested in the Super Goof, but I certainly wasn't paying any ten bucks for it. Still, it reminded me that Marvel/Disney/whoever probably is leaving money on the table by not putting out some sort of "Best of Super Goof" paperback collection. For that matter, they could be reprinting a LOT of that Dell/Western/Gold Key Disney stuff. I wonder why they don't?

There was also this Star Wars display-- not my thing, but it amused me to see it, and it amused me even more when I heard a little girl pleading with her daddy for some of them and he told her she had to choose ONE.

That was always so agonizing when a parent said that. WHICH ONE? I was tempted to lean in and tell her to avoid the prequel stuff, but I didn't want to look like a creepy weirdo.

Anyway, we decided to push on. We didn't even bother to stop in Carnation; Re-in-Carnation looks like a nice little place but it seems like it's always closed when we are up there, and if there's another thrift shop anywhere around, we didn't see it. Anyway, we were getting hungry and decided to just head straight for Duvall.

We were delighted to see Duvall Books was still in business... but simultaneously horrified to see that it's closing for good at the end of the summer.

Mike and Vicki are retiring-- which is certainly well-deserved, after five decades of running the place-- but... damn. We are going to miss them and their establishment. We love that bookstore, it's one of the nicest places we've run across in our travels.

So if you are a northwestern book lover and can get up there, you should. Obviously, they are not buying new stuff, so once it's gone, it's gone. Discount's probably up to fifty percent by now, it was forty percent last week when we were up there.

I found a few things for myself. I saw a couple of UNCLE paperbacks and snatched them up.

Now, I already had both of them, but at less than a buck each, I couldn't pass them up, because the later ones are really hard to find-- especially in good shape. These looked pristine-- much better than the scans above that I just pulled off a bookseller site. I don't know that they're worth all that much, but I certainly can turn a profit on them. Peter Leslie and David McDaniel were far and away the best of the UNCLE novelists, and McDaniel, especially, is much beloved among Wold Newton enthusiasts such as myself because of all the cameos and Easter eggs he put in his books. Regular readers may recall that I've already talked about The Dagger Affair and its explanation that the evil organization THRUSH is descended from the remnants of Professor Moriarty's 1880s criminal empire (something I couldn't resist adding to my own Sherlock Holmes efforts) but The Rainbow Affair is even more loaded with such things. Set mostly in Britain, it features cameos from John Steed and Emma Peel, the Saint, Nayland Smith, and the evil Dr. Fu Manchu. The novel also has fairly large supporting parts for G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown and Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, as well as an aged Sherlock Holmes. There's also John Creasey's Inspector West and Department Z. For Wold Newton geeks like me, it's the mother lode.

Speaking of classic detectives, I found a fairly nice hardcover-- still in the jacket-- of The House of Brass by Ellery Queen, from 1968.

And also the second Bonanza tie-in novel, Black Silver by William Cox. Cox actually wrote for the show, as well as for other contemporaneous western TV like The Virginian and Wagon Train and even other non-western shows like The Outer Limits. He got his start in the pulps and went on to write dozens of paperback original western and detective stories, as well as a number of sports juveniles.

But I mostly knew him as being the guy that took over as "Jonas Ward" on the Buchanan series of westerns after William Ard passed away. (One of the coolest western series ever, it also has one-off entries from Death Wish's Brian Garfield and science fiction grand master Robert Silverberg before Cox took it on.) At any rate, I knew William Cox would do a cracking good job on a traditional oat opera like Bonanza, and probably this would be a better story than most of the ones on the actual show.

That was it for the haul, but at least we got to wish Mike a happy retirement and thank him and his wife for running such a nice place, so we decided it was a success.

After that we went looking for lunch and found this establishment in the next block.

I mention the Armadillo for two reasons-- first, they do pretty good barbecue and don't skimp on the sides. (When Julie saw that the special was sweet potato pie, that was it; decision made.) We ate on the back deck because it was such a nice day and somehow had the place mostly to ourselves. It was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, really, but they still should have been doing more business because the food is good and the service was great. So I'm spreading the word.

The other reason is that it had one of those weird things that I just had to get a picture of because otherwise no one would believe me. Hanging in the men's room is an autographed picture of Dr. Joyce Brothers. Probably most of you are too young to remember her, but I did, and the idea that this was something to hang in the men's room was just freakish. This is not a photo that any man would really feel comfortable pulling his pants down in front of. But there it was.

Anyway, no one at the Armadillo seemed to know about it, but I felt it needed to be documented. So there it is. WHY it's there, well, we may never know.

With that, we headed for home, but there were a couple of nice surprises in the mail. One was that my copy of Gabe Essoe's Tarzan of the Movies had finally arrived.

I had ordered this from a dealer some time ago, mostly in a fit of self-pity that I was apparently not on the review list for Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan on Film, despite having given his Tarzan Centennial Celebration a nice review a while ago and was very much looking forward to the follow-up. But they didn't send me one, and frankly that's the only way I'd ever get hold of a copy because there's no way we'd be able to afford it retail, though if it's as handsome a volume as its predecessor, it's probably worth it.

As a consolation prize, though, Tarzan of the Movies is a really good one. It's a terrific history of the Tarzan movies told more or less chronologically from the silent era on up, and stuffed full of all sorts of rare photos and behind-the-scenes stuff. The only drawback is that it was published in 1968, so it ends with the cancellation of the Ron Ely television show. But it's a great book for the years that it does cover, and Mr. Essoe even agrees with me about the worst Tarzan adaptation ever (well, before 1968; though this crime against Burroughs certainly is in the top five as well, or bottom five, or however you judge these things.) The book is long out of print, of course, but it's not hard to turn it up from online sellers for not really very much money at all.

The other nice surprise waiting in the mail was finding that I'm actually NOT off the review list for Titan Books, at least not as far as Hard Case Crime is concerned. Because they'd sent me an advance review copy of SoHo Sins, probably hitting bookstores a week or so after you see this.

Hard Case is about evenly split between reprinting obscure genre classics or putting out original stories in the noir tradition from newer writers like Christa Faust or Jack Clark. (Or, in the case of Max Allan Collins, both.) Anyway, SoHo Sins is one of the new ones and Richard Vine's definitely a find-- he's got real chops. Because SoHo Sins is a wonderfully dark and nasty book. Here's the blurb:

PORTRAIT IN BLOOD: They were the New York art scene’s golden couple—until the day Amanda Oliver was found murdered in her SoHo loft, and her husband Philip confessed to shooting her. But was he a continent away when the trigger was pulled? Art dealer Jackson Wyeth sets out to learn the truth, and uncovers the dangerous secrets lurking beneath the surface of Manhattan's posh galleries and decadent parties, a world of adultery and madness, of beautiful girls growing up too fast and men making fortunes and losing their minds. But even the worst the art world can imagine will seem tame when the final shattering sin is revealed...

Now, here's the thing. The book is a worthy entry in the noir tradition no matter what, but what made it extra-wonderful for me was its cheerfully vicious dissection of the high-society gallery scene. Though my town does not perhaps have an equivalent arts scene history to the one that New York does, nevertheless I have spent far too much time among the hipster arty people and scenesters clogging the gallery scene in Seattle (usually supporting friends at openings, that kind of thing) and Vine absolutely nails the shallow, venal egotism and the desperate pretension that powers such a scene. It's creepy and funny and then, eventually, tragic. Also in the finest noir tradition, the solution to the murder is a gut punch. Last time a reveal in a mystery novel made me almost physically ill with its awfulness, while at the same time had me lost in admiration at the sheer writer's craft on display, was Ross MacDonald's The Chill back when I was in college. (If you don't know that one, check it out-- seriously, uglier even than Chinatown and just as beautifully constructed, if that helps give you a frame of reference.) That's some pretty good company for Mr. Vine to be running in and I wish him all success with this book and I hope it leads to many more.

So that was our excursion. It didn't really suffice as a replacement for the annual July trip but it'll do till we can afford a real one. Maybe by September...

But in the meantime, I'll see you here next week.

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