Welcome to Autograph Hound Super-Sunday the Second!
A couple of months ago I stopped into the book-haunted quarters in the American Southwest where Dennis McMillan currently is making his lair. Probably most of the books are signed. A large group of Ed McBain. Every Don Winslow. Hillerman. Truluck. So many, come to think of it, it kind of makes me tired just remembering digging around in the shelves and boxes.
But surely one of the primo items was an autographed and dated copy of the first edition of TheBlack Echo. The first book by Michael Connelly.
Not only that, but a copy of the novel from Connelly’s first-ever signing in a bookstore, in L.A.
Dennis told me he’d been kidding Connelly about bringing in the book to claim the $5 consumer rebate blurbed on the blue wraparound cover band.
Connelly told him getting the fin back depended on having bought two copies of the novel.
Would it be worth it to a collector to tear off the band? You know, to double-check Connelly?
I think we can answer with confidence, Hell no.
I was quite interested to see that Connelly’s full signature isn’t that much more refined than the quick “MC” he’s been doing lately. I felt kind of sorry for him back when a bunch of us signed copies of Measures of Poison at the Austin Bouchercon, thinking that his once elegant holograph had been reduced by years of long, relentless signing lines to the jotted, jagged MC.
No, Connelly started off with a squiggle.
But wouldn’t a few of you love to have this copy with that squiggle in your collection?
And Kevin Cook — noted pulp and book collector — couldn’t resist sending in some remarks on the subject of autographs. I’m fairly sure Brian Leno has a bigger auto collection, but when it comes to pulp era signers, Kevin may have the edge.
The stuff that you have been running on the blog in regard to autographs reminds me how unusual it can be to locate “full” name signatures rather than ones shortened like you pointed out with Frank Belknap Long to F.B. Long.
Of the gang in the Weird Tales office, from what I have seen Otis Adelbert Kline always signed his name out full, as did Edwin Baird. The tough WT editor full signature is of course Farnsworth Wright.
However, you still get perfect full signatures from James Lee Burke and Loren Estleman.
In older books I have noticed that Edgar Rice Burroughs always signed his name completely. On the other hand I have one E. Charles Vivian book signed just “Viv.”
Edgar Rice Burroughs literally signed hundreds of books during his lifetime, but apparently only signed three pulp magazines that are known. For Forrest Ackerman he signed a copy of the October 1912 issue of All-Story with “Tarzan of the Apes.” That magazine was auctioned off for something in the 40-50K range. For Vernell Coriell he also signed the October 1912 issue of All-Story, but also signed the February 1916 issue of All Around Magazine which contained his “Beyond Thirty.” That All Around issue is easily the rarest pulp to ever include a Burroughs story. Coriell’s widow sold the magazines, and Burroughs fans have a suspicion as to who owns that second signed copy of All-Story, but it is not a certainty. The ownership of the All Around is known.
Back in the days of the pulps I find that most authors just signed their names rather than inscribing anything; perhaps adding a “Cordially” prior to the signature. There are a few exceptions. George Allan England liked to write inscriptions in different languages, but that may just have been a Harvard guy putting on airs. By the 1930s A. Merritt generally wrote at least a one line inscription instead of just signing his name.
Some of the more unique ones come from pseudonyms, such as where “John Taine” books will be signed with both the names John Taine and Eric Temple Bell.
Of course, it is impossible to know how many of the authors would have signed back then, since so few actually got books into print. Ever speculated on how REH might have signed? When Robert Barlow asked him for an autograph it was the full Robert E. Howard that he received.
It’s Autograph Hound Saturday again, and we all know the biggest Autograph Hound making paw prints on These Mean Streets is none other than Brian Leno. Given this opportunity to display a few of the John Hancocks in his trove, Brian thought about it for a second or two, and then said:
What collector doesn’t want to talk about what he’s accumulated during his lifetime?
Since we’ve been dealing with Frank Belknap Long, Farnsworth Wright and Alfred Galpin, I thought of the first editor of Weird Tales — Edwin Baird’s signature would fit right in.
It’s an inscription from Baird’s novel The Heart of Virginia Keep (1918). I don’t know how tough Baird’s autograph is to get but this is the only example I ever saw that was at a price affordable for me. Eight bucks.
Obviously the seller just thought it was some old book signed by some forgotten writer. My morals perhaps need work; I didn’t think it was my job to educate him.
The inscription is interesting. T. C. O’Donnell is the author of The Ladder of Rickety Rungs and The Family Food, both of which are basically unknown to me. I did read somewhere that The Ladder of Rickety Rungs was a book meant to be read to young children, helping them to fall asleep.
There was a Weird Tales writer, Elliott O’Donnell — the ghost hunter — but I don’t believe he was related to T. C., although I can’t be positive. The Heart of Virginia Keep was originally published in Argosy in 1915, and was made into a movie of the same title in 1916. Edward Arnold appeared in the silent film, and he’s of course remembered for many movies, perhaps most notably The Devil and Daniel Webster, where he portrayed Daniel Webster, and for mystery fans, Meet Nero Wolfe as Nero Wolfe.
Then again, I could start a regular Autograph Hound Super-Sunday feature. . . .
Brian Leno’s mention yesterday that he picked up his Alfred Galpin/Frank Belknap Long item from the Necronomicon Press catalog of Long’s last library reminded me of something. Leno isn’t the only dude on the ranch who has some autographed stuff, after all, although my holdings tend to be more along the line of signed or inscribed books than slips of paper with various John Hancocks.
So I pulled from the shelf a copy of Reign of Fear, a book I edited for Underwood-Miller back in 1988. In this case, copy “M” of the full morocco leather sub-state — the entire run numbered some 500 copies, all slipcased, with the idea they’d make their loot mostly by selling paperback reprint rights. Several of those, with the British trade paperback from Pan Books my fave of the mass market reincarnations.
The entire U-M run came with tipped-in autograph pages, and if you survey the one above you’ll notice Frank Belknap Long.
Also Charles Willeford.
In my book Willeford I go into how — as it happened — Willeford was genuinely ill at the time the sheets needed signing, and what an ordeal it was for him. And whether he was ill or not, Long was an old guy at the time and felt the pain of grinding out the signatures. He wondered what he was getting out of it, and I explained that he could sell his copy of the book if he wanted to make some cash beyond what he got for his little intro (which I had to touch up, a lot). Keep it in good shape until the price goes up, I advised, then sell it.
Early on copies of the book jumped up in price pretty nicely. That was the era to sell it if Long had only sold it. Jeez, his personal copy! Worth a premium. I haven’t checked in detail lately, but I think the numbered copies may hover back around their $75 per copy retail price. I imagine the leather-clad lettered run retains tags in the hundreds per.
But I think I oversold the idea of hanging on to the book for awhile, because when FBL died and Nec Press sold his stuff, he still had the copy. The few books he had left for them to list were mostly beat to crap (see the picture from Galpin, as a sample), but Reign was described as close to new.
The catalog offered it for only the retail $75. Someone got a hell of a deal.
And, may I add, Long got savvy as he signed sheet after sheet. Early sheets he’s doing his full name, but soon enough he’s “F. B. Long.” (I heard you can tell early signatures on the Clinton bio from a few years back — early, William Jefferson Clinton. Soon enough, Bill Clinton.)
Now Willeford, Long, de Camp and others from the sheets are dead. Dennis Etchison just died the other day. Thomas M. Disch was a suicide. A saga in that somewhat random gathering of names, which I suppose Autograph Hounds appreciate more than most.
Every now and then I think I ought to start a regular feature like some blogs do — call it, in imagination, Autograph Hound Saturdays.
And only because I know that Arch-Autograph Hound Brian Leno, whose holdings I’m sure could amaze and delight week after week, month after month, year after year, cycle after cycle. The guy has a lot of autographs. But even one mere autograph item per week might feel like a chore, and now that Brian is retired why would he want to take on another task?
On the other hand, he wrote today to say: “You know, now that I’m retired, I have a little more time to go through my stuff once again. Found a Barbara Steele auto that I absolutely don’t remember ever getting. Makes me wonder what awaits if I ever really start digging. The reason I started looking this morning was because I was attempting to find my Chester Gould signature. Found it and it’s a dandy.”
The images he selected to send along were the front and back of a photo of a young friend and correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft to another young friend and correspondent. Alfred Galpin — Galpinius — to Frank Belknap Long — Young Belknapius. By the 1960s date, neither still young, but the Lovecraft Circle abided.
Brian explained: “Was going through some of my stuff this morning and came upon this, which I kind of forgot I had. Don’t know if I’d ever shown this to you. It’s a photo owned by Belknap Long of Alfred Galpin and his wife. On the back, which I’ll also send, is Galpin’s inscription to Long. The photo is in pretty battered shape and along with it I have a signed statement from Marc A. Michaud from Necronomicon Press stating ‘It was purchased from a special sale of Long’s library held by Necronomicon Press in February, 1995.’ Looks like the photo might have been injured in some tug-of-war spat between Long and his wife.”
Which reminds me of one of my favorite moments on TV, quite possibly the best in-joke I’ve ever seen (although, yes, it’d be hard to beat out that Newhart ending — for my purposes, I’ll call it a tie).
Took place on Raising Hope, pretty sure it was the episode where Keith Carradine guest-starred. (Deeper and deeper in-jokes, since KC is father of series star Martha Plimpton.) Garrett Dillahunt also starred, as a doofus named Burt Chance — he played Jack McCall in Deadwood, the dude who gun-sharked Hickok. He comes out of a coma and does a McCall line — especially in context, completely unexpected and funny as hell.
Up till that very moment, I thought that McCall’s droopy “dead” eyelid was done in makeup. Had no idea Dillahunt wrangled it himself.
In a couple of weeks a three-month-long exhibit opens up covering some of John Law’s activities over the past four decades. Signman: John Law in the Pro Arts Gallery in Oakland, premiering June 7.
You’ve got your art signage as above. You’ve got swashbuckling pranks pulled off by the Billboard Liberation Front.
If interested, surf over off the link and check it out.
I’ve known John since 1977 and the shadowy beginnings of The San Francisco Suicide Club, and as two of the last surviving members maintaining a toehold in the culture, we’re going to do a talk or panel on June 27, 7-9pm.
I imagine we’ll talk Suicide Club stuff, but who knows? Other panels are set with other people focusing on other things, but I’m glad I was around for the origin story.
On this final Monday of the month, a.k.a. Memorial Day, you might give a moment to ponder the birth of Dashiell Hammett 125 years ago, May 27, 1894.
Snuck up on me. One hundred-and-twenty-five years, gone, just like that.
Probably the easiest thing to do would be to watch The Maltese Falcon once again, or The Thin Man (or the Thin Man series for the binge-watchers in the crowd). Old time radio types could pop in a cassette of Howard Duff doing his Sam Spade.
Or lift a cold one, or a cocktail — I’m sure you can figure it out.
You know Brian Leno, mention stuff like Edgar Rice Burroughs and the disconcerting torture techniques of the Apache, and instantly he starts thinking about Frederick Russell Burnham.
Here’s Brian with some thoughts for today:
Recently I read A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham by Steve Kemper. Here’s a paragraph from the book:
Apaches inspired terror for good reason. They were as harsh and pitiless as the landscape they roamed. For non-Apaches, the worst imaginable fate was to be taken alive by them. Captured children and young women were occasionally integrated into the tribe, but men were doomed to torments. Captives were often turned over to Apache women whose male relatives had recently been killed. Many accounts suggest that these women were even more sadistically inventive than the men. Burnham once watched some Apache women skin a young fawn alive for entertainment, a technique also used on human captives, and he mentions watching Apache children stick thorns into the eyes of captured doves, “much to the amusement” of their nearby mothers.
Kemper does state “The brutalities on both sides were extreme.” There can be no doubt about that.
I’ve mentioned Frederick Russell Burnham before on your website. Quite a tough nut. He was involved in the Pleasant Valley War, also known as the Graham-Tewksbury Feud, and was a scout during the Indian Wars, and served in Africa during the First and Second Matabele Wars, and the Second Boer War. He was also part of the Shangani Patrol that is sometimes remembered as “Wilson’s Last Stand.”
Major Allan Wilson and his men were trapped in Matabeleland, near the Shangani River, and in the battle all were wiped out, except Burnham and two others who had been ordered to try and get away, to bring back help.
Burnham was also the assassin of Mlimo, who was the spiritual headman of the Matabele people during the Second War.
Naturally, since I admire this guy so much, I have a signed example of his book Scouting on Two Continents. It’s interesting to note that apparently Burroughs himself owned a copy of Burnham’s wonderful narrative.
One more interesting tidbit about Burnham. In his book Kemper writes that Burnham traveled to Tombstone, “where Burnham certainly knew” Virgil and Wyatt Earp, and arrived “sometime before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”
Matthew Asprey Gear’s previous film tome piled up over 300 pages covering the career of Orson Welles, but this year he’s taking it easy with a monograph half that length. Got to appreciate the guys sitting around knocking out monographs.
Selecting Night Moves as the focal point for said monograph is pretty interesting, since it comes in during that early 70s era that saw the shooting of Chinatown (a Polanski classic, though my personal fave in his oeuvre remains The Fearless Vampire Killers) and The Long Goodbye (hated it then, hate it now — even having Leigh Brackett writing on it didn’t help). Gear groups these three together as genre-breaking masterpieces, if immediately followed-up by a rash of more regulation neo-noir such as the Bob Mitchum remake of Farewell, My Lovely, notable for the cameo by Jim Thompson (love the Mitchum quote Gear pulls, about how for the role he had to wear one of “Victor Mature’s farted-up old suits”).
And this sub-group dropped amidst others — The French Connection had made Gene Hackman a star who could play the lead in Night Moves (and Coppola’s The Conversation, shot in San Francisco, is right in the thick of the moment, with Hackman essentially playing famous Frisco P.I. Hal Lipset). Lots of prompts for thinking deep thoughts.
A major concern is diving into the careers of director Arthur Penn, who did several high-level movies before the inevitable slide away — guess I’d select Bonnie and Clyde as the uber classic of his run — and screenwriter Alan Sharp. In general, I don’t pay much attention to screenwriter credits, since you can’t be sure the name on the screen did the writing you’re responding to (one example, Joss Whedon apparently being behind most of the stuff that makes the movie Speed so much fun, got his name as a co-writer on one poster, then got his name erased — but he got paid, which I suppose is the point).
But I happened to pay attention to Sharp’s name, courtesy the brutal Ulzana’s Raid. Another favorite, which Gear blurbs as “a deeply unsettling film containing possibly the bloodiest depiction of Native American atrocities against civilian whites in the history of Hollywood.” Great movie. Burt Lancaster. Apaches. Robert Aldrich directing. (At the moment I’m poking along through Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The War Chief from 1927, which offers this charming line: “And together the children, under the admiring eyes of their elders, learned the gentle art of torture, practicing upon birds and animals of the wild and even upon the ponies and dogs of the tribe.”)
And I saw Sharp’s credit on The Hired Hand, which isn’t great but has Warren Oates in it — part of that whole Warren Oates/Peter Fonda/and Company which is an intriguing subset of getting into Warren Oates.
Sharp also got credit on Peckinpah’s last feature, The Osterman Weekend, which I like better than most people. Couple of terrific lines. Who knows if Sharp wrote them?
(And probably Rob Roy is the major movie people might know, with some scripting by Sharp. Not one of my faves, but it did some box office, which I suppose is the point.)
Gear dives into the shooting, pre-shooting, post, script changes (it was going by The Dark Tower, of Childe Roland fame, until the blockbuster The Towering Inferno prompted a name change), actor’s improv moments. If you like this kind of book, you’ll like this book — if Night Moves is your favorite film ever, hey. . . .
I usually spend a lot of mental time on movies, and this book broke open the floodgate.
In 1977 Don Herron began leading The Dashiell Hammett Tour, now the longest-running literary tour in the nation. On this site you’ll find information on current walks — dates, where to meet, arranging tours by appointment — plus a hard-boiled blog with news, reviews of books and film, and a dash of noir.