News: June 2009

Don and Dennis in TucsonNO EXTRA TOURS

Nothing extra kicking along the mean streets for June, but the desperate always can use an edition of the Dashiell Hammett Tour book for a self-guided prowl over the gumshoe-haunted Frisco hills. And any tours open for anyone who wants to show up will be announced here in the monthly news, as they happen. If they aren’t inked in here on the web, they’re not happening.


Don hasn’t yakked with the folk at KGO radio, 8.10 on your a.m. dial, for awhile now, but he’s slated to appear on The John Rothmann Program on Sunday June 21 in the 1 a.m. hour — real early Sunday morning or real late Saturday night, depending on how you think about it. Unless some huge national or international news story breaks and shunts Don aside (always a peril when booking on news talk), he’ll be there taking questions from callers for as long as John wants to cover the hard-boiled 1920s San Francisco of Dashiell Hammett. And if you miss the live broadcast, you can gumshoe around on the KGO website and find a streaming version for a week or two after the show airs.

While waiting for the interview (which you also can catch live on the web, by the way), check out the group photo above, taken during the first Tucson Book Fair in March. From left to right you’ll see Dennis McMillan, Bob Truluck, Don, and Reed Farrel Coleman posed in Mike Walsh’s Old Pueblo Books booth, and a good time was had by all. Reed is the author of The James Deans, among others, plus a novel written collaboration with Ken Bruen, Tower, coming up this fall from Busted Flush Press. Dennis is a living legend and publisher of Don’s book on cult crime writer Charles Willeford — if you want to order Willeford from Dennis pop him an email and work out details. Bob is the author of the hard-boiled novels Street Level, Saw Red, and The Art of Redemption and is a riot to hang out with — if you bump into him at a book deal ask him about the time he was jumped by a gang and came up swinging with a metal pipe. One of the funniest stories Don has heard in years. And Don also gives a personal plug for Truluck’s fiction — in particular, Bob probably comes closest among modern writers to equaling that off-the-wall comic voice that highlights Raymond Chandler’s tales for pulps such as Black Mask and Dime Detective. A true delight, with lots of gunplay and other stuff you want out of a hard-boiled read.


A big chuck of June for Don is going to be taken up with a road trip to Cross Plains, Texas, where he’s driving his longtime pal Donald Sidney-Fryer in to be one of the poet Guests of Honor for this year’s Robert E. Howard Days. Don himself was a Guest of Honor a few years back, and occasionally returns for the festival. If you’re in that barbarian-haunted hamlet midmonth, mosey over and say hello.

The Dark Barbarian - Wildside Press edition coverOUT-OF-PRINT BARBARIANS

The five-year contract with Wildside Press just ran out on Don’s two critical anthologies about Robert E. Howard, The Dark Barbarian and The Barbaric Triumph, and he’s decided to let them lapse out-of-print and see where the prices go on the collectors market.

The Barbaric Triumph - Wildside Press edition coverThe Dark Barbarian has been in-print for twenty-five years, originally in a 1250 copy hardback edition from Greenwood Press — looks like the trade paperback reprint from Wildside moved out approximately 275 more copies. The Barbaric Triumph is going to be tougher to land someday, since it was only available in print-on-demand for that five-year window and critical anthologies don’t tend to sell fast — the Wildside hardback seems to have sold approximately 150 copies while the trade paperback state edged close to 300 copies sold. Hardcore collectors have a perverse love for those low numbers, since they make the game all that much tougher and correspondingly more fun — and good hunting to the folk who didn’t get their copies while they were easy to order new.


During Don’s signing for the new hardback edition of The Dashiell Hammett Tour in Green Apple Books in March, Kevin Hunsanger asked the question every book collector wants to know, as outlined above: What was the print run? Kevin operates Green Apple and also serves as the Book Guy for the morning show on KFOG, and Don always thinks of him as one of the hardcore collector types for hard-boiled and noir items. Vince Emery was in the audience and had the official answer: 1080 copies. To which Don responded, “That’s nothing.”

Vince originally shot for a run of 1500 copies, but the difference was ruined in the bindery, with barely over a thousand available for sale. To put this in perspective, in October 1982 Don released an earlier edition of the tour book in a print run of 2082 copies — all those sold through months before he did a reprint in November 1984, and if memory serves this was long before Amazon came along to make book-buying a breeze. The two City Lights printings (in 1991 and 1994) sold an unknown number of copies, but somewhere in the 3000 or 4000 plus range. Only the true first edition of the Hammett tour book from 1979 has lower numbers — 313 copies, a slim saddle-stapled booklet in red covers (the numbers on that one are so low that many book dealers don’t even seem to know it exists, with most stating that the second edition from 1982 is the first edition).

Since a lot of collectors apparently regard the first hardcover printing of a book as more desirable than a paperback first edition (Don picked this idea up while doing various articles for Firsts: The Book Collector’s Magazine), if you want one of the 1080 copies, get it fast. Sure, Vince is going to do reprints, in trade paperback and maybe even hardback if he feels like it. But the first hardback is limited to those 1080 copies — distinctly marked by a typo on page 47 that’s going to be corrected in the reprints. If you just want a copy to self-guide yourself around town, any edition will do, of course — this info is merely tossed out for the people who are pursuing the grand old book collecting game.


By the way, another review of the Vince edition just appeared in The Onion — written by Sean McCourt, who walked the mean streets on the same tour as Ace Atkins about a year ago. Per norm, the review got cut down in editorial, but you can catch the full write-up on Sean’s blog.


And Brian Murphy, one of the new bloggers over on The Cimmerian, recently discovered Don’s 1986 essay on Stephen King from the book Kingdom of Fear and has something to say about it. He doesn’t seem to realize that that essay was the middle one of three, but we hope he’ll enjoy the pieces from Fear Itself (1982) and Reign of Fear (1988) just as much, once he comes across copies.

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