Rediscovered: The Tamony Bookplate

Haefele’s Heretics got shaken up some for the run up to his new book Lovecraft: The Great Tales. Morgan “The Morgman” Holmes was busy with something else. Brian Leno’s computer died out from under him and he didn’t want to proof off a tablet screen. Haefele had two or three of his local guys he wanted to drag in on it.

Among other permutations of the lineup, we pulled the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook into the team. He told me, “After finishing the proofreading of John’s book I immediately got out ‘The Colour out of Space’ for a rereading. The book set me in the perfect mood for it — also for Machen’s great The Three Imposters. I want to get to Chambers again as well. That from someone who reads almost zero supernatural horror any more.”

Kevin’s gone after more Machen in particular, and mentioned to me that he intended to reread the two autobiographical volumes, Far Off Things and Things Near and Far.

I told him, don’t forget the third volume, The London Adventure. He didn’t know about The London Adventure.

Turns out Kevin was reading out of the deluxe multi-volume Caerleon Edition of Machen’s collected works (of course he was). That set came out in 1923. The London Adventure appeared in 1924.

I pulled my Knopf yellowback of Adventure out from my horde of thirteen yellowback Knopfs to check the date as we were figuring it out. Noticed that it bears the very cool bookplate of one Peter J. Tamony — the demonic Buddha image comes from the famous illustrator Wallace Smith. I’m pretty sure I have another book somewhere in my collection — maybe even a couple more — that have the Tamony bookplate pasted in. As I’ve said before, I kind of like bookplates and other such things — stamps, bookstore stickers — in old books.

Kevin currently is rereading the finished Haefele book, savoring it, taking side trails as they appeal to him. It pulls him deeper and deeper into Machen, and he says, “I have the idea of extending my Machen shelf by a few titles. I ordered a copy of the Machen bibliography. Being that I am a hardcover first edition book collector, I want to know points for identifying firsts, and then trying to locate copies in dust jacket — with signatures a bonus. I would especially want to read The London Adventure when I complete the reread of the Caerleon set with the first two autobiographical volumes. This time I can read all three in order.”

Rest assured that Kevin won’t be happy with any beaten-up yellowback Knopfs. (I will say that my copy of The London Adventure appears to be the first Knopf printing.)

And on an impulse, I decided to punch the name Peter J. Tamony into the search engines. Found a video of a San Franciscan from 1971 who must be the same guy. Plus looking again just now I see links to several articles, including a piece on the 1966 Trips Festival.

Nice. From the library of one San Franciscan to another — from one Machen fan on to the next.

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Rediscovered: Every Copy of an Edition Part Two

Not too long ago Brian Leno tipped me off to a blog devoted to Vincent Starrett, entered via a specific post about the famous book collector’s bookplates.

I surfed around some, and quickly realized that blog fell under the same advice I gave out for dealing with Up and Down These Mean Streets. You can use the Search Bar here to look for specific things, or you could just go back to the beginning and cruise through like you’re reading a book.

But the Starrett blog doesn’t feature a Search Bar. So I worked my way back to the start, then turned around and came back. Some stuff I skipped or skimmed — I’m not a fan of Starrett’s then modern crime writing, so I breezed over those moments.

In a post talking about Items not yet collected I found a link to something really interesting — to me, in any case, and maybe to you if you like collecting books: a very detailed census surveying the whereabouts of every copy of Starrett’s Sherlockian pastiche The Unique Hamlet.

Every copy of the 1920 first edition of some 110 copies! The guy has tracked down 59 of them, with 26 of that total in institutional libraries.

A saga. Very cool.

Got me thinking about the rarest edition I’ve brushed up against lately: the Henrik Harkson first hardcover edition of John D. Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos.

Haefele doesn’t know the precise copy count on the run — may have been slightly over 100 copies. Maybe have been under, in only two figures.

I mentioned the Unique Hamlet census to him, and Haefele put a toe in the water toward doing a census of the hardback Derleth Mythos — you know, if someone gets ambitious. He said:

I didn’t keep records, but can make an educated guess regarding the whereabouts of about twenty of the 100 or so copies.

I personally have three copies, two pristine — & one banged up, over-written, working copy minus jacket.

Family members account for four copies.

Jack Byrne has one copy.

I assume Harksen has at least one copy, & there is another he placed in some foreign institution.

Of those stalwarts we know, I assume Joshi, Derie, Leno, Deuce, Krabacher, & Holmes all have/had the hardcover.

Faig did, but it went (I think) to his favorite pro-bookseller when he downsized.

Pugmire did, but someone grabbed it — I never saw it offered with the rest of his remains.

One or two of the early reviewers — e.g. Don Webb — must have had one.

And a few collectors, since copies were offered — Rajchel, for example.

These comprise 20% of the total.

The hardest to track will be Harksen’s overseas sales.

I may have given one to the Wisconsin Historical Society, where it will probably stay buried for the next five hundred years.

I told Haefele, “Well, that’s a start — and don’t forget me, I’ve got an inscribed copy.

“Pug’s copy in fact sold. Cheap! I covered it in the Collecting Haefele post. Joshi didn’t even know enough to ask the $60 original retail. (The other one mentioned in that post that popped up for $60 I told you about and apparently you told Rajchel.)”

Of the original Haefele’s Heretics, Morgan Holmes was the only one who had not nabbed a copy of the Harkson hardcover. (And omitted, by accident surely, from the brief list of Heretics above is Tex Albritton — I imagine Tex still has his copy.)

And at this moment two copies are offered on Amazon, both in the $190.00ish range. Cheap, compared to a copy of the first edition of Starrett’s The Unique Hamlet.

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Rediscovered: Every Copy of an Edition

I think I had my longtime pal Donald Sidney-Fryer really going for about two or three weeks late last year, when I told him I was thinking about collecting the entire print run — a reported 2045 copies — of his 1971 Arkham House book Songs and Sonnets Atlantean.

You’ve got to admit that getting every copy would make for the ultimate collection.

But it’s a nightmare scenario — any small press publisher who’s ever tried to move out 2000 copies of a title would yell, Good God, don’t do it! It defies reason, and laughs at economics. I can almost hear a thousand small press guys break out in sobs, and August Derleth starting to crawl from his grave.

And the shock for the artist would be to have a book vanish from the world, almost if not quite as if it never existed. The cornerstone of DSF’s fame, locked away on shelves in one crumbling redoubt, not in hundreds of collections — approaching Bond villain diabolism!

If you had enough money, you could almost do it. Figure that a good chunk of the run simply doesn’t exist any more. House fires, drowned in spilt beer, left on the commuter train. I can imagine an easy 500 copies gone forever after fifty years. Maybe more. Jumping on eBay or ABEbooks you could sweep up lots of copies today, usually priced from $15ish to $25ish. Fill up a couple of shelves, no problem.

But you could never buy them all. Because of guys like John D. Haefele, Arkham House completist — the guys who have assembled complete sets of Arkham titles, and the guys who dream about assembling complete sets. I don’t know exactly how large the count of that crew. I know several personally, and if they don’t own a copy of the 1971 S&SA they don’t have a Complete Arkham.

While I was kidding about buying up every single copy, some impulse nudged me into getting a couple — and a couple more.

First pair popped up for sale. One to Richard Brisson, whoever he was (a copy of the DSF monograph The Last of the Great Romantic Poets also inscribed to him has been on the block, but I’m only curious about S&SA, not every book DSF has done — tentatively). $20ish, I think, cheap enough to open the door. And about the same week another copy came up for sale, described as inscribed to a fellow poet, while coyly withholding the name.

Intrigued, I popped the $30ish to see who it was and found G. Sutton Breiding’s personal copy inscribed and dated “San Francisco 19 January 1975.” Score. Since then DSF has written intros to two or three GSB collections.

Soon enough I tracked down the copy inscribed to cartoonist Gahan Wilson (he reviewed S&SA on publication). Hand-corrected throughout, including the typo on the inside back flap (the last in Last of the Courtly Poets isn’t capitalized — I’ve only got three copies where DSF made that emendation). Plus the Wilson copy includes the business card DSF had made up: The Art of Incantation, with a holograph note on the back explaining why DSF insisted on a print run of 2000 copies for his first poetry collection. That’s a lot of copies for an Arkham poetry release to that point, usually they had fallen into the 500 range, like Stan McNail’s Something Breathing from 1965.

But DSF insisted, as part of his stance to continue the legend of the California Romantic Poets, and talked Derleth into it.

The card also supplies evidence that DSF adopted the name Donald Sidney-Fryer just as the book hit print — on S&SA itself he is bylined Donald S. Fryer.

The Wilson copy inscription is dated “20 June 1971.” One of the famous claims about the book is that it was the last Arkham title released under the personal purview of August Derleth, who died July 4 that year. The copy DSF inscribed to Derleth — held in private hands other than my own — is dated “17 June 1971.”

In the same order with the Wilson I nabbed one of my current favorite copies, inscribed to DSF’s San Francisco dope dealer. The bookseller didn’t emphasize that detail. Perhaps he didn’t know. Only one hand-correction — but it did come with the bookmark DSF had made up to promote the release.

Emphasizing the personal priorities involved, this copy is dated “3 June 1971.” As of this moment, that’s the earliest date I’ve found.

I’ve picked up a few more copies — a “23 June 1971” is another good one. Depending on what shows up, I suppose I’ll go after associational value, and keep looking for early dates. I wonder if DSF got a box of S&SA in before June 1st and put his mark into some copies.

Thus, a little reverie in celebration of the upcoming 50th anniversary publication of Songs and Sonnets Atlantean. Sometime in June? Or was it possibly May?

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Frisco Beat: Last Seen

Kent Harrington has some promo lined up before the May publication of his new San Francisco crime novel Last Seen.

First one coming up in Texas (and the virtual world). Kent says, “I am having a Zoom event for my new novel Last Seen hosted by the great bookstore Murder by the Book in Houston on April 9th with my old pal fellow crime novelist Gary Phillips.

“Gary and I are going to interview each other, which should be fun as we go way back.”

Like a Posse McMillan reunion. I guess you can set it up so you get copies signed and mailed to you — anyway, check it out if interested.

Next one nudges closer to the Bay with more Zooming from the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, April 24. Similar deal with signed copies.

And there’s chatter about a signing in San Francisco in one of the Green Apple outlets. Virtual or real, who knows? But let’s hope for the in person with on site John Hancocks.

Check Kent’s website for more info as things develop. 

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Hammett: April First Special

With thanks to Evan “Scoop” Lewis.

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Rediscovered: At NoirCon (2012)

At least I presume the image above connects to NoirCon. That’s how I read the clews.

I only attended the very first NoirCon, in 2008, where I was amazed that for the Charles Willeford “panel” they had some academic talking on and on (I don’t remember a single trenchant thing he said) while they had as attendees both me and Guest of Honor Dennis McMillan, and both of us actually knew Willeford. What a fucking stupid waste of time, and resources. But, hey, if that’s what the crowd demanded. . . , jeez, what a dumb crowd.

Kent Harrington must have been poking around in his files and felt like sharing. I bumped into him at the Noir Festival in the Castro when The Rat Machine was new — Kent has emerged as the member of Posse McMillan I most frequently encounter in recent years.

I’ll doubtless see him again soon, in connection with his latest San Francisco crime novel, Last Seen, due out in early May. He’s having a couple of Zoom events to promote it, but I’ll grab my copy in person.

Sequel to Last Ferry Home, Last Seen is your typical kind of wild Kent extravaganza. One angle that struck me reading an advance proof was that Kent took the character that I remember as the most average (and so kind of boring) from the first book and went berserk with a new backstory.

Who knows what will happen if he makes the narrative into a trilogy?

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Hammett: The Slaughter of Duller Characters

Two or three emails back the noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook mentioned to me that Hammett had gone to France during the Great War.

I told him, not as far as I know.

But now there’s some evidence for his idea — if you can call a newspaper article evidence.

Evan Lewis used newsprint from 1939 on his blog today, and alongside mentioning the trip to France, Hammett tells reporter Willa Gray Martin that he likes to kill off characters that bore him, and refers to a recent dustup with Tallulah Bankhead.

Without checking into it, I think Evan has located an otherwise “lost” interview with Hammett. Not a major interview, but it’s got some info worth pondering over. Every scrap interesting, of course.

I wonder if the reporter just got the info about France wrong — or it is entirely possible that Hammett told her he was shipped overseas. That era, 1939, with war drums beating in the distance, he might have thought it sounded good.

And by the way, in recent months Evan has been tossing up various newspaper articles on his blog — search under Hammett Herald-Tribune. Some center on specific Thin Man movies, selected topics. I haven’t bothered to mention most of them, although I do try to keep current cross-reference to any actual stories reprinted in the papers.

This interview, however, definitely worth a look.

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Hammett: Dr. Oz Gets the Clew

In the back of my mind lurked the idea that Jeopardy! might retire clews about Hammett and Sam Spade in the post-Alex Trebek era.

But as I’ve said before, Hammett kind of serves as one of their standards — not as constant as State Capitals and the Periodic Table of Elements, but for one guy with a life and a few books and some movies, he keeps popping up.

For Season 37 Episode 126 on March 22 — the first segment guest-hosted by Dr. Oz — they used the category MacGuffin.

The $400 clew:

In a 1941 movie Humphrey Bogart called this title MacGuffin “The stuff that dreams are made of”

The champ of the moment responded, “What is The Maltese Falcon?”

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Sinister Cinema: Sam Invades Manchette Territory

Terry Zobeck pops along the news from The Rap Sheet that unbeknownst to us Sam Spade moved to France and is about to get into some 1960s colonial action, as in a Jean-Patrick Manchette novel! Well, hell, I wasn’t expecting that, at all at all. But I can’t say I’m actually surprised.

Spade, details the report, “has been quietly living out his golden years in the small town of Bozuls in the South of France. It’s 1963, the Algerian War has just ended, and in a very short time, so, too, will Spade’s tranquility.”

Casting Clive Owen as our boy Sammie is a plus, for my tastes — he was excellent in Shoot ‘Em Up.

For the rest of it, I suppose that depends on how the idea gets brought off. (I am reminded that I still haven’t bothered catching the recent film of Willeford’s The Burnt Orange Heresy.)

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Rediscovered: A Cyclopean Memorial to Lovecraft

Brian Leno timed this one nicely! I thought he might take another week or two for a formal (or as formal as Leno gets) review of Lovecraft: The Great Tales. But no.

For the eighty-fourth anniversary of the death of H.P. Lovecraft on this day in 1937 — very nice timing — herewith the word from the author of Lovecraft’s Southern Vacation and Ringside with Robert E. Howard:

I was fifteen when I first read “The Shadow over Innsmouth.” It hit me like a Rocky Marciano uppercut.

During that period of my life I haunted a small bookstore in Bismarck called the Town Crier, and in the paperback racks I found the Beagle Books edition of The Lurking Fear.

It wasn’t my first introduction to H. P. Lovecraft, but it was the book that propelled me into full Lovecraftian fan-mode.

Soon I was building a library of the Providence Gentleman’s tales, but I was also searching for information about the man himself, and that, living in a small city, was a bit harder to attain. Fanzines had a few articles, and I read what I could find. But most were, as to be expected, written poorly by fans who really weren’t able to tell me much of where this singular writer found the inspiration for his classic tales. Later academic and quasi-academic junk, as tasteless as a hot dog without mustard, had no narrative flow and spent too much time on Lovecraft’s ancestry and other meaningless issues. Most of this stuff only functioned as a pretty good sleep aid.

All that changed a couple of weeks ago when the mail carrier dropped off John D. Haefele’s Lovecraft: The Great Tales.

At first the book appears overwhelming. Even somewhat daunting. It clocks in at over 750 pages and nobody is going to read it at one sitting. A casual glance through the Works Cited and Selected Index let’s the reader know that he’s dealing with an author who has explored, deeply, the works of the Rhode Island Bard.

To borrow Willis Conover’s title from his Lovecraft study, really and finally we have Lovecraft At Last. The time spent on the reading and research inspires awe. Years of devotion, years of work. One example of what long-time fans have awaiting them: the discussion of Lovecraft first encountering Robert W. Chambers and his masterpiece The King in Yellow — and what stories that meeting spawned. The same spadework applies to many other wordsmiths, including Arthur Machen and Algernon Blackwood. “The Great God Pan” and “Wendigo” are not forgotten in this study.

Haefele provides new insights of which most readers may not be aware — the chapter detailing Lovecraft’s first reading of William Hope Hodgson, for example. In great detail, he shows how the momentous collision of these two equally great writers helped provide the fuel for HPL’s classic “The Shadow out of Time.” As a life-long fan of Hodgson this section was undoubtedly my favorite and compels me, once again, to board Hodgson’s derelict ships and stick my toe into his eldritch waters, and do some serious rereading.

And of course that means “The Shadow out of Time” also goes back in the pile, awaiting reacquaintance.

The final years of Lovecraft are not neglected, either. It is painful to read portions of HPL’s letters where his self-doubt cripples his literary output to the point he is reluctant to submit his new manuscripts, certain of rejection by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright.

At this same time, while Lovecraft physically suffers due to lack of funds, Wright reprints earlier tales of Lovecraft’s, for which the writer would receive no royalties. Lovecraft: The Great Tales provides proof that it’s past time to reassess the editorial caprices of Farnsworth Wright.

A monumental work, Haefele’s investigation into his subject is prodigious. Yet the information flows smoothly from a pen familiar with the narrative drive needed to move the reader always forward. Never boring. Your mind will focus on Lovecraft and bring back fond memories of your first encounter with this great master of the fantastic.

Haefele’s book will take you over, like Lovecraft’s Necronomicon.

But in a good way.

Proust-like, once again I go back to that small bookstore, with the smell of new books filling the air, and fumble in my pockets for 95 cents, never dreaming that for less than a buck I’m about to embark on a lifelong journey.

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