Brian Wallace sends me links to stuff all the time. He’s like my man-on-the-internet-street or an all-knowing stool pigeon or something, tracking down every hardboiled mention or rumor of a hardboiled mention.
Jeez. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. . . .
In three days I’ve got the talk or panel with Signman: John Law in Oakland, a couple of hours, and done. I figured after that I could hole up in my lair for the weekend, not do anything on the panel circuit for awhile.
Yeah, I know what some of you must be thinking: What kind of lame Autograph Hound Super-Sunday is this, anyway, that doesn’t even lay down a single John Hancock?
So, to deliver the goods, how about the inscription Seabury Quinn scratched into a copy of The Phantom Fighter for his longtime pal and fellow pulpster E. Hoffmann Price?
Late in 2010 J. Dan Price, only begotten son of E. Hoffmann Price, asked me about selling some of his dad’s library on eBay. I’d never sold anything on eBay, but how hard could it be? To start off — to see if he liked the action — Dan brought out a box from among numerous boxes and I selected five items to toss on the block.
If they were still on hand, I thought that the various books Clark Ashton Smith had inscribed to Ed would be the powerhouse offerings. But the CAS holdings weren’t in that box.
I did spot one book I thought would bring in some more serious loot. Quinn’s Phantom Fighter.
Here’s the blurbage I knocked out for eBay:
LOVECRAFT CIRCLE! Inscribed Seabury Quinn 1st to E. H. Price
As the first offering from the personal library of legendary pulp fictioneer E. Hoffmann Price, we have a special item — an inscribed copy of Seabury Quinn’s THE PHANTOM FIGHTER. Quinn (1889-1969) inscriptions are genuinely rare, with this from the hand of one pillar of WEIRD TALES magazine to another. Price (1898-1988) is famed as the only writer to have met the “Big Three” of WEIRD TALES — H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith — in person. And of course Price knew many others of that circle, as detailed in the posthumously published BOOK OF THE DEAD, “Memories of the Pulp Fiction Era,” Arkham House, 2001, which includes chapters on Quinn, Lovecraft, Howard, Smith, Edmond Hamilton, August Derleth and others.
THE PHANTOM FIGHTER — the first collection of the adventures of Quinn’s popular series character Jules de Grandin — was issued in 1966 in an edition of 2,022 copies by Arkham House publisher August Derleth under the sister imprint of Mycroft & Moran, devoted to tales of occult detection — in 1967 under the Arkham banner Derleth would publish the first collection of Price’s weird fantasy tales, STRANGE GATEWAYS.
Unlike his fellow fantasist Donald Wandrei (whose estate left many pristine first editions for resale), Price wasn’t a collector as such, and books from his library typically show signs of wear, casual staining, and occasional annotations. PHANTOM FIGHTER (actual item shown in image) bears an about Good unclipped dustjacket with edgewear, darkening, and slight edge chipping over a Very Good book with very minor staining to outer edges of text block. Since Price kept his library in the darkened living room of The Lamasery, his Oriental-carpeted eyrie in the hills above Redwood City, California, you can detect the weak ghost of a musty smell if you bury your nose in the pages — worth a warning for the super-sensitive. Other than the full-page inscription by Quinn, the only marking in the book occurs in the introduction where the author declares of de Grandin’s exploits, “Numerically his adventures total almost 300, chronologically they span a quarter-century.” As if in disbelief of his comrade’s productivity, the prolific pulpster E. Hoffmann Price underlined “300” with red ink and scribbled a small red question mark in the inner margin — and apparently Quinn was inflating his numbers by 200 or so. A significant association copy for any fan of WEIRD TALES, the Lovecraft Circle, occult detectives or the pulp era.
And the bidding began. When it wrapped up, the Quinn brought in $1058.00. I know the guy who nabbed it, an Arch-Arkham House Collector (Arkham House Arch-Collector?) who has set his sights on acquiring signed copies of every Arkham item that could be signed (with Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Hodgson and others no longer alive when the editions appeared). The Quinn was a tough one. He told me, “I had never seen or heard of a signed copy of this title, in some twenty years of collecting signed copies of Arkham House titles.”
Brian Leno got in on that bidding war, but as he noted, “The Phantom Fighter went much higher than I was able to afford at the time.”
When I finally exhausted the Ed library items worth putting on eBay, Phantom Fighter remained the biggest earner. The Clark Ashton Smith books came close, with The Dark Chateau at $999.99, Lost Worlds at $920.00, Out of Space and Time at $876.66, Spells and Philtres at $622.ooo and Nero at $565.00. REH’s Always Comes Evening netted $711.00. Edmond Hamilton’s rare Horror on the Asteroid jumped up there with $912.00.
And here’s the inscription. If you have several signed copies lying around, they’re worth some bucks.
On Autograph Hound Saturday we showed you the signatures. How about on Autograph Hound Super-Sunday we show you the book they came in? To nabthose autos you need this copy of the book.
Leno mentioned the battered condition of the dustjacket, which appeared “to have been involved in an altercation with some rabid gophers.”
Until and unless better evidence comes up, I figure that was just the fate of a book in the Jack Palance library. Like in one of his noir roles, Palance would talk sweet to the poor book, at first, then slap it around.
If that’s the case, to my mind that just makes the book that much more authentic.
I know many collectors who want the cleanest, most perfect examples of each item housed on their shelves. Probably the majority of collectors. I’m not that picky, and while I have a good number of very nice editions, I’m happy with reading copies — perhaps half my holdings would be reading copies. If I get a book as new, it stays as new. If I get a secondhand yellowback Knopf Machen with bookplates and previous owners names inside, cool.
The first time I distinctly remember thinking about this issue as a philosophical conundrum occurred when Charles Willeford sent me an inscribed hardback of his new book Something About a Soldier. He just stuck it in a regular manila envelope, no padding, no packing, and mailed it.
Somehow Soldier got through the mail intact, no corner bumping or any of the other major disasters you might imagine it was subject to in transit. But — here’s the but — the dustjacket slipped up above the boards about a quarter inch and showed some faint crease marks. I figure that happened as he put it in the envelope. So, it created a defect, but it was a personal Willefordian defect.
I thought briefly about just getting a perfect dustjacket and replacing the one Willeford gave me. I could do it today, if I wanted to. But for me the slight creasing makes this copy in this jacket the real deal.
I imagine Brian Leno would prefer a perfect jacket on his copy of Roads. But I doubt he’d take one if he had to sacrifice the wrapper manhandled by Jack Palance.
That signature — as above — was done on the bottom of the inside front flap.
Kind of interesting that the artist signed not only the book but also the jacket, indicating he knew or suspected his cover in and of itself had collectors value — that perhaps someday the dustjacket could be moving from collection to collection without the book. Early in the history of dustjackets, they were regarded much like wrapping paper or other disposable packaging, which is why older examples of djs are scarce. Many people bought a new book and immediately threw the jacket away.
By the time Finlay was in the biz, jackets had become attractive enough most people kept them on the book — and today jackets usually are worth far more than the books. Ephemeral, easily torn or soiled, a great condition jacket pops up the value of a rare book. Search around for copies of The Maltese Falcon — or anything, really — with jacket and without. Compare those prices.
At any rate, that gave me and Leno something to talk about, and Brian mentioned that he had the idea that Finlay often signed dustjackets.
“But,” Brian added, “I hunted around online and only found two others for sure — The Outsider where he signed the back flap, and the Roads owned by the guy who wants almost $2000 for it. That copy Finlay signed on the front flap near the price.
“Mine, as you can see, is signed on the bottom.
“I’m almost positive I’ve seen other examples, but I can’t prove it. Three does not make a trend, although I do find it rather interesting that he would sign the dustjacket flaps at all.
Autograph Hound Saturday again, time for that old Autograph Hound Dog Brian Leno to pull something out of his collection and amuse the audience with a John Hancock or two. Today he’s selected to trot out a 1948 Arkham House release, and says, “I hope I don’t sound too boastful in this post, god knows getting a good collection is mostly being there at the right place and time, and having the money.”
Modestyaccounted for, here’s Brian on one of the most elusive signatures in weird fiction:
Enlisting the services of a Jules de Grandin may be necessary when it comes to obtaining a Seabury Quinn signature. Almost eighty when he died, Quinn is nevertheless quite a rarity and not cheap when found.
Still I have had a couple of opportunities to purchase examples of Quinn’s auto in his two Arkham House books — The Phantom Fighter (1966) and Roads (1948).
The Phantom Fighter went much higher than I was able to afford at the time, but luck finally found me and I was able to catch a Quinn in his delightful Christmas story, Roads. But it wasn’t easy.
I stumbled upon a signed copy of Roads on eBay some time back, and not only was it signed once by Quinn, but it was also autographed by artist Virgil Finlay, twice. So, realizing this book had my name stamped on it, I engaged in a bidding war with another buyer who foolishly thought he could outbid me.
Imagine my mortification when I ended up in second place.
After swearing steadily for about ten minutes I just walked away from the computer, thinking that perhaps if I had just ventured a little higher bid. . . .
About an hour later I checked my email and saw that the seller of the book had written and notified me that he had a second copy of Roads, signed once by Quinn, twice by Finlay, and since I had come in with the second highest bid he’d give it to me for that.
I started to drool when he mentioned that this copy of Roads had been purchased at the auctioning off of the Jack Palance estate in 2006.
So, I was not only going to get my Quinn signature, but it was in a book owned by the man who portrayed one of the greatest western villains of all-time, Jack Wilson, in Shane (1953).
Of course I did my due diligence and checked out the bookseller and found I needn’t have had any worries about his veracity. I wrote back, confirmed the order, and asked for more details. “In October of 2006,” the seller wrote, “we spent 5 days at the Jack Palance estate. . . where we purchased over 2000 rare books, art, and Jack Palance’s player piano.” He added, when I asked for yet more information, “It was books, art, Antiques, ephemera, antique toys, stamps, marbles, glass items galore, and movie memorabilia, saddles, tools, and then they sold the farm and farmhouse.”
After he shipped the book he wrote and told me he’d forgot to add that the book had been signed twice by Quinn also, once on the title page, plus on the very last page, right beneath the Finlay drawing. He stated that I was getting a really good deal.
He was right, it was a dream purchase. An Arkham House edition once owned by Jack Palance and signed twice by both Seabury Quinn and Virgil Finlay. It really doesn’t get any better.
While this treasure will never leave my collection, I was interested to see if I could find any copy comparable to mine — and the asking price. The closest I came was priced at a little less than 2000 dollars, signed twice by Finlay and once by Quinn. The seller stated the book suffered from some minor smoke damage, but that the dust jacket was in beautiful shape.
The dj on my Arkham appears to have been involved in an altercation with some rabid gophers. Despite the dust jacket being less than perfect, the two Quinn signatures and the Jack Palance ownership pushes this purchase of mine well over the top.
It’s possible there’s a better copy out there for the collector, but I doubt it.
You’re going to have to show it to me.
You’re going to have to — as Palance says to Alan Ladd in Shane, just before the classic showdown — “prove it.”
A week from today I’ll sit in for a talk with Signman: John Law — I see it’ll cost eight bucks to get in, but we’ll shoot for entertaining. John Q. Publick almost never gets to hear us rattling off yarns about the exploits of The Suicide Club, so here’s your chance.
As part of the gallery exhibit John — a.k.a. Sebastian Melmoth, alias Vito Lawtoni, among many other monikers — has a large spread on the Fatty Arbuckle Kidnapping Caper we pulled off in 1981. The last major Initiation into the Club occurred mere blocks from the gallery, in the Fox Theatre — at the time derelict, dust-choked — one of my two closest brushes with death in that secret society occurred that night in the Fox. And John was off hitchhiking across America when an entire group of us almost bought our tickets early in 1977.
While you’re on scene you can check out the other exhibits, such as the neon smiley face John and cohorts hid inside Burning Man (Larry Harvey went nuts). Or the neon vulva exhibited in an all-women’s art show by, who was it, Samantha Melmoth?
So many hidden identities. A legion of pranksters. Or a fistful of pranksters, a legion of pranks.
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 — such as the one above from Seven Footprints to Satan commenting on his book v. the movie version.
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.
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.