Rediscovered: Beat to Crap by Jack Palance

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 nab those 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.

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