When laying out his origin story as a collector of signed books the other day, Kevin Cook told me not to bother using the details about hanging out with Karl Edward Wagner, watching the local college team on the tube, and so forth. Nope, I told him, that’s the kind of info people enjoy, puts you on the scene. I’m using it.
Sure enough, Kevin’s fellow maniacal autograph collector Brian Leno dropped me a note to say, “Enjoyed the post about Kevin and Wagner. Would have been pretty cool to have hung out with Wagner for a while.
“First autographed book I ever picked up was Sowers of the Thunder.
“First personal signing was when Clifford Simak autographed an old copy of City for me. Nice guy but no photographic record — which would have notched it up a couple.
“Next was Harlan Ellison, I believe. He had just finished berating the audience, pretty much calling all of us assholes, but when I took Deathbird Stories up for him to sign he couldn’t have been nicer.
“I was pretty sure Ellison meant everybody but me in the audience was an asshole.
“There was a heckler in the audience and Ellison said he could use the microphone, like a whip, and bash the guy’s teeth out.
“I got a kick out of him.”
So that’s Brian reacting to the idea of the first books a guy may have gotten signed. But here’s the thing: Brian is a stone-cold flat-out autograph hound. We all know that — he’s proven it again and again.
I haven’t come out and just asked him, but I’d bet money in one of the lowlife casinos he dealt cards in that he was picking up John Hancocks on slips of paper before he ever bought a book just for the autograph, or had Simak and Ellison scrawl their names in a couple of books.
Today Brian wrote to report, “I told you I’m clearing some stuff out of my room and I’m finding some neat things I haven’t seen in probably 20 years.
“Anyway, I’ve always kind of wanted a Frank Buck signature and every so often I see one I would like — but something else catches my eye and so I forget about Frank. Buck it, you might say.
“Imagine my surprise when I discovered an old receipt for a Buck signed picture I must have purchased years ago. Don’t know where the Buck bastard is at, but I must have it somewhere.
“Sounds really nice: 9×13, old Hollywood shot.
“I’m going to paste my Basil Rathbone signature to my forehead, stick a pipe in my mouth and act like I live on Baker Street.
“Odds are I don’t find it.
“Not right away, for sure.”