Monday, August 23, 2010

The Cobb Book by Ron Cobb.

Way back in the 1970s, when I was young, foolish and impressionable… and in high school, I discovered a well thumbed copy of “The Cobb Book” (paperback) in the school library.  Ron Cobb was/is an American cartoonist and this book was a compilation of eight years work mainly published in the Los Angeles Free Press after 1966 and up to this collection being published (1975).  I remember being obsessed with the images, I don’t remember them making me laugh, if anything they made me a little sad…. they still do.  It’s a grim world that Ron Cobb shows us, without much hope, full of environmental disaster, war, race issues, religion, drugs, etc. just the sort of thing a teenage boy growing up in the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1970s needed.  So what were the librarians thinking when they decided to put this fine tome into the collection?  My education was all the more rounded due to it, I learnt things from it….maybe not what they wanted me to learn…maybe that was the point…but you know looking in particular at the drug topics covered, I don’t think anyone thought too hard about how suitable this book would be.  Maybe time has changed our view on this sort of content and I’m now looking at it with 2010 glasses on.  I do know that this book influenced me as a teenager, despite the darkness.  I recently found a copy and snapped it up with a fond nostalgia and flicking through it now over 30 years later, I know these images have remained back there deep in my psyche probably as scar tissue.

As a bookseller I obviously buy books to resell, which is why I bought this book.  There are a number of important things about selling a secondhand book, particularly on line, and most of them are the condition the book is in.  Over the years I have found a few other copies of this book and what I have written above has gone through my head each time.  But all the other copies of this book that I have found have started to fall apart due to age, or like my high school copy have been a little too “thumbed”, or a combination of the two.  I was so pleased to find this copy, nice tight binding, minimal wear to the cover, and no loose pages… until…  When I write up a book to sell on line, I copy either the publishers blurb or the introduction and include it with the listing, that way the buyer gets a better idea of what they are purchasing.  So I gently open the book to copy the introduction and…. you guessed it, the binding cracked and the pages start falling out.  Today I copied the images that are with this listing and every page I opened fell out.  Like the contents this made me a little sad… but maybe that’s the point. 

Ron Cobb is one those people who keep popping up here and there.  Most recently I saw him on a DVD of extras of the first “Alien” film directed by Ridley Scott (by the way the extra disc on this DVD is awesome, I rarely watch these things through as they can be quite dull, this one is very long and is jaw droppingly good.).  Some of you probably know this already but Cobb did some of the design and artwork for this excellent film, not the Alien stuff but the Nostromo, which also just happens to be one of my favourite literary references.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Australian Greyhound Pedigrees by Paul Munt and Peter Quilty. (1989)

Greyhounds and Greyhound racing, from what I can gather, are still as popular as ever.  My main evidence for this, is that Greyhound books sell.  This book is a little more obscure than some of the training guides that I have sold in the past.  The book lists literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of dogs and has information about who begat whom up to 1989.  To us outsiders this bible of Greyhound information is very dry and well…. just a list of dogs that run around a track and never catch the fake rabbit.  To a Greyhound breeder looking for that important piece of information about their prospective winner, this book is gold… or maybe it was gold.  Unfortunately (?) I’m not in with the Greyhound fraternity or any other dog breeding brotherhood, so I’m not sure whether 21 year old pedigree information is still relevant, but I imagine it must be of some interest… to someone.  A quick look around the www shows that there are not many copies of this book floating around.  This is either very good or very bad.  Good because the book is rare and demand is so high that copies get snapped up quickly.  Bad because the information is outdated and no one wants it, therefore no one sells it.  To be honest I don’t know which it is.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Holy Flower by H. Rider Haggard.

The Holy Flower is part of the Allan Quartermain series, which began with King Solomon's Mines in1885. This undated copy looks like its from the 1920s or 30s.

“I do not suppose that anyone who knows the name of Allan Quatermain would be likely to associate it with flowers, and especially with orchids. Yet as it happens it was once my lot to take part in an orchid hunt of so remarkable a character that I think its details should not be lost. At least I will set them down, and if in the after days anyone cares to publish them, well - he is at liberty to do so.” Chapter 1, first paragraph.

Vintage adventure novels of this sort, seem to have lost their flavour.  I guess if you want to escape to an exotic location (preferably Africa), cut through the jungle, find the diamond, rip open bodices (it’s the heat you know), save the girl… all of this whilst wearing a pith helmet… well… you just don’t.  Not that this happens in this book (it may, I haven’t read it), I am generalising and stereotyping in the best tradition of doing this sort of thing.  In this day and age if you crave exotic locations, you go there.  When this book was written it was a little more difficult and required big dollars and lots of time, now you go on safari for a day or two after watching your country loose at the world cup and diamonds are available duty free at the airport.  Also colonialism and political incorrectness are no longer as fashionable as they once were (?), look at Conrad and Kipling (“Do you like Kipling?” “I don’t know, I’ve never kippled.”).  Nostalgia once again is the appeal with this sort of title.  If you read this book or this sort of book as a kid, you may want to relive the adventure once again, or avoid it (please correct me if I’m wrong).  The binding and artwork of this particular copy are quite beautiful and let the book sit quite handsomely on the shelf.  There is some other wear, but overall it does look great, which is probably one of the main reasons i selected this book to sell and to write about here.  Finally the last sentence of the opening paragraph is of interest and I truly doubt that any contemporary writer would write “…and if in the after days anyone cares to publish them, well - he is at liberty to do so.” …a publishers nightmare, and probably another example of why this sort of book has lost its flavour.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Wombles

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, even if it isn’t mine.  (I’m tempted to write “wombleful thing” but that’s stretching even my punning abilities).  I vaguely remember the Wombles on TV here in Australia back in the 1970s.  For some reason it was not on my TV viewing radar, so I can honestly say that my Womble knowledge is minimal.  I do remember there was something about picking up rubbish….? and I do remember they were British (well the TV show was).  A quick search on the net and apparently there are Wombles all over the world (even Australia), but the books and TV series mainly look at those that live in the UK (Wimbledon Common).  There were  5 original novels, a few spin offs, recordings, some other appearances in various bits and pieces and of course, the TV series.

So over the last month, in 3 different locations, I have found 3 Womble novels, all hardcovers and all have wear.  In the years since I began selling books I have never found a Womble title until now and most interestingly they are all in the same worn condition.  Maybe that isn’t so interesting or suprising.  The books are all from the roughly the same vintage (1970s) and they were all owned by children.  No wonder the dust jackets have rips and the books are as worn and marked as they are.  These books were read and loved… the condition is probably as good a recommendation as you can get. 

Sunday, August 8, 2010

How to be a Villain by Neil Zawacki

““Should I wear black or red?”
“Do I go with winged monkeys or ninja warriors?”
“Just where will I put the evil lair?”
Questions like these trouble any self-respecting villain. Now, for the first time ever, there is a handy guide to resolving these and other quandaries. HOW TO BE A VILLAIN includes:
• How to Do an Evil Laugh
• The Evil Henchmen Guide
• Fashion for the Evil-Doer
• The Evil Plan Generator
Whatever your evil background or experience, HOW TO BE A VILLAIN will help you discover and develop your inner darkness.”

This book is published by Chronicle Books, an American Publisher, who publish quite a few humourous and other titles including all those “Worst Case Scenario” books.  I like the look of their books. They understand that a book of this sort should be eye catching and well…. a little glossy, lots of hip and cool illustrations (?) and funny….  Now, I’m mentioning this book in this blog because of an observation I have made over the last few years, Chronicle books are very hard to sell secondhand on line, so much so that I generally wont list books that are published by these people.  This is not the sort of observation I make about any other publisher.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the books, they look great and I honestly believe these books should/could sell, they just don’t.  There could be many reasons for the lack of interest, my favourite theory is that this sort of book is more of a physical purchase, in that a buyer needs to be tempted by flicking through, and seeing the great illustrations and reading a snippet of the text.  A brief description on a computer screen can’t really do this book justice.  The other theory (and remember these are just theories) is that these books are intended as “fluffy” gifts.  “What am I going to buy Uncle Dave for Christmas?…” and that is probably why I and many other secondhand booksellers end up with these books.  All the Uncle Dave’s had a good laugh and then decided it was time to move the book along.  So why have I got a copy of this book….?  Well I thought I’d give it another go, you never know.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Moths of Australia by I.F.B. Common

I recently found a copy of this title and snapped it up without any real knowledge about its literary or monetary value. A quick look around the net (I usually check ABE) and it was confirmed.  This book, according to the www, is gold… well at least in regards to $$$ and glancing briefly through the text, it looks like its authoritive.  When I look for books to sell, and I look at a lot of books, that well, to be honest, aren’t very interesting, I consider whether there would be anyone out there interested in the subject.  That goes for every single book I look at.  Sometimes I get it wrong but sometimes I get it right.  As of writing this, I haven’t listed this book for sale and time will tell whether it will sell.  Now I’m writing about this book as it is of particular interest, as I have no interest in the subject at all, as a matter of fact I don’t like moths and think I have slight Mottephobia (yep… look it up).  To me the pictures are horrific just look at that cover, what are those bulbous thingys… don’t tell me I don’t want to know… and the book has more pictures…. of these creepy, kamikaze insects, give me a book on surgical hand reconstruction any day.  But I am sure there is someone out there who thinks this picture and the book as a whole are of great interest.  I’ll keep you up to date on whether it sells.