Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Sea War in Bass Strait by Jack Loney.

The Sea War in Bass Strait by Jack Loney.  Paperback book published by Marine History Publications 1993, 71 pages with black and white photographs and a few black and white illustrations and maps.

This is not the first time I’ve written in this blog about Mr Loney’s oeuvre and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I write about this prolific scribbler.  I love finding his books as they always seem to be about the same thing… OK, maybe not exactly the same thing, but rather, similar things particularly in relation to geography and theme (Maritime history off the coast of Victoria, Australia).

For some strange reason, I find this particular title, or rather the subject matter, a little peculiar.  I just can’t imagine a foreign country travelling all that way around the world and then along the coast of Australia or via Antarctica to attack or invade.  Can you imagine Adolf sitting around wondering how long until he would be able to taste some of that King Island cheese… maybe not.  But the proof is in the pudding, the Germans and the Japanese did venture down to Bass Strait and cause concern during the Second World War.  They were both obviously keen on a bit of Australia and what better place to get some than the bottom right hand corner.  Sure, the top bits and Perth may have been easier, but beautiful Victoria is what they were checking out.

This book although very specific in its content, has the ever popular themes of Maritime History, Australian History and WWII.  It’s bound to be a winner and with Jack Loney at the helm you can’t really go wrong.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Brandt: The life of Brian by Faye Broberg

Brandt: The life of Brian by Faye Broberg, design by David Lancashire Design.  Paperback book no publisher listed 2005, 210 pages with black and white and colour photographs as well as a few illustrations.

So who was Brian Brandt? 


I’ve never heard of him.


Nope, still never heard of him.  I’ve just flicked through the book looking for all those images that I’m supposed to have seen everywhere and none of them ring any bells.  They are nice though, and it looks like the guy worked for some big companies.  It must be me.  Maybe I don’t notice this stuff as much as I’m supposed to.  Maybe I’m Brian’s worst nightmare.   

… except I did notice this book.  One of the things I can say about my hunting expeditions is that I tend to see many titles repeatedly, some titles occasionally and then there are those books that I have never seen before.  This was a “never seen before” and of interest enough for me to stop my speedy perusing and take a closer look.  It didn’t take long to figure out that this guy was an Australian photographer who worked in advertising and by all accounts, was incredibly successful.  My not being au fait with him or his work, was sort of irrelevant as advertising is obviously not one of my personal interests, but design, photography and advertising are of interest to many others and therefore despite having no idea about this guy, I took the plunge. 

If you look the book up on the usual websites you’ll see that it is indeed quite rare… actually it’s very rare… OK, there are no other copies for sale at the moment anywhere*.  Amazing… and all because I had a gut feeling about this “never seen before”.  So how much is it worth?

*… that my humble interweb skills can find.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Classic Australian Cakes: From Lamingtons to Swiss Rolls by Alice May.

Classic Australian Cakes: From Lamingtons to Swiss Rolls by Alice May.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards published by Allen & Unwin 1993, 64 pages with black and white and colour illustrations.


There’s a lot of cakes in this book that I’ve never had the pleasure of.  Growing up in a distinctly new Australian household, we never tasted the delights of Cream Puffs, Gallipoli Tea Cake or Ginger Sponge.  We did however have our own versions of the Vanilla Slice (Snot Block), Cinnamon Cake and Walnut Loaf, at least I think they were our* versions.  Possibly they weren’t.  One cake I do remember very well was the Swiss Roll.  My mother didn’t bake this one, she would always buy it.  For those unfamiliar with the joys of a Swiss Roll, it’s a thin sponge cake with a sickly sweet red jam rolled up inside it.  Mmmmmm.  It’s one of those comfort childhood summer foods, that I believe i wouldn’t enjoy as much now as I did then.

So this book does have a recipe for a Swiss Roll in all it’s glorious castor sugar, baking powder, hot jam, glory and yes I’m tempted despite my doubts.  As I write this, the idea of a Swiss Roll is taking shape and I do have a dinner party to cook for in a few weeks time.  But it would be simpler to buy a few from the supermarket in the same way my mother did.  Something to think about.

This book does have some wonderful vintage illustrations and advertisements (no Swiss Roll) which do add to the overall appeal in that sort of retro modern sort of way. 

I like this book. The recipes are simple and from a time when a cake was a cake.  It’s brief, to the point and very specific.  Nostalgic it is.  Even this hardened migrant background bookseller has some nostalgia for these old school Aussie cakes.  It now remains to be seen whether I go down the path of baking my own or going for shop made (Swiss Roll)… or choosing to go down a completely different cake path.  


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

India File by Trevor Fishlock.

India File by Trevor Fishlock.  Hardcover book published by John Murray 1983, 189 pages with a few black and white photographs.


As hard as it is to believe, I haven’t read all the books I have up for sale.  I have read this one though and it’s a real cracker.  Fishlock was a journalist who had spent a bit of time in India before writing this book, with a bit of time being about three years.  It was about five years after this that I read his book … and no, I don’t remember when I read every book that I have ever read.  In 1988 I first ventured forth to the Indian subcontinent and keen to get a better grip on what I was experiencing at the time, I followed the recommendations of “the”* travel guide at the time and read Trevors book.  I loved it.  It sort of a collection of journalism, travel, history etc articles stitched together with the fabric of what makes India, India.

“It is a book of strong contrasts, written with compassion and insight, humour and frankness.”

I can’t remember all the details of the book (… though the trip is etched permanently in my brain), but I do remember that it was fairly gritty in it’s content and that it left a lasting impression on me, so much so that thirty years after it’s publication I didn’t hesitate in picking up this copy when I chanced upon it.  Realistically it’s probably a bit out of date… but India is a timeless place and the issues that were around thirty years ago are still fairly relevant today.  Maybe I should reread it… i still have my original copy.

* Lonely Planet

Monday, May 13, 2013

An Open Swimmer by Tim Winton.

An Open Swimmer by Tim Winton.  Hardcover book published by George Allen & Unwin 1982, 173 pages.

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but this Tim Winton guy wins a lot of awards.  It’s as if there aren’t any other contenders and they have to give all the money and acclaim to the one guy who keeps churning them out as there are no other horses in the race.  This may seem a bit unfair to Tim’s writing abilities, but seriously, if you check the interwebs you’ll see what I mean.  There are of course “other horses in the race” but Tim appears to be like a Black Caviar of current Australian writers… except of course he doesn’t win everything like Black Caviar did… and he isn’t a horse.  Still it’s an impressive haul of trophies that Tim has acquired and going by his sales in the second hand book trade, he’d be winning them a second time around if this was what awards were based upon.

An Open Swimmer was Tim Winton’s very first foray and if you look at the dust jacket you can see that even as early as this he was a winner.  The book was written when Tim was a young 21 and I guess it was a taste of things to come.  It was only three years after this that Tim won his first Miles Franklin Award for “Shallows” and he has won it three more times since then.  This particular copy of An Open Swimmer is a first edition which like some firsts of early titles by popular authors, is worth a bit of $$$.  There are a few other early Tim’s that are worth a bit as they are now slightly difficult to find unlike his later books which are quite easy to find secondhand.  When I picked this book up, I wasn’t 100% on the value, just 100% on the authors abilities to sell.  The fact that it does have some value was an added bonus. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Japanese Sword: A Comprehensive Guide by Kanzan Sato.

The Japanese Sword: A Comprehensive Guide by Kanzan Sato.  Hardcover book published by Kodansha 1983, 210 pages with colour and black and white photographs as well as some colour and black and white illustrations.

“The Japanese sword combines unbreakability, rigidity, and lethal cutting power, and it is in the resolution of these conflicting practical requirements that it emerges as a triumph of the forger’s art. The mystique of the sword lingers on in our age of mechanized combat, but the aesthetic qualities for which swords are most valued by collectors today—the liveliness of the metal “skin,” the confidence in every aspect of the design, the scrolling temper-line, the almost buoyant lightness of the hilt when the blade is held in the hand— all derive from what the Japanese sword demanded as a symbol of strength and as a weapon. As an instrument of clear persuasion, no other blade anywhere has ever been its equal. This volume, containing color and black-and-white plates, has been prepared as an introduction to the history and appreciation of the Japanese sword. Its author, until his death in 1978, was one of Japan’s foremost sword experts, and his wide knowledge is here brought to bear on every aspect of sword lore, including forging techniques and problems of appraisal.”

There are no Japanese swords here at Huc & Gabet… actually, there are no swords of any sort from anywhere here at Huc & Gabet.  Would I ever conceivably own a sword?  Probably not.  But there are those, indeed many of those, who do or would.  I personally don’t know anyone who does, although my nephew has a collection of bayonets which I guess is sort of like a sword but on a gun… or is it more like a knife?  Anyway, I don’t know anyone with a sword fetish.

This was no stab in the dark purchase.  A book like this is a definitely a cut above the rest and definitely a book of interest.  There are lovely photographs and illustrations throughout and the text is passionate and authoritive.  I guess it’s designed to give you the edge in regards to Japanese Swords and I found it quite easy to swallow the idea of a Sword book being popular enough for me to purchase it.  Bad puns aside, this is a beautiful book and one that shouldn’t be too hard sell.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Clunes Booktown 2013: The aftermath

Probably the biggest surprise for me at this years Clunes Booktown (Bookfair), was the increase in my sales figures.  Without exaggeration, I had prepared myself and even hoped for similar takings to last year… or even a fraction less was half expected.  What I’m trying to say is that this bookseller would have been pleased to have maintained some sort of equilibrium in the current book buying climate.  The final figures ended up way exceeding my expectations even though it appeared that there were fewer people compared to last year, visiting our store.  But I should say that this was an observation made from behind a tiny desk tucked away in a corner of a shop with me busy scribbling down titles and collecting payments.  Despite my observation, there were enough sales to bring a smile to my face at the end of Sunday night (… or was it the too many glasses of red wine).  I’m very pleased.

I did manage to sell my first edition of One Hundred Years of Solitude to a fellow bookseller who was appreciative of the scarcity and quality of the book.  Besides making some money on the sale of Marquez’s masterpiece, I was pleased that someone who truly appreciated the book had bought it.  I have to say that most people over the weekend were in a great mood for book buying and talking about books and book buying.  This makes my job just that little bit easier.  There is a down side to all of this, in case anyone is reading this and thinking that the booksellers of Clunes must be raking in the cash.  The truth is that this one weekend makes up for all those $20 days when I (we) have sat in the shop (shops) in the middle of winter dreaming of the foot traffic of the Booktown weekend.  There is a hard truth that most of the bookshops here are not doing as well as they could be, even in this an International Booktown.  I still have confidence that the shop will perform better during the coming year, but in the meantime, on line sales will remain my bread and butter.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Clunes Booktown 2013 Friday.

Like last year, I opened the shop a day early to try and capture some of the pre booktown frenzy and not surprisingly I did manage to do this.  The theory was and still is, to accommodate those booksellers who like to peruse other booksellers stock so as to embellish their own stock and indeed the first sale of today was to a fellow bookseller… who of course asked for a discount (they didn’t get one*).  After that though everyone else was a shopper either trying to get in a day early or wanting to get an idea of what tomorrow will be like… and being one of the few premises open and ready for business, these people spent.  So today has been a good prequel to our busiest days of the year.  It will be an early start in the morning and I am ready.  Bring it on.

 A blurry photo of the shop.

* But I did indicate 10% discount was possible on purchases that total $100 or more... an offer they politely declined.