VICTORY!

Earlier this week, buried deep within a box of books and artifacts that came into the shop, was a tattered, age-faded and crumbling newspaper. It is the Paris edition of Stars and Stripes, the official organ of the War Department (later known as the Defense Department).victory

“Victory” is proclaimed in a one-word banner headline blazened across the top of the page. This edition of this newspaper scooped the world with the announcement of the end of the war in Europe. It was the first publication of what was the biggest story of the century (at least up to that point).

And thereby hangs a tale. And it is not a pretty one.

Here’s how the story goes, according to the Stars and Stripes website, posted there earlier this year:

“The end of World War II in Europe 70 years ago this week was a joyous occasion for virtually all Americans — save for the journalist who broke the surrender story, a scoop that turned him into a pariah and dashed his career.

Edward Kennedy, the Paris bureau chief for the Associated Press, broke a 36-hour restriction against publishing the news set by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, bringing the wrath of the brass and his fellow reporters down on him.

“Within hours, a petition had been drafted and signed by 54 of the war correspondents attached to SHAEF in Paris,” wrote Michael Scully, an assistant professor of journalism at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, in an analysis of the episode published last year in the Irish Communications Review.

“In it, they angrily denounced Kennedy’s decision to break the embargo and called Kennedy’s ethics into question.”

The Allied Command swiftly revoked Kennedy’s press credentials and, for good measure, suspended credentials for all Associated Press staffers working in Europe.

As Scully points out, the dividing line between the military and war correspondents during WWII was by no means clear, and the reporters were largely viewed as “unofficial” extensions of the military staff.
So when Gen. Frank Allen, Jr., SHAEF’s head of public relations, gathered a bevy of reporters to witness the German surrender ceremony on May 7, 1945, in Reims, France, he expected they would all abide by the 36-hour embargo put in place barring publication.

The press corps hotly objected to the block, arguing that the news would leak out in that amount of time, but Allen remained adamant.
Nevertheless, Kennedy, along with two of his top rivals working for the International News Agency and United Press, raced back to Paris to write their stories and then jockeyed for position at the sole Signal Corps telegraph office.

The embargo, however, ate away at Kennedy, who had been burned before by such obstructions. Two years earlier, he’d been poised to publish a story about Gen. George Patton slapping two soldiers in Sicily during a hospital inspection. Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower had personally asked Kennedy not to publish the story; Kennedy was scooped by a fellow reporter after complying.

When Kennedy became aware that news of the German surrender already was being broadcast on German radio, he would wait no longer. He patched a phone call through a French-run military air base on the edge of Paris and dictated about 300 words of his surrender story to the AP in London. His story, with byline, ran in most U.S. newspapers on the morning of May 8.

The AP first touted the story as “the scoop of the century,” but the message quickly changed.

“It’s not clear what deals, if any, were made between the AP management and the U.S. government, but the AP press access was quickly restored and an apology was given by AP President Robert McLean,” Scully wrote.
Kennedy spent several years pressing the U.S. government to explain its decisions regarding the surrender announcement. The government admitted that Eisenhower had authorized German authorities to broadcast news of the surrender over the radio before the embargo had ended.
For Kennedy, that was vindication he had not violated the embargo because the news had already been made public, Scully wrote.

“In the years afterward, Kennedy never came to terms with his standing in the news industry,” Scully wrote.

The president of the Associated Press issued a formal apology in 2012 for how the news organization had treated Kennedy.

For Kennedy, it came far too late.

In the years after war’s end, he drank alcohol heavily, lost his driver’s license and was divorced. He moved to California and worked for several newspapers, and while walking home one evening in 1963, the 58-year-old newsman whose byline once graced the scoop of the century was hit and killed by a car.”

The original owner of the newspaper had kept it as a relic of World War II; most probably it was a “bring back” souvenir of war.

Unfortunately it was not stored properly and the years hadn’t been kind. A copy that is whole, with only minor tears and staining, can be found online for about $150 to $200. This one, in pieces now, is a curiosity item and will find a home (hopefully) for only about 25% of that value.

Still, it is a relic; and one that becomes just a little more poignant when this, the whole story from history’s backwash is known.

Mein Kampf: Not banned, but prohibited.

While we’re on the subject of banned books:

THIS BOOK IS ILLEGAL! Well, not exactly. But it does carry prohibitions in many European countries.mein kampf

This is a presentation copy of Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) by Adolf Hitler. This particular volume is part of the 1939 edition, published in Munich, which had a total run of 14,000 leather-bound copies (a little over 10,000 were sold). It was produced to commemorate Der Fuhrer’s 50th birthday. It was probably a “bring back” souvenir following World War II, and current retail value in this condition is between $250 and $300.

The copy pictured here happened to walk in the door of The York Emporium earlier this week, buried and dusty, amid several boxes of otherwise forgettable tomes from the 1940s & 1950s.

This a copy of the special edition, known as the Jubiläumsausgabe, or “Anniversary Issue”. It came in both dark blue and bright red boards with a gold sword on the cover. It was considered a deluxe version, relative to the smaller and more common Volksausgabe. What increases its value in the U.S. is that it is printed in the German Old Style type (“fractur”) and it is a relic, if you will, of the War.

Mein Kampf, of course, is a book written by Hitler while in prison. He dictated (no pun intended) the work to his secretary Rudolf Hess. It is his autobiography, his political philosophy, and his plans for the future of Germany.

Wildly anti-Semitic, and not a very good read, it was first published in 1925 with an intended audience of his newly-formed National Socialist (Nazi) political party. It was wildly ignored at the time.

The book grew in popularity during the next several years, and by the time he came to power, in 1933, sales had increased to some 240,000 copies (a pretty big number in depression-era Germany). It is reported that his tax debt from royalties exceeded $1.5-million in today’s dollars (this debt was somehow forgiven when he became Chancellor).

By the start of the War, of course, Hitler was a bona fide BIG DEAL, and the book went into huge circulation. Copies were given to couples on their wedding day and given to troops on active duty. It was a popular gift for birthdays and anniversaries.

Following the surrender, not so much.

In fact, it was illegal to own a copy in much of Europe. Even today, should you try to buy it through amazon.com, you will be met with a prohibition: “This is a US/Canada only edition and shall/must only be sold in US/Canada. This edition should not be sold outside of US/Canada/New Zealand/South Africa/Japan.”

The prohibition is largely symbolic. Editions abound in a number of languages as digital files for e-readers, and in PDF format. Once it is online, it cannot really be taken back.

At the time of his suicide, Hitler’s official place of residence was in Munich, which led to his entire estate, including all rights to Mein Kampf, changing to the ownership of the state of Bavaria. As per German copyright law, the entire text is scheduled to enter the public domain on January 1, 2016; 70 years after the author’s death. The government of Bavaria refuses to allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany, and opposes it also in other countries…but with less success.

Actually, owning and buying the book is legal. Trading in old copies is legal as well, unless it is done in such a fashion as to “promote hatred or war”, which is generally illegal. Most German libraries carry heavily commented and excerpted versions of Mein Kampf. In 2008, Stephan Kramer, secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, not only recommended lifting the ban, but volunteered the help of his organization in editing and annotating the text, saying that it is time for the book to be made available to all online.

Part of the irony of all this is that Hitler himself tried to distance himself from the book shortly after he came to power, calling it “fantasies behind bars.” He said that, “If I had had any idea in 1924 that I would have become Reich chancellor, I never would have written the book.”

So, technically, the book isn’t banned. But it is prohibited. It can be printed in German, but it cannot be printed in Germany (until next year) without violating copyright laws. You can also download a free copy from numerous sites online.

Banned Books Week

This is Banned Books Week 2015. Since 1982, this annual, international, event has taken place during the last week of September.

The entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, bannedteachers, and readers of all types –- comes together in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

Banned Books Week not only encourages readers to examine challenged literary works, but also promotes intellectual freedom in libraries, schools, and bookstore. Its goal is “to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.”

The tradition of banning books is a long one and seems to date to the reign of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang, sometime around 230 BC. It seems that the Emperor didn’t like some of the things that philosopher Confucius had to say some two hundred years before him, so he banned his writings along with the then-contemporary commentaries by devotees. The whole story is a little murky (we have had, after all, more than 2,300 years to murk it up), but seems that it was effective at the time.

The tradition continued through European history with book burnings in in Florence in 1497-98 at the behest of the highly opinionated priest Savonarola (those were known forevermore as the original “bonfire of the vanities”) and, in 1559, with the creation of the Catholic Church’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum. New and updated editions of the Index were published at regular intervals until 1948. It wasn’t until nearly 20 years after that it was finally done away with. That’s over four centuries of official religious regulation of Catholics’ reading materials. At various times, influential works by authors such as Immanuel Kant, Simone de Beauvoir, and John Milton were placed on the list.

The Nazis held highly publicized book burnings throughout pre-war Gebooks are weaponsrmany, and those produced a backlash here in the US, with our government responding with “morale” posters and book drives for soldiers.

On our side of the pond, the banning of books started with The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption by William Pynchon in 1650. The work was a rather critical review of Puritanism. Pynchon was kicked out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and his book was publicly burned in downtown Boston.

Here is a list (in alphabetical order by title) of the most banned and challenged books of the past 100 years in the US:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn         Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer                   Mark Twin
Alice (series)                                                     Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
All The King’s Men                                          Robert Penn Warren
Always Running                                              Luis J. Rodriguez
American Psycho                                            Bret Easton Ellis
An American Tragedy                                    Theodore Dreiser
The Anarchist Cookbook                               William Powell
Anastasia Again!                                             Lois Lowry
And Tango Makes Three                                J. Richardson & P. Parnell
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging Louise Rennison
Annie on My Mind                                         Nancy Garden
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret       Judy Blume
Arming America                                            Michael Bellasiles
Arizona Kid                                                     Ron Koertge
As I Lay Dying                                                William Faulkner
Asking About Sex and Growing Up            Joanna Cox
Athletic Shorts                                               Chris Crucher
Beloved                                                           Toni Morrison
Black Boy                                                        Richard Wright
Bless Me, Ultima                                           Rudolfo A, Anaya
Blood and Chocolate                                    Annette Curtis Klause
Blubber                                                           Judy Blume
The Bluest Eye                                               Toni Morrison
The Boy Who Lost His Face                        Louis Sachar
Boys and Sex                                                  Wardell Pomerey
Brave New World                                         Aldus Huxley
Bridge to Terabithia                                     Katherine Paterson
Bumps in the Night                                      Harry Allard
The Call of the Wild                                      Jack London
Captain Underpants                                     Dov Pilkey
The Catcher in the Rye                                J.D. Salinger
Catch-22                                                         Joseph Heller
Cat’s Cradle                                                   Kurt Vonnegut
The Chocolate War                                      Robert Cormier
Christine                                                        Stephen King
A Clockwork Orange                                  Anthony Burgess
The Color Purple                                         Alice Walker
Crank                                                            Ellen Hopkins
Crazy Lady                                                    Jane Conly
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat       Alan Schwartz
Cujo                                                                Stephen King
Curses, Hexes and Spells                           Daniel Cohen
Daddy’s Roommate                                     Michael Willoite
A Day No Pigs Would Die                           Robert Newton Peck
The Dead Zone                                             Stephen King
Deenie                                                            Judy Blume
The Drowning of Stephen Jones               Bette Greene
Earth’s Children (series)                             Jean M. Auel
The Exorcist                                                  William Peter Blatty
The Face on the Milk Carton                      Caroline B. Cooney
Fade                                                                Robert Cormier
Fallen Angels                                                Walter Dean Myers
Family Secrets                                              Norma Klein
A Farewell to Arms                                      Ernest Hemingway
Final Exit                                                       Derek Humphry
Flowers for Algernon                                  Daniel Keyes
For Whom The Bell Tolls                           Ernest Hemingway
Forever                                                          Judy Blume
Girls and Sex                                               Wardell Pomeroy
The Giver                                                      Lois Lowry
Go Ask Alice                                                 Anonymous
Go Tell It On The Mountain                       James Baldwin
The Goats                                                      Brook Cole
Gone With The Wind                                  Margaret Mitchell
Goosebumps (series)                                  R.L. Stine
The Grapes of Wrath                                  John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby                                         F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gilly Hopkins                            Katherine Paterson
Guess What?                                                Mem Fox
Halloween ABC                                           Eve Merriam
The Handmaid’s Tale                                 Margaret Atwood
Harry Potter (series)                                   J.K. Rowling
Heart of Darkness                                       Joseph Conrad
Heather Has Two Mommies                     Leslea Newman
The House of Spirits                                   Isabel Allende
How To Eat Fried Worms                          Thomas Rockwell
The Hunger Games                                     Suzanne Collins
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings          Maya Angelou
In Cold Blood                                                Truman Capote
In the Night Kitchen                                   Maurice Sendak
Invisible Man                                               Ralph Ellison
It’s Perfectly Normal                                   Robie Harris
It’s So Amazing                                             Robie Harris
Jack                                                                A.M. Homes
James and the Giant Peach                        Roald Dahl
Jay’s Journal                                                 Anonymous
Julie of the Wolves                                       Jean Craighead George
Jump Ship to Freedom                                L. Collier and C. Collier
Jumper                                                           Stephen Gould
The Jungle                                                     Upton Sinclair
Kaffir Boy                                                      Mark Mathabane
Killing Mr. Griffin                                        Lois Duncan
Lady Chatterley’s Lover                             D.H. Lawrence
A Light in the Attic                                      Shel Silverstein
Little Black Sambo                                      Helen Bannerman
Lolita                                                             Vladimir Nabokov
Lord of the Flies                                          William Golding
Mommy Laid An Egg                                  Babette Cole
My Brother Sam Is Dead                            J.L. Collier and C. Collier
The Naked and the Dead                           Norman Mailer
The Naked Lunch                                        William S. Burroughs
Native Son                                                     Richard Wright
The New Joy of Gay Sex                              C. Silverstein & F. Picano
Nineteen Eighty-four                                  George Orwell
Of Mice and Men                                         John Steinbeck
On My Honor                                               Marion Dane Bauer
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest           Ken Kesey
Ordinary People                                          Judith Guest
The Outsiders                                              S.E. Hinton
The Perks of Being a Wallflower            Stephen Chbosky
The Pillars of the Earth                            Ken Follett
The Pigman                                                Paul Zindel
Private Parts                                               Howard Stern
Rabbit, Run                                                 John Updike
The Rabbit’s Wedding                              Garth Williams
Rainbow Boys                                            Alex Sanchez
Running Loose                                          Chris Crutcher
The Satanic Verses                                    Salman Rushdie
Scary Stories (series)                                Alvin Schwartz
A Separate Peace                                       John Knowles
Sex                                                               Madonna
Sex Education                                           Jenny Davis
Slaughterhouse-Five                                Kurt Vonnegut
The Sledding Hill                                       Chris Crutcher
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy                          Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
Song of Solomon                                       Toni Morrison
Sons and Lovers                                       D.H. Lawrence
The Stupids (series)                                 Harry Allard
Summer of My German Soldier             Bette Greene
The Sun Also Rises                                  Ernest Hemingway
That Was Then, This Is Now                  S.E. Hinton
Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora   Neale Hurston
Tiger Eyes                                                  Judy Blume
To Kill A Mockingbird                             Harper Lee
Tropic of Cancer                                       Henry Miller
View from the Cherry Tree                    Willo Davis Roberts
We All Fall Down                                      Robert Cormier
Whale Talk                                               Chris Crutcher
What My Mother Doesn’t Know            Sonya Sones
What’s Happening to My Body? Book for Boys Lynda Madara
What’s Happening To My Body? Book for Girls Lynda Madara
Where Did I Come From?                      Peter Mayle
The Wish Giver                                        Bill Brittain
The Witches                                             Roald Dahl
Women in Love                                       D.H. Lawrence
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Sexual         Fantasies                      Nancy Friday
A Wrinkle In Time                                    Madeleine L’Engle

There’s actually some pretty good reading on this list. Not all will fall into this category; some were written for the shock value, but many were not.

I take pride in saying that many, if not all, of these may be found on the shelves of The York Emporium.

So now you have the opportunity to strike a blow for liberty: Resolve right now to sit down this week and read something that someone didn’t want you to see.

It will make you feel better.

Banned Books Week was created and principally sponsored by the American Library Association, and is now co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers for Free Expression, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, The Association of American Publishers, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, the National Association of College Stores, the People for the American Way, the PEN American Center and Project Censored.

Sally Rand

The MidAtlantic Nostalgia Convention took place this past weekend at Hunt Valley, MD. This is an annual event; one that draws participants from around the country. This year, it also drew me.

You can find, in the vendor room, autographs, VHS tapes and DVDs of movies and TV shows. Scarce compilations of old time radio series (“You Bet Your Life”; “Johnny Dollar”). T-Shirts. Blooper reels and out-takes from the likes of Hogan’s Heros, Star Trek and Star Wars. And lots and lots of interesting collectibles (Tarzan trading cards, older Halloween costumes, obscure 1950s science fiction toys and action figures). And all kinds of stuff (anyone who knows me, knows that I do, very much, like stuff).

It brings celebrities and near-celebrities too. Two of the actors from My Three Sons were there (Barry and Stanley Livingston, real-life brothers who played, respectively, Ernie and Chip Douglas from the show). As was Tempest Storm (1950s-1960s exotic dancer and reputed paramour of both Elvis and JFK), Angela Cartwright (of Make Room for Daddy, Lost In Space and Sound of Music). Ms. Storm (yes, that is her real name) is getting up there in years and doesn’t much look like her photos from back in the day. But Ms. Cartwright is actually younger than I. When I bumped into her in a hallway, away from the line of autograph seekers, I kissed her hand (“I’ve been waiting all my life to do this,” I said as she scurried off to the ladies’ room).

I will admit that it was a bit of a rush to be standing in line for coffee one morning only to discover that Barry Livingston was next in line.
(Black; no sugar, for him.)

But, for me, the real find of the weekend (aside from the Ronald Reagan mask and the cthulhu statue) was on display in a little booth off the main vendor’s room: an autographed picture of Sally Rand. I grabbed it, and considered it a real steal at only $20.

Few remember Sally Rand anymore. But that’s understandable since her film career spanned a number of deservedly forgotten films from 1925 through 1938. randShe made her mark on the world as a fan dancer at the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago. She would play peek-a-boo with her body by manipulating her fans in front and behind her, like a winged bird as she swooped and twirled on the stage, usually to “Clair de Lune”.

The nudity was all an illusion, of course, since she actually wore a form-fitting body suit during her performances. Exotic lighting, silhouettes and wild imaginings did the trick. It was all pretty heady stuff for 1934.  Still, she was arrested for public indecency four times in a single day during the Fair. Later, in San Francisco, she was arrested twice in a single day for the same offense. (The second time, in addition to her body suit, she has a note slapped on her behind that read: “CENSORED. S.F.P.D.”). Ms. Rand (her real name was Helen Gould Beck) died in 1979.

So that was my weekend: coffee with Barry; kissing Angela; imaginings with Sally. Oh, and if my wife asks, I also managed to sell a few books.

The Art of Books

York’s newest downtown mural made a fairly quiet appearance last week (Sunday, August 23 to be exact) in the WeCo section of West Market Street. Informally entitled The Art of Books, the 16’ x 8’ piece of original art now graces the side of The York Emporium, and is visible as you travel down West Market Street heading into the Square.

As luck would have it, Randy Flaum, the “York Story Man” happened by during the installation, and created the story:

https://yorkstoryman.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/wall-mural-highlights-the-art-of-books/

 

The Art of Books
The Art of Books

We had commissioned Hanover artist Christopher Barr to paint the work several months ago, and working in his garage/studio during the summer heat, he completed it; right on time, too, so it could be installed just prior to last weekend’s Pennsylvania Cigar Box Guitar Festival.

Chris and I worked together on the general concept, but he did all the heavy lifting on the piece. The idea was to show a cross section of popular works in one motif. And a number of books are represented:
• The works of 1930s horror writer H.P. Lovecraft
Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
• Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
• The emerald city of Oz {including Dorothy’s house atop
a cyclone)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
• Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange
• J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit004
• Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five

002
• Harry Potter going after the snitch005
• Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

• George Orwell’s  1984                                                                                                           
The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
• Stephen King’s Dark Tower

• Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy

Watership Down by Richard Adams
along with a few other things (a dragon, the Death Star of Star Wars fame, a sea serpent, a civil war soldier, and a flying saucer…just because).

Chris worked in oil-on-plywood and put a clear coat over the finished mural to protect it from the elements.

Will it last 1,000 years? Probably not. But we consider it contemporary public art.

Enjoy!

Sci-Fi Saturday

Last Saturday (6/13/15) was Sci-Fi Saturday at The York Emporium. This is an annual event that we’ve done for the past 6 or 7 years. It’s a fun day.

We typically will show a movie (this year: Forbidden Plant) and play some games. There was a tournament, with prizes, on our original and vintage “Space Invaders” arcade game (2200 was the high score this year), play trivia and generally let our inner geeks come out to play.invader

We also have guests who come to play with us.

This year we had six currently working science fiction authors join us: Peter David, Robert Greenberger, Michael Jan Friedman, Aaron Rosenberg, Glenn Hauman, and Russ Colchamiro. These are very talented guys. Editors for DC and Marvel comics; authors who have produced movie tie-in novelizations. And Star Trek novels.

One of the things they have in common is that they have ALL written Star Trek novels. (Another thing they all have in common is that they have all signed my copies of their various novels.)

There have been upwards of 150 novels involving the characters of the various Star Trek television programs that includings TOS (The Original Series), TNG (The Next Generation), DS9 (Deep Space 9), VOY (Voyager) and ENT (Enterprise). The movies have also been novelized. There have also been series of novels of close spin-offs (such as Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Engineering Corps).

authors01We have a pretty good collection in the shop. Maybe not all; but certainly most of them.

Perhaps the best part of Sci-Fi Saturday, at least as far as I was concerned, happened on Friday night when I took three of the guys to dinner at the White Rose.

Peter David was there. He is probably the biggest name we’ve ever hosted. Not only has he written Star Trek novels, but he worked with James Doohan (“Scotty” from TOS) on his autobiography. He’s written the tie-in novels for several movies (i.e., Batman Returns). And he authored some 12 years’ worth of The Incredible Hulk for Marvel. Michael Jan Friedman was also there. He was actually the subject of one of our trivia questions (“How many novels has Michael Jan Friedman published?” The answer is 73.)

Also at the table was my P,LSB*.   That pretty much made it the best part of the weekend because not only did I get to enjoy her company, but I was able to enjoy her company without the rolling-of-the-eyes that usually accompanies my forays into the ways of geekdom.

We were able to swap Star Trek trivia (“What was Yeoman Rand’s cabin number on the Enterprise?” “ In how many episodes did Spock smile?”). I was with the masters and was actually able to (almost) hold my own.

But, yeah, the rolling-of-the-eyes came out in the car on the way home. I just smiled at her and suggested she live long and prosper…or words to that effect.

 

*P,LSB = Poor, Long-Suffering Bride

Chuck Miller

York lost one of its literary luminaries over the Memorial Day weekend. Charles F. “Chuck” Miller died following a brief illness. He was just 62.

Chuck was born and raised in Columbia, PA and spent the bulk of his professional life in Lancaster, only having moved to Springettsbury township about 10 years ago.

Starting in the 70s, he produced a series of science fiction-themed conventions. These weren’t the conventions that are popping up today, as they were geared toward readers and serious science fiction types (although, truth be told, they were still populated by the nerds of the day).

He moved on from that to form a publishing company geared toward the horror and science fiction genres. As a publisher he worked with a stable of writers and artists that included Stephen King, Gene Wolfe and Jack Vance (pretty big names at the time). He was nominated for a Hugo Award (which is still a VERY big deal). And he was presented with the World Fantasy Award (which is a bona fide HUGE deal).

The publishing world changed and Chuck changed, too. This time, he opened a comic book shop, Big Planet Comics, based in Lancaster. He split his time between his shop and setting up at conventions–science fiction, pulp magazine and horror–up and down the East Coast, where he peddled his books and magazines in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington…and back again.

It was the early years of the new millennium that Chuck took the plunge and moved all the way to this side of the river. He still traveled to the conventions, mostly, but not exclusively, in Hunt Valley, MD. He’d be at Renningers Antique Market in Adamstown most Sunday mornings (early, early…as in 5:30 AM; done and packed up by 9:30 or 10). He’d haunt the book sales of the local libraries. But most often your best chance of catching him was wandering around the stacks at The York Emporium, shelving books or, in his own way, growling at the customers.

chuck We called him “grumpy cat.” He’d sit on the sofa, drinking coffee, and opine about the state of current science fiction or horror (nothing, in his opinion, was quite as good as was the movie Gorgo). And we loved it.

When I first came to The York Emporium, just about 10 years ago now, I was pretty hungry to get dealers to come in and rent space. I had set my sites on Chuck almost from the start, thinking (rightly, as it turned out) that Chuck would give the shop an air of legitimacy. I asked him, about 3 months into my tenure, if he would. He looked at me straight in the eye, shook his head and said, simply: No.

We weren’t ready for him yet.

It took a little more than a year, but he did finally come in. And he did add a touch of class to the joint.

He was my mentor. I flattered myself to think he was my friend. And I miss him.

Someday, if I am lucky enough to wind up where the all good little book peddlers go, I sincerely hope that he will be saving a place for me at the table.

 

 

Erotica

On the phone she sounded like a nice, older lady. Would we be interested, she wanted to know, in coming and taking a look at a collection of books she had. Seems they belonged to her husband, who was in a nursing home now. They were taking up space and it was time for them to find a new hone.

I told her that of course we’d be happy to take a look. I explained what we typically pay for paperbacks and hard covered books with dust jackets. She said that was fine.

“Just one thing,” she said. “They are erotica.”

Oh.

As a category, “erotica” covers a lot of ground. And not everyone shares the same definition. I wasn’t at all sure that my definition matched what this nice, grandmotherly-type lady was thinking.

She might be talking about some of the early “girlie” magazines of the 20s and 30s, for example. Those typically had lush cover illustrations showing lots of leg, or ladies in skirts that were split up to here with bust lines that went down to there. I could see how she would call these pulp magazines “erotica.”

Or maybe she was talking about some of those World War II-era pin-up babes. Most of those were fairly tame by today’s standards. Girls in bathing suits lounging by a pool, or dealing with a gust of wind while attempting to change a flat tire while wearing a too-tight outfit and heels. Yank magazine stuff.

Either of those options would have been fine with me, for both are highly collectible… particularly if they are in good shape.

As I hesitated a second, trying to find a delicate way to frame my next question, and she said, “Playboys.”

Ah. Well. That made it easier, at least.

I explained how the only real value in that title was in the editions dating from the 50s, and maybe the early 60s. You might find something of a little higher value here and there with a special issue, but that generally, I’d only pay, at most, no more than 50¢ per magazine for dates from the mid-60s through the mid- to late-70s, and that, honestly, I wasn’t even interested in any dates later than 1980 or so. Unless, again, it was a special 40th Anniversary issue or something of the kind.

That was fine, she said. They were all boxed and out in the garage. The dates started around 1967 and she was sure there were issues that I’d take. So…sure, I’d visit her and we could made a deal.

Honestly, I felt a little more comfortable now. Playboys. Not horrible. We were both adults, after all. A sly smile, perhaps, and a “boys will be boys” shrug. At least I wasn’t going to have to go into a deep, philosophic discussion of reading habits and censorship and relative levels of depravity and such with someone who was, if not old enough to be my grandmother, then certainly older than my parents. I could do this.

“Three boxes of books, too.”

Not a problem at all. Here, I was thinking Book-of-the-Month Club editions of popular novels; after all, that’s what I usually encounter on missions of this kind. We made the appointment and I went to visit her early in the week.

We went straight to the garage and I confirmed immediately that her definition of erotica and mine were, indeed, different. There were the Playboys, as advertised. Hundreds of them, actually. Pretty much every issue from 1967 through 2005; almost 40 years. And they were pristine. The later years looked like they’d never been out of the plastic mailing sleeves. A few other titles, too, but nothing too outrageous.

But she wasn’t talking about the magazines when she told me of erotica. She was talking about the books. And those didn’t quite fit my idea of erotica. In fact, they were pretty darn close to my idea of straight-out, no-holds-barred (literally) porn.

Mass market paperbacks, with and without pictures. Trade paperbacks, with and (primarily) without text. Hardcover books in dust jackets and plain, brown wrappers. The kind of stuff that, in an earlier day and age, would have drawn jail time if they were sent through the mails.

Yowza.

Publishing restrictions had tightened up quite a bit during the 1960s. The Supreme Court was wrestling with their own definitions of obscenity. “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”Nebulous lines in the sand regarding local standards. And statements of “redeeming social value.” Obviously, no one wanted to go to jail for publishing this stuff.erotica

Still, there was a market. So titles were presented as pseudo-sociological and pseudo-psychological treatises, and were invariably written by people who could string “M.A.” or “Ph.D.” after their nom de plumes in an attempt to give the material the stamp of respectability. And if it turned out that folks were reviewing the literature with aims other than pure scientific curiosity, well, that certainly was beyond the control of the publishers.

So, Oral Sex and the Law, and The Swappers, The Sexually Aggressive Male, along with others of their ilk, came into general circulation. All were emblazoned with “EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL FOR ADULTS ONLY• Sale to minors prohibited”, or words to that effect, on the covers. Perhaps that was a sop to the censors. Or perhaps that was a bit of added promotion, for those who just didn’t get it. Maybe a little of both.

In any case, I now had three boxes of it. Along with about 15 years of Playboys.

After I had finished loading it all into the car, I returned to the garage to finish the transaction. I wrote out the receipt, thanked her and said all the nice things.

But as I was driving away, it occurred to me that this “erotica” hadn’t necessarily belonged to her husband. I’m not quite sure how I got the idea that at least some of these books were actually hers.

Maybe it was because she winked at me.

Raymond Chandler

One of the good things about running a used book shop is that I get first pick. And for a thoroughly addicted bibliophile, there is no greater rush to be had than ripping through a box of books that has just walked in the door.

It was, therefore, with no little sense of anticipation that I unpacked a box of books about two weeks ago. Really good stuff here. And a rare gem!
Chandler
Somehow, this customer was able to part with a copy of Raymond Chandler’s Trouble Is My Business, a collection of short-stories by a master of hard-boiled detective fiction. The stories collected in this volume (published by Vintage Books, division of Random House, in 1988) were written in the 1930s and 1940s and were originally published in the cheap pulp detective magazines of the day. Such august tomes as Black Mask (H.L. Mencken’s rag), Dime Detective, Detective Fiction Weekly and Detective Story Magazine are represented. Obviously, in addition to some pretty neat covers, these magazines managed to publish some pretty neat stories. (By the way, I stole the above picture from the cover of the volume).

So I’ve spent the last two weeks wondering why I haven’t read more–or all–that Chandler wrote. I’ve already added him to the list of People-That-I-Wish-I-Could-Write-Like.

And this gets my vote for one of the best opening paragraphs of all time:

“There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot, dry Santa Anas that comes down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”
–Raymond Chandler, Red Wind

Other great lines:

“She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”

“She was the kind of blonde that would make a bishop kick out a stained glass window.”

Just between you and me, I am not quite sure what either of those lines actually mean. But I know what Chandler was saying. Neither of them would make it past a copy editor today.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to hear Humphrey Bogart when you read Chandler. It would probably be harder not to hear Bogart when reading that aloud.

OK, so maybe I won’t shelf this book in the “Classics and Literature” section of the shop. But I do think this one will go in the “Recommended” section, right next to Robert Heinlein. And it won’t be there long.

Then what happened?

“Looks like you found what you were looking for.”

He gave a sheepish grin. “Could be,” he said, dropping his books on the front counter.

It was Friday evening and not very busy. We stay open later on Friday nights, ‘til 8:30 or 9. On this particular Friday, there were only 2 or 3 customers, beside us, in the shop.

“Can I ask a favor of you?” He had leaned over the counter and dropped his voice. No one was going to overhear us. Still, he wanted to be sure that this conversation stayed between us.

“Well, of course.”

I leaned over the counter too. It gave the impression that we were being conspiratorial; really I was just trying to hear him better.

“I just moved to town about a month ago, and I don’t really know anyone in York.”

I nodded, knowingly.

“There’s a girl in here that I find very attractive. When she comes up to the counter with her books, would you give her a note from me?”

I straightened up and looked at him over the top of my glasses, in silence, for a second. He seemed to be mid-20s; clean cut. More importantly, he had brought Arthur Conan Doyle up to the counter…a sure mark of someone with potential.

“Um, I’m not quite sure who you mean.”

“She’s the one with the long, dark hair and the white blouse.”

I knew who he meant. This guy had good taste.

“Well, you can leave her a note yourself, sir. This stack of books here is her pile.”

I handed him a note pad and a pen and stepped away, finding something to keep myself busy. When he was done, he read the note over and nodded to himself and slipped it into the stack. He let out a long, slow breath and settled up. I wished him luck as he was walking out the door. He didn’t look back.

I confess that I snuck a quick look. It suggested that if she was comfortable, she should text him. He left a name and a number.

About 10 or 15 minutes later, she came up to the counter and I noticed that there was no ring on her finger. So I told her that she had an admirer and he had left a note for her.

She smiled. “Really?”

“Yes. Really.”

She read the note and, still smiling, folded it and put it in her purse. I noticed that her eyebrows gave a little bounce. She then paid me for her books and walked out into the night.

I really wonder what happened next.