Archive for August 2012

Brooklyn book jaunt and Peter Murphy live The Well 8/26 Sunday   2 comments

I haven’t posted anything in weeks ’cause been fairly busy,

and I also finally got a chance last Sunday to take a drive

to DUMBO Brooklyn N.Y. to check out P.S. Books for myself,

one of the newer shops in Brooklyn.  DUMBO is fairly

annoying and trendy and touristy these days, like TriBeCa

or SoHo in Manhattan but worse, but P.S. Books was a nice

shop, if a little bit overpriced on certain things, including

a couple of rare Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen

books that the shop was asking far too much for, such

as Machen’s The Glorious Mystery for $125 and

some other Blackwood book in a locked glass case

and they were asking $250 or something like that for

a book you can get online for at least half that price,

if not less (in fact, in both instances).  But I did find

a signed copy of the 1st edition of Peter Straub’s Ghost Story

hardcover for $30 so that was a find that made the

whole trip just about worthwhile. Otherwise,

DUMBO has just as much elitist attitude as the rest

of Williamsburg and E. Wmburg and Greenpoint.

I also tried to eat lunch from a ghastly awful joint

called Archway Cafe which I ended up slamming

later on a review on Yelp, and boy did it deserve

getting slammed!  A TERRIBLE joint serving

inedible food and nasty service and ‘tude.

Avoid at ALL COSTS.

And then I had to drive into Brooklyn again

this past Sunday for the Peter Murphy concert

8/26 at new venue The Well on Meserole Street,

which was in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, near Bushwick,

a fairly terrible area barren, desolate, but

plenty of parking at least.  I was not in a good mood

and I was hoping it was an indoor show but it was

an outdoor weird new venue with port o johns,

the barest bones bar and facilities which basically

for some reason infuriated me no end. I ended up

clearing out for four hours and coming back to the

place later after doing some other exploring

in Williamsburg proper, as I was far too early in

any case and not willing to sit through 3 crap

opening acts waiting for Peter to take the stage

which was at 8 p.m. thank goodness.

I also discovered a neat new roleplaying RPG/board gaming

shop over on Grand St. near Havemeyer Street and the BQE

a bit south of Metropolitan Avenue by sheer accident,

called the Twenty Sided Store, I’m not a gamer anymore

although I once indeed was big into all that stuff,

especially D&D and Lovecraftian gaming of various

sorts, and they have all that stuff there.  Here’s the

web site link if anybody is in the area and wants

to check them out, a nice bunch of folks and

I was able to chill there and vent my frustrations

to the nice folks (poor folks!) inside when I

walked in.  I bought a set of Steve Jackson Games

Cthulhu gaming dice(!) just for laughs,

hoping maybe it’ll inspire me to game again,

although since I don’t live in Brooklyn

and don’t know anybody who games this

will probably never happen.

http://twentysidedstore.com/

The Peter Murphy concert was fantastic and a far

cry from a terrible show I had to suffer through

of his last year in Huntington, Long Island,

at a new venue The Paramount where there were almost no audience,

no decent sound, and no nothing and it sucked and

was utterly depressing.  I’ve seen Peter play a ton

of times so it’s rare that I’ve witnessed an off night

but last year was the fault of the venue totally and

entirely.   i don’t have time to review this show but

the Well was annoying but the show was great and

Peter and his new(ish) band were in fine form.

There was an after show VIP meet-and-greet being

offered for $80 but sorry Peter I don’t have the $

and I was extraordinarily pissed off because I had

items I would’ve liked to get autographed, and

also other hardcore fans  there told me the same

thing, that they did NOT purchase one and had

no plans to do so.  All of which is sad and depressing

in my humble opinion, i would’ve loved to go

“backstage” and do the VIP meet and greet

one of my heroes of all time thing, but

I just balked at the cost–actually, ok, I DID have the cash

and had it on me, but it was the principle of the thing in my

opinion.  Do these artists need the extra cash

bled out of their fans THAT badly!?  If so

that’s pretty pathetic.  It used to be

after a show the artists would hang out a bit

and sign things and talk to their fans,

or at the tour bus outside, or whatever,

stage door stuff, but then again if it was some

huge act at the Garden you’d need a backstage

pass to meet them anyway, but this wasn’t

that type of show, first and last of all.

Ultimately I sat it out and went home, but not

after driving  to get a fast bite at the always

reliable Oasis Falafel joint at N. 7th Street

in Williamsburg on Bedford Avenue (after finding out that

nothing decent in Greenpoint is open late

on Sunday which also sucked bigtime) and

almost feeling like knifing some street

derelict asshole who lumbered past  my car’s windshield

just as I was attempting to eat dinner,

and felt like goofily waving at me or gesturing/harassing me

but I saw this asshole coming and

made sure he knew I was not playing games

with him.  Prob. some homeless guy I dunno

but he was a real jerk and I was ready to

rumble for sure.   You don’t do that to me,

sunshine.   He’s seriously lucky I didn’t run him right down,

that’s about how angry I was by that point of the evening.

And everybody else in the falafel joint I went

into had a typical I’m such a hipster arse wanker,

I’m so snobby and better than you attitude it

wasn’t funny, like take a picture it lasts longer

you stupid pathetic staring m—-kers.    I pretty

much can’t stand Williamsburg the more I think about it.

It has some attractions but you can cut the snobby

elitist “ambience” with a knife every single time

you go there, so thus I don’t go there too often,

and DUMBO is kind of a fun area but it’s becoming

just as snobby and touristy if not worse,

so I don’t know how much I can take of that area

now, either.  I was glad to see Peter Murphy do a great

show but that was about all I was glad

about Sunday.   P.S. Books to sum up

from the previous Sunday was cool,

I’d recommend the shop wholeheartedly

but again some items are very overpriced

as near as I can tell, so be warned,

but they do have some good deals there

if you really search the place down.

But at least P.S. Books is a sign that

there are some new shops opening

in NYC so maybe the death of the bookstore

is not upon us totally yet.

http://www.psbnyc.com/

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Brooklyn bookstores research   2 comments

Just a fast post for today: been doing a ton of research today

on Brooklyn, N.Y. bookstores and even though a couple of good

indie shops have closed the past few years, there are apparently

still quite a few notable shops strewn around the borough,

including the apparently revered Free Bird Books in Carroll Gardens

(just north of Red Hook), The Community Bookstore in Park Slope

on 7th Ave., Unnameable Books in Ft. Greene, Babbo’s Books

at Prospect Park West or thereabouts, Court Books in Brooklyn

Heights, although the venerated Atlantic Books in Cobble Hill

apparently either closed recently, or is about to do so.

I’ll just post a quick Yelp page link to help folks get a bearing

on what shops are still extant in Brooklyn, and reviews

are often helpful on Yelp anyway.  I’ve also heard good

things about Greenlight Books over near BAM in

Prospect heights or Ft. Greene, but haven’t been there yet.

This is the trouble with living on L.I., you rarely get to

these places unless you work in the area, or live there,

and I don’t have the time or cash to hit up every one

of these shops often, and I’m also not certain if any

of these shops carry or specialize in Horror, Fantasy,

or SF books, but I’m trying to find out and contact

a few of them now.  I may also go visit this newer

shop PS Books, located up in the Dumbo area

near the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges,

as I’ve heard good things about this one,

and it opened its doors in 2006, which I believe

is a good sign, considering that means NYC

isn’t totally a dead zone for new indie book

and music shops as much I’d feared, and from

what I’ve read, their shop appears to be

thriving thus far.

I’m also hearing about some new book and

record shops (in some cases that actually

sell vinyl and such as well in large quantities)

in the Greenpoint and Bushwick, Brooklyn

areas, so that development is also, I’m sure,

a welcome change from recent trends and

maybe a sign that there might be some

hope for the growth of the indie shop

in the near future, at least as far as

hipster/affluent Brooklyn is concerned,

I can tell you one thing, that there’s nothing

like this happening out on Long Island,

which I hate to say is truly becoming a

dreadful vacuum/wasteland/cultural

Dead Zone of epic and depressing

proportions.  It’s nice that we have

Barnes and Noble but it just doesn’t

cut it for me as a real rare and used

book collector, sorry.  Shame on you

you redneck L.I. jerks you have no

brains or culture or anything worth

a damn.  Go to Roosevelt Field

to buy your Armani sweatpants

and fall into a Black Hole, please!!

ASAP!

Long Island = cultural Hell!!   Trust me

on that one, folks.  And, the Hamptons

don’t count, and they do NOT have any

good bookstores as far as I know, I’ve

tried to find some there and haven’t

found any yet worth a damn.  If there

are any out there I’d like to hear

about them, but I doubt there are,

and who the heck is going trek

all the way to East Hampton

just to buy books? Not I.

http://www.yelp.com/biz/p-s-bookshop-brooklyn

St. Mark’s Bookstore Crisis (possibly averted due to supporters)   Leave a comment

http://www.luckyant.com/nyc/east-village/index.html

Thanks again for my friend Matthew Ross for bringing this story

to my attention, although I’d already been aware the past two years

or so of the St. Mark’s Bookshop crisis, which revolved around not

only lower sales, traffic, but particularly, apparently, around the

dispute with gargantuan landlords of theirs NYU or Cooper Union

or whoever it was, raising the rents on them so much that they

would never be able to stay at their current location on 3rd Ave.,

which they’ been at for many years now.  I don’t get much of

a chance to frequent that shop these days, living back on Long

Island again, but I used to spend a lot of time in that shop,

which is great especially for fiction, alternative and indie

nonfiction and hard-to-find obscure titles and such on all

subjects, some great remainder tables, and their magazine

and ‘zine section is always worth a look, as well as their

quite serious section of art books.  St. Mark’s is a small

shop but for what it specializes in it’s still as good as it was

many years ago, or nearly so.  I’m glad to hear they might’ve

raised these necessary funds to relocate the shop and

continue operations, I fervently hope so.   Otherwise,

that area will lose yet another great indie shop and

we’ll have a St. Mark’s Place with that icky McDonald’s,

a ghost of the once-great bar/club Continental,

maybe St. Mark’s Comics (IF it’s still going?),

and million dollar condos and 5000 Asian fusion

noodle restaurants and cafes.  I wonder if I could

even get a decent falafel sandwich over on St. Mark’s

anymore?   Probably not.  I was over there a few times

a couple of years ago, and it was chock full of

new intriguing restaurants and punk/glam clothing

boutique mecca Trash And Vaudeville

was still there (amazingly, though I never liked that

place that much always being the overpriced attitude-laden

tourist trap it had been for ages, maybe forever) but

otherwise the street is not what it once was.

As Paul Weller and The Jam once sang about another

street in London:  “Carnaby Street/Not what it used to be.”

Same with St. Mark’s Place, or the whole NYC for that matter.

Personally, I think St. Mark’s Bookshop would do much better

in Williamsburg or Greenpoint, Brooklyn these days,

the field there is still wide open for such shops, but

then again if they do that then Manhattan will lose out

and particularly, the primary neighborhood that the shop

thrived in and cultivated for so many years.  So that in itself

would be a double-edged sword to say the least.  I also

wonder how the shop is going to be able to find a more

affordable location given that the real estate market in NYC

(or the outer boroughs, or even L.I. or N.J.) is so absurdly

sky-high these days that only megacorps or shops like

Macy’s or Uniqlo or Urban Outfitters or Armani and other

such mega-rich chains or corporate concerns can really

afford to operate in Manhattan and make any kind of

a profit.  It’s going to be a challenge to find an “affordable”

location and that’s putting it mildly.   One indie shop

The Downtown Music Gallery moved to Chinatown

about four years ago and has not been heard from since:

supposedly the tiny shop (which is quite excellent

esp. for hard to find and alternative music of all stripes,

and is well worth tracking down if still extant) is still

open but only by appointment now and for limited hours.

They might’ve snagged a cheaper location but I dunno

how many are going to schlep down to NYC’s Chinatown

just to seek out the place, as good a specialty shop as it was/is.

I haven’t and I’m a huge fan of the shop, although then again,

I don’t live in NYC anymore.

 

 

A Smithereen recalls The Passaic Book Center   Leave a comment

Well folks, I attended the fantastic Smithereens concert this past Friday evening

on the Rockin’ The River Cruise series in Manhattan, and afterwards

was privileged to get on the autograph meet-and-greet line for the band,

and got a bunch of CDs signed as well as my new Smithereens 2011

tour t-shirt by drummer Dennis Diken, in that instance, and I asked

him if any of those guys remembered The Passaic Book Center,

given that the whole band, including original bassist Mike Mesaros (who

left later and was replaced by Jornacion the eponymous “Thrilla From Manila” who

hails from L.A. originally–spoke to him too and he was a super nice

guy, as were all of the band) almost grew up in Carteret, New Jersey,

it was a total shot in the dark, but indeed, to my amazement,

or not, Dennis Diken the band’s drummer since day one for 33 years,

told me that he not only recalled the fabled The Passaic Book Center

with great fondness, but spent a lot of time going there

even going back to about 1968 or so!!   He also readily

agreed that once it moved later to Montclair, N.J., as I’d

mentioned recently on this very blog, it was just never,

ever, the same and I related to him how I’d gone out

there last year and that I was fairly disappointed in the

book selection, etc.  I told him a tiny bit

about my dad having lived right down the street

from the place and all that, and how it was just

blind luck, really, that that had been the case

but of course this was in the early 1980s in my case,

just about the time the Smithereens were starting

to get the band going, more or less.

So there you are, the word on how

great the Passaic Book Center once was, straight

from one of New Jersey’s most accomplished and

famous sons!   Thanks Dennis! and thanks again

to all of The Smithereens for an ass-kicking show

this past Friday night on the boat, it was a good and

loud, sweaty, raucous night of bracing rock music

as only The Smithereens can deliver.   So even

the mighty Smithereens have weighed in on

how we’ve lost some treasures like the Passaic

Book Center in the past 25 years or so.  So sad!

But at least The Smithereens are still around

and haven’t lost their integrity and are still

going strong after 33 years, for goodness’ sake.

I’ve been a major fan of theirs since at least

1985 and their first album produced by

R.E.M. producer Don Dixon, the album

was Especially For You, the one that

put them over the top on alternative

rock radio and college radio charts,

still one of my favorite albums of all time,

and it was a great thrill to get my CD

copy signed this past Friday night!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The absurd state of the weird fiction (and non-) rare book market and sky high prices of doom!   9 comments

I don’t have time to really go off on this topic right now, but I feel the need

to vent about some of the nonsense I see going on in the rare and antiquarian

book markets and especially as it pertains to Horror, SF, and Fantasy titles.

Basically I’ve been collecting books since around 1983 when I first got seriously

into H. P. Lovecraft and other related authors, maybe even 1982 as far as buying

my first books and Arkham House, etc.  I attended my first rare book show

at a place in Albertson, L.I., around 1983 and I noticed that already a lot

of book dealers there were charging some pretty exorbitant prices for things

like Dagon and Other Macabre Tales by HPL (Arkham House), a mint copy

was around $70 or so at the time which was a bit out of my price range

at that time, given I was in junior high school–ok so I wasn’t the typical

weird fiction book collector at the time. and wasn’t filthy rich either.

I also noticed some pretty absurd high prices at various of the first conventions I

attended starting with the dealer’s room at the 1982 World Fantasy Convention in

New Haven, CT where I met Stephen King and a few other luminaries.  The dealer’s room

was chock full of great dealers and books but egads even then some of the

pricing was just over the top.

 

Flashing forward to 2012 and the past ten or so years and with the

trend of buying/selling rare books and other collectibles online,

coupled with the economy turning total crap, and the rise in the

disappearing bookstores and other brick-and-mortar sources for

rare books and even just general used books and music, we now have

a serious problem, and conditions which are clearly helping give rise

to the worst kind of dishonest price inflation, dishonest dealers,

highballing/gold-mining of prices on books and items which

are listed on sites like ABE and Ebay at sometimes 100x what

the actual book is worth, and unprofessional dealers who ship

books without Brodart covers and stuff like that although granted

some online dealers are not pros and don’t pretend to be, so I’m

not even including them.

I think for now, all I need to do is give one disgusting and egregious

example of the type of horrid offense I’m talking about.  This example

would be this current listing on Amazon.com from a private sub-dealer

who is asking almost $1000 for the 2011 Hippocampus Press edition

of the newly revised and expanded Lovecraft biography I Am Providence: The Life

and Times of H. P. Lovecraft (2 VOLUMES) [Hardcover] by S. T.  Joshi, a small

press limited edition that retailed for $100 the set last year upon

publication, and I believe the title sold fast and the hardcover edition is

now sold out with a paperback cheaper edition on the way soon.  Now,

the copy being offered on Amazon is NOT signed by S. T. or anybody else,

it’s just the book as released in 2011.  In no universe should a book that

came out a year ago and is limited edition but not deluxe per se either,

be selling a year later for $1000 no matter how scarce it might seem to be.

Now, today, August 8th 2012, I check the Amazon page for this title again

and it mysteriously appears that the nearly $1000 listings and dealers are now

deleted, but with five or so other dealers asking almost $500 in some

cases, for a copy of this weighty tome.  The price is STILL ridiculous

and the book came out last year so how could it possibly be

commanding such absurd prices?   I also checked ABE today

and suddenly there are ZERO copies offered for sale there,

but there were a few recently and they weren’t going cheap, either.

I happen to know Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus Press, the

publisher, and he did release this book as a true limited edition

but it wasn’t a signed/numbered/slipcased super deluxe

edition to begin with, in which case, if the retail price was

orig. $500, we might at least have some idea of why the dealers

would be charging this much for such a book, but it wasn’t

so I’m assuming they’re assuming the demand is THAT high

for a limited copy run (it IS limited in that sense, granted) but

I hate to tell them that the demand for a Lovecraft in-depth

biography is not the same as the demand for his fiction!!

And certainly not at $1000 the copy for a recent title that’s

not a true deluxe ltd. signed edition type affair.  Here’s the

Amazon link to the page for this title:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0982429673/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&condition=used

This type of thing is basically called abject piracy/hucksterism and this dealer

is clearly playing games, or is just trying to sucker the rich and uninitiated,

either or both, especially when it was up there from some joker at $1000!

This is the kind of thing that is ruining the rare book trade and

it’s a direct result, I believe, of the rise in the preference of dealing

books online and due to the shrinking real-world book market.

Although on the other hand I’ve seen alleged real-world dealers

like L. W. Curry highballing prices on things like this before,

but they usually have the decency to wait until the title is

considered an actual rare or antiquarian book (say 20-50 years or more)

before they start jacking up the prices to ludicrous levels,

and trust me they will eventually do that!

But this latter is just appalling and I hope none of you folks

are dumb enough to fall for such nonsense, but I figure

the dealer’s screwing himself since nobody I know (and I know

most of the people of any note in the Lovecraft field in

particular) would ever fall for such a shameless ruse

and nobody would have the $1000 to blow on one book

that simply isn’t worth the bucks the dealer’s (huckster)

is asking!    This is all sheer madness.

Next post I hope to go into even more detail on

some of the silliness I’ve seen going on in this market

the past several years in particular, I’m just getting warmed up!

Next time I might even mention the absurd offering currently

on Baumann Rare Books web site of the complete Stephen

King Donald M. Grant Dark Tower/Gunslinger trade edition

(not signed numbered slipcased! which were issued for all of those

titles since 1982) collection signed by author/artist and with

a price tag of nearly $25,000 being asked.  Is King’s signature

valuable and relatively rare?  Yes.  Are these books really

worth $25,000?  No.   Not when there were other more deluxe

editions of those titles issued that would actually warrant

such a price.  And mainly with this latter set it’s only

because it includes The Dark Tower The Gunslinger Book #1

but there’s no telling if it’s even first edition/first printing,

or one would at least hope that it is but no guarantees.

In any case I would have expected this set to be expensive,

but I think it’s obvious the dealer’s highballing the pricing

beyond any rational market value, and also considering

demand for King has waned in recent years, and also

considering the dreadful and abysmal state of the world

economy and the fact that a lot of these high-end items

are simply not selling or commanding the values they

once did at auction, for example.  And I’ve been told this

is the state of things by several established and reputable

venerable book dealers over the past decade and even

more recently, and also that things like Arkham House

books are not commanding the prices they once did,

that demand is WAY DOWN, and that auctions

of these items are in many cases not selling or

or taking price hits to sell pieces.  So who is

gonna fork over their $25,000 to Baumann

Rare Books for this sumptuous Stephen King

collection?  Nobody, that’s who.  Unless

Donald Trump turns out to be a King collector

and forks over some petty cash for it, I think

it’s fair to say this collection will sit there for

years or decades, like most of the absurdly

priced nonsense on the pages of dealers

like L. W. Curry (who is not currying favor

with book collectors of more, er, modest

means!) who are clearly billionaires

who can afford to sit on absurdly overpriced

rare stock for decades and not care if they

sell the stock.   And this is just the tip

of the rancid iceberg as far as what’s wrong

in this field lately (or even years ago) and  I’ll

finish Part I here today and continue next

week when I have more time to rant.

Scott

Further evidence of the bookstore apocalypse   2 comments

Just a brief update for this weekend.  My good friend Matthew Ross, who works
for the redoubtable Foundation Center in NYC passed on this dreadful link and news
today, that the Partners & Crime Mystery Bookstore in Manhattan is closing its
doors.   http://www.crimepays.com/

I confess this is one shop I don’t know at all, though there used to be some other
good mystery/suspense specialty fiction shops around the city including The Mysterious
Bookshop or Murder Inc. or somesuch, one of them used to be uptown if I recall correctly.
Anyway, sad to hear that they’re closing as well, guess one might go down there
and secure some good going out of biz sales, if indeed the shop is even still
open for this purpose right now or have they already closed their doors? It appears
from their site that they’re still having a “Thank You” sale, so maybe there’s
still time.  I have no plans to do so since I cannot stand driving into the city
any longer, unless I absolutely have to.  But for anybody that is interested
and can get there, it’ll likely be worth your time and trouble.   I did a fast
search and indeed The Mysterious Bookshop is still very much in business,
located as it is in downtown Manhattan on Warren Street.
http://www.mysteriousbookshop.com/

So, I suppose, there’s still SOME hope.

For my next more substantial post I intend to bang out a rant that is aimed
at my displeasure over how the pricing and publishing pricing practices within
the rare/used book trade online AND off have been degenerating/inflating,
and also how some of the new small presses and other ltd. edition publishers
have been putting out books that are so outrageously expensive that it threatens
to ruin or “snobberize” the field we love, esp. horror, fantasy and SF.  A lot of
dealers on and offline and publishers are now guilty of sheer buccaneerism,
overpricing, and highwaymen type pricing and inflation way beyond what
the books are actually worth, and some of these small presses are pricing
their books at upwards of $500 for signed or ltd. edition titles which,
I would assume, are out of the reach of most average book collectors,
especially younger collectors.  We’re also in the midst of a massive
and seemingly interminable economic depression which is another
reason why I feel these trends are especially inexcusable.

The other issue, as I hope to address, is that the rare book markets
do not have anything like an Overstreet Price Guide book or
other authority to determine basic guidelines for pricing,
unlike the comics world, and of course that’s only a guide
in any case.  I just availed myself of a copy of Overstreet
yesterday, in fact, and ok, a 1st issue of DC Superman at Near Mint
is valued at nearly $150,000, and that’s one thing, but when
I see a copy of my friend S. T. Joshi’s recent Lovecraft: A Life
biography (itself an expanded reissue edition of the 1995 edition)
out from my friend Derrick Hussey’s Hippocampus
Press last year (2011) going for $1000 on Amazon.com,
being sold by some jerk of a private dealer or huckster,
and the copy’s not even signed by S. T., or anything,
and the basic book is only valued at $100 for the 2 volume
hardcover set, I get pissed off!   This isn’t a rare book yet,
it’s not signed, and it’s not out of print yet, and it’s only
a year old, so there’s no earthly reason for some dealer
to charge $1000 for one.  This is the type of wanker I’ll
be taking to task in my next post on this subject!
And woe be to you who are doing stuff like this!  You
shall be excoriated painfully and thoroughly!
Scott