Fiction: 'Tigerman' (Extract) by Nick Harkaway
John McPartland

Padding out collections

Fire will freezeMore vintage finds - mostly crime - thanks to eBay and a few Cecil Court sale tables.

John O'Hara is an author that I started reading in a particularly lateral fashion - I found a sleazy looking paperback of The Farmers Hotel and bought it for the cover. Eventually I read it and liked it a lot - a thriller set in a snowbound rural hotel. Since then, I've been picking up more and more of his work. Ironically, The Farmers Hotel has very little to do with the rest of his work, but, too late. Hooked. Regardless, O'Hara fits my own particular island of misfit toys - someone praised and significant at his time that is now dangerous forgotten. (That, plus 'bestselling enough to make his books easily found' = my own personal collecting catnip.)

What's this have to do with anything? Not much. I picked up - via eBay - his short story collection Sermons and Soda-Water (1961), which is a truly lovely book. Three volumes, marbled covers, all in a slipcase. A signed and numbered edition of 525. £5 on eBay. The production value alone is worth it... (Nor is this a particular steal: looking at abebooks, the going price for this collection isn't much better. So bizarre: the man had a book made into an Elizabeth Taylor movie and had a novel on the Modern Library's Top 100. And... £5. Odd.)

Another pretty find from eBay: Arthur Machen: A Bibliography (1923). Written and published by Henry Danielson in an edition of 150 numbered copies, all signed by Machen himself. Think of it as an early fan bibliography... A lovely book though, quarter bound, hand cut pages and, as noted, signed by Machen. (I'm really struggling to come up with a World Fantasy joke here - clearly I need more coffee.)

Two more for various collections - Margaret Millar's Fire Will Freeze (such a great cover!) and Georgette Heyer's Black Sheep (such a terrible cover!). Both slightly battered hardcovers with the dust jackets intact. The Heyer is a first, for what that's worth, and the Millar a reprint in the Tower Mystery series (which I'm quite fond of).

Speaking of collecting catnip - anyone heard of T.V. Boardman's "Bloodhound Mystery" series? I hadn't, but I wound up finding some bookstore over the weekend. (Wikipedia references the excellent Mushroom Jungle, but as a book about post-war paperbacks, it only concerns itself with Boardman's art director). It is hard not to compare these to my beloved Gold Medals - a similar time period (1948-1967) and very similar taste. Except, well, hardcovers. I wound up buying two. The first, Day of the Ram by William Campbell Gault, is a PI novel combining football (the LA Rams!) and murder. Perfect. The second was the find of the month-so-far and possibly in contention for year-so-far, a super-battered copy of Hunt Collins' Cut Me In. For those that aren't obsessive about their mystery pulp, Hunt Collins is a pseudonym for Ed McBain, and this book is, as they say in the trade, "really damn rare". It looks like someone cut out half the pages and used them as Kleenex, but, really, woot. McBain collection +1.

And, of course, I'm back on a Gold Medal kick - a few new ones, including Lionel White's The Big Caper (very good) (also, not new - a duplicate, I realised on the first page, darnit), Edward Aarons' Assignment Burma Girl (another Sam Durrell - I need to read these in order) and Frank Castle's Murder in Red (not so good, but I like the idea of the Punisher sweating out a novel).