My friend and fellow crime writer, Rosemary McCracken’s recent read is Death Cleaning, a new take on decluttering.
Argh! The bleak title stems from my mother’s birth country of Sweden, creator of IKEA, the cashless society and self-serve everything. With cold-hearted pragmatism the book tells you to throw out your shit before your kids do.
Sigh. I’m a keeper, especially of books. Each one of them retains an emotional memory. But my office is filling up and I’m unlikely to reread most of them. So I’m diving in and sharing my relics with you, readers.
And I’ll decide whether to GIVE AWAY, SELL or KEEP.
What better place to start than with Booked to Die by John Dunning. Dunning had written a few mysteries already but in Booked to Die he wrote about his passion: books themselves. It was hit!
His hero, Cliff Janeway, is a former homicide detective obsessed with tracking down the killer of a rare book hunter. Leaving the police force, he sets up his own bookstore to buy and sell valuable first editions and after much murder and mayhem, catches the killer.
Booked to Die is full of neat details about the rare book trade. I learned about book scouts, typically impecunious types who scour used books stores, church fairs and garage sales for valuable editions, buying them cheap then hawking them to antiquarian book dealers. I also learned about bookstore owners helping each other out, sharing leads and so on.
Of course, what really got my friends and me juiced was the hope that somewhere in our well-thumbed collections lurked a priceless edition. Dunning hooked me on the first page with his Rare Book Quiz : What book found in a used bookstore bin for $15 sold at auction for $250,000? And that’s at 1992 prices!
Of course, I’m still looking for that priceless edition. How does one even find out what one’s precious hard covers or paperbacks are worth? There are two sources: eBay and Abe Books.
I find that book prices in Abe Books vary greatly. For a more realistic take, I look at Canadian bookstores where these are listed. And prepare to be disappointed.
So how much is Booked to Die worth? For my well-read copy, anywhere from $1 to $10. Sigh.
John Dunning went on to write four more books in the Bookman series, the last one, The Bookwoman’s Last Fling, published in 2006. He describes himself as a poster-child for ADD, quitting school in Grade 10 to hold a series of interesting jobs: glass shop worker, racing horse trainer and investigative reporter. He always relied on a typewriter to write.
In 1984, he and his wife opened The Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver, Colorado. Ten years later, it became a virtual bookstore which still operates today. He is also an expert on old radio shows and hosted his own show about them on Denver radio for more than 25 years.
In 2006, Dunning was diagnosed with a brain tumour that led to a long recovery period and sadly, to no further books.