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CSBG Archive

Ten Days on the Road, part three

Continuing the account of our vacation ambling through the Pacific Northwest in search of old books and comics and cool stuff. Part one is here, part two is here, and part three you will find under the fold.

*

I always have mixed feelings when we visit Portland.

Yeah, it's my old hometown... and it's gorgeous...

Yeah, it's my old hometown... and it's gorgeous...but...

It’s a beautiful town, nicer than Seattle in a lot of ways, and now that we’ve been relieved of the family dramas that used to accompany our visits it’s generally an enjoyable place for us. But because I did grow up there, and most of those memories were not happy ones, well… sometimes the place can feel a little overpowering. Julie swears that just being in downtown Portland sets me on edge. “You don’t see it, but I do,” she says. “You get all wound up.”

She’s probably right. On the other hand, the city itself can often seem like it’s a few bubbles off plumb, so to speak.

My experience is that this will never be a problem for my hometown... but it's telling that they worry it might be.

My experience is that this will never be a problem for my hometown... but it's telling that they worry enough about it to put up a big sign like this.

All of this is by way of explaining that we didn’t spend a lot of time there– it was strictly an overnight stop. We got in late from the coast because we’d stopped to mess around in Clatskanie, and then we had promised to have dinner with an old friend. The following morning, it turned out, we had to deal with a prescription thing that involved finding a medical supply place out in southeast Portland somewhere, so we didn’t call any of our other friends we were hoping to see, or even get in a whole lot of bookscouting, really. (We didn’t even check out the old Armchair Books Paperback Exchange like I was kind of half-hoping to do, though we did drive by it.)

But we did make time to get to Cameron’s after breakfast at the hotel Monday morning.

Cameron's, on 3rd and Stark. It looks like a rathole but it's a wonderland for people like us.

Cameron's, on 3rd and Stark. It looks like a rathole but it's a wonderland for people like us.

This is my favorite bookstore in Portland, more so even than the famous Powell’s City of Books up on Burnside. It’s been a refuge and a hangout of mine ever since I was a teenager sneaking out to take the bus into downtown.

It gives me great comfort to know that almost forty years later, it’s still pretty much the same place. Powell’s caved in and got all gentrified and upscale (I know the coffee shop’s been there for a while now, but I still can never see it without a snort. Seriously, Powell’s, lattes and biscotti? Seriously? Who are you kidding? Put on all the airs you like, but some of us still remember the Mack Bolan room. )

Cameron’s Books, however, is still the same wonderfully dark and dusty cave full of cool old stuff that it was back in 1975.

Definitely not a hypoallergenic environment. I warned Julie about the dust, and she ended up having to step outside a couple of times.

Definitely not a hypoallergenic environment. I warned Julie about the dust, and she ended up having to step outside a couple of times. But she agreed it was AWESOME anyway.

Cameron’s specialty is old magazines, particularly Life and Playboy, but they have full runs of all sorts of stuff.

Cameron's is all about the magazines.

Cameron's is all about the magazines.

There’s even a few old pulps in with the “Vintage Magazines” section, though nothing in particular jumped out at me that day. Not surprising, since most of the good stuff is filed in a special room in the back of the store, where the light won’t damage it.

One of these days I'm going to get a Cameron's shirt.

One of these days I'm going to get a Cameron's shirt.

There are comics too, though those are hit and miss. But for me Cameron’s was a place to find books, particularly schlocky out-of-print series paperbacks, for next to nothing. (All the fuss at Cameron’s is over the magazines. Books are almost an afterthought, so prices are incredibly low.)

We looked through the juveniles and didn’t see anything for the three young people we were shopping for, but when I glanced over at the science-fiction section I could see a rainbow of uniform paperback spines on the top shelf I recognized at once, even from thirty feet away. Almost the full run of Laser Books.

Schlocky, but beloved. Schlocky, but beloved.
Schlocky, but beloved. Schlocky, but beloved.

Schlocky, but beloved.

I’m telling you, a wave of nostalgia hit me so hard it was a palpable thing.

For a couple of years there in the mid-1970s, Laser Books were everywhere. Spinner racks, bookstores, even supermarkets. It was an imprint of Harlequin Publishing, who hoped to create the same brand-name familiarity for science fiction that they had for romance novels. I guess you can certainly say they succeeded with that, since I’ve never heard anyone refer to a Harlequin Romance other than with a sneer (“Formula! Hackneyed! Cliche!”) and unfortunately that was usually the case with Laser Books as well.

They were edited (heavily) by a man named Roger Elwood, who was very much of the old school when it came to science fiction, as well as being a bit of a prude besides. Considering the late 1960s and early 1970s “new wave” of SF was just cresting and going mainstream, he was really not a good choice for the job, and his fresh new line of original science fiction novels ended up looking terribly out-of-date and old-fashioned. Laser Books selections tended to be bland and forgettable as far as conceptual SF was concerned.

But I always had a soft spot for them, nevertheless. Largely because of the Kelly Freas covers. He did all of them, each according to a strict formula — a scene from the story as background, with a head shot of a major character always in the lower right-hand corner. Like everything else about the Lasers, it was formula — but Freas made it work.

I loved these cover paintings. I loved these cover paintings.

I loved these cover paintings.

And the books weren’t bad, at least not to my undiscriminating 14-year-old self back in the day. (Those of you in the back snickering about how Hatcher’s not really any more discriminating today can just shut up.) They were a much better way to kill an hour in study hall than actually studying, for God’s sake. Laser Books was where I first found authors like K.W. Jeter and Stephen Goldin and Kathleen Sky and others, all of whom would go on to do books I liked quite a bit.

It really was criminal the way the trade dress for the books covered up so much of the art. It really was criminal the way the trade dress for the books covered up so much of the art.

It really was criminal the way the trade dress for the books covered up so much of the art. This is from BLAKE'S PROGRESS, probably my favorite of the series. Later Nelson revised it and published the new version under the title TIMEQUEST, but I think I like the older one better.

And here they all were at Cameron’s for a buck each. Even the one you couldn’t get in stores, Seeds of Change. (You had to fill out a questionnaire in the back of one of the ‘regular’ books and mail it in, and they’d send you the book as a gift.)

Not Found In Stores! -- well, until the used-book market flooded with them a couple of years later.

Not Found In Stores! -- well, until the used-book market flooded with them a couple of years later.

There were fifty-seven of the Laser Books series released between 1975 and 1977 (fifty-eight counting Seeds of Change, the “zero issue” mail-order one) and it looked like practically all of them were sitting on the shelf there. For one blindingly white-hot moment of collector’s lust I thought about scooping them all up, but then reason prevailed. I did pick up five of them for old time’s sake — Renegades of Time, Herds, Gates of the Universe, Blake’s Progress, and Serving in Time, for those keeping score– and Seeds of Change, as well. Six dollars in all.

As I was making my purchases I noticed that the proprietor had sitting next to the register, bagged and boarded, one of the rare DC Tarzan Digests that reprinted a lot of Russ Manning’s Sunday newspaper Tarzan strips.

It was the hell of a day down there at Cameron's.

Again came the double whammy of nostalgia and acquisitive lust. He had it priced at twenty-five dollars, though, which was a bit high for me. I told him it was quite a find, though.

He gave me a sour look. “I wish someone liked it enough to buy it,” he said.

He must have been getting a lot of wistful comments like that. Well, twenty-five was too high, damn it. Oh well. If Julie had been there she probably would have tried to talk me into it, but she had stepped outside, the dust had finally proved too much for her.

I found my wife blowing her nose out on the sidewalk and showed her my loot.

“That’s nice, honey,” Julie said, and sneezed. “But I don’t know how you managed more than five minutes in there. My allergies are killing me.”

So, fair warning. There will probably be sneezing. But if you’re ever in downtown Portland and you can brave the allergens, there are all sorts of rare delights to be had at Cameron’s. Bring Kleenex.

*

Once we’d dealt with the prescription thing, we were on the road again. We headed south out of Portland, bound for Detroit Lake in the Santiam River Valley. I’d designed our route to take us through as many fun back roads and small towns as possible, so we eschewed Interstate 5 and instead went south out of Oregon City on route 213.

This is a much nicer drive than I-5 would have been.

This is a much nicer drive than I-5 would have been.

This eventually brought us through Molalla to Silverton, where we decided it was time for lunch.

Best fries ever. Seriously. The town is only about eight square blocks but it's full of murals like these. They take great pride in them.

O'Brien's is absolutely where to eat in Silverton. The mural was on the outside wall. The town is only about eight square blocks but it's full of murals like these. They take great pride in them.

In a small town on a weekday afternoon, if you want to know where the good lunch place is, you look for where the local crowd goes. In Silverton that is O’Brien’s. I mention this largely because I know comics fans like their junk food and O’Brien’s serves quite possibly the finest milkshake I’ve ever had. The fries were magnificent too. If you ever happen to pass through there, make the time to stop and have some.

The proprietor, a jolly fellow who proudly informed us he played Santa every year in the Silverton Christmas Festival, told us about Silverton’s Mural Society and gave us a map to the other ones scattered throughout the town. This sort of thing is exactly why we like going on these back-roads excursions in the first place, so after lunch we decided to take a look.

The murals were nice, but more to the point, we also found an interesting little thrift shop.

A very nice place, full of nice folks doing nice things for people.

A very nice place, full of nice folks doing nice things for people.

Since the whole point of our trip was to stop anywhere that caught our interest, we decided to poke our heads in and have a look. I was particularly interested in the “Original Art” advertised on the sign outside.

I was impressed with the gallery. The paintings hanging on display were quite vivid and striking. But only one of the artists had work out there instantly identifying him as being one of Our People.

Howard's awesome Tarzan.

Howard's awesome Tarzan.

Howard Godwin was clearly channeling the spirit of Basil Wolverton out of Peter Bagge. There was a whole pile of his drawings stacked in the windowsill, most any of them looking like it could easily run as a cover for PLOP! back in 1974.

There were a couple of attempts at superhero pieces, but most of it was funny, bigfoot-cartoon stuff.

With one magic word...

“This stuff is awesome,” I muttered. “Who the hell is this guy?”

I was talking to myself, since Julie was on the opposite side of the store looking at carnival glass. But the woman at the sales register heard me and came over smiling. “Those are our success stories,” she said, waving a hand at the paintings.

It turned out that the art hanging on the back wall of the store was part of the Mount Angel Developmental Center’s art therapy program. They work with autistic patients and other people with developmental disabilities, and Howard had done these pieces as part of the workshop experience. The lady, whose name was Heidi, went on to explain that the entire store was a fundraising program for the Mt. Angel Center. (Article here.)

Well, now I felt like I had to buy something– Howard’s art wasn’t for sale– so I went to go look at the books. The book section was pitifully small, just a couple of shelves, and it didn’t really have anything terribly interesting at first glance.

But suddenly I saw something stuck in with the juvenile books.

Big score.Believe it or not, that's a serious score.

Believe it or not, that's a score.

Seven or eight of the old Trixie Belden hardcovers from the mid-1960s, forty years old at least, and all of them looking brand-new except for the one on the bottom of the pile, which had a broken and peeling spine.

Trixie Belden, for those who don’t know, was a girl-detective series in a similar vein to Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, but it wasn’t from the Stratemeyer juvenile-fiction factory. Trixie was an original from Whitman Publishing, the same people that brought you the Big Little Books. The old hardcover editions are quite rare and highly sought after by collectors — Trixie doesn’t have as big a fandom as Nancy Drew or the Hardys, but it’s far more fiercely devoted.

The books aren’t my thing, I’m not actually a fan — but even though I’m not a professional bookscout I know a nice score when I see one. I glanced at the price and they were each marked at 99 cents. I wondered what the set would go for on eBay. A hundred bucks? Hundred and fifty maybe? For a second I considered quietly scooping them up, but I decided I couldn’t do it to Howard and his classmates.

“Excuse me,” I said to Heidi. “But you have a bunch of highly collectible Trixie Belden books back here on the children’s shelf. Right now you have them priced at 99 cents each and you can get the hell of a lot more than that for them. Even this one with the peeling spine probably would go for five or six bucks to a collector.”

Heidi came hurrying over. “What? Really?”

I explained about the books and she pulled them off the shelf and set them behind the register, and then excitedly started taking notes as I told her about collector sites and so on.

“We have some other nice ones back there,” Heidi said hopefully when I was done. “Harry Potter…”

I smiled, gently so as not to look too smug about it. “99 cents is about all you’d get for the Harry Potter, those books have never been out of print. These Trixie Beldens have been out of print since 1968 and they look brand-new. The thing about Whitman is that they were incredibly cheap, the books were made out of really crappy material — see how that cellophane is peeling up there on the bad one? — so what makes these so valuable is their condition. You almost never see them looking this good. So it all boils down to supply and demand, just like in college economics.”

Heidi smiled at that, then raised an eyebrow. “Thank you so much. You could have just bought them yourself to sell again.”

“If this was a Value Village I might have,” I admitted. “But you guys are doing good work here. I couldn’t stab Howard in the back like that. He’s a cartoonist after my own heart.”

“Well, thank you again. I will certainly check into those books.”

I didn’t actually buy any books for myself, but Julie had found a piggy bank and a little lavender-scented bag of bath stuff (Heidi told us proudly that the patients also make up the little bath bags as part of the therapy program) so we did spend a little money.

Outside, Julie smiled at me. “That was a nice thing you did, in there,” she said.

“Traveling the Northwest, spreading nerdlore in our wake — that’s how we roll,” I told her. “And I’ll tell you a secret. You know what the real perk is of being a geek scholar? Getting to flex your expertise once in a while. Sometimes, it’s just fun to have an appreciative audience.”

*

That was it for books and comics for the next day or so. We were bound for eastern Oregon, because my wife is a bit of a geology geek. Julie was hoping to score a geode or possibly a thunderegg from one of the rock shops, maybe even spend an afternoon at one of those “Dig Your Own Treasure!” places you see on the Discovery Channel. I’d arranged for us to spend a couple of days near the John Day Fossil Beds with the idea that we would poke around some of the various geological attractions there.

We decided to travel along the Santiam River instead of over Mount Hood because Julie had never been there, and I’d only been once, twenty years ago. The scenery was stunning and we had a lot of fun…. but there was very little bookscouting action to be had.

On the left is a typical shot of the Santiam as seen from the highway. On the right is the view of the Santiam Valley from the Detroit Lake Dam. On the left is a typical shot of the Santiam as seen from the highway. On the right is the vew of the Santiam Valley from the Detroit Lake Dam.

On the left is a typical shot of the Santiam as seen from the highway. On the right is the vew of the Santiam Valley from the Detroit Lake Dam.

The phenomenon we’d noticed along the coast highway from Seaside was becoming more pronounced. The small towns were hurting.

Downtown Detroit, Oregon was typical of what we saw. A restaurant, a motel, a post office, and everything else closed or boarded up. This is about eleven AM on a Tuesday morning, and business is NOT booming even at the height of the summer recreational season.

Downtown Detroit, Oregon was typical of what we saw. A restaurant, a motel, a post office, and everything else closed or boarded up. This is about eleven AM on a Tuesday morning, and business is NOT booming even at the height of the summer recreational season.

Granted, none of them had ever been what you’d call a bustling metropolis, but we passed so many empty storefronts and FOR LEASE signs we started to wonder what people who lived out this way were living on. They couldn’t ALL work at a gas station.

It continued this way until we reached the town of Sisters the following afternoon.

The drive was as beautiful as I remembered, but I was sad to see that so many of the roadside grocery stores, with their wonderful comics racks and magazine stands, were just... gone.

The drive was as beautiful as I remembered, but I was sad to see that so many of the little roadside grocery stores, with their wonderful comics racks and boxes of used paperbacks, were just... gone.

Sisters is a nice little town that’s kind of in the weird area of eastern Oregon where the mountains start to give way to the desert. There’s still lots of trees around, but not the thick firs you see coming through the pass at Hoodoo. The air is a lot drier, and the trees you see around Sisters are smaller and thinner, scrub pine and such.

I hadn’t been to Sisters since I was about seven years old, and even then I don’t recall my family even stopping there, we just blew through it on our way to visit my cousins in Bend.

But it was a delightful place. Clearly a tourist trap, but we didn’t mind that, we were so pleased to see a town that had people moving around and doing stuff. It was the first town we’d seen since Silverton that looked, well, awake.

It doesn't really come across in this shot, but Sisters was hopping that afternoon. Lots of tourists and summer people... it was the first time since Portland we actually had to struggle a little to find a parking place.

It doesn't really come across in this shot, but Sisters was hopping that afternoon. Lots of tourists and summer people... it was the first time since Portland we actually had to struggle a little to find a parking place.

Best of all, there was a real bookstore.

My bride was actually interested in the buttons and craft supplies and such. She ended up buying a bag of loose agates for a couple of dollars.

In addition to books about buttons, there was also a large glass case full of actual buttons and stones with which to make buttons. My bride ended up buying a bag of loose agates for a couple of dollars.

Lonesome Water Antiquarian and Used Books is a really classy place. There would be no hidden bargains or surprise finds here, though, this was clearly a store run by someone dry behind the ears.

Well, that was all right. I don’t mind paying fair market value when it supports a good store. Though it did strike me that Sisters seemed like an unlikely place to find a rarities expert, it just proves that you never can tell with book people. (Although, upon reflection, the other two bookstores I know of that are run by genuine expert bookscouts are in out-of-the-way small towns as well.) While Julie was looking at the vintage buttons and stones that were on display up front, I went back in the stacks to see what was passing for “antiquarian” in the science-fiction and fantasy section.

All these books were in amazing shape. Priced maybe a touch high but very fair.

All these books were in amazing shape. Priced maybe a touch high but very fair.

Some nice things, and it amused me to see that both a Spider-Man hardcover novel and an X-Men novel from a decade ago were available in pristine first editions. (Diane Duane’s The Venom Factor even had its collectible trading card insert intact.) But I already had both of those… in pristine first editions, even.

I did fall for a couple of others.

Caidin on BUCK ROGERS? Had to have that... My favorite Edgar Rice Burroughs movie adaptation, but I'd never gotten around to reading the originals.

Martin Caidin’s Buck Rogers came as a complete surprise to me. I had been a fan of Mr. Caidin’s ever since I read Cyborg back in junior high, but I’d had no idea he had done a Buck Rogers book. And though The Land That Time Forgot starring Doug McClure is probably my favorite of all the dozens of films based on a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, I’d never gotten around to actually reading the books. And here was the entire trilogy in a vintage hardcover ‘movie edition’ from the SF Book Club. Couldn’t pass either one of those up.

When I took my purchases up to the front register I noticed a locked display case up there. Most rare-book dealers have one, it’s where they show off the really good $tuff. I leaned over to have a closer look, since Julie was still looking at the button case. A splash of color stood out from the other old leather and buckram spines. I grinned.

“How much for the Trixie Beldens?” I asked casually.

There on the lower shelf, in the middle... why, what do we have here?

There on the lower shelf, in the middle... why, what do we have here?

The owner shrugged. “Oh, I just keep those in there because they’re so fragile. Not that much. About fifteen each.”

I felt absurdly vindicated and pleased, and did some quick math in my head. Seven times fifteen was a hundred and five, figure another four or five for the bad one with the cracked and peeling spine… yeah, that would be a pretty nice score for Howard and his fellow artists back at Mount Angel. I hope Heidi clears at least that much on them.

*

…and again this has gone on rather longer than I thought it would. So I’ll stop here.

Be here next week for the wrapup, where we find more amazing comics and ‘zines in more really unlikely spots, as we continue on through the desert and swing north for home. See you then.

26 Comments

Hi Greg,

Cool post. It’s nice to see unique, more personal posts on comic blogs.

I’m debating moving to Portland next year and was hoping you could give me some info. I currently live in Central MA, so it’s not like I can drive up some weekend. I’m thinking of going to Portland State for advertising and always hear good things about the city. It’d be nice to hear an honest critique from a native.

Thanks,
Brian

It’d be nice to hear an honest critique from a native.

Brian, there’s not a lot I can tell you. I haven’t lived in Portland for over twenty-five years, we’re actually in Seattle. What I remember about Portland State is pretty awful, but that’s all personal stuff, it’s a good school. Portland’s a beautiful city and if you’re a book person you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Same goes if you’re a foodie, I’m told. Their mass transit is excellent. Housing can be expensive but that goes for any big city — I don’t know what PSU has available in the way of student housing but I imagine it’s worth investigating.

Hopefully one of our other regular commenters has more current info.

Greg, I beg you, please post your “shelf porn” on robot 6 one of these days.

Tom Fitzpatrick

August 13, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I wonder about the ceilings in Cameron’s, if it’s as old as you say they are, I’d hope those ceilings has be re-fitted since those days gone by.

I’d hope those ceilings has be re-fitted since those days gone by.

I’m mostly kidding about Cameron’s being a rathole. It’s not like there’s dozens of building code violations or anything. It’s just cluttered and a little dusty. But the Chinese restaurant upstairs in the same building has always been popular and I know the city inspectors keep an eye on that place.

You’re not kidding about Trixie Belden books being strangely unaffordable. I was a huge Belden fan when I was a kid and have recently been looking at lots on ebay to try and recapture some of that misspent youth and the prices are… surprising. I would have eaten up that stack if I had found it.

Loving this series of columns, Greg, as ever.

I perused a local (well, local at the time, now it’s 200+ miles away) antique/book shop a few months ago. Lovely place, filled with nostalgia I shouldn’t even possess. Original Hardy Boys and Tom Swifts…! I nearly wet myself. And a comic rack! With Jimmy Olsens! My friends bought me the issue of Lois Lane where she turns into a black woman, because I was too cheap to cough up the bones. I like my friends.

I was a huge Belden fan when I was a kid and have recently been looking at lots on ebay to try and recapture some of that misspent youth and the prices are… surprising.

Actually, not so much, when you consider that it’s Whitman. It’s the scarcity of books in decent condition that drives up the price. The thing of it is that their entire line was printed on just about the worst materials possible for a book you wanted to keep. Big Little Books, Trixie Belden, or my particular itch, the line of “TV Favorites” licensed novels — it doesn’t matter. They fell apart if there was any real re-reading. The boards they used for the covers were hardly heavier than the chipboard you find on the back of a memo pad, and the interior paper was incredibly acidic, it was almost a pulp stock. The spines cracked if you looked at them funny. And worst of all, for a lot of the sixties they laminated the covers with this weird mylar stuff that you could peel right off if it cracked at all — like a spine does when you read a book — and often, kids couldn’t resist trying to peel the entire cover like a grape.

At the same time, there were a lot of talented folks writing and illustrating the things, many of us have fond childhood memories of reading them, so collectors want them. Low supply, high demand, price goes up. QED.

This is great stuff and I’m really enjoying this series. Finally, something besides week old coverage of SDCC. Looking forward to the next installment.

That is awesome that you pointed out the Trixie Belden books. Like you say, though, depending on WHO it is, you might just pick ‘em up cheap and go HAHA suckers.

That Tarzan comic story is something that bugs me. If you can’t get someone, in fact, several someones to buy something at the price you’ve marked it at, LOWER THE PRICE. Occasionally I’ll try bartering, if I’m really interested, but usually they aren’t interested. I think that’s part of the problem with music retailers. Their prices are too high as it is, but they don’t get that if something’s not selling at 17 bucks, it MIGHT sell for 12, or 8. But that’s another story.

There’s a book store in Salem, Mass, that I don’t recall the name of, but it’s awesome just for the fact that the store is PACKED with books. Just masses stacked high, narrow little rows. It’s actually not conducive to browsing, but it is cool just seeing all of the books there. And the proprietor was in a little nook by the register, and if you weren’t looking right at him, you wouldn’t even realize he was there.

The installments in this series just keep getting better & better. And you really hit my nostalgia buttons with this one: just the fact that you mentioned Silveron, Mt. Angel and Molalla makes me all misty, to say nothing of the Santiam River and the beautiful scenery out in those parts.
Your comments about having mixed feelings when visiting Portland are interesting – I think I have the same attitude toward Salem (which is closer to where my family used to live). Portland, on the other hand was always the cool getaway place for me. Every time I’m in the States and get a chance to visit Oregon, I feel giddy as a little kid when arriving in Portland…
By the way, I remember my older sister used to have a bunch of the Trixie Belden books – she kept them in pretty good condition, too, but I’m not sure if she held on to them after all of these years. I definitely have to ask her about that, and notify her that she may be sitting on a treasure.

That was a nice thing you did with the Trixie Belden books. But I’m mainly posting to tell you how much I’m enjoying this trip report. It’s been fun sharing your adventures.

Once again, Greg, reading your column proves to be both informative AND uplifting. I always save it for last, because while the other columns at CBR basically keep reminding me of how much comics suck today, yours reminds me of why I love reading… as well of the fact that there are STILL nice people in this world. Thank You. :)

I never got into paperbacks in the 70s mostly because the first Sc-Fi novel I bought… turned out to be a PORNOGRAPHIC one. Something called “Spaceways” published by Playboy -which I would have realized had I bothered to check the spine and not just the pretty cover. Then again the person who sold to it me *a minor at the time* didn’t realize it either. While I didn’t mind the sex that much :P it also had a bizarre “sexual slavery is OK” mentality to it that I DID find disturbing. It would be several years before I gave SF paperbacks a chance again.

You know, it occurs to me that this might be the place to ask something: back when I was little, I read a book about the adventures of an old scientist, his two “robot children” and his (real) grandson. It was very much in the Tom Swift juvenile Sci Fi mold, and I loved it. Thing is, I CANNOT REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS CALLED, which prevents me from looking it up in the Internet. Does Greg or anyone else here know what I’m talking about? (note: The book was in Spanish, so I’m assuming it was a translation of an American novel. However it could also have been produced in a Spanish-speaking country while intentionally copying the American Sci Fi style.)

Re: Keeping Portland Weird. That’s actually a phrase that originated in Austin in the 90’s and was developed by a group of local businesses to ensure support for local businesses. The group has successfully ensured , as Austin has quadrupled in size in the last 15 years, that local businesses are strongly represented in new commercial developments.

Since the mid-90s, other cities like Portland and Louisville have adopted the campaign for similar uses.

Great series of columns, by the way.

You know, it occurs to me that this might be the place to ask something: back when I was little, I read a book about the adventures of an old scientist, his two “robot children” and his (real) grandson. It was very much in the Tom Swift juvenile Sci Fi mold, and I loved it. Thing is, I CANNOT REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS CALLED, which prevents me from looking it up in the Internet. Does Greg or anyone else here know what I’m talking about?

The only guess I have is the Not Quite Human series of juveniles. Anyone else? Bueller?

THROWBACK Jam Of The Day: Biggie Smalls w/ “10 Crack Commandments”!!!…

I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

Sijo writes:

“Once again, Greg, reading your column proves to be both informative AND uplifting. I always save it for last, because while the other columns at CBR basically keep reminding me of how much comics suck today, yours reminds me of why I love reading… as well of the fact that there are STILL nice people in this world. Thank You.”

Funny, I figured you saved it for last because it’s usually the last column of the week. *ducks*

Seriously though, I think you’re being a bit unfair to the other CSBG writers. If they all wrote columns waxing nostalgic about the comics and fictions they all loved as kids and teenagers predominanty, without all that much reference to modern comics today, they’d probably all have a much more positive vibe about their columns. If Greg was regularly reviewing the schlock that everyone else reviews and complains about… Well, Greg might be a bit more polite about expressing it, but he’d likely be just as critical of the works, maybe even moreso in some cases.

@Louis Bright-Raven: Oh, I’m aware of that. And I read the other columns *despite* their overwhelming tendency to spout doom and gloom about comics because I feel it’s important to keep up to date. But at the end of the day, you want to read something RELAXING, you know? Even if it’s about a past that will never return.Otherwise the sheer cynicism would ruin the whole reading experience.
*AFLAC!* :P

@Greg: Mmm… no, I don’t think Not Quite Human is what I mean. I checked it in Wikipedia and it doesn’t sound fantastic enough; the book I mean had everything from anti-gravity marbles to an almost-casual trip to Mars. (Does that help anyone else identify it?)

Out of curiousity, is the Caiden “Buck Rogers” story a continuation, decades later, of the original “Anthony Rogers” novellas (“Armageddon 2419″ & “Air Lords of the Han”), or something more based in the comic strip/serial version?

I know that in the early 80s, that at least two books were done based on a Pournelle/Niven outline (“Mordred” & “Roger’s Rangers”, each by different author) extending the original timeline (the novellas were actually an early post-apocalyptic SF book, about the locals fighting “Asian” invaders that were actually alien/human hybrids(the novellas hint, and the sequels go a little more in detail, that the hybrids eliminated the original Chinese)), and those make reference to a Rogers biography (though they might have been referencing the original novellas). I was wondering if this was part of that series.

Susan Sutherland

August 15, 2010 at 11:00 am

Random House actually owns the rights to Trixie Belden and republished the first 15 books in a hard cover edition a few years back. You can buy them on Amazon for $6.99 a piece. The later books are much more expensive and harder to find as they haven’t been republished since the 1980s. 99 cents for a cameo edition is an amazing find.

The last reprinting was not in the 1960s, however. They rereleased the first 16 books in the late 1970s in paperback and wrote 23 more books that were published over the 1970s and 1980s, with the last five being released in the mid 1980s.

The last five books (35-39), published in the 80s, which were paperbacks, were never republished, are out of print, and can go for up to $50-$100 a piece, which is rather ironic since they’re the worst written of the set.

The earlier editions of the books tend to be more expensive than the later 1980s paperbacks, but you can get deals if you look hard enough. :) And the newer hardcover versions from Random House have the original text and line drawings from the 1940s/1950s editions, if you’re just looking for the story and not so worried about the edition/cover. :)

I remember those Laser Book covers. But I don’t think I ever bought a Laser Book. Something about them–bland titles, no-name authors, back-cover copy–made them unappealing. Glad to see I didn’t miss anything special.

Trixie Belden sounds like the female equivalent of the Three Investigators: less well-known than their famous counterparts (the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew) but more valuable because of the demand from their fans and fewer quantities on the used market.

Speaking of which, since I know you’re a fan, did you come across any Three Investigators books in your travels? That’s a series I always keep an eye out for in any bookstore in any town in which I find myself, and I rarely have any luck.

Speaking of which, since I know you’re a fan, did you come across any Three Investigators books in your travels?

Yes, as a matter of fact. Surprised the hell out of me. Picked up a nice ex-library hardcover of The Mystery of the Rogues’ Reunion at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store when we went through the Dalles, which we’ll get to in the next installment.

Greg, like others, I have really enjoyed this series. Many of these cities I have driven through but was always in too much of a hurry to stop. Perhaps I will stop and check them out now.

@Brian, I currently live in Portland and can vouch for what an incredible city it is (just don’t tell anyone). It’s such a cliche, but if you like book stores, record stores, coffee and quirky cafes (and don’t mind a lot of wetness) – this is a fantastic place to be. Do some more research on your own, but if you’re reading and enjoying this blog then there’s a good chance that you will like what Portland has to offer.

What a great trip! Loved hearing about all of the interesting local places.

[…] books.  Especially the Trixie Belden books which Greg himself had talked about a few months ago HERE.  Right now, I’m not sure if I’ll read these or sell them, but either way I felt […]

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