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CSBG Archive

Ten Days on the Road, conclusion

Concluding the series of columns recounting Greg and Julie’s Excellent Bookscouting Adventure. For latecomers, here is part one, part two, part three… and our conclusion lies below the fold.

*

I’ll level with you — if I’d known then what I know now, we’d have skipped eastern Oregon entirely.

My intentions were good. Over the years, Julie has often expressed a desire to get back to the kind of rock hound activities she had done with her father years ago, digging for petrified wood and geodes and other stuff when she was a kid. And eastern Oregon’s supposed to be a good place for that sort of thing.

According to most sources, the rocks in those cliffs are a geologist's paradise.

Just outside of John Day, Oregon. According to most sources, the rocks in those cliffs are a geologist's paradise.

At least, according to the internet. The John Day Fossil Beds are there, the Painted Hills, there’s lots of geological wonders to be found in that part of the country. My idea was that we’d spend a day or two over that way and maybe we’d find some interesting rocks and things for Julie, possibly even dig a couple out of the ground ourselves if there was some sort of touristy rock hound thing to be found for duffers like us. And in the meantime, I’d amuse myself seeing if there were any interesting books to be had…. we always seemed to have good luck with thrift shops and antique stores and such no matter what part of the country we were in.

Leaving Sisters was where our luck ran out, though.

The first sign the wheels were coming off the wagon was when we pulled into Dayville, where we’d reserved a room at a local hotel… and the hotel was closed. There was a little sign hanging in the window that said — I am not making this up — “Gone Golfing.”

It soon became clear that not just the hotel office was closed — though it was certainly galling, in the middle of a weekday afternoon, to find that no one was available to take our money for the room I’d reserved in advance, they knew we were coming — but the entire town was closed. Everything. The hotel, the cafe, the tiny little city hall, the rock shop (Julie let out a small sigh at that one.) Dayville was only two blocks long, so there weren’t THAT many businesses, but it was still a little eerie. This was two o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, not early Sunday morning or something.

Dayville on Wednesday. Even places with an OPEN sign are closed. Apparently Wednesday is siesta day.

Dayville on Wednesday. Even places with an OPEN sign are closed. Apparently Wednesday is siesta day.

The one place that was open for business was the gas station, where we filled up the car. I asked the hatchet-faced woman pumping our gas if she knew when the hotel was going to be open. She shrugged and allowed as how the golf course wasn’t that far away, the hotel owner shouldn’t be gone that long… couple of hours maybe.

Julie and I decided that sitting out in the baking heat of the afternoon waiting for the hotel guy to get back from his golf game was stupid. (Not quite as stupid as going out to play eighteen holes in desert country in July, it must have been like playing on the surface of the sun… but I’m not a golfer.) Since we hadn’t actually reserved the room with a credit card but just given our name and the promise we were arriving that afternoon, we weren’t committed, so we decided to press on and see if we could find a hotel with someone actually working who would rent us a room.

Our route from Sisters. Pretty country to drive through, but not a lot in the way of retail or tourist entertainment.

Our route from Sisters. Pretty country to drive through, but not a lot in the way of retail or tourist entertainment.

What we were not aware of was that, this very same week in July, was the Cruise Oregon event. A group of motorcycle enthusiasts were having some sort of statewide rally, and this was the day they all hit the John Day area. The few motels we could find were all booked solid for the next three towns. We finally got the last room available in Prairie City, about two steps ahead of a biker couple that pulled in right behind us.

That kind of set the tone for the next couple of days. Driving miles and miles through a whole lot of nothing, and when finally there was something, it was closed.

This would seem to be a joke sign but honestly this is the way everyone seemed to do business east of the mountains. At least Grumpy had a sense of humor about it, despite the name.

This looks like a joke sign but it's not. Honestly this is the way everyone seemed to do business east of the mountains. At least Grumpy's had a sense of humor about it, despite the name.

No motels, no thrift shops, no nothing. There were no rock shops or anything for Julie, either. She took this much more graciously than I did.

We struck out in John Day, in Spray, in Fossil, and, well, in every little town we passed through. The reason was obvious — we’d thought the mountain towns we’d seen were hurting, but that was nothing compared to what we were seeing east of the mountains.

Downtown Prairie City, closed up tight on a Wednesday afternoon.

Downtown Prairie City, closed up tight on a Wednesday afternoon.

These desert towns were all dead or dying. Everywhere we looked was poverty, neglect, and despair. The air of sullen defeat hanging over the places we drove through was a palpable thing. Farms lay fallow. Whole rows of shops were boarded up and falling apart. “Ghost town” doesn’t begin to cover it.

Downtown Fossil. Also closed. This was Thursday around one. Next to it Julie standing next to the WELCOME sign in Fossil, the only one of these small towns that actually made us feel somewhat welcome. Downtown Fossil. Also closed. This was Thursday around one. Next to it Julie standing next to the WELCOME sign in Fossil, the only one of these small towns that actually made us feel somewhat welcome.

Downtown Fossil. Also closed. This was on Thursday, around one in the afternoon. Next to it is Julie clowning at the WELCOME sign in Fossil, the only one of these small towns that actually made us feel somewhat welcome.

Needless to say, there was no shopping and certainly no bookscouting to be had. We were lucky to find a diner open in Fossil that would sell us lunch. (Trying to find dinner in Prairie City the night before, Julie and I had walked into an empty restaurant only to have a woman scurry out of the kitchen and yell at us, “Who left that front door open?!” She did eventually consent to sell us a meal but we had to go around back, to the bar.)

The Big Timber Restaurant in Fossil was a nice place and looked to actually be doing a little business, and the staff were the only people we found east of Sisters who seemed to be in a good mood. The one bookscout-type moment that came during our two days in the Oregon desert country was when our waitress, Chris, mentioned she was trying to get rid of a big box of her ex’s books he’d left at her home. She was about to remarry and she didn’t want any vestiges of the previous man in her life left in her home. She perked up when she heard we were sort of on the prowl for old and rare books. I asked her what was there, and she said a lot of Tom Clancy hardcovers and stuff like that.

“Yeah, most of it probably can go to a Goodwill,” I told her regretfully. “But look through the Tom Clancy books before you let go of them. His first one, Red October, is worth a lot in the original hardcover. No one wanted it originally and it was finally published by the Naval Institute Press, who up till that time only published textbooks and such. Then Ronald Reagan mentioned how much he’d enjoyed the book and it took off like a rocket, that made Clancy’s career. That hardcover’s worth a few bucks to you if he left it.”

Good eating here, if it's open.I occasionally sigh wistfully about someday owning one of these.

Chris thanked us profusely, instantly aglow at possibly snaking a hidden treasure out from under her foolish ex. We paid the check and wished her happiness in her married life.

Outside, I noticed Julie smiling at me.

“She probably doesn’t have it,” I said. “That’d be one in a million for one of those Naval Institute editions to show up here in the middle of nowhere. It’s probably just the same crap hardcovers we see at Goodwill all the time.”

Julie just smiled a little wider and shook her head.

“I know, I know,” I sighed. “I can’t help it. Press the button and the lecture comes out. It’s a nerd reflex.”

“I think it’s cute,” my wife said.

Once more I say to you gentlemen out there — when you meet a girl who not only tolerates your weird nerd hobby but actually finds it endearing, you marry her.

*

Apart from that, though, the only book-related moment from the whole two and a half days over in the Oregon desert country was finding a hardcover collection, The Saturday Evening Post Reader of Sea Stories, that I picked up for fifty cents from a Methodist Women’s rummage sale in John Day. Mostly because it amused me to have both Ray Bradbury’s “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” and C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower between the same two covers.

That and the time we spent poking around the Condon Paleontology Center at Sheep Rock kept it from being a total loss for both geology for Julie and book hunting for me, but by and large, if we had it to do over again, we’d probably have taken a different route.

The Fossil Center at Sheep Rock is a fascinating place, though you pretty much have to show credentials that you are pursuing a paleontology doctorate for them to let you anywhere near the fossil beds. They do have windows into the labs where you can see anxious grad students carefully polishing up their finds. The Fossil Center at Condon is a fascinating place, though you pretty much have to show credentials that you are pursuing a paleontology doctorate for them to let you anywhere near the fossil beds. They do have windows into the labs where you can see anxious grad students carefully polishing up their finds.

The Fossil Center at Sheep Rock is a fascinating place, though you pretty much have to show credentials that you are pursuing a paleontology doctorate for them to let you anywhere near the fossil beds. They do have windows into the labs where you can see anxious grad students carefully polishing up their finds.

We headed north up route 19 back towards the Columbia River, and there we found more congenial country.

This is a fun drive to take if you just want to see the countryside. But best not done in the heat of summer. It was well over ninety degrees for most of the way.

This is a fun drive to take if you just want to see the countryside. But best not done in the heat of summer. It was well over ninety degrees for most of the way.

We’ve always liked the area around the Columbia Gorge anyway, and it was cheering to see that as we approached Arlington, the local economic conditions appeared to be improving. In particular, we were struck by the amazing number of wind farms that had sprung up since our last drive through the area just five years ago.

These were everywhere. It's such a DUH idea for anyone who's spent any time in the area that it's embarrassing no one thought of it until recently. I wonder why no one tried it a half-century ago.

These were everywhere. It's such a DUH idea for anyone who's spent any time in the area that it's embarrassing no one thought of it until recently. I wonder why no one tried it a half-century ago.

They really are very impressive, especially when you see them up close. I kept thinking of Isaac Asimov and The Gods Themselves. Years ago, Asimov had posited in that novel that humanity would continue on a course of action, no matter how destructive that course might be in the long run, if it was financially successful — and that in order to make man even consider trying something different, it was imperative to show an immediate economic advantage to the different approach as well as a long-term ecological one. Because the immediate economic advantage is the only thing people actually care about.

From a fictional isotope to a Columbia river windmill? Not as big a leap as you might think. ...Damn it, I miss Isaac Asimov. He devoted his life to making people less stupid. We could use more people like that today. From a fictional isotope to a Columbia river windmill? Not as big a leap as you might think. ...Damn it, I miss Isaac Asimov. He devoted his life to making people less stupid. We could use more people like that today.

From a fictional isotope to a Columbia River windmill? Not as big a leap as you might think. ...Damn it, I miss Isaac Asimov. He devoted his life to making people less stupid. That's a noble calling.

I wondered if we were seeing that scenario play out in real life here, decades later. From what Julie and I had seen, it looked like ranching and farming were no longer viable options to keep people employed in this part of the country, and there was a lot of anger and bitterness and blame being thrown around over it. The situation was so obviously painful for the locals that we’d noticed it right away, and we were just passing through.

But in the middle of all that anger and despair, someone had been smart enough to see an opportunity. Here was a brand-new industry that had taken over the entire valley almost overnight. God knows, the one thing they have in abundance along the Columbia Gorge is wind.

The Leaning Jupiter Wind Farm, just south of Arlington. to get a sense of the scale of these things, check out the pickup trucks.

Route 19 took us through the Leaning Jupiter Wind Farm, just south of Arlington. To get a sense of the scale of these things, check out the pickup trucks at the bottom left corner of the picture.

…apologies. I know this is getting rather far afield from books and comics. I mention it mostly because it did lift our spirits, seeing all these people hard at work building something new after a depressing two days of ghost towns. There was something really hopeful about it, a sort of Heinlein “Man CAN reach for the stars!” vibe about it all. As we drove through the towering windmills I kept thinking about Asimov’s postulate and how it applied to what we were seeing around us. I hoped that someone with a similarly innovative idea could use it to bail out some of the other dying towns we’d been through over the last couple of days.

*

Julie and I are a little sentimental about the Columbia Gorge country, since it was the scene of one of our first dates… well, a sort of date, though really it was more each of us cautiously wondering if this was an actual DATE or just good pals hanging out on a road trip. (Look, some of us are late bloomers, okay?) On that first trip we had originally planned to visit the observatory in Goldendale, but had been sidetracked by all the fun thrift shops and antique shops and so on throughout Hood River and The Dalles.

I’d promised that we would really make it to the observatory this trip, but in the meantime, we were eager to see what we could turn up in the way of books and comics. In particular, I wanted to make some time to drop in on the ArtiFacts bookstore in Hood River.

We love this place.

The bookstore is itself a really cool place, with lots of vintage paperbacks and ‘zines and comics. But what I was really curious about was whether or not a local cartoonist named Logan was still doing his demented comics ‘zines. On our last visit to Hood River his superhero parody book Logan Force was my favorite thing I’d found on the trip.

Happily, both ArtiFacts and young Logan are still in the ‘zine business.

The comics section at ArtiFacts has actually expanded. This was the healthiest-looking comics section we'd seen since the coast.

The comics section at ArtiFacts has actually expanded. Lots of back issues and a couple of shelves of graphic novels -- the graphic novels were new, and mostly indies. This was the healthiest-looking comics retail area we'd seen since the coast.

I snatched up copies of everything he had out, which were the last four issues of something called Escapist Fantasys.

This was an anthology book, with various features such as “Captain Mannlee Adventures,” “Hipster Barbarian,” and “Sleazy Spy Action,” but what warmed my heart was a strip starring “Jill Hat, P.I.” Jill had been a member of Logan Force, back in the day, and I was tickled to see that Logan was still doing strips about her.

Given our road trip's stated mission, how could I NOT love this strip?

Given our road trip's stated mission, how could I NOT love this strip?

Even better, this particular strip was about Jill’s shopping adventures…

This has to be drawn from real life. Hell, it's almost drawn from OUR real lives.

I wish I had room to put the whole thing up, it was hilarious. But I hope these pages give you an idea.

….browsing through other people’s castoffs and old junk, the same thing Julie and I had been touring the country doing for most of a week. It’s like he knew we were coming and did the strip as a gift.

I wish I had room to put the whole thing up, it was hilarious. But I hope these pages give you an idea.

This has to be drawn from real life. Hell, it's almost drawn from OUR real lives.

Anyway. Most of what I said about Logan’s comics work a couple of years back still holds true. The art is often shaky, the spelling occasionally needs work, and the whole thing is sort of raw… but he’s got a terrific grasp of how a comics page should work, the stories are fast and funny and the inking especially shows a great sense of how to lead a reader’s eye. But whatever the flaws in the execution, there’s a joyous raw energy about the whole endeavor, a sort of garage-band enthusiasm to the stuff that I find completely charming. I have no idea if Logan will see this or if he even surfs the comics internet, the books are deliberately low-fi and there’s no web address, just a contact e-mail. (That contact is jillhatpi (at) gmail.com, if you are interested — I imagine if you sent him a couple of dollars for postage he’d hook you up with some ‘zines.)

In any case, if you get to ArtiFacts in Hood River, check it out.

*

There were a couple of other fun places we found around Hood River and the Dalles that were new to us this trip. No comics retailers to speak of, and few actual used bookstores other than ArtiFacts, but that didn’t mean there weren’t lots of books and comics around. Thrift shops abounded and most of them had books.

We were still looking for fun juvenile books for our friend Lorinda, who’d asked us to pick up anything we saw that “a couple of bright third-graders might like,” specifically her little brother Finn and her foster daughter Kerowyn.

We scored big at a St. Vincent’s in the Dalles. We found all sorts of good stuff in the juvenile section there.

In particular, I was amazed and delighted to find not one but two hardcovers from the Danny Dunn series.

Good times! Amazing to find these at all.

This was another beloved series from my youth, this one more of a science fiction thing. Danny and his mother live with an eccentric professor named Bullfinch, and generally each book in the series has Danny and his friends Joe and Irene get involved with the Professor’s latest invention in some sort of adventure. These were gateway books to science fiction for me, they led me to the Heinlein juveniles and all sorts of other good stuff. I’d never seen them for sale anywhere in more than thirty years of scrounging through used bookstores, and here were two. Ex-library but in good shape, and certainly engaging enough for bright third-graders. Definitely two for “Rin’s pile.”

Two more that would be coming home with me were a Three Investigators mystery I’d never seen, Rogues’ Reunion, and a Henry Reed book, Henry Reed’s Big Show.

Post-Hitchcock but still good. I loved these, even more than Homer Price.

The Three Investigators book was, again, ex-library, and it was one of the later entries in the series. So it was kind of beat up. Moreover, it wasn’t written by Robert Arthur and it didn’t feature a cameo from Alfred Hitchcock, but I’d never read it so I bought it anyway.

I was rather more pleased to find the Henry Reed book. This was another series I’d loved in my grade-school days but had never seen anywhere in all the years since. These are humor books, about the misadventures of Henry and his friend Midge in Grover’s Corner, New Jersey. They were written with sly wit by Keith Robertson and brilliantly illustrated by Robert McCloskey. (McCloskey also wrote and illustrated another childhood favorite of mine, the Homer Price books, the first of which featured a wickedly funny Superman parody.) There were five Henry Reed novels in all and this was the fourth, from 1970. Except for a couple of library stamps it looked brand-new.

We found a couple more in the science-fiction section for Rin herself, as well. The Gorgon and other Beastly Tales by Tanith Lee, and Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame.

This looked like a safe bet for Rin. No idea what this one's about but it looked worth risking a dollar on.

Rin is a gamer and active in her local chapter of the SCA, so the Tanith Lee seemed like a safe bet, and it was a nearly-pristine hardcover. The other book I was less sure about, but it was about a bunch of D&D-type gamers actually getting transported to their fantasy world, which seemed right in Rin’s wheelhouse, and again it was a really nice hardcover edition. I figured for an investment of 99 cents each we could let Rin decide herself if she liked them or not; she could always pass them along to her school if they weren’t to her taste. So we scooped them both up.

And finally there were a couple of impulse buys for me; two hardcovers on a shelf display that caught my eye on our way out.

I have no excuse. Except that it was cheap. This just sounded cool.

I’m not normally one for showbiz biographies, but the Patrick Swayze book aroused my curiosity because I wanted to know if he had any good stories about Road House, my favorite bad movie of all time, and anyway I knew Julie would be interested. Winter Range looked at first glance to be a new hardcover Western, which was the ongoing quest this trip… and as I often find myself saying in thrift shops, “Well, if it sucks we’re only out a dollar or two.”

The Swayze book was interesting, but not exactly in a good way. The narrative was the most amazing combination of one man’s inspirational struggle with cancer, and that same man’s really off-putting Hollywood narcissism and towering insecurity. It was kind of a case study in how one man can be a hero without being particularly heroic — you get the sense, reading it, that Swayze was a wonderful guy to work with, and fought a really noble fight to keep working and get through the devastation that terminal cancer brings to a family… but nevertheless was also tremendously difficult to be a friend to or live with, a guy that made everything in his life about him. Only really worth reading if you are a fan, and if you see it somewhere for a dollar like we did.

On the other hand, Winter Range by Claire Davis was a terrific find, though not exactly a western. It’s set in modern times and more a story of a small-town sheriff that has to uncover that town’s dirty little secret …a secret that, it develops, involves the sheriff’s own wife. That book alone was worth the seven or eight bucks we dropped at the store.

We also found a charming junk shop at the top of the ridge overlooking Hood River.

This is a fun place, if a bit cramped.

Good Karma is one of those places that just has shelves and shelves of stuff without a whole lot of organization behind it. (On one knickknack shelf Julie found a big rock with lots of crystallized striations and such on it, and it required a phone call from the clerk to his wife before they settled on a price of five dollars for it.)

As for me, I’d found a couple of paperback spinner racks that were a real blast from the past.

You'd have to really look at the titles to realize how hard these two racks of trashy paperbacks hit my nostalgia buttons. Star Trek Logs, Perry Rhodan, THE EIGER SANCTION... not to mention a bunch of 1970s pop culture detritus like Taylor Caldwell and CHARIOTS OF THE GODS.

Mostly I just stood there grinning in recognition at book covers I hadn’t seen in thirty years, but I did fall for a couple of licensed books.


I won't lie to you -- none of these books are very good. But they evoked such fond childhood memories I couldn't help myself.

The Star Trek entry was from that short-lived period in the late 1970s and early 1980s when Bantam Books still had the license, but had run out of episodes to adapt and hadn’t yet hit on the idea of getting real science fiction writers to do originals (as Pocket Books would a couple of years later when they got Vonda McIntyre’s The Entropy Effect to kick off their line.) Bantam instead mostly published several volumes of fan fiction. I think Perry’s Planet may have been one of the few done by a real professional — Jack Haldeman published dozens of short stories in the SF magazines of the 1970s. (His brother Joe did a couple of the Bantams, as did David Gerrold. I think most all the others were done by either fans, or fans recently turned pro.) I’d never read Perry’s Planet and figured it was worth fifty cents, certainly.

The three Space: 1999 paperbacks I grabbed were a less defensible purchase. I confess that those were strictly nostalgia buys. That was a show where you just had to’ve been there, and at exactly the right age… about thirteen or fourteen. Even then I knew the science was wonky, but it sure looked cool. (Look, I don’t judge you guys when you get all misty about G.I. Joe or Rom: Spaceknight.) A lot of it was just being starved for any kind of space adventure on TV in those days… believe it or not, before Star Wars changed the pop culture map, there was a time when Star Trek reruns were it. Many of us watched Space: 1999 desperately hoping it would get better, simply because it was almost good and it was the only game in town. Anyway, fifty cents a book was cheap enough that I didn’t feel too silly about it. If you’re going to try to “buy back a piece of your childhood,” as Jill Hat says, at least try to keep the cost down.

There were also comics in a couple of the antique stores we saw.

A really nice place and quite a few interesting books and comics. Well worth a stop if you're ever in The Dalles.

Red Wagon Antiques in the Dalles actually had an entire rack — the only comics rack we saw in that town.

Most of it was crap and priced way too high, but I did like seeing the comics there.

Most of it was crap and priced way too high, but I did like seeing the comics there. Sadly, the pulps were disintegrating in their bags or I might have picked one of them up, they were only five or six bucks.

Actually there were two areas in the store with comics, and it was in the second area I hit paydirt. A lot of older Harvey and Gold Key books, and among those was a Korak I didn’t have.

I fell for this one.

The books were junk, but the comics on this shelf were vintage, very high quality, and priced very reasonably. You never can tell with antique shops, a lot of the stuff in there is on consignment or in someone's rented stall, so books and comics can turn up in several different parts of the store.

I also picked up a couple of pulpy westerns along with the Korak comic.

These looked too cool to pass up. I love these Arcadia books.

Dry Range was one of the Arcadia House hardcovers from the early sixties that I’m very fond of. Powder Valley Pay-Off from 1941 just looked like fun, it got my attention just because I’m a sucker for those old cover paintings. Looking it up after we got home I discovered it was apparently the third of a long-running series of westerns that author Peter Field did from 1933 to 1965.

I almost fell for a vintage 1920s hardcover edition of The Son of Tarzan, as well — I love those original illustrations by J. Allen St. John — but it was beat to hell and they wanted twenty for it, and it wasn’t worth more than eight or nine.

St. John's style influenced a lot of folks who came later like Frazetta and Krenkel.

It would have been kind of fun to leave with both Korak comics and Korak prose, I admit, but it was not to be.

The hell of it was, we found so many interesting places in the Dalles and Hood River that once again we blew our shot at the Goldendale Observatory. We did actually get there this time, but it was closed by the time we arrived. Limited summer hours, or something. Oh well.

*

Once again this has sprawled on way too long, and I appreciate your indulgence if you’ve made it this far.

There’s not a lot left to tell, at least not as far as our bookscouting adventures are concerned. We kept going north after Goldendale, through mostly farm country.

No books or comics crossed our path for most of eastern Washington.

We poked around a little in Yakima and again in Wenatchee, but the pickings were pretty slim — we did find a couple of comics places, but they were closed. Truthfully, by this point we were getting a little burned out, and if we had it to do over again I think we’d have spent our last three days just lazing around in the Dalles and gloating over our loot. The drive through eastern Washington wasn’t nearly as pretty as the other country we’d been through, and the summer heat was so debilitating it became a sprint from one air-conditioned environment to the next. Seattleites aren’t good with heat; ours is a damp country, and we are a pale people that fear the sun.

I did make one last awesome score in Cashmere that was just so insanely unlikely I have to mention it, though.

We’d stopped at a nondescript little antique mall, mostly because we wanted to stretch our legs and were thinking about maybe getting a smoothie from the espresso stand that seemed to anchor the place.

It doesn't look like much from the outside... but...

Blessedly, the AC inside was running full-on and it was the first time we’d been comfortable for the last hundred miles or so. And to my delighted surprise, there were half a dozen different stalls with both books and comics.

In addition to this area, there was also a guy with almost the full run of ALL-STAR SQUADRON and most of the later issues of the original run of THE DEFENDERS for sale.

In addition to this area, there was also a guy with almost the full run of ALL-STAR SQUADRON and most of the later issues of the original run of THE DEFENDERS for sale.

So suddenly we were in no hurry to leave. Julie had found a bunch of handmade necklaces and brooches that she was very interested in, so I wandered around looking through the book stalls scattered around the place. A lot of maybes, but nothing really jumped out at me. (There was one stall with a bunch of old All-Star Squadron, but as fond as I am of the Justice Society, I don’t think that book was their finest hour, and three dollars apiece was just a little too high for me.)

We were still checking the juvenile books for stuff for Rin’s two kids and for our godson, and suddenly I saw something so unlikely I was sure I must be hallucinating.

Whoa.

Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint,
the first of the series, from 1956. Not a reprint or a facsimile, the real thing, dust jacket intact, no markings of any kind.

Now, that may not mean anything to you, but it did to me, and I was startled. You rarely see copies of the Danny Dunn books anywhere other than at library sales, and those books are usually beat to hell and covered with library stamps. This was pristine. A first edition like that can go for anywhere from forty-five up to a couple of hundred bucks to collectors.

The owner of this particular stall of the antique mall had it priced at three. Not three hundred. Three dollars.

We’d been nice about our previous encounters with rarities, the Trixie Belden and Red October, but this was strictly a for-profit establishment and I was done being charitable. This was a score. Snoozers lose, baby. I was so superstitious about it that I didn’t even tell Julie what a find it was until it was all paid for and we were once again safely in the car.

That was the last real bookscouting moment. After that we cut straight west across the mountains for home.

*

So that was the trip. Again, I appreciate your indulgence… I really hadn’t meant to devote an entire months’ worth of columns to it but, well, I get carried away, and people didn’t seem to mind.

Julie’s already talking about next year… we’re thinking either Alaska or possibly Chicago. Either way, there are certain to be lots of books and comics. Because the one thing I learned from this trip is that our people are everywhere.

…well, except maybe for eastern Oregon. But that’s really the only place we’ve struck out in the last three or four years of wandering around. That’s not a bad record at all.

See you next week.

25 Comments

I really enjoyed reading this series. I look forward to next year’s journey!

Woah, Joel Rosenberg’s Guardians of the Flame series….those books were awesome. Great reads for the tween set.

The first part of this week’s installment was getting me real depressed – your comment in an earlier thread was right: those towns look murdered.
The rest of your column, however, really lightened my mood. Whenever you post pictures of spinner racks, whether filled with old comics or paperbacks, I realize I’m sitting in front of the computer with this big stupid grin on my face. And then those Danny Dunn books… I used to love them, & I think the Homework Machine is the first one I ever read.
Anyway, great series of columns. Thanks for sharing, and don’t worry about the length. I think you could have kept going for another few installments without anybody complaining…

I have the same copy of Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint somewhere at my folks’ house. I had no idea it was a collector’s item.

I have the same copy of Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint somewhere at my folks’ house. I had no idea it was a collector’s item.

Well, I’m talking about the first edition hardcover from 1956. If that’s the one at your home, then yeah, it is. Although even the paperback editions are worth a few bucks if they’re in good shape.

I’ve really enjoyed these little travelogues, wind-farm digressions and all. You should seriously pitch this to some cable station as a reality show — A book nerd traveling across the country, looking for rare treasures and discovering America along the way. I would watch the hell out of that.

Hey, I read the Henry Reed books! My brother got one from a library and he loved it, so pretty soon we all ended up reading every one they had there. If there were only five books, then I think I read them all. (There was one about a road trip all across the country, which fits with the theme of your last few columns. That book was very critical of the various state fireworks laws.) And I read the first Homer Price book with the Superman spoof (he was called SuperDuper). I had no idea there was a whole series. And much later, I read Guardians Of The Flame: The Warriors.

I loved, loved, LOVED this series on posts! Last night, after coming back from a party slightly drunk, I read all four of them, and I must say, while I can’t stand looking though used book and thrift stores, I absolutely adored your road trip stories! I think it’s the same way you couldn’t pay me to watch a baseball game, but I was fascinated by Ken Burns Baseball. Sir, you are the Ken Burns of used book stores!

“People didn’t seem to mind?” Are you kidding? This has been the most interesting read in CBR all month! :)

I’m sorry to hear about the state of small towns in America. I’m from a small town myself and I live next to a city now because of the conveniences, but I’d hate to actually live *in* it. I’m not a very gregarious person. I guess the economy REALLY is bad all over.

Wind farms are indeed a logical idea, but as long as oil is such a big business, they aren’t going to make the switch easy for anybody. (Though they eventually WILL have to, as fossil fuels won’t last beyond this century. The recent Gulf coast oil disaster won’t help their case either.)

“Bantam instead mostly published several volumes of fan fiction.”
Err, I’m assuming you mean “stories of the quality of typical fanfiction” here. Once something is licensed, published and paid for, it isn’t fanfiction anymore, regardless of canonicity. Plus some fanfics are actually GOOD, even better than some published stuff. I know from experience.

I remember Space: 1999 too. Of all the Sci-Fi series from the 70s-80s, I found it the weirdest (and not just because the base premise of the moon drifting about the Galaxy made no sense) but some of the stories were just… creepy. Still, interesting in its own way.

I’m actually kinda sad that this is the last part of your “tour” it was a nice read. But then your columns usually are. Waiting for the next one. ;)

I’d love to “reboot” Space: 1999 just like Battlestar Galactica. I would not change the year it takes place nor the jumpsuits, though, so it wouldn’t last a season.

Err, I’m assuming you mean “stories of the quality of typical fanfiction” here.

Actually, no. I mean they reprinted stories from actual fanzines. Those first two collections did well enough that they then commissioned some of those writers to do additional novels. Palpitating, almost-slashfic novels. Technically, yes, they were bought and paid for, but speaking from a strictly aesthetic point of view, it still looked like fanfic to me.

I’d love to “reboot” Space: 1999 just like Battlestar Galactica. I would not change the year it takes place nor the jumpsuits, though, so it wouldn’t last a season.

Somebody’s doing it already. There’s also this site.

Surprised the hell out of me, believe me. But then, I never thought it would have been possible to reboot Galactica, either.

Come to Chicago! I’ll look for you!

Re: Space 1999 reboot, If they’re making a big CGI +live action movie about YOGI BEAR, nothing surprises me anymore. In fact, I even came out with a premise to explain the whole “drifting moon” thing years ago- the Moon was actually knocked out of regular space and is drifting through hyperspace. Possibly also between universes, considering that weird episode where the Alpha Base crew met themselves…

Matthew Johnson

August 23, 2010 at 7:27 am

I loved those Danny Dunn books. The Rosenberg series is quite good, too, the first half-dozen volumes or so anyway.

Add me to the chorus that thoroughly enjoyed these posts (really, anything you write) so no apologies necessary!

It’s been awhile since I last read it, but I recall enjoying Rogues Reunion. It’s the only story that really deals with Jupe’s Hollywood past head on, and it was fun to see that elaborated on a bit. I also enjoyed all the nods to The Little Rascals via the Rogues.

Finally, it’s eerie how prescient that Asimov quote is. Did he nail it, or what?

Loved the trip report, thanks for sharing. We went to Ashland last weekend to catch some plays and were inspired to pick up 5 issues of Weird Worlds for a buck apiece from one of your recent columns. Ashland was a haven of bookstores and antiques, I think you’d do well there if you ventured to southern Oregon on one of your excursions.

You should seriously pitch this to some cable station as a reality show — A book nerd traveling across the country, looking for rare treasures and discovering America along the way. I would watch the hell out of that.

Let the record show that my bride thinks this is the greatest idea ever in the history of ever. She adores all those shows — “American Pickers,” “Antiques Roadshow,” whatever. She has been happily daydreaming about the possibilities ever since I mentioned the comment. Personally, I don’t think we’re nearly telegenic enough even for basic cable, but I’m not going to rain on Julie’s parade.

Finally, it’s eerie how prescient that Asimov quote is. Did he nail it, or what?

If you haven’t read it, it’s really extraordinary how much of it applies to our current situation, particularly industry’s utter disregard for safety and environmental precautions if they are deemed too costly. The book was originally mostly famous for its depiction of alien sex triads but it was always the economic and industrial extrapolation that stuck with me…. and that’s what the book takes its title from. The full quote is, “Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.”

I forgot to mention (regarding Space: 1999 and fanfiction) that a fan video made years ago actually offers a coda to the series (that never officially had an ending.) In the video, a woman is seen recording a message. She explains that the crew of Moonbase Alpha finally found a safe planet and decided to settle in it rather than hope to return to Earth some day. The message is meant for whoever finds the still-wandering moon in the future. So what, you’ll say? Fan videos are a dime a dozen these days. However, this one was actually written with help from one of the show’s writers, and the actress in the video actually had appeared in the show! About the *only* thing needed to make it canonical was permission from the (then current) copyright holders, but they didn’t accept (perhaps still hoping vainly to continue the series in some form.) Still, it’s one example of how close an unofficial production can come to be canon. It reminds me of the Spider-Man/Gargoyles team up by Greg Weissman (who worked on both series- heck he created Gargoyles!) that is available somewhere online. Hey, now that Disney owns Marvel, this may be one step closer to happening! :)

Don’t think that small towns closing up for the day s limited to small towns. My wife and I were in Houston a few years ago and encountered something similar. Everything we wanted to see, musuem, art gallery, etc, was closed on the same day. We went to downtown Houston and it looked remarkably similar to the picture of Dayville except for having skyscrapers. Imagine being in the middle of a city with millions od people in it and seeing not one person on the sidewalks in the middle of the afternoon.

Great story! Really enjoyed it.

Huh. Looks like Greg and I traveled some of the same roads this year! My goals were a bit different than yours, but my family traveled from Crater Lake National Park through Bend on our way to Yellowstone. We took some of your Eastern Oregon route because the atlas I had indicated there were more camping sites on that route.

So glad to be carrying my own food with a full tank of gas. The cities were very small and far apart. There are some great scenery, but we never saw anything to justify stopping. The state park campground we were aiming for turned out to be full (Friday night), yet my wife wouldn’t let us stay at the next two National Forest campgrounds (there was no else staying there). As sun faded, the third (and final) campground has campers in it. We pitched the tent. We awoke to the sound of wolves howling in the early daylight. We decided to eat breakfast on the road (ended up in the parking lot of a small town school parking lot).

Bend was a great shopping town. Didn’t see a decent-sized town until the Idaho border.

Wow !!

I cant believe I just spent the last hour or so reading all 4 parts of your travelogue and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I live in the Caribbean and have never experienced the West Coast of the US, much less the North West, but its somewhere I would love to visit in the future.

Being an avid Star Trek fan for nearly 20 odd years and hunting the very very few used bookshops in Jamaica, I was able to amass nearly all the bantam Star Trek books, I got rid of them a couple years ago when I moved and couldnt carry a hundred and odd novels with me, It was really great fun reading the “fan novels” that Bantam produced.

The demise of so many small towns is disheartening and one wonders if this is reversible. The course started on during the early 80s and the need for Corporations to post even more profit year over year will continue to devastate the poor and middle class in America, any attempt at any kind of social intervention is cried down as “socialism” as if thats a bad word and the thinking is that the free market will take care of everything, but I have news for you – the free market has contributed greatly to what now exists.

You honestly never know what you’re going to find in a small town “antique” shop. They really are among the cooler places around, and not in some cases because of the air conditioning. West Plains, MO, the middle of the middle of nowhere, where I travel to for a radio drama conference, there’s a junk shop in the town square. First time I went in, what do I see staring at me: a Mandrake the Magician Big Little Book from 1946. Near mint condition. Bought it for $40. Occasionally you find a winner!

Never heard of Danny Dunn…Tom Swift, yeah, but not Danny Dunn…was that 1960′s? 1970′s?

Lance Roger Axt
The AudioComics Company

Never heard of Danny Dunn…Tom Swift, yeah, but not Danny Dunn…was that 1960?s? 1970?s?

Late fifties to the late seventies. Much more about the real science than Tom Swift was, even though now that I consider it, Danny Dunn got up to some pretty fantastical adventures. Danny traveled through time and space and discovered reptilian and marine species hitherto unknown to man… I dunno, author Jay Williams just made the series feel much more grounded in reality than the Tom Swift books were. More information here.

“Damn it, I miss Isaac Asimov. He devoted his life to making people less stupid. That’s a noble calling.”

Ya know, that would explain a lot of the reasons for why things are the way they are…

Greg,

I really enjoyed reading these as well. I wish I had that sort of knowledge about books. Maybe someday I will.

Matt

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