Two Long Weekends on the Coast, Part Two: Lincoln City
Second part of our adventures on the last two coast bookscouting trips. The first part is here for those who came in late. Part two lies below the fold.
For all those people who told us, after our last trip to Lincoln City, that we’d missed all the good stuff… believe me, I get it now.
In fact, we discovered that the twenty-five mile stretch between Lincoln City and Newport along the Oregon coast is as close to a bookscout’s paradise as I’ve ever seen… and that includes comics, too. Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport– all of them had extraordinary antiquarian booksellers and thrift stores full of good stuff.
It’ll take two columns at least to get through all the amazing places we found, so this week I’ll confine it to just Lincoln City.
First of all, it’s worth it to stop at the Lincoln City Goodwill; it’s in a little strip mall at the north end of town, maybe a hundred yards or so beyond the Welcome sign.
We always find good stuff there. I’ve said this before, but you can get a pretty good read on a place by what kind of books show up at the Goodwill; you’re always going to have to plow through a lot of Danielle Steele and John Grisham and so on, but if you also see discards like SF Book Club hardcovers or Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine at the local thrift store, that bodes well. On the other hand, if the thrift-store pickings are all diet books and Left Behind trade paperbacks, you can write it off as a town populated largely by non-readers.
You can tell Lincoln City is a book town because even the Goodwill is full of great stuff. A couple of years ago when we were on Whidbey Island I passed up a first edition hardcover of The Silence of the Lambs we found in a thrift shop there, and I’ve been kicking myself over it ever since. On our last trip to the Lincoln City Goodwill I found not only that one but also a first edition hardcover of its predecessor, Red Dragon, both in pristine shape.
I also fell for a hardcover collecting a couple of gothic romances from Susan Howatch, and Devil May Care, the Bond pastiche by Sebasitan Faulks.
The Susan Howatch was one of a number of double-novel Book Club gothics that came out in the 1970s. The genre got a boost from the 1970s occult fad (You had Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and even Dark Shadows; all of them spawned dozens of paperback knockoffs.) I was interested in The Devil on Lammas Night, and anyway I’d been trying to explain to my Young Authors TA, Tiffany, about what a Gothic romance really was not too long ago, and I had a vague idea that maybe I’d pass this on to her. As it turned out, though, The Waiting Sands is a really fun romantic suspense story in a classic young-heroine-trapped-on-the-cliffs-with-a-killer sort of way. I enjoyed it enough that when we got home, I went and found the other two Book Club doubles Ms. Howatch did.
We ended up finding other things for Tiffany, down in Newport. Even so, I may still pass these on to her, but I want to finish reading them first.
The Goodwill also had a bunch of other stuff I’d have snatched up if I didn’t already own it– many mystery and SF hardcovers, and a lot of Marvel trade paperbacks. Since we are always approaching from the north, it’s the first place we see when we hit town and we always stop there as a sort of warmup for the real book hunting that follows. Well worth a look.
The friendliest place we found, without question, was Pacific Coast Books.
When Julie and I walked in, the proprietor, whose name turned out to be Don, greeted us like old friends. He asked us what we were doing and I told him we were sort of bookscouting our way down the coast. This lit him up. “Well, in that case,” he said, “You can start a pile up here, and when you’re all done you can have ten percent off seeing as how you’re in the trade.”
“Oh, we’re not real bookscouts,” I said hastily. “This is just our hobby, we don’t do it for money or anything.”
This amused Don. “You’re really here, aren’t you? This is reality. You look real to me. What are you interested in?”
I told him vintage juveniles, which is always where I start if there’s no comics, and he pointed me to a row of shelves in the rear.
To my delight, he had several of the Whitman Authorized Editions I am so fond of, in like-new shape.
Three of those– The Munsters, Have Gun Will Travel and Spin and Marty– went into The Pile. He also had a bunch of juvenile history books on the same shelf, and I picked up the Lewis and Clark one because I am a Lewis and Clark nerd.
And Julie found a book on local history because she is a local history nerd, and also because her family spent a lot of time around Nehalem when she was a child.
Moving over to the mysteries, I found a couple of coffee-table/pop reference books I’d been wanting for a while: The Sherlock Holmes Scrapbook and TV Detectives. (“Good eye,” I heard Don mutter when I put the Holmes on The Pile, which made me smile.)
He had a lot of other cool stuff too– the first American hardcover of Octopussy, which I regretfully put back because it would have strictly been buying for the collectibility and I try to not give in to that impulse. I already have the old Signet edition with the additional short story “The Property of a Lady,” Fleming’s last-ever Bond story, and it’s not included in the hardcover edition.
Near the juveniles, Don had a locked room with a little card on the glass door explaining that these were the rarities and would be shown only by appointment. I explained that I was really more of a book blogger than a bookscout, and asked if I could take a picture. He instantly unlocked the room and exhorted us to help ourselves, feel free to look, handling the books was fine, don’t be shy.
Well, once you’re handling the books and looking at prices, the urge to actually spend money becomes almost overpowering. At least if you’re me.
I found myself drifting back again and again to the history section, particularly books about the Old West. Finally I fell for this one.
It was the British edition of Coronado’s Children, by J. Frank Dobie. It looked like a fun read; Dobie was one of the great American Western history writers from the thirties to the sixties, his specialty was Texas. And Julie is a geology nut. And it was only fifty dollars. And there was the lure of actually owning something from the rare books room, even if it was just an obscure little one like this. And… ten percent off.
It went into The Pile. I am weak.
There were all sorts of awesome Western books outside of the rare book room, too.
Two Zane Grey hardcovers from the 1940s went into The Pile and finally we MADE ourselves stop. But we could have easily dropped another hundred bucks there without breathing hard (and we probably will when we visit again.)
Don rang us up, with many smiles and exclamations of “ah, that’s a good one!” You could dismiss it as salesmanship, I suppose, but I assure you it wasn’t. The guy just purely loves books, and being surrounded by them, and seeing other book lovers find good ones… and his sheer joy at being in the book business is infectious. Pacific Coast instantly became our favorite bookstore in Lincoln City just on the strength of that. You should find a way to get there if you are anywhere around the Oregon Coast… Astoria, Florence, wherever. Make the drive. You won’t regret it.
A town is lucky if they have one good bookstore. Lincoln City has five good ones…. and that’s not counting the thrift stores and antique malls and so on. I talked about Brady Books on our first visit, and with Pacific Coast, that’s two.
We found Bob’s first.
Bob’s is a new-and-used retail outlet, that’s jammed full of interesting, mostly-contemporary books. Because of that, there really wasn’t anything there that caught my eye as a reader– we usually are looking for out-of-print stuff– but the store itself is just a fun place to walk around in.
They also have a terrific comics section.
Again, I already owned all the ones I saw there that I’d have been interested in, but it pleased me just to see a comics section so large and prominent.
It only took a few minutes to figure out that the emphasis at Bob’s was on new stuff and thus there was not much for us, but we hung around for a little while to admire the original art framed on the wall.
I should add Bob’s does a lot of author events, including one on August 25th that it’s really going to hurt us to miss– The 2012 Northwest Author Fair. In particular because Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, and J. Steven York will be there; all three wrote licensed books I liked a lot for series like Star Trek and Smallville and, especially, the Byron Preiss 1990s Marvel novels that I adored. I’ve said for years that J. Steven York’s two Generation X novels are far and away the best work anyone ever did with those characters.
But I’m getting sidetracked. The point is, Bob’s is a great bookstore… but we were to discover that it’s nothing compared to the mothership. Bob’s Beach Books is actually an offshoot of Robert’s Books. Of the five in the city Robert’s is the original, the first of them all– it’s been a Lincoln City institution for the last twenty-five years or so.
When a young desk clerk saw me taking pictures of the art at Bob’s, she assured us that the GOOD stuff was all down the street at Robert’s.
She was so right.
It doesn’t look like much from the street, but once you’re inside, Robert’s Books is a wonderland.
Framed cover art is everywhere. The place could double as a pop art museum.
Even the restroom wall was full of extraordinary framed illustrations.
Which is not to slight the books themselves. By the time we got there it was close to closing time, so we couldn’t spend as much time browsing as we might have liked… but honestly, once I got to the wall of Whitmans I was more than satisfied.
Never– nowhere, not even at Powell’s Books in Portland or the Antiquarian Book Fair here in Seattle–have I seen so many of my beloved Whitmans in one place. For a moment I could only just stand there and stare, openmouthed.
A whole wall of them. The greedy little acquisitve collector that lives in my head was hissing, All of them! All of them! Precioussss!
And they were very reasonably priced– most Whitman collectors are still mostly about the Big Little Books or the Trixie Belden series, although the word is getting out on these Authorized Editions as well. (Julie says about this, “Stop WRITING about them, you idiot, you are sabotaging yourself!”) Most of these were priced under ten dollars and there were quite a few for just four, like Steve Frazee’s Disney Zorro– and that was a really nice one from 1958, too. I was seriously tempted to just go nuts and start scooping up armloads, because really, all in one place like that? When was that ever going to happen again?
But sanity prevailed. It helped that they were about to close. In the end, my hissing little inner Gollum had to be contented with six.
Bob Portwood, “Robert” himself, rang us up. “Glad you found something you like,” he said.
“I never in my life have seen so many of these Whitmans in one place,” I blurted. “And in this kind of shape! Holy God!”
Mr. Portwood looked gently amused at my utter nerding out. “It’s fun, isn’t it?” he said. “I think I like the looking as much as the finding. I can always tell when somebody comes up here with that I-found-it look. That’s what makes it fun.”
Couldn’t argue with that.
Well, this is getting way too long, so I think I’ll stop here. Believe it or not, of the antiquarian wonders we found along that twenty-five mile stretch of coast, today’s column is about half of them; there are many more comics and rarities and yes, Whitmans, yet to come.
We’ll pick it up next week with Lincoln City’s fifth amazing bookstore down in Streetcar Village, and then on to Depoe Bay and Newport. See you then.