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Two Long Weekends on the Coast, conclusion: Out of Newport and North Up 99

This is the final installment in a series of columns about various places we found rare old books and comics and stuff on our last two trips south down the Oregon coast. The first part is here; the second is here; the third is here; and the last one lies below the fold.

*

There were other bookstores in Newport besides the Newport Book Center, but really we had better luck at the thrift stores and antique malls.

For example, the only place we found any comics at all was at the Cheap Frills Antique Mall.

And even those were a mixed bag. The trouble with antique mall books and comics is that they tend to be priced and sold by people with no idea at all what they have. Sometimes this can work in your favor, but far more often it means you’re looking at quarter-bin crap, lovingly polybagged and priced at nine or ten bucks an issue.

For example, I'd love to have that issue of PREZ but never in a million years would I give anyone fifteen dollars for it. Maybe four or five and I'd feel stupid paying even that much.

I did, however, find an E.B. Mann western, The Valley of Wanted Men, a 1940s hardcover that wasn’t too terribly beat up. No jacket but the binding was tight and it was only three bucks. And Julie found other entertaining junk.

I took a picture of the Romulan sugar bowl because it amused me-- the label said 'elf' but I know a Romulan when I see one. And we had Zoltar tell our fortune for a buck-- he said it was a good time for us to travel. Well, duh.

We also did moderately well at a thrift shop we found quite by accident, just bumbling our way from Newport Book Center back to the hotel. Pick of the Litter benefits the local animal shelter or something, and it had a haphazard, but well-stocked, book section.

Julie insisted on taking this of me because she said she was tired of being in all the storefront shots.

Mostly junk, but I did turn up a couple of nice hardcovers.

These caught my eye because they were so odd and out-of-place among all the Danielle Steele and John Grisham books choking the shelves.

The Moon and the Sun I picked up just on the strength of Vonda McIntyre’s name, I’ve been a fan of her books since I read Dreamsnake back in high school. Doctor In Love is one of the “Doctor in the House” series, a very popular line of British comic novels from the late fifties and early sixties that was even adapted for film and TV a couple of times.

Film on the left, TV on the right.

That one wasn’t really for me, it was for my Young Authors TA, Tiffany. Tiffany is a student of the romance novel, in the same way I am a student of pulp-hero fiction of the 1930s, and we’ve talked a lot about the historical romance, the gothic romance, the comic romance, etc. I always tell her that if she’s going to wallow in the stuff she should at least start with the classics, and here was one. So I bought it and put it in the pile for Tiffany’s birthday.

(Aside: when we go on these jaunts, we aren’t looking just for us. There’s usually a secondary quest as well– the “Rin’s STAR WARS hardcovers” pile, the “Kerowyn might like that” pile, and so on. This trip it was the “Tiffany’s birthday” pile, which was largely classic romance, and also books about the craft of writing. We dropped off the lot at her birthday party a couple of weeks ago, and I got a nice email from Tiffany the other day thanking us and especially mentioning Doctor In Love, so I guess it was a hit.)

We also spent a fair amount of time idling around Newport’s waterfront, which is an odd mashup of a working fishing wharf and and touristy time-wasters like the Undersea Gardens, the wax museum, restaurants and gift shops and so forth.

A shot of Newport Harbor, looking appropriately bleak for a Pacific Northwest fishing town. But it's a really busy place.

But the one place I really wanted to see, and the one of interest to comics fans, was the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not museum.

Ripley's, our favorite waterfront attraction.

It’s an entertaining enough place, but it’s really more like walking through live dioramas of the Ripley cartoons and TV shows than a celebration of the actual Ripley’s Believe it Or Not.

That is to say, there's lots of stuff like this.

We enjoyed ourselves, especially since I got to amuse Julie with my Jack Palance impression. (The secret is the random hissing inhale and the total glee in describing something disgusting. “When we come back–hssssss– we’ll visit a tribe of aborigineeeessss whosse– religiousssss ritessss include eating– FRIED MONKEY BRAINSSSSS!”)

Seriously. Look how happy he is holding that mummified hand.

But the frustrating part is that there’s hardly any mention of the fact that the whole enterprise exists because of Robert Ripley’s syndicated comic strip. In fact, you’d never know there WAS ever a comic strip from visiting the museum, except for a couple of framed original art pieces scattered randomly through the place.

One or two of these and that was IT. And not even lit well.

However, it didn’t really get under my skin until we were in the gift shop. “Aren’t there any actual Ripley’s books?” I asked a clerk.

“Oh sure,” she chirped brightly, and pointed at a row of garish neon-colored photo encyclopedias.

NOT WHAT I MEANT, missy. Good God. Not even the new one from Dark Horse was there.

“No,” I said patiently, “I mean the actual Ripley’s books. The comics. You don’t have anything like that?”

Not only did she not have them, she had no clue what I was talking about. And she worked for the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, for Chrissakes. The girl probably thought her place of employment was a spinoff from that TV show with Dean Cain.

Oh well. I guess it’s just one more piece of evidence that I’m getting to be a cranky old man. But I remember when the Ripley’s collections were second only to Peanuts and B.C. when it came to comics having a presence on the paperback spinner racks.

On any given day you could always find at least ONE of these on the paperback stand in the drugstore.

Later in the car I was trying to explain my horror to Julie at there being not a single book of the strips the damned place was NAMED FOR available for sale at the gift shop, and it developed she’d never actually seen a Ripley’s collection either. Well, she’d seen the books on the racks when she was a kid, but never actually picked one up– so then and there I determined that we would find some. We had a new quest for our book hunt.

I never actually saw the strip in the newspaper. I was all about the collections. From about the fourth grade on.

That was our last day in Newport, as it happened, but it didn’t mean there would be no more opportunities to look for books. We had determined to come home by a different route, cutting across Route 20 over to Highway 99 West and head up north that way to Portland.

It's not marked all that well, but the blue line is 20 on the horizontal, and becomes 99 on the vertical.

And we looked. We found nice places in Corvallis…

A very cool shop, full of nice people, and benefiting a good cause... but not much in the way of books. Julie found some blouses though.

In McMinnville…

Both the St. Vincent's and the Goodwill in McMinnville have great book sections, actually, but they'd been picked clean that day.

And in Amity and Toledo and all the other places we stopped for a look. Not just no Ripley’s, but no real finds at all as far as books were concerned.

So we decided we were making good time and we could afford to stop and have lunch in Portland; specifically, we had hoped to stop at Rose’s Deli, but apparently it’s gone. There’s some sort of trendy fern bar or microbrewery or something there now.

A moment of silence for the passing of a great Portland tradition... Julie was just disconsolate. This was a GREAT lunch place. I guess there's still a couple of locations open in Sherwood and Vancouver respectively, but it's not the same.

Fortunately, though, there was still Powell’s, and we decided we’d give their coffee shop a try.

Powell's back entrance, looking very upscale compared to what I remember from my college days.

Visiting Powell’s is something of a traditional pilgrimage for book people here in the Pacific Northwest. We don’t always stop here when we come through Portland, though, because it’s right smack in the center of downtown. Traffic’s always a nightmare and it’s a hassle to park and there’s always a crowd. And the prices are such that there are few bargains to be had. But we hadn’t been there in a few years, and anyway that day I was on a mission.

The store itself is huge, with three separate floors full of stacks in a building that fills an entire city block. You can easily get lost– in fact, staff offer you maps at the front entrance.

This might give you a little bit of sense of scale.

I started at Graphic Novels, thinking surely there’d be a couple of Ripley’s paperbacks there.

This has about doubled in size since the last time we were there, a few years back.

No such luck. So then I went and looked at Licensed Novels.

Yes, Powell's has a whole wall of these too.

Nothing there either. At this point I was getting annoyed, so I found a clerk with a computer station and asked him. Again we went through a whole thing where I had to describe what the damn books looked like.

If it sounds like I’m hammering on this too hard, you have to understand that from my perspective it felt like I was having to explain to a naval expert what an anchor looked like. First the Ripley’s gift shop girl, and now the guy working the graphic novel section at Powell’s, had no idea what the hell I was talking about– and this is a paperback series that ran for fifty-plus years, and for many of those years it also tied in to a national radio or TV show. Moreover, there had been at least forty separate titles IN the series. Yet a clerk in the store named for the series, and now a guy working the biggest graphic novel section of a bookstore on the west coast, had no clue at all what these books were, they’d never seen one. To me that’s crazy. I mean, they weren’t random strangers off the street.

But the bookstore kid leaned into it like a champ, he was so annoyed at his own ignorance I couldn’t stay annoyed myself. Soon he looked triumphantly up from his computer to tell me that yes, they did have Ripley’s Believe it Or Not books… in the Trivia section of the store.

Well, okay, whatever. He directed me and I hustled over there. Julie followed, because now she was interested.

At first it looked like there was nothing but the neon encyclopedias again, but then I saw one of the trade collections of the Dark Horse Ripley’s and decided that was a half point, anyway. So we got that.

Of course, that's not ALL we got.

Other items had already found their way into my hands as I was looking through the other sections. The original Night Stalker novel by Jeff Rice, and Jim Butcher’s Spider-Man book. I don’t actually think it’s possible to come out of Powell’s empty-handed, certainly not if you are a book person.

The Ripley’s thing resolved for the moment, Julie went to look at the psych books (this is her new thing, since she’s going to school for her social work degree) and I went to look at “Vintage Juveniles.”

As usual at Powell's, the good stuff is priced too high. But there is a fair amount of it.

Most of it was stuff I already had or it was priced too high, but I did find a couple of Whitmans that looked kind of interesting.

Wasn't sure who Tom Stetson was but I have a soft spot for the straight-adventure, Jonny Quest school of story, and these looked like that.

There were only three Tom Stetson adventures in all, and here were two in remarkably good shape: Tom Stetson on the Trail of the Lost Tribe from 1948, and Tom Stetson and the Blue Devil from 1951. Only three bucks each, which is a deal at Powell’s. File it under impulse buy.

And there were a couple of really nice scores, too.

I was ridiculously pleased at finding these.

A Gene Autry Authorized Edition still in the jacket for a mere four dollars, and — I was especially pleased about this– the very first of the Three Investigators books, The Secret of Terror Castle, for five dollars. The Terror Castle wasn’t a true first or anything, but it was the original hardcover edition, still with Alfred Hitchcock. (A glance at the back cover showed me that it was probably the one reissued to coincide with the release of The Secret of Skeleton Island, since that was as high as the list of other books in the series went.)

We decided that should probably be enough. We could have easily emptied our bank account there.

The Ripley’s thing was still bothering me, though, and I asked Julie if she minded if we stopped at Cameron’s on our way out. “He’s got to have one,” I reasoned. “He’s got thousands of trashy paperbacks there, it’s really better than Powell’s for that stuff most of the time.”

Julie agreed but said she’d just as soon stay in the car, since the dusty shelves in Cameron’s play hell with her allergies. I promised to be quick.

Inside, thankfully, was the owner himself. I described the books and he was nodding instantly. “Sure, sure, I don’t know if I have any… they’d be over with the other comics paperbacks.” He pointed.

At least he knew to put them where they belonged. But again, no luck. Lots of Peanuts and B.C. and Wizard of Id, but no Ripley’s.

He did still have a bunch of the Laser Books for a buck each, so I picked up a handful as a consolation prize.


Call it comfort-food reading. Potato-chip books. Whatever. Anyway, I like the covers.

When he was ringing me up I told him about how he was the first person I’d spoken to who actually remembered the Ripley’s books and he was scandalized. “What? Seriously? Powell’s didn’t know? There were, like, thirty of those!”

“I know!” I felt absurdly validated.

When I got back to the car Julie nodded at a group of kids huddled on the corner. “Ask them if they’re hungry,” she hissed at me.

“Huh?”

“They’re homeless, I think they’re runaways.”

“We’re not giving them money,” I said. Julie is very softhearted, so it usually falls to me to be the bad guy. “Doesn’t help, we’d just be enabling their–.”

“No, I know.” My wife scowled at me, knowing I was right. “But they can have the food. The blueberries and the chips and stuff.” She meant the road snacks we’d picked up in Corvallis. Two bags of chips and some pop and also some blueberries from a produce stand.

They hadn’t tried to panhandle me as I passed them, and we really didn’t need it. So I hollered at them, “We don’t need this, do you guys want it?”

It would have broken your heart to see how quick they tore into the snacks; I could tell it was breaking Julie’s. I hustled her out of there while the kids were still saying thank you.

“You can’t take them all home and fix them, baby,” I told her gently as we pulled out on to the road out of town.

“No.” Julie sighed. “I just feel stupid now. After I was so upset about Rose’s.”

I could have argued, but I let it go. No point in beating it into the ground.

But I daresay we were both feeling a little embarrassed about our crankiness earlier in the day over silly stuff like wanting a particular book or a particular restaurant. “First world problems,” I think the expression goes.

*

And that’s about it. I hope you all enjoyed this– I certainly enjoy writing these reports, though I never intend them to sprawl on for 15,000 words over the course of a month.

Bless you all for your patience, and I’ll see you next week.

14 Comments

That is a fancy back entrance to Powell’s. It wasn’t like that a decade ago, I’ll tell you that much.

Always fun to read about your trips through Oregon. It makes me miss it even more, of course, but that’s not your fault!

I’m just surprised there’s anything in Sherwood … :)

If it is any consolation, I know exactly what Ripley’s books you mean. The curse of being over 40, I suppose. The Laser Books, however? Not a clue.

Buh buh buh — that TV Doctor in the House thing — it says the writers include Cleese and Chapman — does that predate Python?

I wanna say I’ve seen the Ripley pbs you’re talking about, but I think our local paper carried the strip back in the day, so that might be what I’m thinking of.

Not only is the Ripley strip the origin of all the TV stuff, but it was also where Charles Schulz first had published art, iirc. A panel about his dog Sparky and the weird stuff he’d eat. Also, something about the text had to be altered because it said he “eats screws and…” something or other, and they changed the order of the words in case a comma got in there…

I was going to mention those Dark Shadows novels that can be seen in the Licensed Books display, since they are written by the lady who played Angelique on the series.

And because he was on the ’91 Dark Shadows, I just looked up Michael T Weiss from the Pretender. Dang, he’s done voice work for several DCAU things! He’s Captain Atom on Young Justice, it seems. (Don’t mind me, just babbling)

We love these columns, don’t worry about the length, man!

My find of the week was at a local library. They’ve got a 10 cent shelf, and I found Patrick Macnee’s autobio Blind in One Ear: The Avenger Returns. I flipped through it a bit, and I don’t really know much about the Avengers TV show, but thought I’d get it. And then I saw in the front, it appears to have been signed by him. Dang! I actually didn’t have a dime at the time, but I did go back later in the week and pay for it.

But yeah, if there are any Avengers fans out there interested in it, let me know. I’ll give it a read, but I’m guessing I’d be willing to part with it. Unless there are Emma Peel pics in that one get up….

Oh, dang, forgot, but I totally know what you’re talking about with people who don’t know what they’re selling and WAYYY overpricing their cheap old comics. I’ve faced it at garage sales too — stuff that’s in crappy condition that they’re trying to sell for a couple bucks a pop. Silly. I love seeing old Valiants or Image stuff from ’93 and they’re priced out of Wizards from that same time. Ridiculous.

‘Patience,’ are you kidding? You could kept this going for a few more installments as far as I’m concerned.
I also have to thank you: I now know the name of that antique mall I visited in Newport way back in 2000. I remember actually being reluctant to go in, but my wife insisted, and I ended up really enjoying myself (after all, antique shops/malls are basically pop culture museums in which you’re usually allowed to touch the exhibits). Also found some cheap books.
Otherwise, I have to say that you’ve again found something I’ve been wanting to find cheap for some time: that McIntyre book. And I’ll bet you only paid a buck for it…
And I’ll second what Greg B. said, and note – as I do pretty much every time you mention it in one of your columns – that it’s kind of sad to see how upscale (and expensive) Powell’s has become.
Like Patrick, I’d never heard of those Laser Books until you mentioned them in column last year (I think), but if I came across those for a buck each, I’d buy a handful, too. Worth it just for those covers (most, if not all, are by Freas, right?)

Ha! The third photo of the inside of Powells (the photo of the licensed materials shelf) has the cover of my (and Robert Smith?’s) book on Doctor Who, Who is the Doctor– front cover facing out and all!

It’s in the lower right-hand side of the photo. (It’s clearly in the Doctor Who area; there are New Adventures novels from the ’90s and BBC books of the late ’90s and early 2000′s beside it).

What an utterly random place to find my book! Nice to see Powells stocked up on it.

My brain broke when you misread ‘Cheap Frills’. Had to stop reading and lay down for a bit.

My brain broke when you misread ‘Cheap Frills’.

Well, THAT’S embarrassingly Freudian. My brain thought it knew what it was typing but apparently my typing fingers just go to the rude place on their own. Fixed now.

Like Patrick, I’d never heard of those Laser Books until you mentioned them in column last year (I think), but if I came across those for a buck each, I’d buy a handful, too. Worth it just for those covers (most, if not all, are by Freas, right?)

Laser Books was Harlequin’s try at an SF imprint, in the mid-70s, and got about as much respect as their romances but nowhere near the sales numbers. The idea was to build the same kind of brand loyalty for SF with Laser that Harlequin had for romance, and they put several books out a month. Roger Elwood was the editor and he was old-school Campbell pulp SF all the way, but unfortunately that was when science fiction was going all Dangerous Visions and New Worlds and so on,and Harlequin gave up after a year. There are fifty-eight of them in all and most are just an undemanding good time. And yeah, the covers were indeed all by Kelly Freas.

Buh buh buh — that TV Doctor in the House thing — it says the writers include Cleese and Chapman — does that predate Python?

Yes it does. They only wrote the pilot, though, I think.

I was going to mention those Dark Shadows novels that can be seen in the Licensed Books display, since they are written by the lady who played Angelique on the series.

Yes they are, and she’s still writing them, I think. Next to those are some of the older ones with the gold covers, from when the show was airing; I have a minor collector’s itch for those, but Powell’s wants way too much for them.

I’m just surprised there’s anything in Sherwood … :)

Once upon a time, I wrote about a girl named Marianne who had a terrible drug problem. Her first rehab was in Sherwood and visiting her there is the only time I’ve ever been to the place at all, other than blowing through it on 99 while I’m on my way somewhere else.

can’t believe that lady at the ripley’s museum and the guy at that what had to be one of the busiest and biggest in sales books store in that area did not know about the Ripley’s comic the source material that the tv show and the museum got its name from. but not surprised some hidden jewels like that are not well know unless one really knows about them. plus once again this latest adventure just piqued my curiosty over some new series those lazer books. for never knew they existed till i read this colum

Travis Pelkie: no, the Doctor in the House sitcom ran during the early Seventies, after Python first appeared in 1969, and in parallel to Python. There’s very little in common between Python and the Doctor series, these were just standard hospital based sitcoms with pretty broad humour, aimed at an undemanding audience – Chapman trained as a doctor, IIRC, which was what led to him being approached, and Cleese was his writing partner. I assume they saw it as easy money.

no, the Doctor in the House sitcom ran during the early Seventies, after Python first appeared in 1969, and in parallel to Python….

Mbc, those things are probably all true– except for your dates. Chapman and Cleese only wrote the pilot BECAUSE THEY LEFT TO GO DO Python. Doctor In the House premiered in the spring of 1969, and Python premiered in the fall of 1969. Not to be all fussbudgety about it, but I looked it up when I was writing the column because I wondered about it myself.

But I daresay the rest of your assessment is on the money; I have only vague memories of Doctor in the House running on PBS late night when I was a kid and it never did much for me.

If it makes you feel any better, I am in my 20s, and I had a Ripley’s paperback as a kid. My elementary school held a yearly book giveaway for the students; every kid got to choose one book to keep. In third grade, I was browsing and I found the Ripley book which looked intriguing so I took that one. At the time, I had no idea who Ripley was, that this was a well-known series, or that there was a TV show starring the Superman of that era.

Paul from Brooklyn

August 27, 2012 at 8:37 am

Greg,

Long time reader first time poster. Your column as well as Comic Book Legends and Random Thoughts are my top of the stack must reads every week on CSBG. I always learn something and enjoy the exposure to new literature (at least for me) and old pop culture. (Did that come out wrong?)

Just wanted to chime in and say how much I enjoy your vacation posts. I envy the way you do vacations and the mix of sightseeing and shopping. It always sounds very relaxing and fun. I looooove the fact that recounting these trips takes up three or four columns usually, as for my tastes the more the better. I may not share your encyclopedic knowledge of books, or even most of your interests in genre fiction (i.e. young adult novels and older westerns) but these vacation columns are up there with your genre musings/book and comic reviews as my favorite topics that you discuss at length. I’ve described your vacations to a bunch of my friends and at least one avid reader among them has agreed that your trips sound awesome.

Thanks again for taking the time to share this and keep up the great work. BTW – I picked up “False Negative” by Joseph Koenig based on your recommendation and interview with the author, and I’m really enjoying it.

Be well.

Paul

[...] Two Long Weekends on the Coast, conclusion: Out of Newport and … The Moon and the Sun I picked up just on the strength of Vonda McIntyre's name, I've been a fan of her books since I read Dreamsnake back in high school. Doctor In Love is one of the “Doctor in the House” series, a very . [...]

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