In a post six years ago I mentioned that I’d finally gotten around to unpacking a box of books that had been sitting in a closet since I moved into the place. The problem I always have when I move (aside from all the book packing) is shelf space. I prefer the kind of shelves mounted on the wall, so I have to recreate shelf space every time.
Not that my memory for what I mentioned in a post six years ago is sharp. Or even exists. I noticed the post had some views recently, so I re-read it. The line caught my eye because last week I opened the last unopened box of books.
And I found some old science fiction friends!
Of course they were science fiction. I’m sure at least 80% of my library is science fiction.
Note that we’re talking about physical books here; actual ones made of paper that, especially in paperbacks, ages badly due to the acid in the paper.
The rest of the library is some split between mysteries and non-fiction, with the latter mostly being science, with the science mostly being quantum physics.
One would find little of history, biography, westerns, romance, or general non-SF drama. Not that I don’t sometimes read history or biography or westerns (romances, not so much), but I don’t buy them.
I do have some John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Dave Berry, and so forth, so it’s not all SF, mysteries, and physics.
There is also a collection of graphic novels, but that’s another subject. I see graphic novels as more akin to TV or movies. The images are as important, sometimes more important, than the text. (In a good gnovel, both are worthy.)
In any event, this is some obscure and forgotten stuff. It would be fun to research just how rare some of these titles are — whether still in print, available used, or have transitioned to electronic media.
Some I’d like to read again, but most I’ll donate to the local library (although I’m not sure how interested in old paperbacks they are) or sell them to a local SF book store that buys used books (or used to, at a low per-unit cost blind to title or length).
[UPDATE: Well, shit. That latter choice no longer exists. During the recent riots, Uncle Hugo’s, which is located in the area where George Floyd was murdered, was burned to the ground. Books burned. That… really fucking upsets me. They burned treasure.]
I have a friend who sells a lot on eBay, and I’d just give these to her to see what she could make from them, but we’ve looked into that sort of thing before, and it doesn’t seem productive.
I have two “cherished” collections that I’ve come to no longer cherish and now see as space-takers.
The first is 50 or so books from the beginning of a 1970s “men’s adventure fiction” series called The Executioner.
The series stars Mack Bolan, who enlisted in the Army at age 18 and served in Vietnam as a Green Beret. He is an expert sniper with over 90 kills, which is how he got the title, “The Executioner.”
During his tour, his father suffers a heart attack, loses his job, and ends up in serious debt to the local Mafia.
Things go from bad to very bad, and Mack’s father, driven by desperation (the whole family has gotten sucked into this), commits family murder-suicide. Only the young son survives.
Mack, sent home on emergency leave, decides the war abroad doesn’t compare to the war at home. He goes AWOL and begins a one-man war against the mafia.
This begins in the first book, War Against the Mafia, and goes on for 37 more books, finally ending with #38, Satan’s Sabbath. In each book, Mack goes after the mafia in a different city, state, or region, so starting with #4, Miami Massacre, book have names like: #12, Boston Blitz, #14, San Diego Siege, #19, Detroit Deathwatch, you get the idea.)
The last six, as Mack wraps up a successful war, are named after days of the week. (See all the titles listed here.)
These were so popular that after Don Pendleton finished the first 38 books, others took over. Bolan was a criminal — a vigilante and deserter — hunted by the government as well as the mafia. Once Bolan wins, the government co-opts him to lead a team of commando doing government missions.
Or something like that. It’s been ages since I read these. In the early 1980s, I haunted used book stores all over Los Angeles tracking down the whole set. I got tired of it once the mafia stuff was over, but the series has apparently continued for 586 installments!
There were a number of “men’s adventure” series back then. It seemed an outgrowth of the hard-boiled detective, but with a strong warrior element.
I saw ads for them in the back pages of paperbacks — short descriptions and order forms. I don’t remember how I got onto the Mack Bolan series; it wasn’t my usual fare.
I gotta say, I loved those books; they were hysterical.
The genre, from what I could tell, was violent and dark. In some cases, extremely so. The Bolan books were horrific in places.
A distinction I make in storytelling is between “combatants” and “innocents” — the former are those who one way or another put their lives on the line in the context of the story. They are participants.
The latter are generally those with no connection to the story — bystanders or family members, for instance. When a story threatens or harms such innocents, I see that as darker.
The Bolan books (my perception is this is generally true with “men’s adventure” fiction) are extremely dark and violent. Dark in the sense of people sinking to the worst levels of human behavior possible and in cost to innocents (and innocence).
The Remo Williams books are a parody of the genre. They’re tongue-in-cheek, often silly or funny, and the violence is cartoonish.
The setup is utterly preposterous. Remo Williams is a Newark cop a secret government agency frames for murder and gets sentenced to death. Except the death is faked. Williams wakes up to find he’s been recruited to be a secret assassin for CURE, a super-secret organization set up by President Kennedy in recognition that our Constitution doesn’t work and sometimes the government just needs to kill bad people protected by the Constitution.
(There was a time, long ago now, when people actually cared about the government not just adhering to the Constitution but honoring it.)
Remo’s trainer and eventual father-figure is Chiun, an aged but ultra-deadly assassin trained in the ancient art of Sinanju, which is the “sun source” of all martial arts. Mastery of Sinanju essentially gives one superpowers.
These started in 1971 co-written by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, although the latter moved on due to tension between them. Murphy wrote various other books, and tried to start other series (you’ll spot a couple of them in the pictures).
Wiki lists 153 in the series, plus some associated books. I stopped collecting them somewhere just past 100. It got old, but I enjoyed it for a long time.
The point is, my friend (BentleyMom) did a little research and it doesn’t seem either series, The Executioner or The Destroyer, is in any particular demand.
What people would be willing to spend for them seems close to shipping and handling; no way to make anything off the exchange. (Just a happy buyer.)
Trying to unload individual books, no matter how obscure, seems like a pain in the ass and likely to be not worth the effort financially.
Giving them to a library at least has some chance they’ll be read by someone who will appreciate them. (Selling them to Uncle Hugo’s would also have given them a chance to find new love.)
Which is really the point. They’re all brief love affairs of mine. Someone else should have a chance to love them, too.
Two surprises lurked in that box (along with some dust and a few spiders).
I really think I did. The ones shown here aren’t close to being the whole series, so I must have given her a bunch of them without realizing I still others. Oh, well, so it goes. (I wonder if she’d like the rest.)
Those aren’t all Darkover novels, but just judging by the titles, most of them are. I really liked that series when I first read it, but when I tried to go back and read it again many years later, I just couldn’t get into it. (Which is why I gave it to a friend who was into the series.)
(That bottom one, The Last Immortal, by J.O. Jeppson (aka Janet Asimov) is among a small subset of my library labeled Awful Book! As I recall, it ends with intelligent galaxies talking to each other.)
The last surprise was finding my first copy of The Trilogy:
I had no idea I still had them. The cover of the first one is hanging on by the proverbial thread. The other two are in better shape, but I always did like the first book best.
I have a big thick hardback that includes all three, and, as you can see, those three paperbacks have seen finer days. What cracks me up is that the price tag on all three is 95 cents.
I wonder how many times I’ve read that story!
I had more for this Sci-Fi Saturday, but word count is already obnoxious.
I meant to get into how, since my negative review of books 4 and 5, I’ve since read and enjoyed books 6, 7, and 8, of The Expanse, but I’m not sure I actually have that much to say. Maybe when book 9 comes out.
If you haven’t seen Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, you really should. It’s wonderful and funny and delightful! (I should probably do a whole post on it.)
And I’ll probably do a whole post on the worst SF book adaptation ever.
Stay reading books, my friends!