It isn’t like I need books. I have plenty, and quite a few I’ve yet to read. But somehow they’re hard to resist. Is it a cliché to compare them to crack? Give me something more addictive, then, you would-be Chandlers. I would say that it’s more addictive than good bourbon on a warm night, but that would bring up memories I’m happier to let fade. So I’m going with crack—less guilt for me.
And I’m surrounded by crack dens. I just found out there’s another used bookstore in the area with pulp and hardboiled (they spell it “hard-boiled”) sections. I’ve managed to resist going there, which is no mean feat. Just give it time. My resolve is inversely related to my disposable income.
Besides, I haven’t finished the bender from the last den of iniquity I visited. The local League of Women Voters had a book sale. Had their latest, I should say. They’ve been doing it for decades to raise money. They’ve been having an annual book sale almost as long as there have been women voters. And I was happy to give them my money.
I thought it would probably be worth my while to visit the book sale during one of the three days it was running. Until two weeks before the sale. The library was collecting donations and I’d see what people were dropping off when I went there. I was walking into the library. There was a trunk, and donated books stacked up in it. On top of the pile was Megan Abbott’s The Song is You. I was like Walter Neff seeing Phyllis for the first time. I had to have that book. All that noir voluptuousness on the cover was irresistible.
And I didn’t have any of Abbott’s novels. Unlike other (older) books, they’re readily available. But it isn’t the same. Finding a gem at a book sale, used book or thrift store is exciting. Using Amazon is cheating. Knowing The Song is You was to be sold might be cheating, too. A man ought to pick his standards wisely.
So I began counting down the days to the book sale. The first day came. The sale would be starting at 9 a.m. I didn’t get there till 10:15. A large white tent sat in the center of town, and I made a beeline for it. The mystery section was the largest and busiest part of the sale.
Scrutinizing all the books rapidly led me to the conclusion that all mysteries were not created equal. I wasn’t interested in a cat who did anything. Espionage novels were lumped in with mysteries. This was great for Alan Furst and John le Carré, but I didn’t want to deal with Tom Clancy or Brad Thor. I didn’t even want to stop and consider whether Dan Brown wrote mysteries or not.
So I focused on Highsmith, Mosley and Lehane. I found a dozen or so good books. Most of them just fifty cents. How could I say no? But there was no Megan Abbott to be found. I brought the books home. Went back later that afternoon. Some new books out, still innumerable copies of The Da Vinci Code.
Then I found Megan Abbott. It was in a box under the table, with a myriad of other excess books. It wasn’t The Song is You. It was her debut novel, Die a Little. The cover wasn’t as neat. But that’s all right. I’m partial to debut novels, anyhow.
I texted the book moll to exult. She replied back with “How many and how much did you spend?” But she’s a good sport. She went with me to the sale over the weekend. Pointed out some Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy books to me. She may lack joie de vivre, but she knows what I like.
And she knows me too well. Finding Die a Little didn’t stop me from going back twice more, once on Saturday and once on Sunday. Didn’t stop me from accumulating all the books you see there. I didn’t need them all. Didn’t need any of them, probably. But I didn’t know if I’d run across them again. I once saw a Mike Shayne pulp novel in a used book store for a couple books and didn’t buy it. I didn’t realize how few Shayne books were in print. I still haven’t forgiven myself.
But I had a clean conscience when the book sale ended. I also had fifty-odd books. You can see them up there, and I’ll be posting about them in the upcoming days. Keep an eye on the literature porn tag.