08 April 2007

John Dunning. Booked to Die... Bibliomystery

This was our first ever entry in mid December 2006 and I am doing it again a little spiffed up over this slow Easter weekend. We have just bought 2000 books from the library of the late Angela Carter and about 1000 books of rocket science from the library of the author of 'Halley's Comet and the Principia' (Aldeburgh 1986) including 50 copies of that book. Also alot of genealogy of European nobility, Russian and Polish history and art and some stuff from the library of an intimate of Robert Byron including some of his books. So entries may be less frequent on this page -- but just till I get through 500 boxes of books. Pas de probleme.

John Dunning. BOOKED TO DIE. Scribner's NY 1992. ISBN 0684193833

$650-$850 / £320-£420

One of the very best 'bibliomysteries' (i.e. a mystery novel involving books, rare books, book collectors etc.,). The first Clifford Janeway book, there have been 5 more, all bloody good but this is the best. Dunning appears to know all about book dealers, book scouts, high end deals and also the seedy side of the biz; he may have even dabbled in books.* (Someone is telling me he had or has a shop -- shades of McMurtry.)

His hero Janeway is an ex cop, a hulk of a man who takes no nonsense from villains but also knows the points on a first of 'Tender is the Night'. Cool guy. There are actually a few ex coppers in the book trade, so it is not too far fetched, although none have such serious pugilistic skills. Another great bibliomystery (with a Charing Cross setting) is Bernard J. Farmer's 'Death of a Bookseller.'

* I found this at Dunning's own website: "In 1984, with my wife Helen, I opened the Old Algonquin Bookstore in East Denver. We closed the store in 1994, two years after Booked to Die was published, and have been online booksellers ever since."

VALUE? There was a time when this book was knocking on a $1000 but there are just too many nice firsts and not quite enough punters so the price is now about $700 for a fine in d/w job, with a few brave souls still wanting over a grand. Inscribed copies are plentiful but command a premium. NOTA BENE: There is a slight upward trend with the book in the last 4 months with no fine/ fine copies for less than $750, so the $500 to $700 fine copies available around Christmas actually got bought. It happens. [ W/Q ** ]

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