29 July 2008

The Death of Grass (1957) by Samuel Youd (writing as John Christopher)

Samuel Youd (writing as John Christopher) THE DEATH OF GRASS. Michael Joseph, London, 1956.

Current Selling Prices
$600+ /£300 +

Apologies for a repost but this time we have a pic of the jacket of the true first thanks to Andy over at Library Thing. The Brit's worst nightmare- the death of his lawn, but also an apocalyptic novel of a world devastated by the destruction of all grasses. I have handled this book over the years (in America it was renamed 'No Blade of Grass') but recently, with a greater interest in the ecology and vivid scenarios of ecological breakdown, it has become very desirable. This kind of fiction was once called 'Doomwatch' but is, in fact, part of a tradition of apocalyptic fantasy that can be traced back to S. Fowler Wright's 'Deluge' (1928) and all the way back to Mary Shelley's 1826 three decker 'The Last Man.' A useful list of speculative fiction about ecological disasters can be found at the Magic Dragon site. Highlights include:-
George Griffith. Olga Romanoff (1894) Comet strike and alien invasion.
M. P. Shiel. The Purple Cloud (1901). Poisonous gas.
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Poison Belt (1913) The Earth passes
through a poisonous ether.
J. J. Connington. Nordenholt's Millions (1923) Agricultural disaster
S. Fowler Wright. Deluge (1928). Flood.
Philip Wylie. When Worlds Collide (1932). Dying sun on collision
course with Earth. (Film: When Worlds Collide, 1951).
John Wyndham. The Day of the Triffids (1951) Venomous Plants.
Isaac Asimov. Caves of Steel (1954) Overpopulation -- and a
great mystery story.
Robert Silverberg. Masters of Life and Death (1957). Overpopulation.
J. G. Ballard. "Billennium" (1961) population
J. G. Ballard. The Drowned World. (1962). Flood.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Cat's Cradle (1963) Ice-9
J. G. Ballard, The Drought (aka The Burning World) 1965.
Harry Harrison. Make Room! Make Room! (1966). (Film: Soylent Green, 1973).
William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Logan's Run (1967).
Overpopulation; destruction of those over 30.
Lee Tang. The Wind Obeys Lama Torus. (1967). From India. Overpopulation.
John Brunner. Stand on Zanzibar. (1968). Young adult novel on overpopulation.
James Blish. A Torrent of Faces (1968)
Fred and Geoffrey Hoyle. The Inferno (1973). Cosmic radiation
David Brin. Earth. (1990). Black hole.
'The Death of Grass' alone of all these choice works appears on Bookfinder's 2007/ 2008 list of the 'Top 10 British out of print books of 2007.' Other titles include Madonna's 'Sex' (1992) 'Brass Dial Clocks' (1998) by Brian Loomes and the easily found 'Forests of England' (1976) by Peter J. Neville Havins.

VALUE? The book of the film 'No Blade of Grass' (1970) was unremarkable* and did not help the book. However it has now become hard to find and is much wanted. I could find no image of the book's jacket and have had to use paperback covers. The most expensive copy is a decent but not fine example in the unclipped Trevor Denning jacket at £200, with a slightly lesser copy at £150 and paperbacks at £20. The Simon and Schuster 1956 US first can be had for $100 in sharp condition. UPDATE. There are now 7 copies of the Joseph UK first all at £300+ and three of them with the same dealer (not always a good sign) and a certifiable chancer with an ex library paperback at £370. Highest price is a very nice jacketed copy at £440. A book on the move but obviously not that scarce. Outlook? Choppy.

Mildly surprising is a £70 Penguin paperback edition at the excellent and normally moderate Westleton Chapel Books (about 7 miles from where I am now sitting.) Living near Sizewell Power Station he may have special knowledge. His condition description belongs to the ultra precise, painstaking Robbe-Grillet school '...Slight browning to pages, contents otherwise clean and unmarked. A little faint foxing or soiling to covers and spine rather browned. Joints show a little rubbing and small (5mm) split to base of upper joint, but covers are firm. Faint creasing to corners and a few light indentations show up when they catch the light. Generally a clean and very good copy.'

* The author Samuel Youd wrote '... I've never actually seen [the film]. I heard such bad reports when it came out that I couldn't bring myself to go to a cinema and watch it. Years later, it came on as a late-night television film, so I settled down to watch it with a glass of whisky. I lasted twenty minutes, then I went to bed. It was awful.'


AndyHat said...

I've put a scan of my copy of the hardcover at http://www.andyhat.net/pics/DeathOfGrass.jpg. My copy isn't for sale, but I'd scanned the cover for my librarything catalog. (Librarything is rapdily becoming an excellent source for cover scans).

Bookride said...

Hope you dont mind but have uploaded this splendid cover to this site also. Nigel at charingx@anyamountofbooks.com

Anonymous said...

Surprisingly, given that he is by no means an obscure writer, most of this author's work remains out of print, which means that any copies of his work appearing say, on e- bay always seem to attract multiple bids.

Craig Arthur said...

I purchased the Michael Joseph 1956 first edition in superb condition at a book fair last week. The Trevor Denning jacket is mint, unclipped. But I did not know much about the history of the novel and checked your site out of curiosity. I had no idea this book was so valuable!