Sunday 29 July 2012

Point Blank (aka The Hunter) by Richard Stark (aka Donald E. Westlake), 2001 UK Alison & Busby pb edition

Signed by both Westlake and director John Boorman

After the digression about a dustjacket in my last post (and there's more to come on that, as I've discovered something very interesting about the artist...), it's back to the business of this blog: selling books. Here's a very rare chance to get a copy of the novel which was adapted into the film Point Blank, signed by both its author Donald E. Westlake, and the film's director John Boorman.

I won't go into the history of the novel, or indeed the film, here, as other places online have that covered. Fans of Westlake should already be acquainted with the excellent website The Violent World of Parker and the blog Existential Ennui (the latter run by a friend of mine, the estimable Nick Jones).

On offer here is a copy of the 2001 UK paperback edition from Allison & Busby, featuring a still of Lee Marvin from the movie on the cover. Aside from a small indentation mark to the front cover, the book is in near fine, unread condition.

I bought the book, and got it signed, at the opening gala of Crime Scene 2005, a screening of the film at the NFT South Bank in London on 30 June 2005, attended by both Westlake and Boorman. A copy of the event's programme notes (1 A4 sheet, folded) will be included with the book.

The book is flatsigned (in red ink, to go with the cover design) on the title page by Donald E. Westlake (using his real name, rather than his pen name Richard Stark) and John Boorman. There is no other copy of Point Blank (or indeed anything else) signed by both these gentlemen currently available on the Internet that I can find, so don't miss out... Click on 'My current eBay listings' on the top right of this blog.

I can't remember a huge amount of detail from the event, other than that Westlake, three years before his death, looked and sounded very tired (mind you, he probably had jetlag, poor bloke). John Boorman spoke warmly of working with Lee Marvin, who was willing to give him, a first time feature director, pretty much carte blanche.

This isn't part of my sale, but I notice that a fellow eBayer is currently selling some wonderful contact sheets of photos from the making of the film. One of them is here.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Is this one of the rarest dust jackets in the world?
Saki, Beasts and Super-Beasts, in DJ

I've been on holiday, hence the lack of posts recently, but before resuming normal service, here's a post about a book that is NOT for sale. I can't sell it, because I don't own it, but believe you me, if I did own it, I'd never sell it. I missed out on buying this particular copy by a matter of hours, and it's entirely possible I'll never see its like again.

Suffice to say that I'm a very big fan (and collector) of the work of Hector Hugh Munro, the author better known as Saki. If you're unfamiliar with him, his Wikipedia entry will bring you properly up to speed, but the brief version is that he wrote brilliant, funny and shocking short stories, often about genteel Edwardian society colliding with the unexpected and the supernatural, which are at their best as good as anything Oscar Wilde and PG Wodehouse ever wrote, and have influenced everyone from Noel Coward and The Goons to The Mighty Boosh. He's never gone out of print, and his collected works fit handily into one volume. (There's also a rather nice little book of uncollected pieces too.) He's out of copyright, so if you want to sample his work online, try this, or this, or this. He's well worth discovering.

Anyway, I collect Saki. Alas, when it comes to him, I'm the kind of collector who has long since passed the stage of simply getting first editions of a writer's books. I have entered the dangerous twilight world of acquiring 'interesting' editions, association copies, and - the really lethal area - first edition copies that are 'better' than the ones I already have. So, I have an alert set up on ABEbooks for any new Saki firsts that are listed. One morning a little while back I opened my emails to find an alert for a Bodley Head first edition of Saki's short story collection Beasts and Super-Beasts. An American dealer had listed it for a reasonable price, but what's this? Complete with pictorial dust jacket?

In nearly 20 years of collecting, I had never even heard of this edition of the book having a dust jacket, let alone seen a copy with one for sale. This dust jacket is, yes folks, 'unknown to bibliographers'.

I clicked through to buy it, pronto, but of course it had already gone. I evidently wasn't the only person who knew quite how rare this was. There was no visual with the listing, but I really wanted to see this jacket. I emailed the dealer, who was kind enough to send me some photos. So here, for what I think must be the first time on the Internet (and with the permission of the lucky purchaser), is the dust jacket for the Bodley Head edition of Saki's Beasts and Super-Beasts.

A cheeky looking society gent with a monocle, apparently in conversation with a wolf. Perfect.

Beasts and Super-Beasts was first published in 1914, by The Bodley Head, but this copy (or at least, this dust jacket) must be from a later printing, as the back includes an advertisement for the 1919 posthumous Saki collection, The Toys of Peace. Perhaps the first printing in 1914 did not have a dustjacket (there was a war on, or about to start) and a jacket was added to a later, post war impression, when The Toys of Peace came out, a book which had its own pictorial jacket (also vanishingly rare, but I did know of its existence, and there are a couple of copies on ABE, for a hefty price):

So there you go. For someone like me, that counts as exciting stuff.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Not for sale promotional books for Hotels No.2:

Say Hello to Sally For Me

After last time's Icons At The Pump Room, as promised here's another not for sale promotional book produced for an hotel: Say Hello To Sally For Me, by Lynda Berry. It's a beautifully produced little volume, with a full cloth binding, debossed front board, and ribbon marker. It's got no ISBN, and was never offered for sale in shops. It's a very rare book. As I write, there are no copies of it on ABE at all, and none on eBay (other than this one). So what's it about? Who's Sally?

As a child, Sally Bulloch appeared in the film Pure Hell At St Trinians (she set fire to the school). That was pretty much it for her acting career, though you've probably heard of her brother Jeremy, who starred with Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday, and later played the iconic Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett... Later in the 1960s Sally was nanny to Peter Cook's children, and regularly sat around the Cook dinner table with the likes of Peter Ustinov, John Lennon and Alan Bennett. After a few years living in Malta she returned to London and worked in the hospitality business, spending most of her life at The Athenaeum in Mayfair, eventually rising to General Manger. She was evidently a force of nature, and was a friend and confidante of the great and good who stayed at the hotel, which became known as the 'Tinseltown on the Thames'. Nothing was too much trouble; her motto was 'the answer is always yes'. Mr Spielberg wants an edit suite installed in his, er, suite? No problem. Mr and Mrs Thatcher are having work done on their house, and want to come and stay for three months? Fine, we'll employ a personal butler for them. Stacy Keach has been arrested for possession of cocaine? Oh dear. Would you like us to retain the services of a solicitor for him? Nelson Mandela once found her so enchanting that he left an entire motorcade idling in the street so he could spend a bit more time with her. Take That announced their split from the Penthouse Suite of the hotel. Sally spent the day trying to talk them out of it.

Here's how her friend and regular guest Richard Dreyfuss describes her in the book:
"Sally was a dame and to an American that means Cole Porter. It means chairs are up on the table because the waiters want to go home. It means there are four guys, two of them from the band and she's still there with them, drinking whisky, smoking cigarettes and having a fabulous time. Two of the guys at the table are probably billionaires and two of them are poorer than church mice, one of them is black and she's probably going to go home with two of them. And that's Sally! She's a dame. She was my dame."

This hugely entertaining book is full of quotes and anecdotes like this. Here's another couple of my favourites:

Tova Borgnine (wife of actor Ernest):
"Some friends had a reception for Bill Clinton and I asked if I could invite Sally. I remember standing with her at the door and when Clinton came in she said, "I've been an admirer for years, how lovely to meet you, I want to read your palm..." and he said, "Do you read palms?" and so they went off to another room, but that was Sally.
When they came back he wanted more... I mean she'd nailed him... she never repeated what went on in that room or their conversation. And I didn't ask, she was always the soul of discretion, always. She would have made a great spy."

Facing up to Russell Crowe:
'When Sally asked the chambermaids how they were getting on with Mr Crowe, they said he was charming, but making up his room was nearly impossible, as it was so untidy.
That evening Sally positioned herself in her usual seat at the bar, with an excellent view of the lobby and waited for him to come in. She called him over and in total English nanny mode said, "Now Mr. Crowe..." and then suggested he was making life difficult for her staff.
Admonished, he immediately went up to tidy his room and needless to say they then spent the rest of the evening together in the bar.'
Here she is, on a magazine cover reproduced in the book:

She was obviously quite a character, but sadly Sally died, aged only 59, in 2008. This book, written by her friend and 'accomplice' Lynda Barry as a tribute to her, was published in 2010, and as far as I can tell copies were left, like a Gideon's Bible, in the rooms at the Athenaeum for guests to find. There were probably only a few hundred printed. It's a fun book, about a fun person, and deserves to be more widely known, say I.