Sunday, October 12, 2008

The year's best book haul

We took a day off, Elina and I, last Friday and jumped on a train and travelled to Salo (which is half an hour away from Turku) and hunted its thrift stores (and the only second hand book store which didn't yield much). And I came back with over 60 books.

The story requires to be told. We were at Fida, the local store of the Christian thrift store chain (much like Oxfam in the UK), and it seemed there wasn't much of anything, certainly not in the way of books - the usual thrift store stuff, handbags from the nineties, boring T-shirts and way too large jeans. But then I noticed the door to the warehouse was open. I noticed there were some cardboard boxes with books. They didn't look interesting, but I decided to look around a bit more. I noticed there were some paperbacks in boxes, leaning against the wall, stacked over each other. The paperbacks seemed to be in English, and they seemed to be old.. and then I noticed they were science fiction paperbacks. Names: Moorcock, Piers Anthony, Andre Norton, Asimov... you name it.

I checked further, from what I could see. I managed to take some out of the boxes. Edmond Hamilton, Kornbluth-Pohl, Sturgeon, Henry Kuttner... very much old stuff, Pyramids and Ballantines and Beacons, with covers by Richard Powers and others. Also newer books, DAWs and such. My heart beat fast, when I walked to the manager of the store and asked whether I could take a closer look. The guy - mustachioed, with stupid looking eyeglasses - said they are not for sale. "Why?" I cried. "They haven't been checked and put on the shelves." "What do you think if I'll take a look and buy a bunch and save you some trouble? Look, I'm not from here, I don't know when I'll be coming back", I tried. It seemed at first I wouldn't be able to turn his head - and actually I couldn't, since he let me go through only four of five boxes. There were at least eight! "How much do these cost?" I asked, my sweaty hands holding British Panther hardbacks from the fifties: H.J. Campbell, Roy Sheldon, H.K. Bulmer... "Paperbacks 40 cents, but hardbacks cost more", said the guy. Then my eyes hit on a Panther paperback, from 1952, by A.V. Clarke and H.K. Bulmer. Space Treason. I gotta have this!

Then the guy let me take a look. He didn't like it, since, as he said, this put other customers in an inequal position. Like I care. I thought about saying to the guy that no one in Salo will buy any of these, but refrained. I also refrained when he said that they'll be throwing away the trash, such as the witchcraft books. Then I delved into the books.

Came up buying over 60. For 40 cents a piece. Nice ladies at the cashier said that the old English-language hardbacks are also 40 cents a piece. And they gave me discount! I paid 25 euros for the whole bunch. And what great finds there were: J.T. McIntosh's World Out of Mind (Perma 1953), Pohl-Kornbluth's Gladiator-at-Law (Ballantine 1955; well, not in a very good shape, but still), de Camp and Pratt's The Incomplete Enchanter (Pyramid 1960), Farmer's The Other Log of Phileas Fogg (DAW 1973)... These are just some examples that I picked up from the stack. Space Treason seems to be scarce and commands 50$ at Abebooks... Vow! Some of the books were in an extremely good shape, some not - and some had been damaged while in the warehouse!
I've been thinking that I should've said to the manager of the store: "I'll buy them all" and pay, say, 150 euros for the whole bunch (and think later how I'll get them back home to Turku), but maybe I'll make another trip to Salo in the coming weeks. Now, if they'd been crime novels of the same era... I'd be in hospital from a stroke. But when I'd've managed to crawl back, I'd've said: "I'll buy them all." (At least I should've taken all the books that hinted at witchcraft or some such "trash", so they wouldn't've get discarded and thrown into garbage.)

I have no idea what these books were doing in a little town like Salo. It must've been some local science fiction aficionado who's been buying books from the fifties on and concentrated on the English language. Nevertheless, this was a thrilling experience.


James Reasoner said...

I love stories like this.

Bill Crider said...

What a great haul. I dream of finding a cache like this. But I never do.