Nutty “Ling Ling” Autograph Law Replaced

Assembly Bill 228 New Law, Replaces Former Anti-Business Autograph Law

ABAA Waged a Successful Campaign for Booksellers in California

Thanks to the actions of the ABAA and other booksellers, the loathsome law that made it almost impossible to sell autographed books in California is now history, replaced in an “emergency” fashion by the State of California and signed into law.  This new law makes it clear that only sports and entertainment autographs were the target of the previous bill, and the new bill excludes signed books. The new law still requires dealers who are selling sports memorabilia or entertainment memorabilia, including signed photos, to follow strict guidelines by posting notices offering return privileges and other consumer protections.

Here is the link to the State of California’s new law regarding autograph materials, with an introduction and Legislative Counsel Digest.  The entire new law is at this link, so you can print out the new law and study it.  It is much better for booksellers than the former law, named after Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang that basically was so onerous that the sale of autographed books was halted by many California booksellers who were justifiably afraid of the severe consequences of being trapped by legal tricks and sued for 10 times the value of the book simply for not following strict guidelines.  The old law punished folks for making technical mistakes, not for selling bad autographs.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AND PRINT NEW AUTOGRAPH LAW.

 

The amazon.com Puerto Rico Pancake Mix Affair

Hurricane Maria Causes Negative Review and Unreasonable Expectations

by Paul Hunt

 

Where’s My Pancake Mix?

The crazy systems at amazon.com are sometimes so baffling  that you have to wonder about the faceless technocrats who implement them.  Any dealer knows that at amazon, the customer is always right, even if the customer is a cheating, lying thief, or worse.  The competitive system for book dealers and pancake mix sellers is so strong, and so weighted to “the customer” that the entire universe of sellers live in constant fear of getting bad reviews.  The way amazon has done this is through their “star” system.  They have figured out that if one dealer has five stars, and another has three stars, the volume of orders will go to the company with the highest number of stars.  This is to force the dealers to do anything to get a high star rating, even if an incident occurs that is totally due to an unreasonable customer.

I’m not saying that booksellers or other dealers on amazon are perfect.  There are always two sides to a story.  Sometimes customers are really justified in their complaints.  Often it is for merchandise that is defective or not as described, or a late shipment.  We live in the Now.  We want something and we want it NOW.  If amazon customers don’t get it NOW, they flip out.  Patience is something from the last century, not applicable to 2017.  The irony of this behavior is that it only seems to apply to merchandise.  Where’s all the complaints about the sixteen year long war in Afghanistan?  The schizophrenic public is only upset when the NOW is about something they ordered on amazon.

This story is not about books, it’s about a missing box of pancake mix.  It is the extreme of the customer complaint syndrome on amazon, but all who sell on amazon will identify with it.  It begins on Sunday September 17th when an amazon dealer, The Shelburne Country Store, receives an order for pancake mix to be shipped to Puerto Rico. The next day, Monday, the order is sent Priority Mail.  It can’t get any faster than that.

Unfortunately for the person who ordered the Pancake Mix, Hurricane Maria hit the island on the 20th, which ended mail service along with anything else.  The Island was basically destroyed, as we have all seen on television.  The customer, though, was not happy.  The pancake mix had not arrived.  She fires off a complaint to amazon that reads: Item has not arrived yet. I guess is due to Hurricane MARIA.  Please Check. She also leaves a ONE STAR unhappiness review for the seller, Shelburne Country Store.  WTF?  Like the little shop in Vermont has any control of mail not being delivered in the worst Hurricane to hit Puerto Rico since 1928.

Hey, we shipped it already.

On October 2nd, the customer managed to sent another missive to amazon:

All incoming mail is available to Puerto Rico. Customers are receiving mail via pick up at Post Offices throughout the island or by limited delivery service by carriers. The following shows where customers can pick up mail or where delivery has resumed.

After checking some information on the internet, Shelburne Country Store replied:

I checked up on that last night. i am actually amazed at how quickly the Post office can recover. That said, the delivery so far is only for packages that were already on the island. Today is the first day that they will start to receive packages that were delayed in New Jersey.

I just have a tough time with a customer who feels this is a review of the seller. Time to be a duck, let it roll off, and move on….

The customer is still not happy. It is amazing that the Post Office is functioning at all, and in due time, the package of pancake mix will be delivered. Maybe other things are more important than pancake mix.  Like water and life saving medicine.  Meanwhile, the seller is stuck with the one star rating for this unreasonable expectation.

Another seller had a similar experience when Hurricane Irma blew into Florida on September 10.  The seller, Sarcastic Redhead, tells about her amazon experience:

We had an item that was due to be delivered to the keys. The buyer bought it just before the hurricane thinking it would not be as bad as it was. Her house was wiped out. It is still sitting in a warehouse in S Florida. I have contacted everyone from the post office there, the liaison’s office and consumer affairs. The said it is in S Florida in warehouses with all the rest of the mail and they are working through it. 

The buyer’s home was wiped out so we wanted it sent back to us so she could repurchase. She could not find our phone number so she left negative feedback (then found it and called us). I contacted Amazon EIGHT TIMES to get this removed as sellers were SUPPOSED TO BE protected for this (I referenced the notification and even sent a screenshot of it). I couldnt get more than a form response saying it wasnt covered under feedback removal guidelines. I marked it urgent, asked to escalate to a supervisor – nothing, nada, zilch. Now the buyer was kind enough to have removed it but customer service would not. 

Dont assume they will follow their own policies – they wont.

These strange tales about amazon’s baffling customer support system illustrates what can happen when a monopolistic corporation puts in place a system that is defective toward their own sellers, and leaves little room for any adjustments.

The NOW generation has gotten tremendous power through amazon’s star system.  And even if it is an unrealistic expectation due to a Hurricane, the seller is liable to get a bad Star Rating and lose thousands of dollars of orders because they have one star less than their competitors.  We can’t wait to see what happens when amazon replaces the faceless technocrats with faceless Artificial Intelligence robots in the customer service department.  Maybe amazon will send out a drone strike against the sellers who drop to three stars or less.  Hey, just kidding about that.   Not.

 

The Barnes and Noble Censorship Two-Step Dance To Oblivion Starring Milo Yiannopoulos

The Big Book Chain’s Self-Defeating Censorship Throws Huge Chunks of Cash to Their Dreaded Enemy amazon.com

by Paul Hunt

Sometimes you just have to shake your head in disbelief and wonder just how stupid some of the executives at big corporations can be?.  How did these morons ever rise to their positions?  Why do executive boards continue to pick guys to run a book company who have no experience in the book business?  More importantly, why hire a CEO who has no understanding of the field the company is in?

Barnes and Noble has had a series of mis-steps in the last couple of years.  The previous CEO decided that what was needed was for the bookseller to open up restaurants and bars inside their stores. They thought it would be nice to have folks sipping wine and browsing through the stacks.  A bad idea if there ever was one.  The stores are big on children’s books and young adult books, the last thing they need is a bunch of drunks or tipsy fobs populating the aisles.  They have opened several “test” locations but I think that idea will be a wash out.  The executives behind that bold move were canned and a new crowd brought in.  Things have gotten worse.

The flamboyant Milo Yiannopoulos has a new book out, called Dangerous.  Say what you want about this ever fascinating, outrageous self-promoting and offensive author, but he is a popular guy in some quarters. He was so controversial that a big gang of thugs did major damage to U.C. Berkeley do keep him from speaking.  The home of the Free Speech Movement.  Yeah, right.  No more “free speech” in that neighborhood. Enter the big bookseller Barnes and Noble.  Not to be outdone by the Berkeley street gangs, they have refused to stock Milo’s new book “Dangerous”.  This move of censorship opens a big area of discussion, and disgust with B & N.

How many times have we been down this road?  How many Henry Millers have caused crushing censorship?  How many displays in public libraries across the land to make controversial material available?  How many headline-grabbing legal battles?  How many years has the American Bookseller’s Association put on their famous “Banned Book Week” promo?  Booksellers know why.  It’s in our basic bookselling genes to have available the many different ideas of our culture and in fact all political and cultural ideas put out in books.  So B & N won’t stock the book “Dangerous”  They will “order” it for you, but not actually have it on their shelves. This is the big achievement of the new regime at B & N, censorship by refusing to stock a controversial book, in this case, a book called “Dangerous”.

The word in Wall Street circles is that B & N may be up for sale.  Maybe one of the reasons is that they don’t have anyone leading the company who knows a damned thing about selling books, or the ethics of bookselling, or why booksellers and libraries should have books that are not necessarily “popular”.  So who is reaping the benefits of this lunacy?  Amazon, of course.  “Dangerous” has sold over 100,000 copies online, and is a best seller in many parts of the book world.  The cash is flowing into amazon.com coffers.  Does B & N somehow think that people are going to flood into their stores because they are NOT stocking “Dangerous” ?

Meanwhile, that wild and crazy guy Milo, is putting on one of the best promo campaigns you will ever see.  TV appearances, street guerrilla theater in front of the other sad sack in this case, Simon And Schuster publishers, who pulled out of the book deal with Milo and is now being sued, has lost face, and has lost a small fortune.  Simon and Schuster, now owned by CBS, which also owns Pocket Books, Scribner’s Sons and Athenium, seems to have caught the censorship disease first, even before B & N. The drama goes on every day, with Milo on Facebook, Milo in the News, Milo taking shots at B & N for not stocking the book, Milo dancing in the streets of New York with his followers. Sales of his book get better and bigger.

All of a sudden, the financial analysts and bean counters are trying to figure out if B & N stock is worth more than eight bucks a share.  And oh, BTW, amazon.com is selling for over $1,000 per share. Looks like another brick and mortar headed for boot hill, in this case helped along by their own insane doings.

Conspiracy Dudes, Scary Scientology Green Thetans and Murder Above The Bookstore

Verification Failed -Time Has Expired

by Paul Hunt

Kenn Thomas

This latest mini-adventure started with a Facebook posting by Kenn Thomas, an author of various books on my favorite subject, (after Gnosticism}, which would be conspiracy theories and conspiracy facts. For many years I ran a bookshop called Atlantis Books, which specialized in books on various conspiracies throughout history. We also had a huge video library of tapes covering UFOs, Deep State Politics, Ancient Mysteries, Alternative Medicine, and Alt Politics of all kinds. I had sold a lot of Kenn’s books, so when I ran across his FB postings, I decided to follow him.

Jim Keith

In June, he posted something about Jim Keith, one of the great writers of conspiracy titles. I disagree with some of his conclusions but his books are always fascinating, he was an excellent researcher, going to small town newspaper archives across America and really digging into his subjects. Nowdays, with the internet, so-called researchers never crack open a book or look through newspaper archives. If it’s not on the internet, it doesn’t exist. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great information on the net, much of it now being monetized by information companies, but it has made many of the “researchers” lazy beyond belief. Most of the so-called “content creation” that is done for websites is just rehashed from other web sources. Most of the big newspapers and media are also into this, and they have a new twist, called “content curation”, meaning they get someone else’s info and “curate” it by adding a few things and then using it as fill on their own news sites and TV. Hey, it saves a lot of money: fire all the reporters and hire some fast typists who are paid by the job. Get the L.A Times (or fill in the blank) into the profit. Who needs a bunch of rowdy reporters jamming up the news room, turning in expense sheets, and causing law suits and controversy. This detracts from the yellow brick road to profit.

Jim Keith would be disgusted with this kind of behavior. If he were alive, that is. He fell off a stage at Burning Man in 1999, and died in the hospital from a knee injury. There’s a lot of information about his strange death, a healthy guy who spent a lot of time blasting the CIA and the Deep State. Check it out on the internet, it’s too long for this discussion, but there was never a proper investigation into his death that satisfied those who watch the murderious activities of the CIA and the Deep State, those wonderful fellows who run torture prisons around the world and “render” (kidnap) their enemies from anywhere in the world and dump them into hidden prisons in Poland.

So when Kenn Thomas posted something about Jim Keith on Facebook back in June this year, it triggered a memory of an interesting story about Keith. I wrote Thomas and said I would write it up and email it to him. He said OK, but never got it, probably went into his spam folder along with the offers of millions of dollars from the former Treasurer of Nigeria. Here’s the story that I sent to Kenn, who is also a fan of Jim Keith. It is not very flattering, but hey, we were all young once, and the late 60s were drugs and rock and roll, right?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Magic Door Bookshop, Pomona

One night, a few years ago, around 9 or 10 pm, I stumbled across an amazing book store in Downtown Pomona. I was with a friend and we immediately parked and went into the place, called The Magic Door. I believe it is still up and running, and has a Facebook page.

Dwain Kaiser

I rummaged around and found a couple of Jim Keith books. The owner, Dwain Kaiser, quizzed me about them, and after some chatter he told me that he had known Jim Keith, and had roomed with him when they were in college. He said a bunch of guys rented a big house and shared it to save money while in college.

Jim Keith was assigned to sleep in an upstairs room. At this time (I’m guessing late 60s) Jim was deep into Scientology, and avidly reading all of Hubbard’s work. During one winter, his upstairs room was really cold, there wasn’t any heat in it. Jim started telling everyone that he was having problems sleeping, and that Hubbard had talked and written about an entity, a big blue – green demon Thetan which was visiting Jim almost every night. He was so distrought that he couldn’t sleep in the room anymore.

He convinced the rest of the tenants to let him sleep downstairs, so he carved out a spot where he slept right next to the warm floor heater. All was well until one day Jim raced off to school, leaving his blankets on the heater. They caught fire filling the house with dense smoke. The Fire Department arrived and put out the fire before it consumed the whole house. While there, they also noticed a lot of pot and other drugs laying around, which they relayed to the police.

A short time later, the Narcs raided the house and arrested everyone for drug possession, except for Jim Keith who was gone on a trip. The guys had to hire lawyers and fought the case but ended up being fined, although I don’t remember if Dwain said any of them had to serve any time in jail. Jim Keith kept a low profile and slipped out of the fracas, which he had totally caused by seeing L.Ron Hubbard’s blue – green Thetan demon and moving downstairs to sleep next to the heater.

You could probably get hold of Dwain to verify this, I hope I got it right, just from memory, I didn’t take any notes. Jim Keith’s blue-green demon may have been caused by drug use, or Scientology mind control, or just an excuse to get downstairs to get warm. We’ll never know, although if caused by drug use it would be nice to know exactly which drug, so as to avoid use under any circumstances. Scientology was vehemently against drug use, so I vote for the warm heater scenario. Knowing that Jim loved Burning Man, I submit that into evidence, also.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Checking back on my email, I sent Kenn the story at 11:31 a.m. on July 2nd. I told him that he could check with Dwain Kaiser at The Magic Door to verify it and maybe embellish it. Little did I realize that gave Kenn Thomas only about 14 hours to contact Dwain. Since Thomas said he never got the email, the point is moot. Dwain Kaiser was brutally shot to death just after midnight on July 3, 2017.

Dwain Kaiser was a really cool guy. I greatly enjoyed my conversation with him. His store was full of good books, and his wife JoAnne was working with him the night I was there. What a damned shame that he was murdered, evidently by a teen-ager who was living with the Kaisers in the apartment above the Bookstore. If the book store closes it will leave a huge hole in the cultural center of Pomona.

It also left me with a weird feeling. Why did all that pop into my mind just before he was killed? If one of us had called him, would it have changed anything? Change the time-track? Prevent the murder? Dwain Kaiser was big into Science Fiction. He would understand what I’m saying.

So Dwain Kaiser has now gone through another Magic Door, the Door of Mystery and entrance into the Spirit World, where he joins his friends, Jim Keith and Jerry Smith, another former Scientologist and Conspiracy writer.   Maybe the three of them will be able to solve the greatest Mystery to face all humans. Please dudes, if you reach a conclusion, let us know.

Jerry Smith, friend of Jim Keith and Conspiracy Writer

I’m posting some important links below, to Dwain’s website (the store is still open for a while), Jerry Smith’s website and other relevant stuff.  May  all your Thetans be pink and fluffy.

Magic Door Facebook Page:  Click Here

Jerry E. Smith Webpage:  Click Here

Kenn Thomas, Steamshovel Press Click Here

Kenn’s book Trumpocalypse Now!: The Triumph of the Conspiracy Spectacle Paperback is available at amazon.com.

Feral House Publisher: Click Here

Feral House still has Jim Keith’s “Octopus” conspiracy book, as well as some Kenn Thomas titles and many other wild and crazy pop culture, alt culture and conspiracy titles.

Incredible Book Find of Rare Thomas Paine Pamphlets

Felix O’Neill Finds Amazing Treasure at Irish Book Auction.  He Will Be Interviewed on Steve Eisenstein’s Radio Show

Owen Felix O’Neill
Irish Rare Book Dealer

Here’s the original email post from Felix to Steve about this amazing find of rare material:

Hi Steve…I hope all is well with you and family ….all is very well here in Ireland…I thought I would share this with you…I attended a Book Auction in a very rural part of Ireland last weekend, and they were selling 35, 0000 volumes of Books…It was to me Book Heaven…miles and miles of books most of the people who came to see them had no idea about the books…and guess what…I struck gold, there was this single book, very well trashed from the late 18th. century missing its covers and with no spine, I saw it before the auction and I all but had a heart attack, the book was in reality a series of 9 Pamphlets gather together into this book, probably in the late 18th. Century, I pick the book up and looked at the front title page, and I smiled, the first Pamphlet was by Thomas Paine and his signature was to the last page, I looked through the book and counted the Pamphlets, I put the book down, I was very excited, I knew what I saw and had. My notes on the Paine Pamphlets below…of the 9 Pamphlets 2 were by Thomas Paine, another 2 were by Wilberforce, on Slavery in 1790 , 1. on The Laws on British Parliament 1788, and 1 on Arts, Sciences, Agriculture, 1790, 2 more were Poets, Alexander Pope, 1780s and the last was on the Birmingham Riots of 1791..what a find I thought to myself, most of the books about 99% were rubbish, 1 % were interesting, my problem was to look for gold among the muck, and this I did, all my years of accumulation of my book knowledge paid off…I bough a few other books, including 1768 Samuel Johnson’s 8 Volume stunning set of Shakespeare Plays. With no internet bids I only spend one thousand dollars for about 50 books, what a steal….Tell you more when we next speak…enjoy the Summer, say hello to all including you lovely wife….Felix
PS. My details Note below on the two Thomas Paine Pamphlets.
1. Letter to the Addressers, on the late Proclamation, by Thomas Paine
 No Publisher’s name on the Title- Page, but the name of  H.D. Symonds to the last page of ads. So it could also be the elusive Publisher J. S. Jordan, (Jeremiah Samuel Jordan), Jeremiah Samuel Jordan published all his Pamphlet on light blue paper, If so, this is the very  rare and non existence,1st. Edition of “Letter to the Addressers, on the late Proclamation”, by Thomas Paine which has forty pages and was published in London by the Publisher J. S. Jordan of No.166, Fleet-street. also in 1792; however, to the best of my knowledge that 1st. Edition does not exist, but I do think, (more research) this Pamphlet of 42 pages including title-page and the last ad page, bring this Pamphlet to 42 pages is by, Jeremiah Samuel Jordan, he was the Publisher of most of Thomas Paine’s works at the time, as was  H.D. Symonds in Paternoster Row also of London, H.D. Symonds ads would appear on the back page of the Pamphlets by J. S. Jordan, that was normal, they were both friends.
The Printing of Letter to the Addressers, on the late Proclamation, by Thomas Paine, was untaken by both the Publishers Jeremiah Samuel Jordan and H.D. Symonds of London, which would have been the norm at the time, because it would require the printing in excess of 25,000 Pamphlets, a huge job at he time, it also would be one of many other Pamphlets and Books that were printed by both of them. Both printers done other printing for Thomas Paine, both were friends.
Anyway Published in London, in 1792 on very light blue paper by either J. S. Jordan or H.D. Symonds. 1st. Edition thus, original Pamphlet form of 42 pages, very light blue original wrappers within dark green and gold marbled paper wraps as covers. Untrimmed papers which is normal for any Pamphlet or Tract published at the time. Rear very light blue original wrapper with publisher’s advertisements for “Rights of Man” part I and part II,  and other cheap editions of the above works, including the prices by the Publisher’s, H.D. Symonds, in Paternoster Row.
This Pamphlet is Thomas Paine’s reply to the controversy stirred up against both parts of his “Rights of Man” by the “Proclamations and Addresses” in “Corporations and rotten Boroughs” This Pamphlet, in which Paine discusses the reception of the two parts of his Rights of Man and continues his attack on the evils of the English Government, particularly as embodied in the writings and speeches of Mr. Edmund Burke, is essentially a third part of the Rights of Man itself. The late proclamation” refers satirically to the royal proclamation against seditious writings, issued May 21, 1792, and directed particularly against the second part of Paine’s Rights of man. Also this Pamphlet contains the final leaf of advertisements, which is often missing. Thomas Paine corrected the proofs while in Paris and sent them to London for publication to both J. S. Jordan  and H.D. Symonds,  both the Publishers, J. S. Jordan, and H.D. Symonds were prosecuted for publishing this work. “Paine here makes a brazen call for a revolution in England and outlines a plan for calling together a convention for the purpose of reviewing the whole mass of English laws and retaining all worthy ones, while letting the rest drop”
A Pamphlet or Tract is a small booklet or leaflet containing information or arguments about a single subject. A Pamphlet or Tract is also an unbound sheet of paper without a hard-cover or binding It may consist of a single sheet of paper that is printed on both sides and folded in half, in thirds, or in fourths, called aleaflet, or it may consist of a few pages that are folded in half and saddled stabled (staples into the spine ) at the crease to make a simple booklet. The pamphlet form of literature has been used for centuries as an economical vehicle for the broad distribution of information. Also due to their low cost and ease of production, Pamphlets have often been used to popularise political or religious ideas. Ephemeral (Pamphlets or Tracts) and to wide array of political or religious perspectives given voice by the format’s ease of production, Pamphlets are prized by many Book Collectors, Research Libraries, Private Institutions such as Universities. Substantial accumulations have been amassed and transferred to ownership of academic Research Libraries around the world. Also Pamphlets or Tracts were printed on scarce paper at the time, so when finished were more often then not used as toilet paper, (toilet paper at the time was non existent,) or also used to start a home fire, so paper Pamphlets or Tracts rarely survived, hence there greater value.
Contemporaneous  notes  hand-written notes to the last blank page, before the final page of ads for other Thomas Paine Books is this, I copied exactly as written….
Line 1.    At Chelmsford Sessions one
Line 2.   Christopher Payne of Saffron Walden
Line 3.    Bookseller was tried for selling
Line 4.    Paine’s Letter to the Addressers
Line 5.    an error in the indictment proved
Line 6.    fatal to the Prosecution and honest
Line 7.    Valiant was acquitted…..
2. Mr Paine’s letter to Mr. Secretary Dundas by Thomas Paine, 1792
This 1st. Edition, 16 page Pamphlet  was Printed and distributed gratis by the Society for Constitutional Information. The Society for Constitutional Information, which was a British activist group founded in 1780 by Major John Cartwright, to promote parliamentary reform. The Society flourished until 1783, but thereafter made little headway. The organisation actively promoted  Thomas Paine’s “Rights of Man” and other radical publications, After the British Government repression and the 1794 Treason Trials in October, in which the leaders were acquitted, the society ceased to meet. The Title-Page has no date but the page after the Title -Page has a printed note
“ At a Meeting of the Society for Constitutional Information, held at the Crown and Anchor, Friday June 15th. 1792. ——Resolve, That Twelve Thousand Copies of Mr. Paine’s letter to Mr. Secretary Dundas, be printed, for the purpose of being distributed to our Correspondents throughout Great Britain”This very rare Pamphlet has a few Contemporaneous notes hand-written names to the Title -Page, plus Thomas Paine’s name inked in, almost like a signature to the last page, page16, bottom right. The Contemporary hand-written name of John Jones, three times written, as a signature of one,  John Jones, and two dates 1792 and 1799. (maybe Captain John Paul Jones) 1792? and his Son 1799?? A few slight tears but no damage to the text, page 9 and page 10 top centre of the pages.
The 2nd Edition of Mr. Paine’s letter to Mr. Secretary Dundas by Thomas Paine was published by J. Parsons, London 1792
Major John Cartwright wrote The English Constitution, which outlined his ideas including Government by the people and legal equality which he considered could only be achieved by universal suffrage, the secret ballot and equal electoral districts. He became the main patron of the Radical publisher Thomas Jonathan Wooler, best known for his satirical journal The Black Dwarf, who actively supported Cartwright’s campaigning. Major John Cartwright had sent a copy of The English Constitution to former President of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wrote back to Cartwright in July: “Your age of eighty-four, and mine of eighty-one years, ensure us a speedy meeting. We may then commune at leisure, and more fully, on the good and evil, which in the course of our long lives, we have both witnessed; and in the mean time, I pray you to accept assurances of my high veneration and esteem for your person and character”.
Check out Steve Eisenstein’s “Bucks on the Bookshelf” Radio Show on WDBF Radio:  Click Here for Radio Show
 Saturday 9am-11am Pacific Time
Website of Felix O’Neill, Click Here

Los Angeles Bard Duane Thorin Passes

Booklover, Song Writer, Musician

He Wrote “Occupy Your Car” the Classic Song About Homeless Folks and the Economic Meltdown

by Paul Hunt

Duane Thorin

Duane Thorin had music in his heart from birth. He loved to sing, play the guitar, entertain. But the path to that musical life was paved with obstructions and suffering. It was only when he was crushed by the 2008 meltdown like millions of other folks that he somehow rose from the ashes of despair to be able to live his dream of music, storytelling and song and make his mark on the Southern California cultural scene.

I first met Duane in the 1990’s when he was a frequent visitor to my bookshop in Burbank, Magnolia Park Books.  At the time that I met him, he was installing swimming pools in middle class areas of San Bernardino and Riverside. Those were the years of the housing boom. The government and the banksters were pushing everybody who was breathing, and some who were possibly not even existing in this dimension, to buy a house. Out in the hinterlands of San Berdoo, there was a huge housing boom. They were springing up in every desert plot and sandy hill that was available. Mortgages were rubber-stamped, and the middle class, eager to participate in the great American dream, poured into the area.

The families that bought these new digs got settled in, but then they got a taste of summer. It’s not Death Valley, but it is boiling hot out that way. The moms and pops had to hear their kids whining about it every damn day. The summer boil. No school with air conditioning. No nice grassy back yards like in the Westside of L.A. Just sand dunes. What to do? Paying the mortgage was tough enough, no way for a real swimming pool like in Beverly Hills. So how about an above-ground pool? They are just big enough and deep enough to keep the kids wet, a place to play in the yard at least part of the brutal summer days. Once the parents bought the pool, they would be given a referral to a guy like Duane who would come out to your place with a crew and actually install the thing on your sandlot.

Duane relaxing at the old Cliff's Bookshop in Pasadena. Photo by Paul Hunt

Duane relaxing at the old Cliff’s Bookshop in Pasadena. Photo by Paul Hunt

Duane was a big sturdy guy. Although he had worked in the entertainment world part of his life, several years booking acts into the Ice House in Pasadena, he still had to make a living. I don’t remember how he ever go into that business, but he did. Part of the lure of it was work like a dog all summer and make enough to live the rest of the year. The reward during Fall and Winter was to do the things that he really loved to do, singing, music, reading. But installing pools out in San Bernardino in the middle of summer is brutal work. The area had to be leveled, the rocks, snakes and lizards moved out, and then the pool put together so that when it was filled the water would stay inside.

He always had a tough time keeping a crew, the work was hell, long days when 100 degrees was the lowest it ever got, burning your skin off. Take your salt pills and drink gallons of water ’cause you’re going to sweat until you end up looking like a prune. Duane would come into my shop and occasionally dragoon some unemployed book – lover to work for him in the pool biz. If those guys lasted a week it was a miracle. Most were skinny and pale, night owls with an aversion to sunlight. I used to joke about it with him, telling him he was killing my customers. He said he was just trying to put some money in their pocket for an honest day’s work. Usually they were done in one or two days, and after a couple weeks of recuperation they looked forward to something a little less physical, like working at a Starbucks. Anything other than the sheer brutality of that scalding sun.

At times, even Duane had to back off for a few days. The pressure from the pool companies was intense. They would sell scores of pools and they depended on Duane to put them up. He had all his equipment loaded into a trailer, which he would pull out to the customer’s property. A difficult pool installation might take more than one day, sometimes several days. He would get a cheap motel and the crew would have to sleep there until the job was done. Just before the economy crumbled, an omen had popped up: his main guy, a really hard working Latino, was arrested and sent to prison for something. Duane was upset about that because he depended on him. It meant hiring 2 guys to replace him. The work load was intense, the phone always ringing, more jobs than he could ever handle. But it all came to a dead stop with the 2008 financial crash.

The big Meltdown hit everyone. The middle class was devastated. The poor class swelled with new members. Millions lost their houses, their savings, their way of life. San Bernardino looked like a big ghost town. Within a couple years, the City was sending guys out to the neighborhoods to spray green paint on dead lawns on the abandoned properties so they would look lived in. The pools were a big problem. The happy days of children splashing in the pools became the nightmare of the City, as the thousands of abandoned pools, now with stagnant algae packed water, became a breeding ground for billions of mosquitoes. City crews spent months draining the pools that Duane had built. We joked that maybe the thieving bankers visiting their now empty houses would get a well deserved dose of malaria in the process.

Duane Thorin 2013

Back in the bookstore, I saw Duane on almost a daily basis. We became fast friends. He was talented, intelligent, funny and literate. His business had collapsed but he lasted a couple years on his savings. I had to close the book store about the same time, and move into my van. At some point, he ran out of money totally. There was no work in L.A. The homeless population was swelling, thousands of families living in cars and vans. He lost his apartment, but I found him an RV which he got parked on a friend’s property, a lovely couple living in the mountains of Altadena. Through this crushing defeat, Duane Thorin was reborn. It wasn’t easy, he and I were often together at food banks. We hung out at coffee houses. The weird thing was that he was free. Free to change. Free to pursue his dreams.

He now had time to devote to his music. He sang at coffee houses, ran open mic nights, sharpened his skills with his guitar, hustled some music jobs, wrote songs. He was killer at it. His creativity exploded.

He also had time to do something that he wanted to do for years. His dad, also named Duane Thorin,  had been in the Korean war. He was captured by the North Koreans and thrown into a jail with other G.I.s. He managed to escape and was free for some time, trying to make it back to friendly lines, but was recaptured due to another G.I. making a stupid mistake. Duane’s dad was one of the only Americans to ever escape from the North Koreans. His recapture meant that torture and punishment would now be his life, and the North Koreans turned him over to the Red Chinese.

Escape From North Korea

Duane had made a recording of his dad telling his story before his death, and wanted to get it out, so I helped him to produce a CD of the original recording. It’s an exciting story, although agonizing to re-live the captivity.

Duane, was very patriotic, and wanted folks to remember what those who served for us had to go through. Listen to Duane singing the National Anthem. It will floor you.

Duane’s career soared in the last few years. He was in demand as a singing coach and manager, he arranged and ran the musical entertainment for private celebrity parties, he sang at venues around the southland and wrote songs. We were blessed to have Duane’s music video, Occupy Your Car, and his original song about Walmart moving into a small town.


The songs are so powerful because Duane lived through it. He knew what it was to live in a car. He could write his songs from his heart, drawing on his own personal experiences. His good friend Donna has filmed and recorded Duane for years, and we are blessed with the preservation of his music.

Chef Duanio

His sudden death last week was a shock. He seemed healthy, in good humor, and leading the life he always dreamed about, the musical life. He had created a character called Chef Duaneo, an Italian Chef who sang opera. Duane had so much fun with that, and Chef Duaneo was a hilarious musical show that played around town.

L.A. has lost another great voice, a bard, a troubadour.
Duane Thorin joins some other noted musicians who have passed recently. I can’t help thinking that Heaven’s gotta be rockin’ right now.

This is a revised version of a story that I wrote two weeks ago for www.GypsyCool.com. –Paul Hunt

L.A.’s Famous Whimsic Alley To Close

L.A.’s Fantasy Store For Harry Potter and All Things British To Shut Down

30% OFF Everything Sale Commences

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Whimsic Alley, the popular fandom store, party and entertainment facility on L.A.’s Miracle Mile, has announced that it will be closing. Known for its elaborately themed interior, resembling a Dickensian street market and its castle-like Great Hall, the store developed a strong following among fans of Harry Potter.

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Over the years, Whimsic Alley played host to hundreds of birthday parties, weddings, costume balls, themed tea parties, murder mystery dinners, summer camps, adult camps, wizard-rock concerts and filmings. Numerous Hollywood celebrities, including several of the stars of the Harry Potter films, have visited the store, held parties for themselves or their kids, or attended store events.

Long before the appearance of theme parks in Orlando and Hollywood, Potter fans from as far away as Russia, Israel, Australia and Asia reportedly planned their United States vacations with a visit to Whimsic Alley as an essential stop on their trip. Planners for both the global Harry Potter Exhibition and the Orlando, Florida Wizarding World of Harry Potter made frequent trips to Whimsic Alley as part of their preliminary research. One member of the London film production team reported that David Heyman, the producer of all the Harry Potter films, used to tell anyone from the film crew traveling to Los Angeles to be sure to stop in at Whimsic Alley while there.

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Participants in Whimsic Alley’s annual “The Camp that Lived” (a name the campers came up with), developed strong bonds with fellow campers that have lasted years. The camp drew fans from all over the country and even featured the wedding of two of its campers.

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Although Whimsic Alley has, since its inception, celebrated other fandoms as well, Harry Potter was the one that caught on the most. In recent years products and events have focused on fandoms such as Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Hunger Games, Outlander, Supernatural and others. Events featuring each of these themes have been held at Whimsic Alley. Recently, Sony Pictures hosted the kick-off of its current season of Outlander in the Great Hall, complete with an appearance by series author Diana Gabaldon.

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According to Whimsic Alley’s owner, Stan Goldin, “New multi-million dollar theme parks and exhibitions are awe-inspiring. But for many years, Whimsic Alley filled a void that no one else seemed interested in filling. Our staff enjoyed serving our clientele as much as they hopefully enjoyed their experiences. As a result, we developed close friendships along the way which we hope will continue for many years to come.”

Whimsic Alley, located at 5464 Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles, has begun offering all of its merchandise at close-out prices.  310-453-2370

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Found: Another Guide to Burbank – North Hollywood – Glendale

Fold-Out Guide Dated May 1999 Floats to Surface in My Archive of Dead Bookshops Paper Debris Pile

Paul Hunt

Original Published May 1999 by Paul Hunt

Original Published May 1999 by Paul Hunt

Reverse side

Reverse side

Where Are They Now?

Note:  If the store was listed in the previous article on the first Burbank – North Hollywood fold-out, the listings will be pretty much the same, although I might binge out a bit.  There are many changes and new shops listed on this fold-out from 1999.

Atlantis Book Shop  This was the old Bond Street Book Shop listed in the first flyer.  This store began the Conspiracy – UFO video rental saga and along with a great History selection, became known for extensive sections on Politics, Deep State, Conspiracy, CIA Plots, Assassinations, Secret Societies, Ancient Mysteries and such.  Redevelopment tore down the entire block, wiping out Atlantis Books just like the original Island of Atlantis of the Mediterranean, now largely known as Saudi Arabia, was destroyed.  Many celebrities hung out here, including the great Jordan Maxwell.  Filmmakers and television companies filmed here, surrounded by plans for Nazi UFO’s, photos of ETs, and stacks of books on various conspiracies.

2. Automotive Books   This is actually Automotive Book Stop.  (The Autobooks/Aerobooks shop near Hollywood Way did not want to participate in this flyer at the time, so was left out.)   Owned and operated by Fred and Chris Chapparo, they closed the shop and retired in 2016, although they may still be selling some rare items online.

3.  Bestseller Book Shop.   Store closed several years ago.  I started this store with a partner, it was all paperback books, and quite successful.  Massive rent spikes put it out.

4.  Book Castle/Movie World.  This was the Movie Store next to the Gigantic Book Castle.  The great Book Castle closed in 1994 when the rent went from $5M per month to an asking price of 30M per month, a number not possible to pay.  Shortly after, my partner Steve and I parted ways, and he operated the Movie World shop, which is still at the same location and packed with much more than just movie memorabilia.  A post on their facebook site in January said they may be closing this summer (not verified).

5.  Book City – Burbank  This store is long gone, although years after it closed a dollar book store opened for a short time.  This shop was run by Alan Siegel, who owned Hollywood Book City.  It was a huge shop, with a lot of good books although too many were behind locked cases, making it difficult to browse.   As I remember it opened around 1980, but then was closed for months after the ill-constructed back loft collapsed.  Luckily this happened in the middle of the night, because anyone underneath would have been crushed to jello.

Bookfellows

6. Bookfellows Bookshop  (Also known as Mystery and Imagination Bookshop)  This great Science Fiction and Mystery Fiction shop is owned by Malcolm and Christine Bell.  It began life in an embryo stage on Hollywood Blvd. in the 1970s when Malcolm Bell and Chuck Annegan opened a bookshop in an upstairs office at the Cowboy Young building.  Heritage Book Shop and Atlantis Book Shop both also started there.  Christine worked for the nearby Book Treasury on Hollywood Blvd., and later hooked up with Malcolm.  Their first shop was on East Broadway Blvd. near S. Verdugo, in Glendale, later moving to Brand Blvd. to be where the action was.  The shop closed last year (2016) due to impossibly high overhead.  They were noted for their great book signings and top condition of their stock.  They are now mail order only, you can find them on ebay and internet book sites.

Brand Bookshop

7.  Brand Bookshop  One of the great large used book stores in the Los Angeles area, at its peak was about 7,200 sq. ft. of nicely shelved good stock.  The store was opened and run by Jerome Joseph, a long-time area bookman, and one of the friendliest guys on earth.  Unfortunately,  Jerome took ill a few years age, and his friend and partner Noriyake ran the store until Jerome’s passing.  The shop closed around  2015, leaving a void of a large general book store in the Glendale area.

8.  CM Bookshop in Silverlake  This was a small, but nice book shop that opened next to The Silverlake Coffee House.  I’m not sure of the owner’s name, I think it was Carl,  but he was a nice chap who started as a book scout. With a partner, he opened a shop in Old Town Pasadena called Book Alley, which was later sold and is now on East Colorado with a different owner, Tom Rogers.  This shop is long gone, too bad, it was so pleasant to buy a book and then go next door to the coffee house and have some java.  On hot summer days the air conditioning in the coffee house beckoned, but when the weather permitted the outside patio was even a better place to read a book and watch the endless parade of pretty girls going into the coffee house for their blended Iced Mocha Whipped Cream Strawberry Thinga Majings

9.  Dark Delicacies  This shop specializes in Horror and Fantasy Fiction, and is a mecca known around the country.  It moved to its present location at 3512 W. Magnolia where it is going strong.  Their current location is a couple doors from what used to be Magnolia Park Bookshop.  Great displays in the front windows is a tradition, and they keep a full schedule of author signings, including stars of horror and science fiction films.

Dutton's

10.  Dutton’s Books – Burbank   Store Closed years ago, see post about it and the Dutton Book Empire elsewhere on this blog. (check the list of articles and stories).  This was the perfect neighborhood book shop, run by an intelligent staff.  They carried both new and second hand books, with lots of perennial classics.

11.  Dutton’s Books – North Hollywood  This was Dave Dutton’s flagship store.  When business took a dive in the 2008 crash he retired.  The premises was a Yoga Studio for a while, I don’t know who is in there now.  It was a great shop, and I spent many hours browsing there.  It was a large store, with an interesting mix of new and second-hand.  Books were piled everywhere.  Dave could usually be found in the parking lot area behind the shop, sorting through the never-ending avalanche that poured in.  Dave and his shop missed by everyone with an ounce of culture.

12.  Howard Lowery Gallery  Specialty here was animation art of all kinds, especially Disney art, movie memorabilia, and comic art.  Howard was a very experienced dealer in these fields, having run the monthly auctions at Collector’s Bookshop on Hollywood Blvd. for years.  He ran his own auctions, usually held at the Burbank Hilton, and made a name for himself as the go-to expert in the field of animation art.  The shop is sadly long gone and I believe Howard is retired.

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13. Iliad Bookshop   Owned by Dan Weinstien, he was forced to re-locate when the rent spike hit.  This shop on Vineland was famous for its great Mural that covered all three storefronts.  Dan found another spot and managed to scrape enough together to buy his building, and is now at 5400 Cahuenga Blvd., in North Hollywood.  He has a great new Mural that runs on two sides of the building, as we have written about and photographed on this site.  Treat yourself to a visit to this wonderful store, packed with good books and with really great prices.  This is the last big book shop to survive in the area, so please support it.  One of his cats is pictured on our banner.

14.  Last Grenadier – Burbank  This store had an excellent selection of Military History, books on Uniforms, Regimental Histories, related magazines, and also board games and armies of little lead soldiers, many colorfully painted by their staff.  Just before the wrecking ball took out the block they moved up north a few blocks on the same street, but the high rents eventually forced another move, this time over to the west side of Burbank on Hollywood Way, just south of Magnolia. They were there for a few years but closed when the rents went up.  The owner, Rocky, at one time had 5 game stores and with partners ran the Los Angeles area game and military conventions, always a lot of fun to  attend.

An old shot of Magnolia Park - Probably in the 1950s

An old shot of Magnolia Park – Probably in the 1950s

15. Magnolia Park Book Shop.  This shop started over 70 years ago by two guys who were remainder book salesmen.  Eventually it sold to a gentleman who bought the property.  He had a manager running the shop, but the manager  died in a tragic car crash. Also killed in the crash was his son, the product of a concurrent marriage with another woman, wife #2.  A bitter shock to wife #1.  His widow ran the shop for years. She sat by the front door, a thin, wizend old gal, smoking a cigarette and usually talking to anyone who would listen.  Her opinions about her present and former customers were classic and caustic.  I got the impression there weren’t many folks that she liked, except her friend the landlady, who was in her 90s and renting the store to her for the bargain price of $300 per month.  I leased the shop in 1993 when she retired to an old folks home, paying over 5 times the rent the previous tenant paid.  Four months later the place was almost entirely destroyed by the January 17, 1994 earthquake.  The front windows blew out, the ceiling collapsed, the shelving came down and the water lines snapped, flooding the shop and ruining thousands of books. It took us months to recover, but eventually it opened and was very successful.  The shop ran for about 10 years under the capable management of Gaye Hunnicutt.  It eventually was closed due to the building being sold to a rich landlord who wanted the location for his daughter’s mattress shop. That lasted a year, now it is a high end spa. From Books to Bedding and Beyond, to slur a current ad slogan.  But hey, in this society what’s more important?  Fancy Nails for sure.  Definitely the new standard for culture. Daaahling, with those long nails you couldn’t even turn the page of a book without tearing it.

16.  Reader’s Edge  This shop was actually in Montrose, a City that used to be part of the north end of Glendale.  It was located on a charming tree-lined street and served the local community with a selection of used paperbacks and hardcovers.  The old couple who ran it were very nice folks, I think the store closed many years ago because of their failing health and old age.

17.  Twice Told Tales  A tiny shop about a block from Magnolia Park Books on the North side of the street, run by a character who could have been out of a Jack London novel: Ty Stanley (not his real name as I found out later).  He was a Chicago guy, and palled around with Jay Robert Nash, the famous writer of true crime and mafia books, including the massive Encyclopedia of True Crime.  He looked like he was Klaus Kinski’s twin brother, just frightening enough to ward off trouble at crucial moments.  He was always scouting for books and paintings and he was a frequent “guest” at the old Bond Street store, bringing in boxes of material to flog on us. He was one of the most dedicated book scouts I ever met, and I learned a lot of advanced techniques from him.  When relaxing he always had some wild stories to tell about his Chicago days.  I got the impression that it was a good idea for him not to go back there.  One tragic incident that occurred toward the end of his career was that he was hit on the head from behind with a crow bar and robbed of a large amount of cash that he always carried.  This happened at a liquor store in the seedy area of NOHO.  The attacker stole his van, with him in it, parked it and left him pretty much for dead. He seemed to recover from that horrible incident, but he was drinking a lot of beer, which led to a drunk driving arrest.  He called my book shop from jail and wanted us to post bond for him, which we agreed to do.  Against our advice he sent one of his young friends up to the store to pick up the $1500 bail money.  The guy he sent was another book scout, generally a good guy, related to a famous book family in Los Angeles, but at the time sucking  fumes out of a crack pipe.  He picked up the cash for Ty’s bail and then disappeared, not seen again for months.  This happened on a Friday, meaning that since the bail was not paid  Mr. Stanley was still in the can on Monday, calling us as soon as he could Que up for a pay phone.  He wondered if we had had a change of heart, but blew his stack when we said we had given the dough to his pal, who had probably gone on a two-month crack binge.  My partner Steve then went downtown to L.A. County Jail and posted bond for him, another $1500, springing him Monday night.  Ty paid us back immediately.  He then went looking for his pal, but luckily (for both of them) he couldn’t find him, or there might have been some Chicago style justice.  Sometime in the 1990s he had a heart attack and died.  His son – whom Ty had never mentioned, cleaned out the shop.  Thus ended the fascinating tales that emanated from that little hole in the wall.  Too bad Jay Robert Nash didn’t write Ty Stanley’s biography, it would have been a doozy.

18.  Weinstein Fine Books  A nice shop in central Glendale run by a veteran bookman and a member of the Weinstein family, Sam Weinstein.  In his career he started, bought and sold several bookshops, I remember I first met him in Vista, CA. where he was running a shop.  This store is long gone, and Sam passed in 2017.  His son Dan owns and operates the great Iliad Book Store in NOHO.

PH and Jack Papuchuyan

PH and Jack Papuchuyan, H & H Book Services – Rare Book Binders

19.  H & H Book Services.  This shop is an old fashioned book bindery, run by two brothers, John and Jack Papuchyan, both superb artists and craftsmen.  They opened their first bindery in Burbank in the rear area of a store behind the old Bond Street Books.  Later they landed jobs at Heritage Books in West Hollywood.  They moved to this location many years ago, and if you need a rare book restored, this is where you go.  The shop is still open at this writing.

Once again, I hope you have enjoyed looking back at the golden age of book shops in the Burbank, NOHO, and Glendale area.  Out of the 19 shops listed only 4 survive, and two of those are at different locations.  Please send your comments, memories, corrections, or whines to us.

Delayed Reaction: What Happened 15 Years After My Argument With Larry McMurtry

America’s Great Storyteller Heads To The Bank With 37K and Proof That an Icon is Worth More Than the Best Computer Bill Gates Ever Built

by Paul Hunt

Stumbling around my crib on a recent early Saturday morning, I settled into my command center’s decrepit seat-sagging swivel chair with a cup of coffee, hoping to wake up enough to answer some email.

9 a.m. Time to punch up Steve Eisenstein’s Saturday morning internet radio show from Florida on WDBFradio.com. I was half listening while trying to get my old HP to fire up. Steve was running some kind of contest, something about “who was the author who just sold his old typewriter for over $37,000?” Hint, he wrote a book called Lonesome Dove. Glugging down some coffee woke me up a bit. Suddenly, my mind replayed an old flashback from some 15 years before.

One of my close friends, a wild and eccentric bookseller named Barry Cullwell, had decided to pull up stakes and move to Nevada. He was mainly a wholesaler and consistently came up with great loads of books. He had spent a year building out a very unusual bookstore very close to the Los Alamitos Race Course, one of his favorite spots. His bookstore included a fancy cigar humidor cabinet, which he had built entirely by hand. For Barry, it was approaching Southern California nirvana: A well-stocked bookstore, a side line of fine antiques, a large cigar humidore, and walking distance to the track, a place that he spent quite a lot of time, which is why it took him a year to build out the store.

He had a grand opening. I went down and bought a pile of books. The next day, Barry closed the store. Like for forever. It was sad, really, a fine shop loaded with good books, and a year’s work, and open only one day. But something had come up and he was moving to Nevada. He put his house up for sale and his girlfriend put her condo on the market. He emptied the book store and moved all his books up to the house and piled them in with all the others. The house, the condo, the garage, all packed tight, and I mean really tight. He called me up and said “I’m moving, find me a buyer for all these books.”

I had heard that Larry McMurtry was trolling around the country buying books. He had bought the town that he had grown up in, sniping off the buildings one by one until he owned them all, and then started filling the empty storefronts with books. It was a grand scheme, but the drawback was that the town was somewhere in Texas in the middle of nowhere. Even if you got to the place, accommodations were slim, so show up in your RV or with a sleeping bag. This was a destination for only the hardiest of book geeks.

After dialing McMurtry’s various book stores around the country, I finally made contact and he said he would love to look at the massive Cullwell load during his next trip out to L.A.   A few weeks later, he arrived, and I met him for lunch.

McMurtry was a Southern gentleman, and we got along just fine, until I asked him what was in the box he was trundling with him. He said it was his typewriter. I asked him if he was going to drop it off at a thrift store. This was the first of my many annoying foux pas of the day. McMurtry patiently explained that he wrote all his books using one prized model of a portable typewriter, a Hermes 3000, and he always carried it with him, with clones of the same exact model stashed around the country in various places that he visited or lived. “I’ve got 9 or 10 of these,” he cheerfully explained, “and keep one in every book shop that I own, plus reserves in various apartments and other places.” He was without a doubt, the Hermes Typewriter Company’s best promoter. Too bad they were out of business.

We got into a low-key but sometimes heated discussion about the virtues of using a computer as the greatest writing instrument ever invented. He didn’t see it that way. He had written all of his novels on the old Hermes. Plus, he had also written over 40 screenplays, all by pounding the portable typewriter. To me, at the time, it was beyond belief that anyone would prefer to do that much writing on some clunky old typewriter. I had grown up with them, and had used them myself, but when I got my first look at a computer, that was it. I never wanted to see or use one of those dreadful machines ever again.

McMurtry could not be convinced by any argument from me, he had of course heard them all before. His mind was made up. In fact, he seemed to be a little superstitious, like a baseball player who has to use the same exact bat, or make the same weird motions to ward off failure. To him, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and others could not be wrong. They all loved the Hermes portables. I got the feeling that he felt that if he used something else then he might write a dud of novel. In reality, that was not going to happen: he is America’s great storyteller. There is no way he’s going to fail because he switches to a computer. But maybe he thinks it would go that way, so why take a chance?

I got to thinking about it later, and came up with a couple of reasons to use a typewriter. Since erasing something is so damned hard, using white out or one of those tough pencil typewriter erasers with a brush on one end, one might become a little more cautious, think a little more clearly about what’s going to be put on the paper, and in what order. A manual typewriter might actually improve somebody’s writing by making it such a pain in the butt to erase a mistake that you would go out of your way not to make too many of them. Plus, some of the really good machines, like his Hermes, had a nice feel to it when properly tuned up.

I couldn’t convince myself to dump the computer and go back to a manual typewriter. I love my computer, the laptop is the greatest. In its day, the Swiss company that made Hermes (and watches, and music boxes) were the among the finest designers and manufacturers in the world. But by the early 1980s they were gone. Like Barry Cullwell’s bookstore. Like forever.

The Hermes 3000

The Hermes 3000

But Larry McMurtry is a sly one. When he put 2 of his beloved machines up for auction recently, he knew that the typewriter was not just a machine, it had become an icon. The machines that churned out the great novel Lonesome Dove, were beautiful, magical icons. The 2 Hermes brought $37,500 at auction. It is doubtful that any computer he could have used at the time would bring anything near that amount. Larry McMurtry laughed all the way to the bank, which might have actually been a long way if he was holed up in his ghost town in Texas. And, he admitted, he still had about 15 more of them stashed away or still in use! If the rest of his army of Hermes brings about the same money, he could be looking to raking in over $200,000 for them. Hey, that’s why icons are iconic!

Back to the radio show. After the above had flashed through my sleep deprived brain, I called the show with the answer to the question of the day. I won the contest. My prize was a beautiful signed copy of The Penitent, the wonderful story by Isaac Bashevis Singer.

The Prize

The Prize

The two days I spent with McMurtry were certainly the highlights of that long ago year. Endless book chatter with a legendary bookman is not soon forgotten. Another argument I lost with him was in trying to get him to open up a book store in Los Angeles. My sales pitch about the glorious Southland could not sway him to leave his town in Texas. He also ended up not buying the Cullwell collection, so I didn’t collect a commission on that deal either, although it was sold soon after to another bookseller. I don’t feel bad about losing all the arguments to McMurtry – any writer who can get over $37,000 for two old typewriters is a giant in my view. Bill Gates eat your heart out, you lost to a Hermes, but many grateful thanks for the PC, I love it dearly as do billions of other earthlings. Except maybe for one guy in Texas.