Sunday, 27 April 2008

Book of the week and Bibliography - CJ Sansom, Revelation

CJ Sansom was born in 1952 and educated at the University of Birmingham, where he took a BA and then a PhD in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he decided to retrain as a solicitor. He practised for a while in Sussex as a lawyer for the disadvantaged, then he quit in order to work full-time as a writer. Revelation is the fourth book in his series featuring the hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake, and he has written one further book, Winter in Madrid, set in the Spanish Civil War. All of his books are superbly written and researched, with detailed and convincing backgrounds and plots. Kenneth Branagh is to star as Shardlake in a forthcoming BBC adaptation of the first novel, Dissolution, which may well increase the popularlity of the series further.
The bad news is that the early books in the series are now very difficult to obtain cheaply. When the series commenced, it was recommended by a number of dealers, but copies disappeared fairly rapidly. Revelation has been published simultaneously as both paperback and hardcover, and since Sansom has been unwell, signed copies are uncommon.

Matthew Shardlake Novels

Dissolution (MacMillan, 2003)

Dark Fire (MacMillan, 2004)

Sovereign (MacMillan, 2006)

Revelation (MacMillan, 2008)

Heartstone (Macmillan, 2010. The majority of signed copies (perhaps as many as 2000, although could be less) have the author's signature on a tipped-in page with the printed words signed first edition. 100 copies were signed directly by the author and sold via Postmortem Books. This represents a distinct and less common state of the first edition.

Winter in Madrid (MacMillan, 2006)

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Book of the week and bibliography - Nicola Upson, An expert in murder

An Expert in Murder introduces crime writer Jospehine Tey as a protagonist in the first of a series of books to be set in the golden era of crime fiction. It is the first fiction book to be published by Nicola Upson, a freelance journalist, and also introduces a fictional detective in Inspector Archie Penrose. Unusually for a first crime novel, it has been widely (and postively) reviewed, probably reflecting both optimism and confidence on the part of the publisher. It has been serialised in ten parts for BBC Radio 4, beginning on 21st April. I managed to pick up a signed, lined and dated copy for cost price in Heffers in Cambridge, although I don't know whether there are any left now. Nicola Upson has previously published two non-fiction books, details of which are given below.



An Expert in Murder , Faber, London, 2008.
Angel with two faces, Faber, London, 2009.


Mythologies: Sculpture of Helaine Blumenfeld (Elephant's Eye), Overlook Press, USA, 1998.
In Good Company: A Snapshot of Theatre & the Arts. With Mandy Morton. Cambridge Arts Theatre, 2005.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Book of the week - Declan Hughes, The Dying Breed

I am spending some time at assorted airports this week, which provides an opportunity to catch up on some slightly older books. I have had a copy of Declan Hughes' first novel, The Wrong Kind of Blood, for a while now, but had not previously managed to get around to reading it. The Wrong Kind of Blood introduced private detective Ed Loy and was published back in 2006, being followed in 2007 by The Colour of Blood. A third novel in the series, The Dying Breed, has just been published, and is my book of the week. The author is a theatre director, and his first book has a strong visual element and a fast moving plot, and it is certainly an enjoyable read. I will look forward to catching up with the two further books in the near future. All three books are currently available as signed first editions from ABEbooks or dealers at list price, which must be a bargain. A Dying Breed seems to have been published last month in the US as The Price of Blood – the reason for the different title is unclear to me!


Ed Loy novels

The Wrong Kind of Blood (Murray, London, 2006)
The Colour of Blood (Murray, London 2007)
The Dying Breed (Murray, London, 2008)
All the Dead Voices (Murray, London, 2009)
City of Lost Girls (Murray, London, 2010)


Digging for Fire and New Morning (Methuen, 1994)
Plays, volume 1 (Methuen, 1998)
Shiver (Methuen, 2003)

Monday, 7 April 2008

Philip Pullman - a bibliography

Philip Pullman is one of the great living writers. His books not only sell in large numbers to both children and adults, but manage to address at the same time serious themes and issues. The prices of his books in the secondary market have not risen to the dizzy heights of the early Harry Potter novels, but routinely sell for hundreds of pounds, or in the case of Northern Lights over £1000. Pullman has been writing since the earlier 1970's, but really hit the big time in the late 1990s. He is a relatively accessible author, appearing at many literary festivals and generally willing to sign copies of his books. Although his signature is widely available, forgeries have also become paradoxically common. There is a particular problem with relatively high quality bookplates, and the collector needs to be wary in this regard. This bibliography will highlight the key features of Pullman's books and their relative scarcity, and I will be building it up to completion over the next month or so. Comments are welcome in the interim!

1972 The Haunted Storm, London: New English Library. Pullman’s first book was initially published as a hardcover, and two years later in a paperback edition. The hardcover, the true first is very uncommon. The dustwrapper carries an inscription "Joint winner of the New English Library's Young Writers' Award", and also an extract from Lady Antonia Fraser's astute assessment of the author as having "the real makings of a writer". The rear flap has a picture of a very young looking Pullman. The New English library paperback version was published in 1973, and even in this format the book is collectible and difficult to find in good condition. It has not been subsequently republished, so opportunities to read it are limited for those with restricted budgets. However, even in this first novel Pullman was clearly interested in the opposition of good and evil and in the mystical.

1978 Galatea, London, Victor Gollancz Limited, Hardcover. There was also a US edition, but Pullman has indicated in interview that he does not favour republication.

1979 Using the Oxford Junior Dictionary, Oxford University Press. Another small and very rare book, although later editions from the 1990s can be obtained relatively easily.

1981 Ancient Civilisations, Wheaton (a division of Pergamum Press), Hardcover. A rare non-fiction book for young readers, published early in Pullman's writing career. A history of eight ancient civilizations, including Greece, Rome, Egypt and China. Written simply, but never patronising, it deals with everyday life as well as beliefs. profusely illustrated with both b/w and colour photographs, drawings and maps.

1982 Count Karlstein, Chatto & Windus. The original UK hardcover first of this book is very uncommon. An illustrated edition with pictures by Patrick Aggs was published by Doubleday in 1991. However, the most easily obtainable edition is the Doubleday 2002 revised edition. The first US edition was published by Knopf in 1998.

1985 The Ruby in the Smoke,The Ruby in the Smoke, Oxford University Press, hardcover with dustwrapper. The first of the Sally Lockhart novels, recently televised by the BBC starring Billy Piper. A four novel series, set in Victorian times - the first volume is the most difficult to obtain, and the most valuable. The bright red dustwrapper is prone to spine fading, and a very good or better copy in dustwrapper will currently cost several hundred pounds.

1986 The Shadow in the Plate, Oxford University Press, hardcover with dustwrapper. The second of the Sally Lockhart novels, and somewhat easier to obtain in the first edition than the Ruby in the Smoke. Later republished under a different title - The Shadow in the North.

1987 How to be Cool, Heineman. Simultaneously published in boards without a dustwrapper, and as a more common paperback. The former, of course, is more desirable and uncommon! Explains where "cool" is created - and who controls it. As a consequence, this book is "Banned by the National Cool Board."

1989 Spring-Heeled Jack, Doubleday, London. A heavily illustrated story aimed at younger children, issued in boards with no dustwrapper. Pictures by David Mostyn. The tale of three defenceless orphans as they attempt to escape from the Alderman Cawn-Plaster Memorial Orphanage one dark and stormy London night. Closely watched by Mack the Knife and other such villainous villains, they weave their way across the dark and dangerous streets of the city in constant fear of being caught and returned to the care of the rancid Mr Killjoy and his horribly horrid assistant. Enter Spring Heeled Jack, the hooded superhero to beat all hooded superheroes, dressed like the devil and ready for action against the evil-doers and scallywags of the city's dark streets.

1990 The Broken Bridge, MacMillan Children's Books. Originally published in the UK as a paperback, and in 1992 in the US by Knopf as a hardcover with dustwrapper. Over the course of a long summer in /wales, sixteen-year-old Ginny, the mixed- race, artist daughter of an English father and a Haitian mother, learns that she has a half-brother from her father's earlier marriage, and that herown mother may still be alive.

1990 The Tiger in the Well. Third of the Sally Lockhart novels. First appeared in the US (Knopf 1990) before being published in the UK by Viking in 1991. Both hardcovers with dustwrapper.

1992 The White Mercedes, Macmillan. Hardcover with dustwrapper - print run apparently 1250 copies. "Chris Marshall met the girl he was going to kill on a warm night in early June." Reissued as The Butterfly Tattoo in 1998.

1993 The Wonderful Story of Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp, Scholastic, London. An oversized illustrated book for younger children, hardcover in dustwrapper, with pictures by Sophy Williams.

1994 The Tin Princess, Knopf, New York. The fourth and final (to date) Sally Lockhart book was issued originally in the US as a hardcover with dustwrapper, and in the same year in the UK as a Puffin paperback. The US edition is relatively common, and can be easily picked up for £30 - 40. The UK paperback is much less common, but can be picked up for around the same price.

1994 The New Cut Gang - Thunderbolt's Waxwork. Viking UK. Pictorial Boards without dustwrapper. The New Cut Gang is a group of urchins ranging from 6-year-old Sharkey Bob to 13-year-old Bridie Malone. They inhabit the streets around Lambeth Walk and the New Cut. In 1892, it is a place full of gangsters, bookies, pickpockets, swindlers, horse thieves and the occasional tentative policeman. This was the first of two books featuring these characters. Uncommon in the original edition.

1995 TheNew Cut Gang - The Gas Fitters' Ball. Viking UK . Pictorial Boards without dustwrapper. Also uncommon.

1995 The Firework-Maker's Daughter. Doubleday, London. Brightly covered boards, no dustwrapper. Illustrated by Nick Harris. Uncommon.

1995 Nothern Lights, Scholastic, London. The first in the Northern Lights trilogy, which brought Pullman to fame and has subsequently won many prizes. A relatively small print run, with only 1000 copies published in hardback. The true first edition has the following features - no number line on copyright page, states 'first published by Scholastic Publications Ltd , 1995'; dj: 'Point' on spine, the address 7-9 Pratt Street to the rear flap, price £12.99 to front flap. 'Northern Lights' exists with or without a Gold Carnegie Prize medal attached to upper cover. It is NOT a point of Issue. The book was first published in the summer of 1995 and was a slow seller- it was not reprinted until September 1997. Pullman won the 1995 Carnegie Prize, which was awarded in 1996. At that time any current and future bookshop stock was stickered with the Prize medal. There are plenty of copies of this book available, and in reality it is much easier to obtain than many of Pullman's earlier books. However, it remains relatively expensive, although prices have fallen significantly from their peak. There seem to be a large number of ex-library copies, often disguised with signed bookplates to cover the library stamps - these are clearly less desirable. Subsequently published by Knopf, New York as The Golden Compass in 1996.

1996 Clockwork, or, All Wound Up. London, Doubleday. Brightly coloured boards with no dustwrapper, and grey endpapers. Several illustrations throughout the text, all by Peter Bailey. Relatively uncommon in the original edition and currently priced at over £300 by online dealers.

1997 The Subtle Knife, Scholastic, London. The second volume of the Northern Lights trilogy, first printings in dustwrapper from around £100 at present. An anomoly appears to have occurred whereby a later printing (second or third) was published with the following number line: 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1. The true first printing contains a full number line: 2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1. The American edition was published by Knopf, also in 1997.

1998 Mossycoat. Scholastic, London. A small paperback with illustrations by Peter Bailey. A version of the Cinderalla story published for World Book day.

1999 I was a Rat! or The Scarlet Slippers. Doubleday, London. Brightly coloured boards, no dustwrapper. Illustrations by Peter Bailey. Relatively common, but still highly collectable, with dealers currently charging £50 upwards.

2000 Puss in Boots: The Adventures of That Most Enterprising Feline. Doubleday, London. Hardcover with dustwrapper and illustrations by Ian Beck. First editions still available at around £20 or less.

2000 The Amber Spyglass. Scholastic, London, 2000. The final volume in the Northern Lights trilogy was printed in large numbers and is readily available, as are all of Pullman's subsequent novels. The US edition was published by Knopf, also in 2000.

2003 Lyra's Oxford, David Fickling, London. Decorated boards, illustrated by John Lawrence. A short story or novella based in the world of Northern Lights. The first of three short books planned to link the Northern Lights Triology with the more substantial Book of Dust. Includes a fold-out map of Oxford and various "souvenirs" from the past.

2004 The Scarecrow and his Servant. Doubleday, London. Hardcover with dustwrapper andillustrations by Peter Bailey, as for all of the other fairytale books.

2008 Once Upon a Time in the North. David Fickling Books, London, 2008. Slipcase / Cloth. John Lawrence (illustrator). The second of three volumes that will link Philip Pullman's Northern Lights trilogy with the forthcoming Book of Dust. Limited edition of 1500, signed by Philip Pullman and John Lawrence and numbered on a tipped in page. There was also a trade edition without the limitation or signature.

2009 A Outrance, Oak Tree Fine Press. A limited edition of an excerpt from Northern Lights. The book tells the story of how the rightful bear-king Iorek Byrnison regained his throne through a fight to the death with the false usurper Iofur Raknison. It is limited to only two hundred and sixty five copies and features original woodcut illustrations and features original woodcut illustrations by Chris Daunt, Harry Brockway and Andy English. The book is available in three different editions.
a) The Ruscombe letterpress art edition: fifteen individual hand bound copies with unique bindings by some of the world’s leading designers). Each volume has been meticulously printed letterpress by hand on traditional cast iron Heidelberg Press one sheet and one colour at a time on paper handmade at the famous Ruscombe Mill in France. Pullman signed each book and in addition inscribed in longhand a piece of text taken from the original novel. Each volume is encased in its own unique artist designed slip case trimmed and accompanied by a set of six woodcut images used within the book. Each print is signed by the author and artist and is produced in a format suitable for framing.
b) The Somerset letterpress deluxe edition: Fifty numbered copies half-bound by hand in calf with marbled boards. Each volume has been meticulously printed letterpress by hand on traditional cast iron Heidelberg Press one sheet and one colour at a time on mould made Somerset paper. In addition to signing the book, Philip Pullman has inscribed each copy with a line of text. Each volume is encased in its own slip case trimmed in leather and accompanied by a set of six woodcut images used within the book. Each print is signed by the author and artist and is produced in a format suitable for framing.
c) The Mohawk edition: Two hundred numbered copies printed offset on Mohawk paper and half-bound by hand in Colarado blood red cloth with hand marbled boards. Each of these beautifully produced volumes is signed by the author.

2010 The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ, Canongate, Edinburgh. Hardcover with one of two alternative dustwrappers in black and white. Also two slipcased limited editions (400 copies each at £35), again a black version and a white version. A volume in the Canongate Myths series, to which Pullman earlier wrote an introduction.
In this ingenious, spellbinding and fiercely subversive retelling of the life of Jesus, Philip Pullman reimagines the most influential story ever told. He offers a radical new take on the myths and the mysteries of the Gospel truth and the resulting church that has so shaped the course of the last two millennia. With all the magic for which Pullman's storytelling is famed, this provocative and thoughtful new book from one of Britain's best loved writers promises to be the highest profile yet in Canongate's acclaimed Myths series.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Book of the week and Bibliography - Joe Abercrombie, Last Argument of Kings

Joe Abercrombie is a UK fantasy writer who has just published the final volume of the First Law Trilogy, Last Argument of Kings, published in the UK by Gollancz. The book has been issued simultaneously in paperback and hardcover, meaning that the hardcover print run is likely to be relatively small. Fantasy fiction is a specialist area, and I would not claim to be an expert, but these books are well written and enjoyable, and the series has attracted a considerable following. The first two volumes in the triology, The Blade Itself and Before they were Hanged, are now relatively uncommon and expensive (currently around £125 for volume 1 and £90 for volume 2). However, when the first volume was released it was recommended by several Modern First Edition dealers, and I purchased and read it at that stage. I now have the complete trilogy, all signed and dated and purchased at list price, and they look like a good investment. Whether the first two volumes are worth purchasing at current prices is a matter of judgement, and will depend on how the author develops in the future. The second volume in the trilogy has just been released in the US to very positive reviews, so the omens look good.

The Blade Itself, Gollancz 2006 - (February 2011 - only one online copy, signed lined and dated £400)
Before they were Hanged, Gollancz 2007 (February 2011 - only one online copy, signed and lined £250.  The seller says that this is the rarest of the books)
Last Argument of Kings, Gollancz 2008 (February 2011 - £80-100)
Best Served Cold, Gollancz, 2009 (February 2011, £10-15)
The Heroes, Gollancz, 2011

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

John Banville - a further update and a brief encounter

A correspondent (Jer) has kindly written to let me know about a special limited edition of 'Ghosts' (1993) produced by Kenny's of Galway. It was limited to 50 copies - signed, numbered, slipcased quarter bound leather over marbled boards, with gilded raised bands, twin gilded leather title labels, and top edge gilt. I have updated the Banville bibliography accordingly.

I am writing this message from Chicago, where I am currently attending a conference for a few days. In years gone by I would often have spent my free time trawling the second hand bookshops to see what I could find. However, nowadays, like many collectors, I find myself trawling the internet instead. This rarely replicates the feeling that I used to get when I came across a book I had been searching for on some dusty shelves, but the internet also has its advantages, and has made it possible to find books which in the past a collector might never have encountered.

Nonetheless, I think it is important to support bookshops and get to know the owners, particularly if you hope to obtain rarer items. And you never know who you might encounter in the process. Last week I called into Goldsboro books, as I often do when in London, for a brief chat with the owners. They were chatting to a gentleman who looked familiarwhen I went in, and I was introduced to him as a fellow Irishman. It was Brian McGilloway, who I had vaguely recognised from his picture, and who had been over to sign copies of Gallows Lane. A coincidence indeed, but he went on to say that he was also familiar with my name, and it turned out that his wife had encountered me at University in Belfast. We chatted briefly about his plans for future novels and overseas publication, and hopefully he will get the success which the series richly deserves.