An “ABC” from ReadInk
A-B-C from ReadInk.
ReadInk of Los Angeles has issued Another Book Catalog (aka Number 3). As the cover image will quickly reveal, that title contains the initials ABC. This is an ABC, or alphabet book, though not one designed for the young folk. Among the letters, we find “B” is for “booze,” “D” for “deranged,” “H” for “homicide,” “V” for “vanity.” This is a collection of works often unusual, uncommon, deservedly or undeservedly forgotten, a cross-section of American writing from the early to middle of the 20th century. As in any era, a few works emerge as classics, and similarly you will find some that are well regarded today, though it may be the items that were popular in their time, but not ours, that are the most interesting. Indeed, if your great-grandchildren someday want to learn about the doings of the Kardashians, the American Idols, or why we were so concerned about gay marriage, some future ReadInk catalogue will probably be the source for their answer. This is who we were... and are.
We will start with one from the “B is for booze” category. The title of this 1935 gem edited by Sterling North and Carl Kroch is So Red the Nose; or Breath in the Afternoon. You might think from that title this is a temperance tome, but that is hardly the case. Instead, it is a cocktail recipe book, with the recipes purportedly supplied by many of the great writers of the day. These gentlemen needed no designated writers to turn out their masterpieces. Of course, you would expect Ernest Hemingway to be included, and you would not be disappointed. Others might not have been as evident, but there are contributions from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Erskine Caldwell, Alexander Woollcott, Rockwell Kent, and Theodore Dreiser. Some are tongue-in-cheek, or at least we hope so, since Dreiser's “American Tragedy Cocktail” includes gunpowder, nitroglycerine, gasoline and a lighted match. Don't try this at home, kids. Priced at $400.
From “C is for cowboy” we have the autobiography of the first major movie cowboy, William S. Hart. Hart was no singing cowboy, since he mostly starred in silent films, but he spent many of his early years roping and whatever else cowboys do in the Dakotas. Nonetheless, the title of Hart's 1929 book is My Life East and West. That's because Hart was born in Newburgh, north of New York City, hardly a western address. Actually, George Washington spent the early days of the Revolution there too, but it was a much tougher town in Hart's time than Washington's, when all he had to worry about were Redcoats. Newburgh, New York, is the Wild East. Hart would move on to Hollywood, where he parlayed his experiences into film stardom. He has inscribed this copy to his frequent co-star Jane Novak, with the comment “Scrub damn you scrub.” Presumably, this is a line from a film or some other in-joke. $600.
Next we go from a Hollywood cowboy to a Hollywood call boy. From “Q is for queer” we find the obsession with homosexuality was even greater in the last century than it is today. Much more so. Even attempts to be sympathetic in those days had to treat it as some kind of horrible derangement, to be pitied if not condemned. This 1967 paperback is entitled I am a Hollywood Call Boy, by Mark Shelby. “What sex AM I?” asks the protagonist. “I sell my body to the highest bidder – man, woman, faggot, lesbian, switch-hitter – or what have you! I commute from Sodom to Gomorrah. The sadists, the masochists, the voyeurs, the fetishists, the multi-perverts – I know them all – and they know me...and you can say that again!” I won't, because of space limitations, but you get the drift. This is not great literature (and you can say that again!), but it reflects its era as well if not better than the more notable works of the 60s. $50.
“I is for Incorporation,” and if corporations are people, this one is a very bad person. From 1949 we find E.E. Rice's book about that most infamous of “corporations,” Murder, Inc. Described as “The hair-raising story in pictures of America's bloodiest crime ring,” this book is filled with photos of notable criminals, on the streets, at trial, being arrested, occasionally dead or dying. You will get to meet all those legendary personalities whose names are associated with criminal enterprises of the day – Al Capone, Legs Diamond, Dutch Schultz, Frank Costello, and Lucky Luciano. If you want to invite these characters into your home, it is best to do so through pictures. $65.
An “ABC” from ReadInk
Stark Corridors - a chiropractic cure for mental illness.
This title comes from “V is for vanity,” relating to vanity books, those books published in tribute of the author's ego, rather than his talents. Evidently, Masters of Stupidity is a great title for a book by Maxwell Landon, though he probably did not mean it to be an autobiographical one. It is a 1962 account of his experiences in Los Angeles after the war, combined with his intense red scare phobias. ReadInk describes it as, “...a nearly incoherent mash-up of the author's obnoxious personality, utter lack of writing ability, and infantile level of political knowledge/sophistication.” If that isn't a compelling sales pitch, I don't know what is. $85.
“K is for Keepers” brings us a classic in proper behavior, a book as timely today as it was then. Well, not quite. The concept of good manners is still timely, though the rules as to what constitutes proper behavior have changed some since 1924. This is Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home. Emily Post first published her guide to proper etiquette in 1922, and it became an enormously popular book, as Americans with increasing incomes tried to learn proper behavior for upward social mobility. This is a tenth printing (though styled “Tenth Edition”), identical to the first. $850.
“D is for deranged,” and that cover you see in the image above certainly fits that description. This is Stark Corridors, by Cash Asher, published in 1939. It is described as a work that “takes you inside the walls of insane asylums,” but ReadInk explains that it's really a promo for chiropractic. Apparently, the various mentally ill people in those stark corridors were cured by chiropractic hospitals, though I am not sure how that happened. The author goes on to rant about the anti-chiropractic conspiracies of the medical community, along with the government, drug companies, insurance companies, medical schools, churches, the press, and whoever else did not accept his claims. $50.
You may reach ReadInk at 323-734-4323 or hprouty@LABridge.com. Their website is found at www.readinkbooks.com.