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Category: Rare Crime Fiction Page 1 of 2

DIE TRYING by Lee Child

Die Trying
by Lee Child. Putnam, 1998. First edition indicated by standard Putnam number line of the time, starting with a ‘1.’ Quarto. Red quarter cloth and paper boards. Front cover has author initials and chevron from side to side.

The first Reacher novel, Killing Floor, was not a huge immediate success, so the second one, Die Trying, also wound up on the remainder table. Only later did prices escalate as the series took off. In person Child is a very nice man who impresses audiences, no doubt a key to his success. The construction of this book is typical of the era, reading leaves its mark but the jacket is somewhat more sturdy than usual and holds up fairly well.

As can be seen, Child’s signature isn’t the most elegant but does not change in person from that on tipped-in sheets.

Ken Follett’s PAPER MONEY

Paper Money by Ken Follett. William Morrow, 1977. Octavo hardback. Maroon quarter cloth and white boards. Jacket price of $15.95.

In the days before Eye of the Needle and international publishing fame, Follett published this novel under a pseudonym, Zachary Stone. Once his fame was achieved it was brought to the US and published by Morrow. Note that Morrow used the standard First U.S. Edition slug and number line down to ‘1’, whereas until 1973 their first editions were almost always identified by No Additional Printing. The jacket here is fairly sturdy with shelfwear being the most common defect.

OCTOPUSSY by Ian Fleming

Octopussy The Last 2 by Ian Fleming. New American Library, 1966. First printing indicated by statement on the copyright page, as seen in the photo. This collection also contains the story ‘The Living Daylights.’

Given the success of James Bond by the time of this publication in 1966, you would have thought NAL would do a better job with the book. The format is octavo, boards are black paper with no cloth backstrap. Silver stylized rifle is embossed onto the front cover. Paper is fairly heavy stock. Cover price is $3.50. The Jacket itself has a photo of Fleming on the back smoking a cigarette in a holder, but is fairly flimsy and easily wrinkled and torn at the edges.


Note to Bookies: Frequent readers of this blog will note that I’m not a photographer. The photos of this book didn’t come out as white as the cover really is, it’s quite bright. Unless it’s dirty, of course, which this one is not.

The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. Lippincott, 1975. First edition is identified by First Edition slug on the copyright page. Construction is red quarter cloth and black paper boards. Jacket price is at the bottom of the front inner fold, $8.95.

Abbey only wrote 8 novels and The Monkey Wrench Gang is his best known, often cited as a masterpiece of crime comedy. He outlived publication of this book by a mere 14 years.

I am often asked where I find my books. This particular book came from Somerville, TN., a small town about 25 miles east of the Memphis border. You never know, do you?


Killing Floor by Lee Child. Putnam, 1997. The first in Child’s uber-popular ex-military cop Jack Reacher was a typical offering of the late 90’s. Construction was quarter cloth and paper boards, with the front board embossed from the top edge with the narrow chevron pictured on the title page. Not particularly well built, pristine copies are hard to come by these days and command a premium.

There was a time when remaindered copies of Killing Floor were to be found quite easily, and second hand copies were cheap. That went on until about the mid 2000’s, circa 2005, when prices began to climb. Child is fun in person and free with his signature, nevertheless, signed copies of Killing Floor command a great premium.

DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS by Walter Mosley

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. Norton, 1990 Octavo hardback. Mustard quarter cloth, cinnamon paper boards. The novel that introduced Easy Rawlins to the world of crime fiction is surprisingly well constructed, with a striking art deco inspired cover. Paper is of much higher quality than typical for first authors, probably representative of the pre-publication praise and type. One would have thought that Mosley would open the door for a new world of African-American crime writers, and in a way he did, but none have had near his level of success, despite some being arguably better writers.

Your friendly neighborhood bookseller attended Mosley’s signing here in Memphis a few years ago. Unlike most signings, the majority of the audience was black, and I was thrilled by this. It was great to see such a turnout to support one of that community’s better writers. When one of the audience asked Mosley what other African-American mystery writers he would recommend, Mosley asked the audience who they would recommend before he answered. Nobody said anything for a while, so I did. Wow, did I get some dirty looks, as though I wasn’t supposed to read black authors. I recommended Gar Anthony Haywood and Robert Greer as my two favorites. Mosley then nodded and agreed those were the two best out there. He was a very nice man, if you ever get a chance to see him in person, take it.

Running Scared

Remember the movie ‘Fletch?’ Or are you a fan of the series? Written by Gregory McDonald, it’s one of those series that most crime fiction fans have heard of, but not so many have read. Anyway, McDonald’s first book was Running Scared, published in 1964. You don’t see copies of it very often and you sure don’t see signed copies.

It’s octavo, in laminated red paper boards. Cover price on the jacket is $4.50, on the inside front fold. The jacket itself is prone to shelfwear, but not particularly fragile. Publisher was Ivan Oblensky and the first printing slug is clearly stated on the copyright page.

Casino Royale

Who is my favorite James Bond? Are you kidding? This is a book blog, I don’t discuss things like which Bond is the best (Sean Connery), who was the worst (George Lazenby), or what I think of Daniel Craig (closest to the literary Bond). No, instead I search the world trying to find rare books to photograph for your pleasure, and one recent shoot involved the Holy Grail-2nd Class for Bond book collectors. I say 2nd Class because the US first is not as desirable (or costly) as the UK first. The Photos here are of a US first. So, although this is the US first and not the UK, when was the last time you saw one?

DRAGONFLY by Dean Koontz (writing as K.R. Dwyer)

Dragonfly by Dean Koontz, writing as K.R. Dwyer. Random House, 1975.

As I blog this, Koontz is listed as having written 106 books, in case you’re counting. That’s a lot. And in the early years he really cranked them out under a variety of pseudonyms. The Dwyer name he used twice, as both Deanna and K.R.

Dragonfly is typical of Random House in the mid 70’s, octavo, black cloth backstrap and yellow paper boards. The standard Random House first edition indicators are present, a number line ending in ‘2’ with the First Edition slug. The jacket is also pretty typical, not particularly fragile. The front illustration is so 70’s it’s almost a cliche.

Carl Hiaasen’s DOUBLE WHAMMY

Hiaasen’s second solo novel is terrific, in my never humble opinion. Tourist Season was good, and certainly different, but Double Whammy really taps into the manic weirdness that became his hallmark. How many books have a 28 pound largemouth bass that is trained to surface on command? And Skink, former governor of Florida now living in the wilds, I mean, come on, that’s classic stuff.

Skin Tight sold before I could get photos, so I’m putting these up now because I doubt these copies will last long. The book is typical Putnam of the period, cloth backstrap and paper boards, fairly high acid paper, number line down to ‘1’. There are no points of issue that I’m aware of and I don’t know of a second printing, although that’s not definitive.

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