Junk, an Owl and the end of an Empire

Good morning bookies! Stand by for news and comment.

*** You never know what you’ll find when scooping around in junk piles. A number of years ago a shopper perusing the stuff at the Memphis Flea Market found a very small, very old photo of a stern looking man and bought it for one dollar. It turns out that man was Jefferson Davis, US Senator and President of the Confederate States of America, and became only the third known photo of the man. As I recall, it sold at auction for $100k. Some time after that a guy rummaging through the piles at a Nashville thrift store bought a framed print. Inside was a copy of the Declaration of Independence. I forget exactly what it sold for now, lots. Need another example? Okay, again here in Memphis, a man went to an estate sale one day and, while waiting for the door to open, went through the discarded stuff heaped on the curb, and found boxes of old slave documents, a few of which were signed by Nathan Bedford Forrest. Or, at least, that’s the story still told to this day.

So what does any of that have to do with books? A bookseller in the UK recently found a neat old poster, framed it, hung it in his shop and found out it’s an extremely rare poster from early in world War II. After dozens of requests to buy it he made a reproduction and has sold 40,000 of them. You just never know, do you?

UK bookseller hits the jackpot

*** I’m a Roman history buff, newly ordained, as it were. I haven’t always been such, but during a visit to England in 2005 we visited a particularly bleak site along Hadrian’s Wall and I was forever changed. At that site, where the Roman Army Museum is located, I bought a book on said army written by noted Roman historian Adrian Goldsworthy. And now he has a new book out on the fall of the Empire, The Fall of the West: The Slow Death of the Roman Empire. Adding to the synchronicity here, my current audiobook is Volume II of Gibbons The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, currently in the reign of Constantius, not too far from that final end in the late 5th century. All of which makes for a great reason to add a link to a review of Goldsworthy’s new book.

The end of Rome

*** Philip K. Dick has long been regarded as one of SFF’s brightest lights. His death in 1982 was way too soon. Now, his last wife has written/finished the novel he was writing/planning at the time of his death, The Owl in Daylight. It’s hard to tell whether it will be good, bad or indifferent, but what’s to lose in having it published?

One final Philip K. Dick

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