RARA-AVIS: Hay-On-Wye and other English (Welsh?) book places

From: Michael S. Chong ( menglish47@yahoo.com)
Date: 20 Jun 2002

My recent trip to the birthplace of the English language.

Hay-On-Wye, on a recommendation from the list. A detour, but worth it. A book town like one I've visited in Holland. Except at Ham-On-Rye, as the name slipped, had mostly books in the Queen's language. Hay is just inside the border of Wales. "Just," a bookshop/B&B owner said. At her shop, the Broad Street Book Centre, I found Derek Raymond's autobio called The Hidden Files.

Bag of Books (Bookends) - Every Book for a Pound Store. Mostly new, with some used. Upon entering and inspecting, I noticed how much money and time I could've saved over the past few years. I bought two bags full of books. I found The Deadly Percheron by John Franklin Bardin. I've read The Last of Philip Banter recently and understand the comparisons to Frederic Brown. They both make the unbelievable real.

There was a complete set of Horace McCoy in the Midnight Classics format scattered throughout the store. I bought a collection of Gifford's Sailor and Lulu just for the last book. It was only a quid.

Goodis, Goines, Nunn, Pelecanos, Starr, Westlake. Don Winslow's The Death and Life of Bobby Z. Derek Raymond's The Crust of His Uppers. All in B&W for a pound.

I bought a whack of Joe R. Lansdale because of Rara recommendations. Five series books of Hap and Leonard and two standalones. Freezer Burn and The Bottoms. I thought "what the hey? A pound."

At The Hay Cinema Shop, located in an old theatre, I came across an old Crime Time magazine, "Pulp," and two anthologies. Red Handed, edited by Joe E. Lewis, a local of that area, and The Killing Spirit, edited by Jay Hopler.

Red Handed collects radical crime fiction with stories and novel excerpts by Chester Himes, Jack London and Jim Thompson. I've read Himes's contribution "Tang" which opens the book. It was previously in his short story collection and a part of his uncompleted apocalyptic novel Plan B.

The Killing Spirit is an anthology of Assassins with writing from Greene, Ian McEwan, Bukowski, Highsmith, Block, Runyon and Hemingway. Bukowski?!

Booth's Books, owned by the unofficial mayor of Hay, is a warehouse. Easily the biggest used bookstore I've ever been lucky enough to enter. Good selection of everything. There was seven copies of O'Connell's Skin Palace which I had just purchased in London a few days before. The book had been hard to find used and then seven copies in a few days. When it rains.

While in London, I beelined for Murder One. Found Howard Browne's Pork City and Shane Steven's Dead City. The latter was picked up because of Paul Duncan's informative Noir Fiction, which I bought last time I was in London at the High Stakes/No-Exit boutique on a tree-lined street surrounded by hospitals.

At Murder One, no sign of proprietor Maxim Jakubowski like my last visit. He had been typing at a keyboard in the back corner circled by piles of hardcovers and paperbacks.

The charity shops scattered across GB are good book sources. In a Bath Oxfam, I found Derek Raymond's I Was Dora Suarez for fifty p. You can get nothing for fifty p.

At another in Bristol, I found a copy of a coffeetable book entitled Graham Greene Country, Visited by Paul Hogarth. Hogarth painted the covers for Greene's latter Penguins in watercolour. Sketches and the covers along with a journal. Foreward and Ccommentary by Greene.

Soho Book Shops (tm.) in London are a good source for cheap crime fiction. I bought Sallis's Bluebottle. I've read two of this series, The Long-Legged Fly and Black Hornet, and find myself waiting for something in the series. I keep seeking it out though.

It was here where I would've saved a few quid if I waited until Ham-On-Rye. I bought Skin Palace there, but it seemed appropriate with the porn shop in the basement and those in the surrounding area.

On Charing Cross Road, in a store I think is called All About Books, I found a HC copy of Frederic Brown's Death Has Many Doors, an Ed & Am Hunter cracker, and an uncorrected proof of Jason Starr's Hard Feelings. It wasn't free, but it was cheap.

By a small stand, in a crowded market, near an art exhibit of dead corpses, I found a collection of short stories by George V. Higgins called The Sins of The Fathers.

Too many books. Not enough. I had to buy another carry-on. Used Crime-Times were my reading material on this English trip in between finishing Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London.

Hail Britannia. Go England.


PS I'm preparing myself for Kent Harrington's The Amercian Boys I found at the Bargain section in the basement of the American Book Centre in Amsterdam. I've read his other two and enjoyed them especially Dias de Muerto. Has anybody read The American Boys?

Re: Ribic's call to delurk about a month ago. Besides being tough, colloquial, dark and sinister, Rara Avis has a sense of lawlessness. Intimidating. Especially Anthony Dauer. In my more paranoiac moments, I think Mario Taboada is really James Ellroy. And between you and me, i think miker is a cia analyst.

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