New listings for your holiday shopping pleasure

And so another holiday season arrives, another season we’re not supposed to call “Christmas” because we might thus offend . . . well, not exactly sure.

Non-Christians who don’t realize how funny it is that the church simply grabbed up the pagan Winter Solstice holiday, co-opting it complete with mistletoe and “Yule logs,” and announced it had something to do with the unknown date of Jesus’ birth?

Lighten up, gentlefolk. You can always sing your own lyrics, you know. “Oh come, all ye pagans, carnal and triumphant . . .”

Regardless, in honor of America’s season of fantastically mismatched college bowl games, generally featuring such crowd pleasers as the Boise State Broncos, the Bowling Green Falcons, and our personal favorite, this year’s Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, in which the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders are tentatively expected to line up against the mighty Toledo Rockets at the 15,000-seat Thomas A. Robinson Stadium in Nassau on Christmas Eve (Robinson won gold and silver for the Bahamas at the 1958 Commonwealth Games. His teammates did not congratulate him, as he had no teammates. He was the team. As for Toledo, we always thought they were the mighty Mud Hens, though apparently that’s just the minor league baseball franchise. Better name, though), today we highlight an even dozen new or revised listings at the online version of the Cat’s Curiosities book shop, just in time for your online Christmas shopping (for which appellation you may of course substitute any alternative gravy-rich, gift-exchanging holiday of your choosing. “Festivus, for the Rest of Us!”)

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1) First and foremost, the Brunette got busy at a recent house-cleaning sale here in the Land of the Roadrunner and – along with a stack of other astrological classics — managed to unearth a pristine copy of Linda Lacy’s “Astrology for Dogs” , 1990. (Yes, in answer to the obvious question, the author appears to be quite serious.) We offer the “near fine, unread” copy at $25.

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2) Second on our list I will shamelessly place my own “The Testament of James / from the case files of Matthew Hunter and Chantal Stevens,” my latest novel now available for pre-order as of Nov. 27 (Cat’s Curiosities hopes to start shipping Dec. 15) at http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=14453647811 . The manager of Books on Benefit has died under mysterious circumstances, and one of the rarest books in the world is missing — if it ever existed at all. Did James the Just, oldest surviving brother of Jesus of Nazareth, write a book about the suppressed secrets of his brother’s ministry, and the plan to help him survive the crucifixion? The number of strange characters descending on the scene, determined to lay hands on the missing volume, indicate powerful forces believe the book exists — and are hell-bent on making sure “The Testament of James” never sees the light of day.

Aided only by a small band of College Hill misfits, can the unorthodox methods of Matthew Hunter, tracer of lost books, find the Testament in time to keep the Forces of Darkness from condemning the Western World to yet another long, dismal night of ignorance and repression? From the author of “Send in the Waco Killers,” “The Ballad of Carl Drega,” and “The Black Arrow” comes a tale of rare books, hidden sacraments, and strange goings-on in one of America’s oldest cities . . . with plenty of cats. More information available at https://www.vinsuprynowicz.com/?page_id=2194 , where reviews will be posted as they stagger in. $32.50 numbered and signed, of a limited edition of 650.

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3) Unfortunately, Rex Feral’s “Hit Man / A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors” is NOT for sale at our online store at the Advanced Book Exchange, since ABE – which annually makes a big fuss about “Banned Books Week” – has banned “Hit Man” from sale on its site, even though copies are readily available at Amazon.com. Of course, they don’t TELL people that. We posted the book repeatedly; the listing simply failed to show up. “Rosalyn M.” of ABE Books Customer Support finally confirmed for me on Nov. 12 “That book is banned from the website. . . . Your book, Hit man / ISBN 0873642767 , is one of the books that we cannot legally list on any of our web sites. I apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your understanding. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any further questions.”

My further question was to ask, for the third time, how to access or receive their list of banned books. Only non-answers came back, to wit: “Dear Vin, Thank you for following up. I’m sorry that we can not elaborate on any legalities or practices between Amazon and AbeBooks but I will forward your concern along in case there is any changes regarding the status of that book on our platform.”

For the record, no law prevents the sale of this book, or it wouldn’t be readily available at Amazon.com, which happens to own ABE. What the lady presumably means is that some attorney has advised them not to allow the book to be listed on their site for fear of copycats lawsuits, which is of course their right, though it does lend some level of amusement to any self-righteous annual bugling about “banned books.”

For those who don’t know, Paladin Press, publisher of “Hit Man,” was sued after some ex-convict supposedly used methods described in this book to commit a triple murder in Maryland in 1993. You’d think the court would have asked, “How about if somebody based details of a crime on something they read in Agatha Christie, or watched on ‘Murder She Wrote’? Who would you sue, then?” Instead, the action was allowed to proceed, and in 1999 Paladin’s insurer settled the civil case, reportedly against the publisher’s wishes, paying millions of dollars to the survivors and stipulating that Paladin would destroy the 700 copies remaining in their possession. Since this was a CIVIL suit, which never even went to trial, the book is not “banned” with any force of law. In fact, it can now be downloaded, in full, for free, Online.

Our first-edition copy, from the collection of a late mystery writer, appears to have been sitting on the shelf, unread, since it was mail-ordered from the publisher, 130 pp. pristine. We figure it’s worth about $120 based on rarity and condition, but we’re content for now to just leave it on the shelf and look at it from time to time, as a reminder of the rapacious lawsuit lottery which our courts have now become.

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4) Lust for a Vampire / Now a Horrific Hammer Film, by William Hughes. Beagle Books / An Intext Publisher, New York, 1971. Soft cover. Near Fine. No Jacket. 16mo. “First Printing, June, 1971,” but also “This edition published by arrangement with Sphere Books, Ltd.” So call it a “first thus” mass market paperback, and hard to find, especially in unread condition. This copy is indeed unread, with no reading creases, though with some visible white rub to the mostly black glossy wraps. So let’s call it “near fine unread.”

Novel actually “based on the screenplay” of the 1971 Hammer film, said screenplay by Tudor Gates (hey, everybody acts like it’s his real name), directed by Jimmy Sangster (stepping in after Terence Fisher broke a leg), starring Ralph Bates, Barbara Jefford, Suzanna Leigh, and introducing as Carmilla/Mircalla that delectable Dane, Yutte Stensgaard, who expresses her deepest passions by going charmingly cross-eyed. This film — sequel to Hammer’s 1970 blockbuster “Vampire Lovers,” which featured pretty much the whole lineup of Hammer lovelies (Ingrid Pitt, Pippa Steel, Madeline Smith, Kirsten Betts), and was also scripted by the aforementioned Mr. Gates — was notable for the odd soundtrack song “Strange Love,” which unfortunately cannot be heard as you read the book, though presumably you could hum along. 159 pp. moderately age-browned, but still easily read: $177.50. Yes, for a “movie-spinoff” paperback. Going to be watching for this one in the thrift stores, from here on in?

5) Mary Doria Russell’s “The Sparrow.” Perhaps an important book, which sort of falls into the realm of science fiction, featuring oddly enough a Catholic Church mission to a newly discovered planet harboring two sentient species, though in the end a work disturbing and even repulsive. The author is an anthropologist, interested in investigating (spoiler alert) how two sentient races taking on the roles of Morlock and Eloi might co-exist.

In the end, a character justifies the predatory stasis found on the planet by arguing it makes more sense than allowing children to starve to death as we do here on earth. But — frustrating as mankind’s slow progress may be — children starving in the modern world is almost entirely a way nature advises mankind to strenuously encourage and defend property rights and free trade, the best sovereign cures for “children starving” yet discovered. The problem has nothing to do with “overpopulation” in relation to available food resources (else we’d see lots of starvation on Manhattan and in Singapore, none in the Ukraine) and everything to do with the evils of collectivist redistribution enforced by elites with a monopoly on armed force.

We offer a fine first of “The Sparrow” at $40 not because we like the book, but because we’re not book-banners.

6) Joan Lowell’s “The Cradle of the Deep,” Simon & Schuster, New York, 1929. Hardcover. Book Condition: Very Good. No Jacket. Illustrated by Kurt Wiese (illustrator). 1st Edition. 8vo. States “First Printing March 1929 75,000 copies.” Signed opposite the title page “Saltily Yours / Joan Lowell / New Hope, Pa.” Spine and tops of blue cloth-covered boards are sun-faded to beige, but we still grade “very good” as book will close its own text block, has undamaged hinges, and displays minimal rub.

Critics were at first charmed by Ms. Lowell’s tales of growing up aboard her father’s Pacific windjammer — where she reportedly learned the facts of life through her observations of female sharks — but were later shocked to learn that a series of tall tales worthy of Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan (her father knocks down a waterspout by shooting it with a rifle?) were not, strictly speaking, true. 261 pp.

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7) Charles Trenet’s 10-inch vinyl LP from the mid-1950s on Angel Records, “Le Coeur de Paris.” Angel Records, 1954. Hardcover. Cover drawing by Jean Cocteau (illustrator). 1st Edition. This is a 10-inch, 33-1/3rd vinyl LP; Angel Records ABL 64001, near mint vinyl in a very-good-plus jacket which is partially split both top and bottom. Angel (Electrical & Musical Industries (U.S.) Ltd.), a subsidiary of Capitol, operated 1953-55; this record is undated and could be from any of those three years. Trenet (“Le Fou chantant”) wrote a thousand songs, one of which, “La Mer,” became a hit for Bobby Darin with unrelated English words as “Beyond the Sea.” Cover drawing of this LP credited to Jean Cocteau.

Trenet (1913-2001), who was gay, actually served 28 days in prison in Aix-en-Provence in 1963 for “corrupting the morals” of four 19-year-old men, which may tell us something about the famed tolerance of the French. The charges were eventually dropped, “but the affair brought to light the fact that Trenet was a homosexual,” Wikipedia informs us. (As Trenet was a kind of French amalgam of Danny Kaye and Troy Donahue, a chuckle may be allowable.)

In his authorized biography of Maurice Chevalier, author David Bret claims Chevalier and the singer Mistinguett were the ones who first “shopped” Trenet to the police for consorting with under-age boys, around 1940. It appears Trenet never found out who fingered him.

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8) Baynard Kendrick’s “Death Knell / A Duncan MacLain Mystery.” Dell Publishing Company, Inc., New York, 1949. Soft cover. Book Condition: Near Fine. No Jacket. 16mo. Copyright 1945 is the only date showing, but that’s the date of the original Wm. Morrow hardcover. We estimate a 1949 publication date for this Dell mapback paperback (first thus) based on its number in the series, that being No. 273. In the preliminary pages previous owner has written his/her name in pencil to top of page and checked off two of four listed Kendrick mysteries. Lamination lifting a bit from corners, but there are no reading creases; unread. Adventures of the noted blind detective, who generally manages to sniff the villain out. 192 pp.; $21.

9) “The Law That Never Was / Vol. I / The Fraud of the 16th Amendment and Personal Income Tax,” (signed) Constitutional Research Assoc., South Holland, Ill., 1985. Blue Leather(ette?). Book Condition: Fine. Dust Jacket Condition: No Dust Jacket. Second Printing Stated. Quarto. Authors demonstrate that income tax amendment was never ratified by the required number of states. Dated 1-12-93 and signed “Bill Benson” diagonally to the FFE. 364 pp.

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10) “Narodni Domaci Kucharka Cesko-Americka.” Omaha, Nebraska, 1926. Full-bound Yellow Cloth. Book Condition: Good Plus. Dust Jacket Condition: No Dust Jacket. Original; not a reprint. 12mo. You thought we limited ourselves to English-language offerings? Of course not! (Though Cyrillic titles, we admit, are beyond the capabilities of our current keyboard.) A handsome little Bohemian cookbook, published in Omaha, Nebraska, entirely in the Czech language. (Celý text je v ceském jazyce.) At least we think that’s Czech. Preface is dated 1902, so this 1926 publication may be a later printing, possibly even posthumous. Frontispiece is glossy B&W author photo. Rubber stamp to RFE of the Czechoslovak Bookshop, 1363 First Avenue, New York 21, N.Y. 318 pp. including index, followed by two pp. of ads.

11) “The Underground History of American Education / An Intimate Investigation Into the prison of Modern Schooling,” by John Taylor Gatto, former New York State & New York City Teacher of the Year. Oxford Village Press, Oxford, N.Y. Soft cover. Book Condition: New. No Jacket. 4to. New in publisher’s original shrink wrap. Originally priced at $34.95. “Will take you on a journey into the background, philosophy, psychology, politics, and purposes of compulsion schooling. The most important book about schools you will ever read. It will open your eyes.” One promo blurb that happens to be completely true. $87.50 and still going up.

12) “The Players / The Men Who Made Las Vegas” (signed X 4) University of Nevada Press, Reno, Nevada, 1997. Soft cover. Book Condition: As New. No Jacket. 1st Edition. 8vo. Trade paperback. “First Printing” stated. Number line complete 5 4 3 2 1. Signed to preliminary pages in my presence at the release party in Las Vegas by three of the authors (Sergio Lalli, John L. Smith, and A.D. Hopkins) and by one of the subjects, Jackie Gaughan of the Union Plaza and the El Cortez. 224 pp. including index. Signed by Authors.

And that’s it — an even dozen of interesting new offerings at Cat’s Curiosities — http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sortby=0&vci=51238921 . As ever, please note: Cat’s Curiosities sells used books. We attempt to identify books which have a damp or musty smell, when we sell them at all. Otherwise, buyers should assume used books have been shelved inside human habitations and have been exposed over the years to some combination of wood smoke, tobacco smoke, leather dressing, or other aromatic agents unknown to us. We offer no certificates of hypoallergenic purity. Those wishing to make symbolic gestures of support for the prohibition of tobacco and other medicinal plant extracts should apply elsewhere.

Merry Festivus!

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