Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Backroads Bookscouting: A Few Days in the Willamette Valley, Part Two

Part one can be found here. The wrapup follows.


The breakfast buffet at Oregon Gardens was as splendid as had been promised, and it was with real regret that we checked out and headed into Salem. We resolved to come back and spend at least a couple of days some time in the future.

The plan was originally to have been to meet up with my brother-in-law and his family, coincidentally also visiting Silverton that weekend, but for whatever reason those plans had fallen through. (We never did figure out exactly why.) So we were left with a couple of hours to kill before our rendezvous with Ed Bosnar.

Naturally, that meant investigating bookstores and thrift stores. We’d never spent any time in Salem in all our travels. I hadn’t been there since my days in high school debate, long ago; and Julie had never been there at all. So it was fresh territory for us.

Our first stop was a store Ed had recommended to us, Escape Fiction.

Unassuming on the outside, it’s a wonderland inside. I was especially impressed with the juveniles, which included not only Trixie Belden but actual early editions of the Three Investigators series; I’d have snapped those up if I didn’t already have them. Probably should have anyway just for the resale value, but I do this for fun, not profit.

And it wasn’t like there weren’t plenty of other items of interest. It ended up being a moderately hefty haul from there even without the vintage juveniles.

Most of these were just-for-the-hell-of-it purchases like Vengeance Riders, though there were a couple scores for the short list, like for example the Aquaman; that was part of my ongoing project to convert my single issues to trade collections, and this one was a nice hardcover. The Andre Norton Beastmaster collection is part of the continuing search for the Science Fiction Book Club omnibus editions, which are almost always a good time, and anyway I have been a fan of Andre Norton ever since reading Star Man’s Son (or Daybreak 2250 A.D. as some of you know it) back in the ninth grade. The Poul Anderson hardcovers were much the same thing… I have a soft spot for those SF Book Club editions from the seventies, and Anderson is dependably good. (Operatrion Otherworld and The Time Patrol, especially.)

After that it was off to another bookstore I’d been wondering about for a while; we always see The Book Bin running a booth at the Antiquarian Book Fair and the selection is always good, so I was curious as to the nature of the store itself.

I had pictured a tiny specialty boutique sort of place from what we’d seen at the Book Fair, but in actuality the Book Bin is HUGE. Most of a city block.

A remarkable variety of books and the place sprawls over two floors.

There were a couple of odd juvenile selections that caught my eye but I didn’t want to spend the money, so I settled for a picture.

That Batman one, especially, was interesting because it seemed to be drawing from ‘my’ Batman, the seventies O’Neil-Adams-Robbins-Novick era. As far as I could tell it was some sort of omnibus edition of children’s retellings of famous Bat stories, including “Daughter of the Demon.” But it would have been eight bucks for a novelty purchase and we don’t have any youngsters to read it with, so I put it back.

However, this display owned me at hello.

I had an instant flashback to the old lawn-mowing days of my youth when I would anxiously weigh a handful of quarters in front of the drugstore spinner rack, trying to figure out the best value for the cash on hand. In the end I settled for three.

The two Howard collections I remembered admiring on the racks back in the late 1970s and they didn’t seem to duplicate anything I already had at home. (To this day I associate the Zebra paperback Jones covers more with Robert E. Howard than I do the Frank Frazetta ones.)

Hadon of Ancient Opar is just something I’d meant to get around to for years… the price was right, and I’d kind of had Farmer on the brain since it had been his birthday a couple of days ago.

By this time we were due to met Ed and we decided on the Starbucks across the street as being a reasonable spot to rendezvous. Julie got this shot of the two of us…

Ed had brought presents, even. A vintage Nancy Drew dating from before the modern revisions, as well as these two….

Both very cool books, but even cooler, Ed had remembered a throwaway mention from a column of mine from at least eight or nine years ago that Julie was a bit of a rock hound and brought her a stone he had found on the shore of the Adriatic Sea. She was delighted.

Ed put us on to a couple of other thrift stores, as well, which we investigated soon after. On our way out of town we stumbled across this place… the Salem Friends of Felines thrift store.

Julie was quite taken with the mascot, Jeb. And considering that there wasn’t much in the way of a book section, what there was had some interesting finds.

I scooped up these two because they were like new at seventy-five cents each.

The Ludlum isn’t REALLY a Ludlum, in fact I’m not sure he had anything to do with this series that– I think– premiered after he’d been dead for a couple of years. But I like the Covert-One books anyway; both Gayle Lynds and Kyle Mills did a couple of good ones so I thought I’d take a chance on this one from Patrick Larkin. The Crichton was a Hard Case reprint of one of his undercover pen-name novels he did while he was in med school.

There was another cool find that I thought about picking up for resale, but in the end I settled for pointing it out to the lady behind the register. First paperback edition of Slaughterhouse-Five.

I told the woman that I couldn’t give her more than a ballpark figure, probably around ten dollars, but in any event I was sure it was worth more than the dollar or so they were asking. She was profusely grateful out of all proportion to the deed, and assured me Jeb the cat appreciated it as well.

Ed had pointed us to the Goodwill in Keizer, and there we found Julie’s favorite new item; the penguin hat.

She loves it because it’s warm. I love it because it makes us both laugh. It is impossible to be depressed while wearing such a hat. Julie almost put it back, but the clerk and I were both so enthusiastic about it that she gave in.

As for me, I did not leave empty-handed either; I found this lovely hardcover first edition.

The early Graftons are almost impossible to find in the first edition; previously, the earliest one I owned had been H Is For Homicide, and that’s because I bought it new the week it came out, as I have done with all the ones since then. This was a steal at two dollars and, I decided, my karmic reward for telling the cat lady about the Vonnegut. So of course I snatched it up.


By this time we were getting a little tired and decided to skip Portland again, powering north through to Longview where we found a congenial dump of a motel across the street from a truly sinful diner. (Seriously– the place serves a cinnamon roll the size of a basketball and dares customers to finish it.) We dined hugely and crashed at the motel in a happy food coma, and the following morning we were off for home.

And that was our trip, at least the book-related bits of it. Back next week with something cool.


  1. Jeff Nettleton

    Yep, pretty much all of those “Robert Ludlum’s…” were well after his death. The really obvious one have a trademark symbol, next to his name. Right up there with all of the VC Andrews books we got after her death and 2/3 of the junk with L Ron Hubbard’s name on it. Amazing how prolific a corpse can be! 🙂

    I’ve seen libraries that don’t half as good as The Book Bin and any place that operates for feline rescue is tops in my book (my cat, Derrick’s, too). All of our cats have been rescues and they have all been wonderful creatures. We try to do our on-line shopping via pet rescue portals, for household stuff.

    That Grafton cover reminds me of my sister’s old Bug, from high school. It had fewer dents and more rust, though. I’d bet anything the one on the cover would still be drivable, though. It takes a lot to kill a Bug!

  2. That Batman 5-Minute Stories dealio? As the father of a four year old I can tell you they’re common as heck. They’d probably be the same price at Costco where they have ‘5 Minute stories…’ of everything. Barbie. Thomas. Spider-Man. Disney. Etc etc.

    Also, I don’t know who or what a ‘Black Canaan’ is, but I suddenly really want to read it. 😉

  3. Edo Bosnar

    Oh, man, the penguin hat is so awesome; if I had that I’d be walking around all day doing impressions of Skipper from the Penguins of Madagascar.

    Like I think I told you, I ended up spending well over 2 hours in the Book Bin after you guys left. Yep, that pulp-tastic display is sweet, but I ended up not getting any of those, tempting as they were, mainly because I’d already stocked up on so many books at Escape Fiction – including an identical copy of Farmer’s Hadon of Ancient Opar (great minds…). Otherwise, if I didn’t already have a hardcover copy of Swords of Shahrazar – with the Mike Kaluta illustrations – I would have been pretty miffed at you for snapping that one up before me. As it is, I ended up only getting an old ’60s-vintage paperback copy of Le Guin’s City of Illusions at Book Bin. But it was just a pleasure browsing through that place, and I also saw and photographed the store’s elusive and apparently grumpy cat.

    And speaking of cats, I knew nothing about the Friends of Felines thrift store. Now I know where I must go next time I visit (which will hopefully be sooner than a few years from now).

  4. Le Messor

    “Escape Fiction”?
    Why would I want to do that?

    The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird was on the kids’ shelf at my LCS last time I looked. I’ve considered picking it up.

    1. The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird was on the kids’ shelf at my LCS last time I looked. I’ve considered picking it up.

      I have to admit I’ve been curious about it ever since I saw it. The trouble was it was in the window display so there was really no way to get at it.

      Also, I don’t know who or what a ‘Black Canaan’ is, but I suddenly really want to read it.

      It’s a contemporary (well, for Howard– 1930s) horror story set in the swamps, voodoo and zombies. Pretty racist by today’s standards but a good yarn. Roy Thomas adapted it for Conan the Barbarian in #82-83.

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