Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Backroads Bookscouting (sort of): A Salem Addendum

O.k., so I’m stealing a bit of Greg Hatcher’s thunder here by using the ‘Backroads Bookscouting’ heading, but it was in fact Greg, via e-mail, who encouraged me to write this up.

Anyway, regular readers may recall that last winter, Greg wrote a 2-part bookscouting post about the Willamette Valley, with part 2 detailing his adventures in Salem, Oregon. Well, I was recently in Salem, as I was last winter, but this time with my lovely partner Sanja, and we discovered this wonderful place  he and Julie overlooked during their own sojourn in Oregon’s capital.

It’s called Engelberg’s Antique Mall (or just ‘Engelberg’s Antiks’) on Liberty St. in downtown (about 2 blocks south of the Book Bin that Greg mentioned in his post).

We discovered it on the day before we left, as we were doing some last-minute shopping. The $2 book display outside the front door immediately caught my eye (no surprise there), and the place looked so interesting that we couldn’t help but walk in and take a look around.

Now I’m not much into antiquing myself, in that I have virtually no interest in buying antiques, but I do like going into antique shops just to poke around, because they’re like museums where you can touch the exhibits. And there was quite a bit of fascinating stuff as you may imagine, like these old baby shoes – which Sanja insisted I photograph.

Of course, there are quite a few old vinyl records;

and even cassettes – I know there’s been quite a resurgence of interest in vinyl, but is anyone still listening to cassettes?

Although if necessary, you could buy this stereo with a cassette deck:

I actually searched in vain for 8-tracks, but alas, there were none to be found.

But the reason I’m writing this place up for AJS is because there were a number of little sections in which the consignment sellers offer books:

Many, many books.

And more books.

And even a box of comics:

Didn’t find anything that interested me, though.

So while Sanja and my sister went downstairs to check out the old furniture (which was apparently pretty cool, too), I spent about an hour browsing through the books. I wasn’t finding anything to buy, though, as I was a bit taken aback by the prices on some of them; one of the sellers just put a price of $5 on pretty much every book, even if it was a beaten up old mass market paperback with the pages almost falling out.

But then I struck paydirt: the last little section I stopped at before the front door on the opposite side of the store had several shelves of old books that just seemed to shout out: “Yo, geek! Right here!”

The prices were also right: most of them were going for $1 to $2.

A bunch of book-format magazines really caught my eye, as I never knew they existed, like these:

And these:

All $2 each. These were actually what inspired me to start taking pictures of the place and write to Greg to tell him about it, which in turn led to his suggestion that I write it up for the site.

And just so this post truly lives up to its bookscouting description, that heavenly section of the store had a few genuine bookscouting treasures, most notably this rather vintage Tarzan book:

I didn’t end up buying it, as the price, $25, is just a little more than I’m usually willing to pay for something like this (although if it had been $10 or less, I probably would have snapped it right up). The frontispiece is detached, but otherwise it was in rather good condition, with St. John’s exquisite illustrations throughout.

All I ended up buying were two paperbacks: Blish’s Spock Must Die, because I’ve been on the lookout for a cheap copy of this specific paperback edition for ages, and a sword and sorcery book by Andrew Offutt, because I’ve never read anything by him but I’ve been intrigued about him ever since I learned a few years ago that he wrote several hundred erotica/porn books under various pseudonyms over the course of his career (and the book has a suitably racy Boris Vallejo cover). At $1 a pop, I couldn’t go wrong.

So, if you’re ever in Salem, there’s one more place you have to visit.*

* I have to say as an aside that when I was growing up in the area in the 1970s and ‘80s, I don’t remember Salem having such cool places – all I remember is a comic book shop that sold old paperbacks. Outside of that, it was the book and magazine sections of department or drug-stores and B. Dalton or Waldenbooks in the shopping malls. Now, it’s not only got places like this antique mall, but also all the cool stores Greg mentioned in his earlier posts, i.e., the the aforementioned Book Bin, Escape Fiction and quirky thriftstores like Friends of Felines.

We also visited the latter. Here’s security chief and general mascot Jeb getting some long overdue on-the-job cuddles from Sanja.



  1. Louis Bright-Raven

    ” I know there’s been quite a resurgence of interest in vinyl, but is anyone still listening to cassettes?”

    I have about 250-350 cassettes still and I listen to them periodically, depending upon my mood. But I don’t really buy the used ones because stores often want too much for them and one never knows what condition they’re truly in.

    1. Edo Bosnar

      Louis, I suppose I meant that more in the sense of who would buy them, given that there’s a good chance they’re in crappy condition (even back when I mainly listened to music on cassettes, I rarely bought them used, just because of concerns over condition). And buying them just to have them, like an antique, seems so odd to me – it would be kind of like collecting VHS tapes.

      1. Louis Bright-Raven

        I know, but there are all kinds of stores locally here in Columbia that sell cassette and VHS tapes and they seem to have a reasonable amount of turnover of product, so clearly people do buy the stuff. (Either that, or stores are burning it or throwing it in storage lockers.)

          1. Louis Bright-Raven

            What can I tell you guys? My current pop culture media store where I get my comics claims sales between 500 and 700 used cassettes a week, and I see a wall of at least 5,000 used cassettes on display. It’s apparently the new thing. “It just exploded after the Guardians of the Galaxy movie came out. Now everybody wants cassettes to go in their Walkmans.”

        1. BB

          I’m a big collector of vinyl, and years ago at my favorite record store I noticed new cassettes hitting their modest tape selection. I asked the owner about it, and he said new local bands were cutting tapes because it was so much cheaper than the other mediums. Interesting.

  2. We love antique malls. You can often find a lot of cool books there, and a great many of them are priced very low because more often than not, the person running the booth is more about furniture or toys or carnival glass. In Seaside, we have much better luck at Seaside Antiques than we do at Buck’s Book Barn right next door.

    THE SAINT and MIKE SHAYNE digests were, one could say, the last gasp of the hero pulps; Mike Shayne’s was around till the eighties. Really they were much more like Ellery Queen’s or Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery magazine digests in format but they DID retain the idea that the main story is always about the titular hero. (Rarely, though, was that main story written by the actual creator of the character unless it was a reprint.) I’m a bit of a snob about the Saint and only really collect the ones written by Leslie Charteris; thankfully, online scholarship’s made this a lot easier to figure out. I do have the novel VENDETTA FOR THE SAINT, by Harry Harrison (creator of The Stainless Steel Rat and SOYLENT GREEN) ghosting for Charteris, but that’s it.

    1. Edo Bosnar

      That makes sense – about the digests, I mean. I’m guessing then that the ‘Brett Halliday’ bylines in the Mike Shayne Magazine were probably used for anonymous house writers.
      What really intrigued me about the Saint Magazine pictured is that it contains a story by Miriam Allen de Ford, with whom I’m familiar mainly as a science fiction writer. I was momentarily tempted to pick it up just for that, but the already huge backlog of stuff I have to read kept me from doing so.

  3. Jeff Nettleton

    I had one Mike Shayne digest, with a cover illustration of a woman, with an UNCLE Special-style Walther P-38. I later found that it was a near direct copy of a promotional photo of Stephanie Powers, from The Girl From UNCLE. The interior story did feature an assassin, with a stripped down rifle; so, the cover wasn’t a total bait-and-switch. I saw it in a used bookstore and picked it up for 50 cents, lying next to a pile of comics (got a few of those) and some detective magazines (with the racier damsel-in-distress photos of the 70s and early 80s).

    I saw a few of the Mike Shayne digests in other used bookstores, later, when I was stationed in South Carolina. They were around for quite a while; so, you tended to see more contemporary ones than older issues.

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