Pocket Paperbacks: You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

Pocket paperbacks have always been a large segment of HPB’s product mix, but we’re seeing fewer of them now, as much genre fiction has migrated into electronic delivery modes. But we still devote considerable store space to them, and we still find a place for collectible PBs from the mid-twentieth century.

Paperbacks were first popularized in England by Penguin Books, which issued its first ten titles simultaneously in 1935. Mass-market PBs were introduced in America on a large scale by Pocket Books in 1939. Many other publishers followed, and this affordable, handy form of reading material has been bought for convenience and thrift ever since.

There’s a reason pocket-sized paperbacks are called “mass-market”—they were created as an alternative to the hardcover editions the “masses” couldn’t always afford. They were generally cheaply made and weren’t really meant to last a long time. But some have indeed lasted and are still eagerly sought, primarily for their cover art that so thrillingly reflects the pop culture of its time.

We’d like to present some fine examples being offered by three of our stores, the South Lamar location in Austin, Texas, the Countryside, Illinois location, and the Dallas Flagship location in Texas.

Death on Scurvy Street by Ben Ames Williams
Popular Library #194, 1949
Mysteries in the lurid-cover, murder-and-sex pulp fiction PB form are mainstays of fans’ collections. This minor 1929 mystery by prolific author Ben Ames Williams was resurrected and hyperbolized in this late-forties paperback edition. If this cover by Rudolph Belarski doesn’t lure you in, maybe the cover blurb will: “She waited for love and got murder.”


First Paperback Printing. Very Good +, $12

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Cowboy Classics for Dear Ol’ Dad ( Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

For Father’s Day, we’d like to feature several cowboy classics—all signed by their esteemed authors and available at our Flagship store in Dallas.  If your dad’s a cowboy, real or wanna-be, he might enjoy one of these tales of buckaroos on the range.

Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry 26th Printing, Simon & Schuster, 1985
Signed by Larry McMurtry

LonesomeDoveTexas author Larry McMurtry has written several classics of the West, but none as enduring as the adventures of cattle drivers Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call, as told in Lonesome Dove. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, a critical success, became a huge commercial success following the popular 1989 TV miniseries that starred Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones.

This copy is in Fine condition. $400. Continue reading

What’s Your Story?: Rarest of Rare Collectibles

May 16 is National Biographer’s Day. I’ll bet you didn’t know that! We see a lot of biographies and memoirs come into HPB: life stories of the rich and famous, plus memoirs of the poor and infamous.

But it’s also wonderful to learn more about some of the offbeat, footnote characters in history, and I was delighted to hear about some life-story gems our stores have acquired lately. Continue reading

King Kong–Still Cranky After All These Years (Rarest of Rare Collectibles)

King Kong, the blockbuster girl-meets-gorilla movie, premiered in March 1933. All these decades later, the big, lovelorn ape still intrigues us and continues to inspire works in various media.

A hardback copy of the novelization of the movie, a nice little curiosity piece, came into our Tacoma, Washington, store recently. The book was assembled by multiple hands in advance of the movie’s release, so it’s actually a novelization of a movie that hadn’t yet been released! The book/movie concept evidently sprang from a dream film director Merian C. Cooper had.


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