The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Oddball Item of the Week

A bathroom cigarette caddy /ash tray in the shape of a toilet.

Because there's no reason to lose any smoking time ever.

Ceramic in attractive brown with hand-painted gold hi-lights.

Cigarettes are stored in the tank, and you ash in the bowl, with a notch in the back for wall mounting.

This "Cigarette Set" brought to you by Thames "to complete your bathroom and add to your comfort". Circa 1960.



This came from the estate of a plumber so I'm guessing it was a trade promotional item.

On ebay now (ends Sunday night at around 6PM EST).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Junk in My Trunk and Craigslist Experiment

My first "Junk in My Trunk" yard sale haul photo in a while. It's been a long winter.

(click on the photo to go to the flickr page with annotations)

Favorite item is the toilet-shaped bathroom cigarette caddy and ashtray. No reason to waste ANY smoking time.

I also recently tried a Craigslist experiment that's been working out well. Let me tell you about it.

I haven't driven in years. My highschool driver's ed teacher--an ex drill sergeant who went pasty white and jittery whenever it was my go--assured me I was going to kill someone. Between that, myopia and a driving attitude that veers between obsessive fear and carelessness, it seemed like a good idea to settle in NYC and never get behind the wheel again.

But it turns out books are heavy and since Alice is too selfish to quit her job and drive me around to estate sales full time, I placed this ad on Craigslist:
Estate Sale Ride Share

Brooklyn bookseller is looking for a ride share to hit estate sales in the NY/NJ area. Prefer dealers/shoppers (with a dependable car) who DON'T specialize in books and ephemera (no reason to bring along your own competition). You get: half gas costs, an extra set of eyes to hunt for treasure, a strong back, and someone to bitch about eBay with.

Contact me if this sounds interesting.
And I found a dealer who lives right around the corner, buys completely different items from me, and has a really efficient and tech savvy way of mapping out routes!

We hit the streets last Friday (on a fairly quiet day) and the results are pictured above. The other dealer made out comparably well and we each pointed out items that we recognized as good but weren't interested in ourselves.

I recommend giving this a go if you're looking for a way to expand your hunting ground, save some scratch (as well as carbon emmissions), and find someone to share intelligence with. You will be getting in a car for several (potentially stressful) hours with a stranger though, so I recommend making a list of conditions to vet your respondees.

Sale season is approaching! Good luck out there.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

For the Kiddies

Two new additions to my blogrolls that seemed to belong together.

Kindertrauma: A tip-generated blog of toys, images, films etc that terrorized you as a child.

Including useful features like "Name That Trauma" where you can describe a horrible but mysterious memory and readers will try to pin down the source of your persistent anxiety.

And fiction author Carol Lanham (whose story "The Good Part" was published in Trunk Stories #3 and was a highlight of the run) has renovated her homepage: The Horror Homemaker.

Pay her a visit, mix up a cocktail and try on a saucy vintage apron.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s


How great is it to discover that two of your favorite mystery writers had a love affair, worked each other into various books, and eventually (after breaking up) killed each other off in fictional guises? Pretty freakin' great.

In the late 1950s, Gold Medal paperback writer Marijane Meaker (aka: Vin Packer; M. E. Kerr) met Patricia Highsmith in a lesbian bar. Highsmith was already well-established as a mystery writer--her work having been adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in Strangers on a Train--but in the lesbian community she was a legend for having written the first/then only lesbian novel with a happy ending (The Price of Salt as by Claire Morgan).

The writers hit it off and left their respective comfort zones/current lovers to attempt an idealic life in the country. This ended pretty much as you would expect from a relationship between:

a) two writers
b) specialists in borderline personalities
c) out lesbians in a time when women could be turned away from restaurants for wearing pants.

But along the way you learn some great details about Highsmith's habit of gardening with a switchblade, having "dinner drinks", "walking drinks", "picnic drinks" and "breakfast drinks" as well as Meaker's insecurity about being a "lurid paperback writer" (even though she made twice what Highsmith made per book) .

The book is short (about the length of a classic Gold Medal paperback), intimate and paints a vivid portrait of upper-class lesbian life in the 1950s. The epilogue--when the writers reunite after 27 years and Highsmith has become obsessively bigoted and bitter--feels like it could have been drawn from either of their classic books.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Highsmith Price of Salt Editions

If the customer who collects editions of Claire Morgan / Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt is reading this please contact me. I have a 1969 pb edition but I managed to lose your info.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

For Your Unclean Time

I Know Why the Phone is Crying Clarice


Because even after links on BoingBoing, Gizmodo and Thrift Horrors, 21,000 Youtube views and my 15 minutes of internet fame as straight-man to a telephone, no one bid on him/her/it.

I guess we were meant to be together. Maybe I'll get a VOIP line and make this the official HF business line. That way I'll yelp with terror and break out in a cold sweat every time someone calls me to buy a book and the phone's destiny will be fulfilled.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Book Pricing Scheme at Sally Army

Hit the 23rd Street Salvation Army during my 3-D / offline outing yesterday and discovered they have a new pricing scheme.

Basically they charge 30% (or 20%, can't remember) of the lowest marked price on the book. A $23.95 hardcover would be $7.18. If it was a B&N special--stickered at $6.50--the price would be $1.95.

They had typed, laminated prices sheets tacked up (forgot to take a picture but next time) laying out the pricing spread. It was slick enough that I was wondering if it came from HQ. Has anyone else encounter this?

I have mixed feeling about this policy since it doesn't take into account condition, desirability or any of a number of factors. But at most SAs there's no one capable of correctly pricing books--and I've noticed them creeping up to ludicrous levels lately--so at least this is consistent.

And if they don't have a minimum price point (and there may be) a bookbuyer could do well on vintage HCs and PBs that were price at anywhere from $.35-$5.95.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Outsider Art Torso Phone

Posted on eBay right now is the creepiest single item I've ever come across. It's a crying skinned hermaphrodite telephone!....I kid you not.


It's a sculpture of a visible/skinned half-man half-woman with a rotary phone installed inside and the dial exposed on the abdomen. The mouth and ear piece of the phone are in the figure's head which you lift off the body and speak into.

The body of this life-size sculpture is made from plaster of Paris on a wooden skeleton. The exterior is painted with acrylic paint which has been built up and textured to look like muscle. Exposed bone had been inventively made out of ribbons of hot glue. The figure's head has male and female features (with lipstick/makeup and styled hair on the feminine side) and both eyes are shedding a tear (who wouldn't?).

Also, it works! Witness the horror:



I have numerous images on the sale page.