Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Mystery of the Review Copy


When I'm pawing through the dollar tables at the Strand Annex with all the other wild-eyed bibliots (yes, the second syllable of that word is short for idiots -- bibliophiles is not appropriate for us bottom feeders) I'm always wondering if they put out any new books lately and on which table they might reside (usually not the one I'm looking at). Today though I have not only hit the new books immediately but I find one that creates what shall now be known as The Case of the Strand Mystery (with my sincere apologies to Mr. Doyle). It involves a mystery trade paperback that normally wouldn't draw a second glance from me because it is neither hard boiled nor is the book itself especially attractive, sporting as it does one of those bland covers that is really all that a second or third tier publisher can realistically afford.

The mystery begins when I crack the book open to find a letter from the writer to a prospective reviewer, in this case an online publication. The letter is dated May 21st which is Saturday and it is Monday May 23rd as I discover the book. My best guess at this point is that the book was delivered to someone while the author was in New York for the Edgar Awards week.

Now the question is how the book could possibly get onto the Strand dollar table in so short a time. Of course, maybe the reviewer just devoured the book immediately, and, short of space as all but a few fabulously rich New Yorkers are, decided to dispose of it at the Strand where a book like this couldn't possibly have added more than a quarter (25 cents) to his review copy payout. Still, there are an awful lot of books streaming into the Strand on a daily basis and I am more than a little surprised that this one was pushed out into the marketplace so quickly (actually the scene on the dollar tables resembles nothing so much as the low end of the bazaar in Cairo (and some of the customers look like they've come from a galaxy far, far away). Workers struggle mightily with the boxes and boxes of books consigned to their dollar fate (and believe me there's no shortage of books -- as soon as spaces develop on the tables, they are immediately filled in from what seems to be an endless supply of boxes of still more dollar books), but it's never appeared to me that any books escape an aging process as they wait in line to be pawed at by the bargain hunters. There are signs up that anyone going through the unopened boxes will be summarily ejected and (one imagines) banned for life. No doubt the same fate will soon await the person who has been leaving dozens of books strewn on top of the dollar books as they buzz saw their way through the pack. Some days when you arrive you almost don't have the heart to look through the dollar books because it looks like a tornado has swept through only moments earlier. It's hard to believe that they haven't caught the perpetrator of this crime against the normally gentle booklover. The staff at the Strand is nothing if not vigilant and I'm sure it's only a matter of time. Being banned for life from the Strand is truly a sobering threat for any book lover but I often wonder if that would really help cure me or if I'd just resort to disguises. Hmmm, there may be a way out of this madness after all.

Knowing how the Strand works, the mystery deepens since they only buy books at the main store (at 12th street). The book would have had to come into the 12th street outpost on Friday (the 20th, the day before the reviewer ostensibly first got the book), then it would have to go through the intensive screening process where it obviously instantly failed and instead of going to the half price tables it was instead banished to the shipment that would go down to the Strand annex later that day. This would almost certainly have had to happen on Friday afternoon since I'm almost positive that they don't send books to the annex on Saturday. It also couldn't have happened on Monday since I found the book at lunchtime, long before any shipment might have arrived. It's pretty obvious to me at this point that the book was delivered to the prospective reviewer before the date on the letter but still it's a pretty quick turn around from potential review to Palookaville.

Once at the Strand the book had to have been almost immediately dumped onto the dollar table. So what we have here is an almost instant dashing (unbeknownst to them of course) of the writer's hopes as it goes from a hoped for review to the Siberia of the book world in less than forty eight hours. I too contribute to the rejection as I pass the book up, putting it back on the table. No doubt I will be seeing this book again as I check through the dollar books on future visits.

I have checked the author's website and it is cheery and hopeful, exuding a very optimistic and self assured air (which is of course a good thing). I can't bring myself to e-mailing the author to solving this mystery though. In case anyone wants to take a crack at figuring out who the author is, I'll give a few clues (and maybe a prize): the author in question is a woman, I believe it was a medical mystery, and she lives in the shadow (well, the general vicinity anyway) of that most noted of all Woolrich scholars.


Blogger Bill said...

Deadly Diversion?

5:08 AM  
Blogger Andy J said...

Wow! Not only can that Crider fellow write a mean Sherlock Holmes story -- his detecting is up there on a par with the master himself, and I bet Bill didn't even have to break a sweat (or listen to Watson blather a bit) to come up with the correct answer which he did. I am truly impressed. The book was Deadly Diversion by Eleanor Sullivan and it was obviously a proof (not a trade pb) as I incorrectly labelled it. The truly strange part about this is that I actually couldn't remember if that was the name of the book and so I went to her website to check and noticed this headline in the Hot News section: Eleanor Sullivan Is Alive and Writing in St. Louis. Seems a reprint volume of short stories confused her with that other Eleanor Sullivan who died in 1991. Sadly, while this Eleanor Sullivan is alive and well in St. Louis, at least one proof copy of her book seems to be dead and not so well on the dollar table at the Strand. Hope she fares better with some of the other review copies. If I really had any writing ambitions, this kind of stuff would probably cure me of them.

6:13 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

You know my methods, Andy J.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Andy J said...

Your prize has been entrusted to the U.S. mail and should arrive shortly. Of course it's poor compensation for your deductive toil but it'll have to do. Lest you think it anything of significance, I must reveal that it's only a proof but one you might find interesting.

11:15 AM  

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