I love Half-Price Books. Call this a glowing review for a retail experience. Tonight I dropped by one of my local Half-Price Books locations and picked up seven books for $13.70 plus tax. That’s less than $1.96 per book!
I picked up one book each from L.E. Modesitt Jr and Georges Simenon, two from Ngaio Marsh, and three from John le Carré.
The L.E. Modesitt Jr book, The Ghost of the Revelator, is the second of an alternate-history science fiction series of which I have not yet read the first. No matter, I trust Modesitt enough to know that my investment was not wasted even though it was by far the most expensive purchase, at $3.48. If it turns out that I can’t appreciate this book without having read the first, I’ll simply pay full retail for the first. I recently paid full price for two others of his books, and both were well worth it — reviews are forthcoming.
Madame Maigret’s Own Case, by Georges Simenon, is one (The first? I could not find an ordered list, and this comes first alphabetically.) in a series of 23 mystery novels featuring Chief Inspector Jules Maigret, or in this case, his wife. This particular novel was published in Paris in 1950, then translated into English in 1959. I love old British mysteries, and I hope that old French mysteries will be similarly captivating. Though the characters have appeared on the PBS television series MYSTERY!, I have unfortunately missed them there, tending to tune in only when I catch a commercial for Poirot. All of the books in this series were marked at $1.98, which is actually less than the half of the cover price of $6.00.
The last time or two I visited with my family, at least one of them was inevitably carrying a book by Ngaio Marsh. I was assured that she was a worthy successor to Agatha Christie, writing old-style mysteries. A blurb on the back cover of the paperbacks assures us that “It’s time to compare Christie to Marsh instead of the other way around.” I pay attention to the blurb only because of the last name of the author, Dilys Winn of New York Magazine. I picked up two novels of hers, more or less at random. Final Curtain was written in 1947 and False Scent was written in 1959. The pair together cost $3.50, the cover price of both.
John le Carré (really David Cornwell) was a master of his field, writing the classic spy thrillers upon which all modern spy thrillers are based. At least that’s what I’ve heard. Unfortunately, I’ve read very few of them. In fact, I’ve read only Our Game, The Russia House, and the excellent The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. I think I checked out the marvelous book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy from the library, since it isn’t currently on my shelf. All were good, though I thought that The Russia House was a bit slow. I can’t explain why I haven’t pursued him more aggressively, but I’m trying to make up for that now with three purchases tonight. The thinnest and most inexpensive at $1.13 is also the second book he ever wrote, A Murder Of Quality, written in 1962. Books published in 1980 have much lower cover prices than those published today, making them a great find at Half-Price Books. For $1.63, I also picked up le Carré’s The Looking Glass War, written in 1965. This edition was published in 1981 and was, I believe, his fourth novel. Possibly his fifth book, The Naive And Sentimental Lover does not even sound like a spy novel at all, but I was intrigued by the relationships developed in Tinker, so I decided to give it a try for $1.98.
Seven books for less than fourteen dollars. Yet another reason why old books are best. Now I just have to read them all and write reviews of some of them. I should write reviews of all of them, but my track records doesn’t speak well of my commitment to reviews.
(This post also appears at W6 Daily.)