Sunday, December 12, 2010

S.W. Welch, he's good. He's real good.

S.W. Welch Books is the quality local used bookstore in my Mile End neighbourhood (and I believe the only english language used bookstore east of St. Laurent in Montreal). I've come to appreciate it more and more, once I accepted that the days of cheap discoveries in used bookstores are basically over. On Friday, I quite enjoyed reading this nice blog article on the store and the man behind it. It reminded me that I hadn't been up there in a while and I wondered if he might have some Ross Thomas (since that was a name I had never looked for up there before).

My wife has started the domestic practice of stacking up our completed, non-keeper books on a little table under the window and when it gets to a certain height, taking them to Welch's to sell (and giving the rest away at Chainon). Well the pile was pretty high and she'd been wanting to go for a while, so I got us motivated on a grey, snow-covered saturday up to hipster St. Viateur street and Welch's.

Welch's pricing is pretty savvy. You won't find a book on the sci-fi or crime shelf for less than $4. But they do have a $1 rack that is usually outside the front door. And guess what I saw sitting on the top shelf of that rack:

Like what is this book even about, a dude with thick hair and some dogs who has a nice house on a beach and has sex with a 70s babe while his chinese manservant looks on? It's so bland! In many ways, the '70s were really, really lame.

Wow! Was I ever excited! Not only is it a Ross Thomas, but it's the one Ross Thomas I have specifically been looking for. It's the first in one of his series and is considered one of his classics. Louis XIV loved it (and take a look at the awesome cover of his copy) and he is not alone. Yes, the cover is absolutely heinous, just the worse kind of 70s generic bestseller design (though I actually kind of like the illustration on its own, if it wasn't so bland), which is probably why it was in the dollar shelf.

Because, as I should have guessed, the very recent Ross Thomas re-discovery movement did not slip by S.W. Welch's radar. He has a pretty sweet collection of Ross Thomas paperbacks on the Crime shelf. Of those, I only picked up this (for $4, but we had credit):

My apologies for the quality of this image, as this is actually kind of a cool design. I'll scan it when I actually read it and have a better image here.

Possibly one of the best crime novel titles ever. According to the woman who was working behind the counter, he had just put them out about a month and a half ago, saying "This guy is good and there will be a few people who will be looking for him." S.W. Welch know the game! We're I a Book Glutton, I might have just snagged them all right there, but a man's got to know his limitations.

Nevertheless, with all this excitement (and because we'd just got a $40 credit with our old books), , I went a little crazy and picked up two other neat finds. This great cover of a Patricia Highsmith I don't remember ever hearing about:

and this sweet Holloway House blaxploitation title which takes place in Canada title for $6 (I told you I was a bit over-stimulated):

Most Canadians are capable of riding a skidoo no-handed, standing up, shooting and holding a babe, but we also do it with a brew in one hand as well.

All in all, a very satisfying day at the bookstore. Now to read!

Edit: Here are the Ross Thomas's that were on the shelf. Many of them look to be from the same publisher and period, so I wonder if they didn't come from a single collection:


mybillcrider said...

You can't go wrong with Ross Thomas, and Chinaman's Chance is one of my favorites.

Book Glutton said...

Which Ross Thomas books did you leave behind? I couldn't have stopped at just one.

I'm going to go see this S.W. Welch next time I'm in Montreal.

OlmanFeelyus said...

I knew I should have taken a picture of that shelf! I'll try and do it later in the week, because I can't remember a single title. There were at least 5 and most were from his espionage series, I think.

Book Glutton said...

No Questions Asked and Protocol for a Kidnapping were originally published under the pen name Oliver Bleeck. Both feature a fellow named Philip St.Ives - a professional go between (the guy you go to when you can't use the police and need to handle a transaction with thieves or people of that ilk). I liked all 5 Philip St. Ives books.

The Seersucker Whipsaw is about Americans running political campaigns in a fictional African country. Given Thomas's background, the book feels like its full of things he saw (and did?) first hand. A splendid read.

The Money Harvest is also quite fine. Wouldn't have left that behind.

The Singapore Wink - it took me a while to warm up to it. It was the only Thomas novel I put down a few times. Turned out to be enjoyable.

The Mordida Man was a bit silly. More like some bad novel you'd find in a airport. My least favorite Thomas - but not entirely without merit.

Cast a Yellow Shadow is the second book to feature McCorkle and Padillo. Twilight at Mac's Place is the fourth. Both are excellent but under the Olman Rule, you'd have to read The Cold War Swap first and then decide. (Or just buy them all - this is Ross Thomas after all and you'd read them and enjoy them eventually. Or sooner.)

OlmanFeelyus said...

Okay, that is rock solid advice. I may seriously now go up there and at pick up The Seersucker Whipsaw and The Money Harvest. Though you are a wicked man for tempting me like this, I do thank you!

Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

And Voodoo, Ltd. is the third in the same series as Chinaman's Chance. Y'know what? Sod it. If I were you I'd just go and grab the lot.

Ah, if only S. W. Welch knew the Ross Thomas frenzy was basically five guys on two or three different continents...

I like the Highsmith cover too. That must be an early edition. This Sweet Sickness is pretty much the only one of hers I'm missing now I think.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Man, you guys are really putting the pressure on!

Though it may be only a few of us, we are kind of like the Elders of Zion of the cheap paperback used book market. With a few of our keystrokes, armies clash, empires crumble, booksellers re-stock!

Until we go power mad and cause a tulip-like market bubble in Jude Deveraux hardcovers, ruining the used book market for decades and losing our shirts in the process.

Nick Jones (Louis XIV, the Sun King) said...

Jude Deveraux... now is that someone else we should be investigating, y'think...?