Saturday, July 14, 2012

interlude: Kayo Books in San Francisco

The Bay Area bookstore scene has suffered many blows in the last decade.  The major losses were mainly bookstores that sold new stuff, Cody's in Berkeley leaving Telegraph and then going out of business being the worst of all.  However, the used bookstore scene is still hanging on.  I wish I had the time and energy to do a more lengthy post, as I visited quite a few used bookstores while I was on my 3-month stay here.  However, I am compelled to say something about Kayo Books in San Francisco.

I cannot understand how I could have only heard of this place a week ago. It's been in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco for 17 years.  I finally got a chance to sneak out from work last Thursday and had about an hour to spend.  Oh my god.  This place is the paperback collector's nirvana.  I could have come here every day just to browse.  The stock is incredible.  But it's not only the volume and diversity (which I'll get into), but the organization and cleanliness.  While I enjoy the anticipation of the hunt while digging through dusty piles, I'll also never understand why most used bookstore owners cannot organize their stock.  This place shows how it should be done.  There is a section for everything and within those sections, it is all arranged in meticulous alphabetical order.  Every shelf is easily approachable, with lots of space so you can take your time to scan the rows.  You can see these lovely shelves in the picture above.  The sections are great, as well.  There are mysteries and hard-boiled as well as a great science fiction section (though very limited fantasy) and then tons of sub-sections, especially with the erotic paperbacks, it breaks down to things like Juvenile Delinquents, Biker Gangs, Catholic Schools, Pregnancy Scares, etc.

Interestingly, there were only two Richard Starks, but the proprietor (the wife of a husband and wife team; super friendly, helpful and knowledgeable) told me that Stark was in constant demand ever since they opened the store.  They also had an insane Peter Rabe collection, more books than I even knew he had written.  They were up in the $10-15 range, a bit rich for my blood, but I got one of the cheaper ones.  One dissapointment was that they had no Margaret Millar, which surprised the proprietor as well.  But did I score!  Check out my loot below:

Excuse the poor lighting. 
That Night Cry by William Stuart I've been looking for for years, ever since August West made it sound so good.  What a gorgeous cover!  I already have The Little People in hardback, but I couldn't resist the awesome paperback with this cover in such good condition.  It's My Funeral is the Peter Rabe I picked up.  And check it out, the original Harlequin version of The Body on Mount Royal (part of the recently reprinted series of Montreal pulp from Vehicule Press).  And then I rounded it out with an early Donald Hamilton and another installment in the Operation Hang Ten series.  The whole package set me back $23 and she even gave me those little plastic paperback book protectors.

Finally, the store has an awesome dog, a big friendly black lab who every ten minutes or so makes her rounds, going from customer to customer, getting some pets or just standing next to you while you peruse.  So you pretty much have to put a visit to Kayo Books on your list of things you must do in your life.


Jason L said...

Amazing. I wish I had made it out there when we were at your bach party.

I can't believe all those titles were only $23. Astounding!

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

That's not just an early Donald Hamilton – that's the first Matt Helm! And it looks like it's the original Gold Medal printing as well. Nice find! And amazing-looking shop!

OlmanFeelyus said...

Sweet! That's just a total fluke, as I'm really not too up on the Matt Helm series. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. The used book Gods smile upon me. I must make offerings.

Doc said...

Aaargh. I am only a mile from this place right now and it's Sunday. They are only open Thur-Sat. Trying to get an "or open by appointment" connection going. Any other recommendations? I'm here through next Wednesday.