Thursday, November 07, 2019

88. Famous Trials 4 edited by James H. Hodge (and report from the Concordia Used Book Fair)

A friend alerted me to the Concordia Epic Used Book Fair the day before the pre-sale was going to take place (for a $5 entrance fee the real hardcore book heads like me can go a day early and get the first pickings).  I am very grateful, as I re-arranged my Sunday plans.  I got there about 20 minutes early to scope it out and there already was a line-up of around 40 people, so I sacrificed my plan for a snack and became the 41st. It was worth it.  I can't believe this is the first time I have gone.  Who knows what I missed?  English used book stores are not great in Montreal, I guess because the anglophone community is relatively small.  This fair gets donations from that same community, so it seems to pull in some interesting books in my line that may have been sitting on people's shelves for quite some time. 

Check out this haul:

Somebody had a nice James Hadly Chase collection.  I love those70s Corgi covers.  The real prize, though is the 1947 Avon version of No Orchids for Miss Blandish.  It still isn't the truly degenerate original edition that so disturbed Orwell, but it is a little rougher than the updated version that I read and I think doesn't yet have the "modern" additions that Chase put in later (such as television).  One of these days I will do a side-by-side analysis.

 Lots more lovely Penguins. I suspect these all came from the same collection, as the ages were quite similar and they were the only paperbacks that old.  I don't know anything about A Sour Apple Tree but how cool is that cover?

 I am a bit John D. MacDonald'ed out currently, but I could not resist this fat 70s paperback of Condominium.  This image does not do justice to the cool wraparound cover image.
I saw and put back all 3 of these trial essay Penguins on Sunday, but on Monday the fever was back upon me (like a vampire who drank some really good virgin blood and craves more) and I went back at my lunch hour.  That Jack Vance I had not seen and it is a beautiful little paperback and that kind of allowed me to justify getting the other 3 just because they were old Penguins.

And on to the review itself...
Now that I have three dense, dry essays on famous trials, I felt some pressure to get through them so I picked the first one to read.  It was actually somewhat promising, looking like it was well-written and I might get some exposé on the seamier side of British culture.  It did deliver that, but it was also fairly dry and at times even boring.  There are 5 cases in this book, as you can see from the cover, all of them notorious at the time.  Two are about men who poisoned their wives, one a prostitute whose throat was slashed and a fourth about a wealthy paranoiac (and ex-Australian cabinet member) who paid two men to kidnap and kill a completely innocent lodger because he was insanely jealous of his 65-year old mistress who had said hi to the poor guy once.  Those are all murder trials and all fairly interesting, though honestly mundane and realistic (because they were real) that for me they all ended in a slightly unsatisfying way.  The William Joyce trial was for treason, as he was the infamous Lord Haw-Haw who defected to Germany at the start of WWII and became the voice of Nazi propaganda.  He was declared guilty and hanged.  The essay is written by a lawyer and he goes into agonizing detail about how Joyce's guilt hanged on whether or not he was a British citizen (he was born in Brooklyn to Irish parents who had revoked their British citizenship) and how treason can be defined and what is citizenship.  This was a tough one to get through, though the part about Joyce's life was instructive.  He had returned to England at the age of 3 and grew up a young fascist.  We see these fucks sprouting up again today in America and Canada and England.  I wish they would study their history to see what happened to this loser.

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