The Costs and Pitfalls of Book Buying.

I have far too many books – and still I buy more.

When I develop a new reading interest, or a new interest in general, I’m not satisfied to dabble around the edges, I jump right in and obtain as much as possible related to that interest.

In recent years I became interested in some aspects of military history. At first I just wanted to find out why Anzac day was such a big deal in Australia. Like many Australians, my knowledge and understanding of the Gallipoli campaign at the heart of Anzac day was minimal. As the centenary of the original Anzac day (25th April) came around in 2015, I decided to put an end to my ignorance and I read several books about the campaign that attained mythic status in Australian culture.

From there my curiosity about other aspects of WWI was sparked, and my reading widened to other battles and their historical consequences.

But that wasn’t enough. I moved on to WWII when I discovered some family involvement in the North Africa and Sicily campaigns of 1943.
I was able to untie some of my dad’s tangled childhood memories to find the facts behind the tragic loss of his cousins Albert and Horace during those campaigns; even being able to track a report of Horace’s desperate cries for help, followed by the sound of his drowning, after his glider crashed into the Mediterranean.

I sought out and bought as many books as I could find that might increase my knowledge of Albert and Horace’s experiences of war. A lot of the books were out of print so I needed to track down second hand copies. A helpful resource was https://www.bookfinder.com/

Through that site I was able to find books covering my topics of interest that have been long out of print. Unfortunately some were outside of my comfortable price range, but most weren’t.

As I’ve written in several recent posts, my current interest is crime fiction, a very popular genre with far too many reading options. The only way I could realistically launch myself into reading crime was to find someway to limit those options. I chose to be selective with the authors I read.

So far I’ve followed two paths. Firstly there are the two authors who helped me get into the world of crime in the first place. I’ve already written about Lynda La Plante and Ann Cleeves.
Secondly, because my greater interest has been fuelled by the strength of character and place in Cleeves’ books, I looked around for British writers basing their work around Derbyshire, the English county where I spent my pre-teen years. I’ve also written quite a lot about the three writers I’ve been following.

To date Sarah Ward has three published books, Steven Dunne seven, and Stephen Booth at least seventeen. It would be a very costly exercise to get all of them, so when available I’ve helped the process through purchases from charity and second hand book shops, while keeping an eye on the prices of new books in online stores. Occasionally books will be discounted and a little money can be saved if I’m viewing the right site at the right time.

book list 2Ideally I’d be able to find all of the books at a local bookshop, giving them support instead of some overseas mega-store, but they rarely (if ever) have the kind of books I want, that cater to my sometimes obscure tastes (how many Australian readers are looking for Derbyshire crime writers?).

I now own all of Sarah Ward’s books.

I have the first three of Steven Dunne’s books. The first I could only find second hand online, the second I bought new and the third I also found second hand in a Canberra bookshop.

Stephen Booth’s books have been a mixture of new purchases from The Book Depository , Some from charity shops and two I bought online through the book finder address cited earlier. Those latter purchases have been examples of the perils faced when buying used goods on line. When I received the books they weren’t the editions that had been illustrated (they were older) and their actual condition didn’t match that of the written description on the website.
Bringing the problems to the attention of the supplier doesn’t always lead to the customer finding a satisfactory outcome.*

After two disappointing experiences, I’m now reconsidering the buying of second hand books online unless they are completely out of print and can’t be obtained any other way. In the recent cases I only resorted to the second hand orders because the number of books in the Stephen Booth series pushed the overall cost of new ones into uncomfortable territory, and I was eager to get his earlier books for an affordable prices as soon as possible.

At the moment those early books are some of the more expensive, unless I compromised by buying American editions. However an American version of a Derbyshire book, with American spellings and the possible “translating” of Derbyshire turns of phrase into Americanised approximations… well it kind of defeats my purpose of choosing Derbyshire based stories.**

I’m resisting the temptation to order more books for a while.  Over the Christmas break I could be away from home from time to time, so won’t be around to make sure any book deliveries are received securely.

Anyway, I have more than enough crime fiction to keep me going for a few weeks before I need to order again in the new year.

Apart from filling in some of the existing gaps in my collection, next year there will be at least two new books to look forward to: Sarah Wards fourth DC Childs book The Shrouded Path is due for release in the UK autumn, but before that will be The Devil’s Dice, the debut book by Roz Watkins released around March 2018.

_____________________________________

The image illustrating this post is part of the book list I keep in my wallet to help me keep track of what I already have so I don’t double up on any title.

*Although one bookseller went above and beyond my expectations to sustain their reputation for good service – sending me a book autographed by the author as a replacement for a copy that had been an ex-library book and was marred by stickers and ink stamps)

 

** To keep things in balance, I have no problem buying American editions of books by American authors, where American-English is in keeping with the authors intent.

Advertisements

What I Did on the Weekend. (Friday)

I remember in my very early school days, when my class were developing basic writing proficiency, we had to write short accounts with the title “What I did on the weekend”.

As I rarely did anything really interesting on weekends, I sometimes embellished my reports – occasionally with embarrassing results.
One of these times was when I spun a story about a burning piece of coal falling from the grate onto the hearthside rug, starting a fire at home that needed a visit from the fire brigade.

Classmates shared the exciting story with their parents who later, either expressed their concern about the averted emergency, or berated me for being a liar. I don’t remember what happened when the story got back to my parents – but I suspect they wouldn’t have been too upset about me stretching the truth for a school writing exercise.

The only other thing I remember writing about (and this time it was a GENUINE experience) was when I saw my very first helicopter, a rarity around my childhood home at that time. These days’ living next door to a hospital, low flying helicopters are reasonably frequent.

Those memories, stirred up by my title, have nothing to do with what I intended to write. What did I do last weekend?

Firstly, it was a long weekend because I also had Friday off.
Gloria and I had intended to stay overnight in Canberra on Friday, so we could attend a “swap meet” on Saturday morning. For those unfamiliar with that term, it’s a kind of trash and treasure market where we’ve seen a lot of rusty car parts but have also found some interesting collectables (art glass, porcelain, militaria).

We had been anticipating this weekend for many months and I booked a hotel room several weeks ago – but as we got closer to the date of the swap meet the weather forecast became a concern, with predictions of rain and possible storms. At the beginning of the week we therefore decided to forget about the market, and I cancelled the overnight accommodation. Instead we made our time in Canberra a day trip (a four hour drive there and back).

For some time I’d been trying to visit a second hand bookshop in one of Canberra’s suburbs, but on recent visits the owner had been sick and the shop remained closed. This time, after a couple of months, it was open again and I was able to look for some of the books on my personal wish-list.
I was happy to find four books by the authors on my list, but what made their discovery even more exciting was the fact the books were the ones I wanted most – books that bridged a gap in the sequence of a series of stories I’ve been reading, or wanted to read.

Books I found:
Sinister Intent, Karen M Davis. First book by Davis. I’d already purchased a new copy of her second book and had tried to order a copy of this one. however after making the purchase online, the bookseller contacted me to say that they couldn’t guarantee a timely fulfilment of the order, so allowed me to cancel it. The copy I found was the same edition that I’d tried to order, an edition that may now be out of print.

Still Midnight, Denise Mina. I haven’t read anything by Mina, but have heard some radio interviews with her. This is the first book in one of the series she’s written, so I thought it would be a good introduction to her work, without having to spend more on something I potentially might not like.

Deity, Steven Dunne. The third of Dunne’s books. I’ve already finished the first two and this one was on my wish list to follow up in the future. At this stage there are other books on my list with a higher priority, but I couldn’t miss the chance of getting a cheap copy now. Dunne is one of my recent discoveries of writers basing work in Derbyshire. His settings are in Derby itself, only 12 or so miles from where I used to live.

The Devil’s Edge, Stephen Booth. Another writer with a Derbyshire setting. I’ve bought several of his books so far, about half new and half second hand. There are so many to get that I feel justified not buying them all new.
If affordable, and still in print, I prefer to buy new so the author doesn’t miss out on the tiny portion of royalties they’d get from my purchases.

The Disciple, by Steven Dunne

This is a very good sequel to Dunne’s first book, The Reaper, effectively rounding out the story started in that debut, but I’m not sure how it would work as a stand alone novel.

Having read The Reaper very recently, I found it easy to follow the continuing and developing story, but I think a lot needs to be known from the previous book to make this one work for the reader.

DI Damen Brook is drawn back into the world of the killer he named “the Reaper” when he becomes involved in two separate murder investigations that have clear links to earlier Reaper cases.
Are they copycat killings? Or were his earlier beliefs about the Reaper’s identity wrong?
And considering both cases have strong links to Brook himself, should the reader consider the possibility of his potential involvement in the murders?

Like the earlier book, The Disciple spans two time periods, linked by the man Brook has suspected of being the serial killer.
In this book the earlier time period also includes a shift of location, where a historical murder investigation in the US potentially becomes part of the increasingly complex “Reaper” story.
As in the first book, this one differentiates the time periods with different type face. In this case the American sections were in bold type. Personally I don’t like the technique, but it might work for others. I think I would have preferred the same typeface throughout.

While community fear would be the logical outcome of the apparent return of a brutal murderer, the response is very different. The killer has only targeted those who’ve been holding the community to ransom through violence, theft or general abusive, threatening behaviour. The killer’s work ironically makes those communities feel safer and the Reaper becomes a kind of folk hero to those who have been saved from the thuggery of not-so-petty criminals.
Where the legal system seems to fail, and where society increasingly turns away from any idea of ultimate Divine retribution, The Reaper carries out the justice desired by the community at large, but considering how widespread the desire for “justice” has become, how can the Reaper meet the growing need?

Steven Dunne: The Reaper, and Writing a Novel

Steven Dunne is another author who locates his work in Derbyshire.

Previously I posted a video of Sarah Ward and Stephen Booth talking about their work. Those two writers set their stories in the rural north of Derbyshire, Dunne uses the city of Derby itself.

During my childhood I lived in the south of the county, about 15 miles from Derby. Trips to the city were rare. My specific memories are vague and they either centre on shopping trips or the area around the Baseball Ground, the former home of the Derby County football team, where I was taken many times on Saturday afternoons.

As for the north of the county, I recall two day trips where we ended up at Matlock Bath. The original destination had been Buxton, but navigation was never my dad’s strong point. Often we set out for one place only to arrive somewhere unexpected.
While we didn’t get to the place we intended, at least I got to see a lot of the countryside.

reaperI’ve just finished Dunne’s first book The Reaper, originally self-published, the book was eventually picked up by a major publisher.

Detective Inspector Damen Brook is an outcast within his department.  When the on duty Detective is called out to investigate a murder, Brook is the on-call officer called upon when a second murder is reported on the same night.

Brook finds  a murder scene that seems far too similar to those he’s witnessed in the past when he worked in London; the work of a serial killer Brook had named “The Reaper”.

Is this case related? If so why has the Reaper reappeared and why has he seemingly followed Brook to a new city?

The novel switches back and forth between Brook’s current investigations and his memories of the earlier cases, looking for the links between present and past, hoping to find proof of The Reaper’s identity.

The opening of the book was quite unpleasant, starting with a young, highly unlikable teenage boy, with a foul mouth and even fouler mind. A boy well on his way to being formed in his father’s image, living with the belief that women are good for only one thing.

I found this beginning had an unpleasant harshness that thankfully didn’t carry thorough the book, but it plays its part in establishing an important character and setting up the circumstances of approaching crimes.

Skimming through reviews on-line, I found a lot of mixed feelings about the book, but none that were overly unfavourable. Most found the book enjoyable but flawed, recognisable as an author’s first; and I agree. My feelings about it were also mixed. I found it mostly compelling, with a few unexpected twists, but I also found that one or two aspects of it made its main character, Brook, hard to empathise with, and I wonder whether he’s someone I really want to spend more time with. However, as I’ve already bought the follow up story, The Disciple, I’ll have to give him an opportunity to prove me wrong and win me over.

 

As this “Out of Shadows” blog site was originally intended to encourage me to regain my own writing ambitions (to date an unfruitful intention), I’ll add the following link to Steven Dunne’s blog where access is given to a four part series of article on “Writing a novel” The link also gives access to an interesting radio interview with Dunne.

 

The question Steven gets asked most often is: how do you write a novel and get it published?

There’s no easy answer and all novelists have their own way of working, but in the series of articles [at the link] below, Steven talks about the challenges and pitfalls he faced as he sought to get his first novel, Reaper, published.

https://sdunne2013.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/writing-a-novel/

Derbyshire Crime Writing

I found this to be a very interesting video, presented by two crime writers whose work is set in Derbyshire, my home county in England.

Unfortunately there are some strange interruptions that cut the flow of the talk, and some apparent jumps that seem to repeat parts of what’s already been said.  It seems like someone made a mess of editing –  a topic will be interrupted and a new topic starts, but then later another jump seems to return the talk back to the previously interrupted topic.

But apart from those infrequent annoyances, there’s a lot of interesting content covering a variety of relevant topics, from writing, reading, history, landscape and folklore .

The Beautiful but Deadly North with Sarah Ward and Stephen Booth

Sarah Ward’s website:
https://crimepieces.com/

Stephen Booth’s website:
http://www.stephen-booth.com/