A couple of weeks back, I decided to dig deep into my to-be-read pile and finally read some books that had been hiding there for years. As I mentioned in my last bookcase post, this blast from the past made me think about all those bookstores I have known, including a great many that no longer exist.
Back when I was a teenager, two things happened. First, I got a morning paper route, which netted me over $11 a week, which meant I had money to burn (in those days, comics cost 12 cents, paperbacks were 50 cents.) I also learned that if I walked twenty minutes into the center of town, I could take a bus all the way from the suburbs to the city. Rochester NY may not have been the biggest metropolis around, but it had a bustling downtown way back then, with huge old movie theaters that had cheap matinees, a central library with 10 times the books they had at the local place, and a bunch of places to buy books and magazines. My pals and I developed a circuit of the town center which included Scrantom’s (the classier bookstore in town, which always carried the new Pogo books), Neisner’s (sort of a cut-rate Woolworth’s, which always had the new monster magazines), World Wide News, which had rows and rows of magazines, including the XXX rated stuff behind the counter (which I could only sort of see and never actually bought), some mom and pop smoked shop whose name I no longer remember that somehow got all the new sf paperbacks in a few days before anybody else (where I first saw the Ace editions of LORD OF THE RINGS)> But all these places paled in comparison to the most wonderful p[arty of my bookish teen years — The Clinton Book Shop.
How can I describe the Clinton Book Shop? It was a huge warehouse of a store, with new paperbacks piled two deep in rows of bookcases that lined the front half of the store. Each row would have a separate theme — SF, mystery, romance — and would hold hundreds of different books. Farther back in the store were used books and magazines, with old pulps costing a dollar and old comics a nickle (the price eventually rose to a dime). Here, in front of me, was all the paperback science fiction there was at the time. In those days there were only half a dozen publishers each putting out a couple of books a month. You could actually read all of them if you really tried. Separate sections featured old pulp reprints (Doc Savage, Fu Manchu) and James Bond and all his fellow spies. In the very front of the store, they sold small press magazines. I bought four or five issues of Witzend there over the years. It was a wonderful place.
It was also doomed. In an attempt to carry just about everything, the book store also featured Grove Press books; books full of forbidden thoughts and new ideas written by beatnik poets and other free thinkers. Well the Rochester Town Fathers couldn’t have that. So they tore down the bookstore to build a much needed parking lot. The store tried to make a go of it in a much smaller space, but it could no longer carry Everything, and the magic was gone.
But the joy of bookstores and books remained. And so I continued to shop, buying more books than I could ever read, and thus created to to-be-read bookcase. Which brings me to the second “something I’ve been meaning to read for far too long,” the seasonally appropriate SANTA STEPS OUT by Robert Devereaux.
I had heard about this book when it first got published in a small press edition. When Leisure Books reprinted it as part of their monthly horror line, I snapped it up (as I did with about half the Leisure line.) The book was supposed to be “a little different.” I’ve always liked different. But sometimes those books don’t make it to the top of the pile.
SANTA is more a fable than a horror novel. It has some horrific elements, and lots and lots of sex, not in itself a bad thing. It concerns Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, and just who these beings might have been before Christian tradition reshaped the world. Some people might find it offensive, but it’s written in such a lighthearted style that all the “dirty” parts just made me smile. Astonishingly, it is still in print. And it even has a Kindle edition.
And now, since I’ve been sticking these things at the end of all my reviews, here’s the new cover for the final Ebenezum novel, now available as an e-book from Crossroad Press!