Monday, May 08, 2006

Books: Oddities From The Shelf

Ah, the pleasures of stocking a brand new, sturdily-built bookcase. It’s a chance to revisit your library, to showcase a new set of titles. To discover books you may have forgotten. And to wonder how you came into possession of others.

I know how I acquired the strangest books in my collection. In 1990 I saw an ad in a local newspaper from a company called DimeNovels. It planned on reviving the glory days of pulp fiction, and needed writers to crank out prose. I responded to the ad. An SASE never hurt anybody.

In return I received DimeNovels’ entire first run. Seven books, each one exactly 96 pages long, each one measuring 3 x 4.5 inches. (They were meant to be impulse purchases at supermarkets, like chewing gum and those astrology scrolls.)

And each one a different genre. You’ve got the standbys of horror (Walk With The Dead), science fiction (Alien Starswarm, by Robert Sheckley), mystery (Dead Ringer, about a killer of Elvis impersonators), and thriller (a haunted Indian burial ground – hey, isn’t that horror?). DimeNovels took a divide-and-conquer approach to romance, breaking it down into Sensual Romance, Romantic Suspense, and something called Glitz, which I assume is Jackie Collins territory.

I have to assume, because in fifteen years I haven’t read one of these books. I’ve flipped through them, though, and noticed all four of the publisher’s glamour shots as well as some similarities between Glitz author Kim Blake and Romantic Suspense author Roberta Kent. What are the odds that both would be avid golfers first published at eight who still hope to be writing at eighty-eight?

I never tried my hand at a DimeNovel, and never saw one at a checkout stand near me. Which is too bad, because pulp fiction did make a comeback thanks to labels like Hard Case Crime. A little research turns up a second run of DimeNovels, including a fantasy by the non-Journey Steve Perry. Every few years I decide to donate them to the library only to change my mind. I figure there can’t be many in circulation. A quick check at eBay shows that the Sheckley is already going for close to twenty dollars. Maybe if I hang onto them long enough, they’ll be able to buy me another new bookcase.